To kill a little more time, we walked to the Mercat de la Concepció for a light lunch. We found a decent food market with a cute little corner stall with a little counter, again run by a sweet little older couple. We had beer + wine, with some potato tortilla & albondigas (meatballs) – absolutely phenomenal food! I’ll take those cute little lunch counters over a fancy restaurant any day. And it was a local market, no tourists = even better!
I’m home. I have been for a few days, and I’ve been meaning to sit down and write a little something now that the big adventure has come to an end, but that was harder than I expected. So, I thought I’d share a part of the last entry in my RTW travel journal…
We’ve been back almost a week now. I’m finding myself scattered, all over the place. All of that time away from my usual world gave me wings; it was as if being unfettered from my standard daily, weekly routines somehow unlocked the part of my brain that could imagine “what if?” without the realist kicking in. When you’re away from your work desk and out in the world, all of a sudden anything is possible. That’s why coming back can be such a kick in the pants, I guess.
I think there’s also a bit of anxiety around dealing with others upon return. How will they treat me, what will they expect of me? Do they think I’ll be magically cured of depression? Somehow ‘fixed’ of my introversion? Ready to ‘settle down’ into the real world and stop all of these ridiculous, frivolous adventures?
Looking back at the photos from the first few weeks of the trip feels so bizarre – Canada and Alaska feel like so long ago, it’s like I dreamt I visited them! But I know it was all real; yeah, I have the photos as evidence, but I also know how I felt there. You can’t dream that. So much off my life at home feels bogged down with responsibilities and obligations and guilt – the feeling of freedom that comes with travelling is completely unparalleled by anything else. When you don’t ‘have to’ work out and eat perfectly healthy, or go to that party or to this lunch, or try to split your time between work and family, you become a different person. You elevate to a better version of yourself, and it’s hard to let that person go when you get back home.
So instead of waving her goodbye until the next trip, I’d like to welcome her into my life on a more permanent basis. I’d like to see if she wouldn’t mind sticking around. I know that may not suit everyone, that many people might prefer her to stay away so they can have the girl who bows under the pressure of her obligations and feels too guilty to ever really take a stand for what she wants, but I think she’s had her time in the sun. Once you’ve been through the metamorphosis of travel, you can’t unfeel what you’ve felt, or unlearn what you now know. So, roll with it.
Over the past 4 months I have…
– Flown around 59, 000km
– Walked about 1360km
– Drove 5460km
– And covered 7650km by train. And about 140km by ferry.
– Slept in 39 different beds and visited 15 different countries.
– Seen a caribou cross the road right in front of our car in Jasper
– Driven the Icefields Parkway in Alberta, Canada
– Stood before the world’s largest tree, the General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park
– Joined New York City’s The Village Halloween parade
– Seen Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
– Survived a 5 hour drive through an Arctic snowstorm in Iceland
– Taken a photo of the Northern Lights
– Slept in a giant bubble in the middle of an Icelandic forest
– Taken a hot air balloon ride over Ronda, Spain
– Visited 31 Christmas markets in 6 different countries in a month
– Been paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland
– Seen the Berlin Wall
– Enjoyed Christmas Day with family on the other side of the world
– Stood in the middle of the Pantheon in Rome
– Ate a sushi breakfast early in the morning at Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market
– Seen the first of Japan’s cherry blossoms
– Went to a Grand Sumo Tournament
And so, so much more… I’m grateful for all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had over the past 4 months, and I’m grateful for the not so wonderful ones, too. I’m really excited to share some of them with everyone, and to hopefully inspire a few more of you to face up to what you’ve always thought impossible and make it happen! But believe me, it wasn’t all magic and rainbows; stay tuned for the slightly less than glamorous side of the trip, coming at the end of the week!
5 road trips.
50 cities, towns & national parks.
Approximate distance of 75,000km to be covered.
No matter how you spin the numbers, it’s gonna be big. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to start writing this post, only to be completely overwhelmed by figures and logistics and emotions, delete everything, and promise myself I’d come back to it later. Only, now, there is no later; we leave tomorrow.
This trip has been in the works for what feels like forever. We started talking (dreaming) about doing something like this when we first met thirteen years ago. I started to genuinely contemplate it in 2013 after we’d gone on a four week trip to Egypt and Europe, which I’d previously thought of as an impossible feat. I let that simmer for a few years and finally decided without a shadow of a doubt that it was going to happen in January 2015, at the end of our 6 week trip around America.
When I take a step back and look at what we’re doing, I know that it’s not that big, in a lot of ways. People pack up and leave for a lot longer than four months. People pack up and leave without having booked any flights or accommodation, they leave with just a passport and a one way ticket and a vague idea of that the next step will be; I’m not so disillusioned to believe that our “little” four month trip around the world is even making a scratch on the glass ceilings in that regard.
But for me, personally, it is smashing those ceilings. I’ve written about this feeling before, about the odd feeling of discontent that came to me in Egypt when I realised I’d finally managed to get everything I was meant to get – a university degree, a job, a home of my own, a wonderful marriage – and I still felt kinda empty, unfulfilled. For some people, they’re complete once they have their dream career, their children, their perfect house; travel undeniably fills that void for me.
I come from a pretty traditional Italian family. I’ve followed the steps of their game so far. Uni degree. Job. Home. Husband. After that, I was meant to “settle down” and have kids, in the footsteps of the path set by generations of women before me. So this little four month time out from the real world isn’t just a vacation or even a “travel experience”; it’s my middle finger to the traditional world, my way of saying “you know what, I actually don’t have to follow the path.” This is me finally following my heart.
I’ll be blogging fairly sporadically while we’re away, so if you’d like to keep up and see the world with me, follow the adventure on Instagram @the.life.of.j 🙂
Just a quick one today, because I’ve been sick with the flu, and re-reading On The Road while I’ve been couch bound… Also just finished Wish You Were Here, and have a book review, interview with Sheridan and book giveaway coming next week!
From there, I quickly spotted the Beat Museum, then Jack Kerouac Alley in the other direction; Vesuvio Cafe, one of Kerouac’s favourite haunts, lives on the corner. Down the alley and welcome to Chinatown! Like all Chinatowns, it’s manic, full of smells, illegible signs, all that jazz.
The engines make themselves heard, & we pick up pace. Suddenly, I’m looking over Tullamarine’s landscape. Then, we’re shrouded in white. And then, finally, I am looking over the most perfect, bubble-bath froth of pillowy white clouds that I’ve ever seen. We are off.
“After the show, we caught a cab to Fremont Street – “old Vegas.” The Vegas of yesteryear, when neon lights were king ad tacky was the game. It felt like the days of old, walking through the now covered mini strip, with the old casinos and hotels, neon cowboy and showgirl signs overhead and under/half dressed women littering the walkways. It was an experience.
This morning, a chat with our shuttle bus driver enlightened us a little more – no one is “from” Vegas, minimum wage is tough, and 47% of high school seniors don’t graduate. Not promising stats.”
“This morning – a little cold but the wind settled a little. Out to Brooklyn. Actually, Coney Island was the first stop. And it was COLD out on the water! Very quiet in winter, all but abandoned… the snow from the past week still on the sidewalks, slowly turning to grey sludge. It seemed a poorer area, not as well kept, with a lot of high-rise commission home buildings. The closed amusement park area looked so inviting; I’m not sure what it is about abandoned places that feel so inviting to me, but they really are… I just feel comfortable, roaming alone.”