After 11 weeks, 13 countries and 43,000 kilometres, our great adventure has ended. We have successfully completed Travel101. During this time, we have been astounded and delighted, shocked and amazeed.
We have see palaces, castles, cathedrals, mosques, gardens and spectacular natural scenery. We have listened to music of many genres. We were in Scotland when the referendum seeking independence from the UK was held and lost. We have learned of the deaths of friends and of two great Australians (Peter Sculthorpe and Gough Whitlam).
We were unable to master global roaming, but Viber, FaceTime and Facebook helped us keep in touch. We avoided politics as much as possible, and were amazed at how much better we felt without starting each day reading about the murder and heartlessness of the twenty- first century. Most of which has happened at least once before in the countries we visited.
We reflected on the horror of Auschwitz, the incredible wealth of kings and queens, and wondered at how travel has become inextricably linked with shopping. We observed the habits of locals in different countries; in Warsaw young women drink beer through a straw, in Keswick dogs are welcomed everywhere.
We had wonderful meals and some dreadful ones (Latvia’s potato sausage stands out as the worst). We have drunk many glasses of beer and wine and discarded hundreds of plastic water bottles. We have seen the sun rise over the dunes of the Sahara and set over the Atlantic Ocean.
We travelled on an organised coach tour in Eastern Europe and with a private driver in Morocco. In between we caught trains and planes, and managed to find our way around the cities and towns we visited, more often than not often with unintended detours.
We have slept in a Berber tent (with ensuite), a former mediaeval monastery, the home of an assistant vicar, large faceless hotels in Eastern Europe and a luxury riad in Fez. We have been treated with warmth and hospitality, and only occasionally disdain.
Behind the scenes we were supported by hundreds of hotel staff who cooked for us, made our beds, cleaned our bathrooms and tidied our rooms, provided maps and advice using what was usually a second (or third) language for them. Taxi drivers got us to stations and airports on time; train drivers, pilots, cabin crew and ground staff all ensured that we moved smoothly from place to place on our adventure – an adventure so fabulous that most of them could never conceive of having the opportunity to do anything similar. Not to mention the tradesmen and architects who have squeezed lifts and ensuites into old buildings built decades or centuries before touch things became essential for travel. Strangers pointed us in the right direction and, in Dublin, to the wonderful Avoca cafe.
There were many surprises – including the seat on the Royal Air Morocco plane which failed to stay upright during take-off, the unexpected luxury suite in Riad Fes and the harvest festival in Vienna.
We have laughed and I have cried, and we only occasionally became frustrated with each other. David took his photos, I planned the itinerary, navigated badly and tried to set the pace.
So now we return with memories – some unforgettable, like the sunrise camel ride in the Sahara, others, like a mandala, experienced and forgotten almost immediately. It is time to sift through thousands of photos, share our experiences with those who will listen, adjust to the mundanities of suburbia, and face the reality of life under a heartless government. And begin planning Travel 102.