No more land border crossings. No more visa applications. No more cold showers, grotty bathrooms, scams to dodge, hotels to research or train tickets to book, and not very many more blog entries.
Finally, we’ve worn out two out of three of our iPods and used up nearly all of the memory on our laptop. Our whites are all grays, our ends are all bleached, our backpacks are weathered and the soles of our shoes are worn flat. We’ve taken all our malaria pills (just about), used up all our Band-Aids, flown our last flight and spent all our money.
We’ve arrived home scruffy, seasoned and rejuvenated, sad that the trip is over but happy to lay eyes on the familiar modern world again and stay in one place for a while. The kids, in particular, are thrilled to see their toys and friends again.
The trip will live on as a family legend, not just a vacation but something more on the scale of an epic accomplishment. It was at turns exhilarating, exhausting, fascinating, trying, thrilling, entertaining, frustrating, surprising and, very occasionally, death-defying. It was a wild ride, a fabulous adventure and often a grand test of our patience, fortitude and immune systems.
When it was good, it was the best decision we’d ever made, and when it was not, we thought ourselves mad for taking it on. When the kids were managing beautifully and the travelling was easy, we thought about what excellent parents we were for showing them the world and spending so much time in their company: 24/7 for six and a half months. It was harder to be smug when they fought non-stop, resisted home-schooling, threw up on their shoes and missed their friends. And when occasionally we found ourselves in physically dangerous situations with them, we were appalled at the poor judgment that had caused us to drag them halfway around the world just to increase their odds of dying in a fiery bus crash.
It was a crazy, unforgettable experience that we’re amazed and pleased to have shared and survived, and so lucky to have enjoyed.
In the end, we visited eight countries, including more than 45 cities or towns. Between us we read more than 150 books in the 180 days we were gone. We had six months to learn what we could about each place we visited, but that time also gave us the luxury to learn about anything else that interested us, including each other. It also gave us the benefit of perspective on the lives we had left behind and would be returning to. It was half a year of new experiences, new languages, new foods, new friends and family bonding.
We’re all a bit wistful about the end of the trip, but maybe it’s best to end on a positive note. Ciaran, never the sentimental type, is looking at it this way. “I’m really looking forward to going home,” he said the other day with great enthusiasm. “Want to know why? It’s because of our three-storey house! We won’t all have to share a small hotel room anymore! And I won’t have to use bottled water to brush my teeth! And it’s been way too long since I ate some of Grandpa Kip’s barbecue chicken.”
Well, there you have it.