One door closes...

Trip Start Dec 14, 2004
Trip End May 25, 2005

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Flag of United States  , New York
Thursday, May 26, 2005

"...there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination."
-Jhumpa Lahiri, 'Interpreter of Maladies' (thanks r.g.)

how quickly five and a half months have come and gone... it's only appropriate that we end this travelogue in the same country as it began. we have arrived safely in new york, and while we definitely have some mixed feelings about it, we are certainly happy to be reunited with family and friends. (the weather, on the other hand, makes us want to run back the other way!)

is there any good way to summarize this journey? we have done it in this journal, in bits and pieces along the way, and we have truly enjoyed sharing our thoughts with you. we have also loved hearing from you and receiving feedback about our entries. (thanks!) but when you come to the "end" of a road, how do you internalize an entire experience? certainly, this takes more than just one sitting, more than just a few random conversations with various people. we realize that our experiences will continue to affect us for many years to come; there are things we have learned that we cannot know right now, and there are some lessons that we can list on 10 fingers.

we remember getting off the plane in New Zealand in December, with this funny sense of "So, this is 'us traveling'". For the first couple of weeks, when it was all new and unclear, we desperately wanted to be in a rhythm, and of course, to have a more impressive answer to the perennial question, when meeting new people, of "How long have you been traveling for?" Once we hit the one month mark, it just felt natural... we would sometimes have these "placement moments" (that's what we called them, anyway), when we would stop in the middle of whatever we were doing and say, "this is so funny. i'm washing dishes at a rafting lodge in the middle of new zealand, what are we doing here?!" or, "i'm dancing at a cambodian wedding party, in cambodia... how did we get here?!" But somewhere between those first days in New Zealand, and the last few weeks in Spain, traveling became a way of life-- we became accustomed to living out of our backpacks, wearing the same clothes day after day, accepting that "clean" is a concept relative to location and circumstance, sleeping in rooms full of other people (there are some REALLY loud snorers on this planet), and rolling with the punches, as they were delivered. it wasn't always glamourous... but, it was *(almost)* always fun.

And because being on the move was just our way of living, every moment was a part of the journey. We have slept in airports and waited for trains; we have soaked up beautiful landscapes, as well as areas covered with garbage; we have met people with enough money to feed small countries, and those with not enough money for their next meal; we have come across hardcore environmentalists, and witnessed the social acceptance of throwing trash out of a train window. all of the extremes and all of the in-betweens have contributed to the larger picture.

And so now, we're 2/3 home- Allison is back in Boston, and Jodie is in NY. Until Rachel goes back to Milwaukee next week, it won't really feel final. We've been talking about how to write this last entry for a few days now...On our drive from Cordoba to Toledo (Spain), we started to compile a few lists...

*By the numbers (because it's always interesting to throw in the numbers), we have, collectively...
been on the road for 163 days
read 34 books
visited 51 cities in 10 countries
met over 200 people who made some kind of an impact on us
used 8 different kinds of currencies
taken 16 flights on 8 different airlines
traveled countless miles

*and of course, we have to add a few superlatives...
Worst Airline (and personnel): Air India
Best Travel Agent: Nick Kontis ( he's great!)
Best Indian Food: Vang Vieng, Laos & Siem Reap, Cambodia (tied)
Best Thai Food: Wellington, New Zealand
Best Israeli Food: Shoshana Restaurant, Bangkok
Best Night of Sleep: Thai Cozy House, Bangkok
Worst Train Companions: Family on trip from Mumbai to Jaipur
Best Beach: Whitehaven Beach, Australia
Worst Beach: Charm Beach, Koh Phangan, Thailand
Best Bathroom: Hostal Almanzor, Cordoba, Spain
Craziest Character: Aodity (funny thai hippie man who sold us bus tickets)
Wettest Experience while fully clothed: Songkran
Worst Bug Bites: Rachel's fat hand, Allison's fat leg (tied)
Biggest Leaps of Faith: Rachel- Bungee Jumping; Jodie- Cliff Jumping; Allison- staying on the crazy bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
Most Unused Items in our Backpacks: Bike lock, toilet seat covers, dressy shirt, emergency blanket
Favorite Drugs: Wind-eeze, Immodium, Excedrin, Advil, Mefloquine (a.k.a. MEPHA)
Most avid travelpod responder: Rachel's great aunt Judy

Places we've slept other than hostels/guesthouses: Buses, Trains, Boats, Planes, Village huts in Northern Thailand, the beach, tents, and Gatwick and Heathrow airports

How we got from here to there: planes, trains, boats, buses, tuk-tuks, autorickshaws, cars, bikes, motorbikes, minibuses, river rafts, kayaks, bungee cords... OUR OWN TWO (well, six) FEET

Favorite new phrase: "Same Same, But Different" (Also can be shortened to "same same")

Nationalities we've pretended to be: British, Canadian, Israeli

Lessons we've learned:
1. just because it looks like trash doesn't necessarily mean it's also a garbage can
2. we make good pantomimes :)
3. free parking may not always be worth it
4. be careful what you wish for
5. it can always get worse
6. joni mitchell's "all i want" is a very versatile song
7. even though it may seem that people (as in non-english speakers) understand what you're saying, this may not actually be the case... there is almost always something lost in translation
8. bread and cheese can go a long way... there are many combinations that can be eaten for any meal of the day
9. kids and adolescents are the same across cultures
10. americans don't travel enough

the lists could go on... but we'll get to the real stuff.

the experiences of the past five and a half months have been dynamic, to say the very least, and at times, extreme. culturally, socially, physically, emotionally- we've experienced many permutations of ourselves, new friends, and strangers. our limits have been tested. everytime we thought "this is the hardest it could get", it got harder. everytime we thought "this is my absolute limit in terms of cleanliness", it got dirtier. everytime we thought "we can't walk any further", our destination was still a distance away. we've learned that our own limits and tolerance for things that are different/strange/good/bad are ever-stretching. it is challenging and sometimes uncomfortable to push yourself, but we have had to embrace our moments of discomfort in order to reach the creature comforts that we enjoy.

joseph campbell once wrote, "people say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. i don't think this is what we're really seeking. i think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive." we certainly haven't discovered the meaning of life, but we have been able to look at the world with new eyes, while simultaneously growing, maturing, and feeling perpetually youthful. we have seen bits of ourselves reflected in nooks of the world that we never knew existed; we have made connections and developed friendships with people whose lives are extremely different from ours. In the vastness of this world, across the boundaries that create these 'differences', we have found goodness and warmth in people, and beauty and depth in landscapes.

our world is a mind-boggling, crazy, mixed-up, and beautiful place. and in case you're wondering, this trip has only left us hungry to explore more corners of the earth. :) this was a great beginning... but we've only just begun. there's a reason they call it the "travel bug"--- it gets into your system. being away has only lengthened our list of places we would like to visit someday.

so, this is it. we're home... sitting at a computer that we don't have to pay for, brewing as much filtered coffee as we feel like drinking, and toasting delicious, fresh bagels. and after giving ourselves a few days to get over jet lag and culture shock, we'll all be moving on to new things. Allison is starting the Delet fellowship program at Brandeis this summer, Rachel will be moving back to the midwest and seeking her first teaching job and apartment in Chicago, while Jodie will stay in NY and find the requisite job/apartment combo in the city. we're prepared for an interesting transition period, and we know that we are equipped to deal with the twists and turns that life is about to take. it's all part of the journey.

until the next adventure,
jodie, rachel, and allison
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