Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Year in Review - Q&A

Since I kicked off this blog with a Q&A almost exactly one year ago (see post here), a Q&A seems a fitting way to finish as well. I've been asked the following questions by many people:

Q: Where did you go?
A: This first map illustrates (roughly) where I've been as of December 2008:
This second map illustrates (roughly) where I'd been prior to this year:

More detailed maps can be found in the following post; or, here's a list of the 41 countries I visited this past year:
- Brazil
- Argentina
- Uruguay
- Paraguay
- Chile
- South Africa
- Namibia
- Botswana
- Zambia
- Zimbabwe
- Malawi
- Tanzania
- Kenya
- Egypt
- Jordan
- Syria
- Turkey
- Spain
- Portugal
- Switzerland
- Italy
- Austria
- Slovakia
- Czech Republic
- Poland
- Hungary
- Serbia
- Bosnia and Hercegovina
- Montenegro
- Croatia
- Denmark
- Sweden
- Norway
- England
- Netherlands
- U.S.A.
- Canada
- Thailand
- Cambodia
- Vietnam
- Laos

Q: Was it amazing?
A: Absolutely! We live in an incredible, beautiful world, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore and enjoy it for the past year.

Q: What was your favorite place?
A: I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite, and I have yet to travel to a country I didn't like. But some of my highlights (city, country or region) were: the Middle East, Cambodia, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang (Laos), Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks (U.S.A.), Norway, Stockholm, Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic), Sarajevo, Gimmelwald (Switzerland), Tanzania, Zanzibar, Namibia, Buenos Aires, and Paraty (Brazil).

Q: Did this trip change your life?
A: I believe that one's outlook on life is colored by many experiences, big and small. Like any new experience, this trip helped me learn more about myself - my strengths and my weaknesses - and my place in this world. But, I didn't set out to "find myself"; rather, I sought to learn about new places and people. I trust that the lessons I learned, and the memories I carry, will last a lifetime.

Q: So...what lessons did you learn?
A: Just some of the lessons learned (or reinforced), both serious and humorous, over the past year:
- A genuine smile is understood the world over
- For the most part, people are good
- Thorough preparation and realistic expectations make the journey a lot more enjoyable
- Always carry a raincoat or an umbrella...or both...even when it's not supposed to rain
- Don't embark on a long bus/train trip without the following: camera, journal, book or iPod, water bottle and iodine tablets, first aid kit, mosquito repellant and bite cream, Power Bar, spork, raincoat and umbrella, ear plugs, inflatable neck pillow and eye shade, spare socks and underwear
- Power Bars can melt, freeze, squish or stretch and still taste O.K., thus making them the perfect emergency food stash to carry
- Audiobooks are good for winding roads
- Go to Africa first. After sleeping on the roof of a mud hut, hitchhiking through the desert, bathing with a bucket of water, and spending a night vomiting repeatedly into a cesspit - and still enjoying the trip - I think I was ready for just about anything.
- While floating from place to place, it was friends and family who kept me anchored
- There were a lot of things I didn't think I could do...until I did them

Q: Did you tire of traveling?
A: No, but it's wonderful to be home and surrounded by friends and family once again. I may have received every travel vaccine known to man, but I didn't quite shake the travel bug. That said, good e-mail access and some time at home between trips were absolutely vital to get me through the year.

Q: Did you find somewhere else you'd rather live?
A: One of the nice side effects of traveling is an increased appreciation for the comforts of home. And while there are many places I could enjoy living for a period of time, I'm still a California girl at heart.

Q: What's next?
A: My friends say I have "around-the-corner-itis" - I always have to see what's just around the cliff at the end of the beach, what's just out of sight beyond the bend in the river, what's just down that winding alleyway or overgrown jungle path. I'm fairly certain I could spend the rest of my life exploring and still not discover what's around most of the world's corners.

But, there's more to life's journey than traveling, and there's plenty of uncharted territory to explore right here in my own little world. The time has come to hang up my backpack and jump back into a career and lifestyle I love.

Of course, I wouldn't turn down a trip to India. Trekking in Nepal would be amazing. Lebanon is supposed to be quite cool. And there are all those "-stan" countries to explore, along with the northern half of Africa, and... ;)

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