Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Friday, December 9, 2005

"so long ago
was it in a dream? was it just a dream?
i know, yes i know
it seemed so very real, it seemed so real to me"

- John Lennon, #9 dream

The last couple years do seem like a bit of a dream, especially places like Egypt and India that were so different than home. In this update I'll do a brief overview of the trip and mention some of the highlights. Plus I have to say 'thank you' to the people that helped me out along the way.

It still bugs me when people say I am lucky to get to do this trip. I understand what they mean, but it's not luck. I was fortunate to get to do this trip. Lucky would be winning the lottery or an all expense paid trip round the world. I saved for years thinking to buy a house but changed my mind and used the money for travel instead. Now I'm broke and in debt. Not much lucky about that. I am lucky to have been born in the United States and all the privileges and possibilities that allows. There are so many countries in this world where being born there pretty much means you're going to be poor all your life and go nowhere. Plus I'm lucky to have friends and family that are supportive.

Europe was the starting point and one of the highlights. I seem to be drawn more to European history and culture than most other places in the world. It probably has something to do with my ancestors being from there. I like the architecture and castles too. The tour around Scotland in the snow was great fun. It was bloody cold but the snow added an extra beauty to everything. The people of Ireland were its highlight. They're a friendly, jolly bunch. It's hard to beat the culture and lifestyle of Spain - siesta, stay up late. The food there could use some improvement though (ham, ham, ham). La Tomatina was good fun too. The Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast and Dolomites are all lovely places in Italy. The Dolomites had stunning scenery. As far as mountainous scenery goes, Switzerland is hard to beat. Plus it's clean, efficient and has nice people. The downside is it's incredibly expensive. Germany had great beer in big 'ol 1L mugs for cheap. Gotta love it. Neuschwanstein was cool to see too. Oh, and the little town of Cochem was pretty with all the fall colors. Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic was a great place to chill-out. The women of that country are pretty too, but Estonia has the most gorgeous women of all the countries I visited. Jaw-dropping beauties all over. (sigh) Carcassonne and Mont St Michel in France both had cool, medieval old towns. The Belgian chocolates, Leffe Blonde (beer) and the city of Brugges were highlights of Belgium. I really like Europe and would go back in a heartbeat.

Egypt was both good and bad. Cairo is probably my least favorite city I visited. Too busy, too polluted and everybody was out to scam you. Seeing the pyramids and places like Abu Simbel were really cool. The felucca ride on the Nile was pleasant and relaxing too. Dahab was a good place to chill-out, though it could use nice, sandy beaches.

Seeing the wild animals of Africa had always been a dream of mine so the tour around to 5 game parks (Masai Mara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Chobe and Kruger) was cool. The Masai Mara where we saw just about every animal and the Ngorongoro Crater were the highlights of the bunch. Had some good times with the group on the tour too. Getting punched in the eye at the end of the tour wasn't such a highlight. The people in Africa were also great - very friendly and the kids always had smiles and waved to us.

Australia was great for getting to see friends and just chill-out. Having a place to stay at Josh's apartment gave me a nice break from travel. Sydney began to feel like home.
The scenery of New Zealand, especially on the South Island, was its highlight. Snow covered mountains, pristine lakes and a good outdoor attitude made it a lovely place to visit.

Hmmmm, what to say about India? Most people love it or hate it, I was somewhere in-between. The pollution, dirt, overcrowdedness, pushing and touts that just don't leave you alone could make it near unbearable at times. But India has some amazing sites and simply wandering around the cities is an experience in itself. The desert town of Jaisalmer was probably one of my favorites with the cool fort on the hill.

The ruins at Angkor in Cambodia are really cool. I don't know that I should say the shakes at Friend's Cafe in Phnom Penh might eclipse the ruins for what I liked best. The people of Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos were all nice bearing no ill-will towards me for being from the U.S. (the U.S. devastated those countries with bombs, landmines and chemicals). The Brits, John, Becky and Laura, were great to travel around with. Getting the matching suits for me and Spanky in Hoi An was good fun. Hoi An, Halong Bay and Sapa were all highlights for Vietnam. Floating down the river in an inner-tube in Vang Vieng in Laos was one of my favorite things from the entire trip. That's what backpacker life is all about. Bangkok got to be my medical stop for a root canal and eye surgery. Can't say either of those was much fun. Volunteering on Ko Phi Phi with post-tsunami cleanup was a very rewarding experience.

China, like India, required a lot of patience and being able to put up with a lot. I hope to go my entire life without having to hear another person suck phlegm and spit. Another way overcrowded country with crazy transportation. The scenery of Yangshuo was beautiful. Getting to walk along the Great Wall was cool too.

Machu Picchu was an amazing place to visit. Easter Island was yet another amazing place to behold. The mountain scenery in Patagonia was breathtaking. I only wish I had more time there to explore (and nice weather). Argentina is a highlight for its cheap prices, excellent food, great nightlife and lovely ladies. I liked Rio quite a bit and was glad to have spent several days there.

Sooo many places it's hard to comprehend it all. Of course I don't remember everything and may have left out a couple places. The question I get the most that I dislike the most is "what was your favorite place?" Imagine if I asked you what your favorite meal ever was. Perhaps you remember one meal that stands out as the best. But memory can play tricks on you...maybe that one really wasn't the best. And what if it wasn't actually the food that made a particular meal the best but the circumstances. Maybe your best meal was one in which you were home with all your family for the holidays, or when you got proposed to. It's even harder to pick one place I visited that was my favorite. I have to ask "do you mean city, small town, outdoor scenery, best nightlife, best culture, place I had the most fun, etc...?" And so here goes with some of my favorites:
1. city: Barcelona - kind of encapsulates all of Spain in one city, very artsy
runners up: Rio, Paris, Sydney, Buenos Aires
2. small town: Lagos - beach, great happy hour deals, cheap accomodation
runners up: Tarifa, Cinque Terre, Salamanca, Freiburg, Hoi An, Yangshuo
3. outdoor scenery: Swiss Alps
runners up: The Dolomites, Patagonia, Cinque Terre, Geiranger, NZ Alps, Yangshuo
4. chill-out spot: Vang Vieng
runners up: Cesky Krumlov, San Sebastian, Tarifa, Zanzibar, Byron Bay, Ko Phi Phi
5. culture: Spain
runners up: Argentina, Africa, Thailand
6. food: Argentina
runners up: Italy, Thailand, Czech Republic (cheap), Vietnam
7. nightlife: Argentina
runners up: Spain, Brasil, anywhere Latin America
8. beach: Railay (Thailand)
runners up: Zanzibar, Ko Phi Phi, Byron Bay, Ipanema & Copacabana
9. beer: Leffe Blonde (Belgium)
runners up: nearly anything from Czech Rep or Germany, Beerlao, James Squire Amber (Australia)
10. day: (i have to think on this a while)
runners up: La Tomatina, day on Isle of Skye
11. building (architecture): (also deserves further review)
runners up: Neuschwanstein, Pyramids, Abu Simbel, Carcassonne, India, Summer Palace, Gaudi barcelona
12. ??? (ideas?)

After all that, where are the places I'd like to go back to (or missed)? Most anywhere in Europe. I have to get to Andorra and San Marino to complete the countries of Western Europe. :) I'd really like to see more of Eastern Europe. And there's Greece and Turkey. I'd like to see more of the Dolomites and the Swiss Alps in good weather. It'd be sweet to have a car to drive all around Europe and see a lot of the smaller villages.
In Africa, I've heard Mozambique, Namibia and Ghana are all good. I'd like to go somewhere where I can play with the kitties and ride giraffes.
This trip I never got up around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, but I've been there previously. I really didn't get to see much though so I'd like to spend more time there and up north of Cairns in the rainforest. There are supposed to be some cool places out on the west coast too. The places I'd like to go back to in New Zealand would all be weather permitting (nice warm sunshine!).
Originally while in India I was going to make the sidetrip into Nepal but the political situation wasn't so good. I'd like to make it there, Tibet and the mountainous area of India in the north.
I missed out on a lot of Thailand 'cuz I was stuck in Bangkok for eye surgery. I'd like to get up to the trekking areas like Chiang Mai and go island hopping. Floating on that river again in Laos sounds mighty fine too.
I read about some scenic mountainous areas in China that sounded nice. Probably wouldn't have quite the overcrowding and pollution as the rest of China. Yangshuo would be worth going back to.
Costa Rica was rather lame in the rainy season so I'd like to check it out when it's nice. I kept hearing Panama was better than Costa Rica so that deserves a visit.
There are some areas north of Lima in Peru with what sounds like spectacular scenery (mts, lakes). I hardly had any time at all in Bolivia and missed out on the salt flats. It takes a while to get around there but pics look cool. Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina deserve more time. Most anywhere in Argentina would be good since it's cheap. I kept hearing Ecuador is a good place and cheap as well. I barely scratched the surface of Brasil so there's still a ton to see there.
I've been many places but there are even more places I haven't been to, so I don't have to worry about not being able to come up with anywhere to go in the future. I came up with a bunch of extra pics (that weren't already posted) of friends along the way. Having browsed through my pics, I realize I really should've taken more pictures of people. I'll also post a bunch of silly 'outtake' pictures in one of my next posts. Below is my 'thank you' list of people that helped me out along the way.

** Here's my big list of THANK YOUs in order of appearance:
London - Nate for the invite out to his business school's party (free beer)
Manchester - Jayne for giving me a place to stay and taking me out
Cadiz - Karla for meeting up with me and fun times
Madrid - Jo for dinner
Naples - Allyson for putting up with me for almost 2 weeks
Rome - Jessamyn for the place to stay
Bad Homburg (Frankfurt) - Diana for giving me a home
Munich - Dicky for the place to stay, bbq and the city tour
Prague - Teeter for meeting up and having a friend around on my b-day
Odense - Martin for the couch to crash on and for a night out i don't remember
Copenhagen - Henriette for the city tour and lunch
Stockholm - Petra's dad, Leif, for my own apartment, dinners and tours
Nice - Marcela and Leif for getting my repaired camera back to me
Utrecht - Simone for a room to sleep in
Hilversum - Alia for the tour of EHQ and getting my plane tix to me
Bad Homburg - Diana again for a place to stay and trick-or-treating
London - Jodie for dinner company on Thanksgiving
Pretoria - Melanie and Adel for giving me a place to stay and playing tour guide
Sydney - Josh for the place to stay for over a month. Ali for a couch to crash on now and then, meals, drinks, car rides and the weekend away at Jervis Bay. Lis for car rides, meals and drinks.
Adelaide - Mel for giving Josh and I a place to stay
Perth - Dan for drinks and the couch to sleep on
Auckland - Ange & Nige for the place to stay and taking me up to the Bay of Islands
Bangkok - Matt for picking me up at the airport, the room in his condo (especially while i was going through eye surgery) and use of his driver. John for the extra bed at the fancy hotel plus all the free drinks, and for taking me out to dinner on my b-day.
Yangshuo - Lily for the tour, translations and dinners
L.A. - Tony for picking me up at the airport and a place to stay. Jeff & Jen for dinner. Hayes for the place to stay and dinner.
Tijuana - Marcela for giving Tony and I a place to stay, giving us a tour and for the night out. Extra thanks for waking up damn early to get me to the airport.
Portland - MO for picking me up at the airport, arranging the bbq, giving me a place to stay and the ride up to Seattle.
Seattle - Sissy for looking after my car and the place to stay. Ben & Julia for the bed to sleep on.
Portland - Billy and Teeter for giving me places to stay.
Buenos Aires - Jacci for meeting up with me and giving me travel company.
Rio - Hayli for the nights out with her friends
Southampton - Jon & Becky for picking me up at the airport and giving me a place to stay. Thanks for the meals and stuff too (and putting up with me while I was sick).
Manchester - Jayne again for a place to stay and tour around the city.
London - Helen for use of her apartment, touring around the city with me and dinner.
Seattle - Sissy for picking me up at the airport, still watching after my car and giving me a place to stay

** And a big thank you to my brother, Bill, for collecting all my mail and taking care of stuff back home.

I'd like to dedicate this trip to my mom. One of the last things she said to me was that this trip was a great experience for me. I had to have some kind of angel looking out for me in all the crazy places I went.

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