Well, we arrived home almost a week ago and have had time to settle in and reflect a bit on our travel experiences. I have decided to format our last blog entry interview style in response to the 'frequently asked questions' we have already had about our trip. I'm sure some of our answers may change over time, but for today, this is how we are thinking/feeling about our three months away:
Q: How was your trip?!
A: Teri - Our trip was fun, exciting, exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, stressful, and even boring at times; always challenging in that it stretched our boundaries, made us more independent, sensitive, grateful, and hopefully better-rounded and mature people for it.
A: Chris - The trip for me was a new experience for us as a couple - doing things we've never done before in places we've never been together. I'm proud of us for just doing it, and I'm grateful Teri and I could share this experience together.
Q: What was the best part?
A : Teri - Honestly, the best part for me was feeling really well-connected to people - both family and friends back home, friends we both made and reconnected with along the way, and some people who we just crossed paths with for a moment in time.
It's kind of ironic that I felt increased connection with some family and friends after I was thousands of miles away, but I guess that distance and the opportunity to miss each other strengthens relationships and cultivates gratitude.
A: Chris - The best part for me was the adventure of being on the other side of the world and often being able to pick and choose an itinerary to take us wherever we wanted. Along the same thread, the trip was so fantastically liberating in the sense that we were not tied down with any burdens other than finding a bus, a room and a place to eat. Often when people are on "vacation", they still have a nagging feeling that they will have return to their job far too soon and then it's back to the grind. Being away for 3 months allowed me to let my job back home completely escape my mind and allow me focus on where I was, who I was with and the experience I was having.
Q: Okay, but what were some of your favourite places you visited?
A: Teri - India, overall, because it is so drastically different from the western world. You don't have to do a thing in India because just being there, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds is utterly intriguing. For example, in Australia, we paid upwards of $65 for each 'activity' we did (kayaking, snorkelling, hiking, etc.) and I don't mean to undermine the fun I had in Oz, but in India a 50 Rs. ($1) rickshaw ride back to the hotel was sometimes just as exhilarating!
India was also overall not 'touristy'; it was very raw and intense and even though it nearly drove me crazy at times, looking back, I have so many vivid memories of my time there, it is imprinted on my soul!
Chris - They were all my favorite places...there was no place I "liked" more than another really. India was really new & entertaining...the people, the animals everywhere, the horrible grammar, the crazy crazy traffic, the religions, the strange customs, the garbage everywhere, the stunning & ancient architecture, the passion for cricket, the goofy kids, the strange plumbing...I could go on and on. It's so incredibly interesting to see how other people live.
Q: What were the highlights of India?
A: Teri - In India, one of my best times was in Mount Abu. Mount Abu is a holiday destination for Indians, so everyone there seemed relaxed and happy. In the evening, a popular thing to do is to walk up a big hill to watch the sun set. Our tour group strolled up the hill along with Indian families on vacation while the young entrepreneurs sold us corn on the cob and offered to give us rides up the hill in wagons or on horseback. There were probably a couple hundred people all watching the big red sun set over the water. As the sun dipped under the horizon there was clapping and cheering and we all joined in and I loved being part of this ordinary but special Indian experience. On the way down we posed for photos with groups of girls and boys who thought we were quite the novelty, but that was fun, too, even if we were reminded of being 'different'.
A: Chris - Hmmm...the highlight of India for me was probably...the traffic. Yeah right!! What a circus! If I had to pick a highlight from India it would be the time we spent in Varkala Beach in the southern state of Kerala for almost 2 weeks. We had a great hotel room only a 30 second walk from the Arabian Sea, restaurants serving fabulous food for less than $3 a meal, a beautiful beach, friendly people, and yoga almost every day. It almost sounds like an all-inclusive resort! But it wasn't...this was Varkala!
Q: What were the highlights of Australia?
A: Teri - We were there for over a month so there were lots of highlights! Off the top of my head, some big highlights were scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, our trip inland to West Wyalong where we first experienced Australia off the tourist trail, and the awesome time we had visiting the Steads and Harkers in Adelaide over Christmas and New Years.
A: Chris - Easily my highlight in Australia was seeing my friends and their families in Adelaide, South Australia. We were able to spend a lot of quality time together and were absolutely spoiled rotten by their hospitality and generosity. I sincerely hope that they are able to visit us here in Morden someday so that we can return the favor! Thanks to them, we were able to do a fantastic tour of the Barossa Valley wineries, go fishing for snapper in in the Spencer Gulf at Port Victoria, view the city from Mount Lofty summit, among others. Besides Adelaide, I really enjoyed our stays with the Floyd's in West Wyalong, seeing Doofus and his family in Newcastle, and meeting Jill In Brisbane. Fraser Island was once again a really cool experience (seeing the dingoes!), as was our 3 day stay aboard the Kiana exploring the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.
Q: What were the highlights of New Zealand?
A: Teri - Actually the drives, or I should say the rides as we were travelling by bus, were the highlights. The South Island has gorgeous and diverse scenery, and it was very relaxing in the last 11 days of our trip, to just sit back and take it all in. I also particularly liked the Monteiths Summer Ale, the hostel in Greymouth, and all the sheep.
A: Chris - The space and the natural beauty of New Zealand was very comfortable for me (as opposed to the frenzy in India and in cities). Riding the bus around the south island was relaxing and most often breathtaking. We were able to see so much of the country in such a short time. I really enjoyed the opportunity to see and climb the Franz Josef glacier since it is so unique. Nelson was a really cool town at the north end of the island, and walking part of the famous Abel Tasman Coastal Track on my birthday was a great experience.
Q: Any lowlights along the way?
A: Teri - Sure. I got tired of feeling sweaty and dirty, repacking the backpack almost every day, feeling homeless, getting sunburned, etc. We were very lucky though; we didn't run into any bad experiences. People everywhere treated us well.
A: Chris - Yeah, it was often exhausting being constantly on the move and wearing the same clothes every day! The unsettled feeling eventually becomes too much to bear and thoughts of being at home in my own bed in my own house become overwhelming at times. Another lowlight was having to deal with shady taxi drivers and endure the incessant hassle from vendors and traffic in India, but this is also what makes India the experience it is.
Q: Would you do it again?
A: Teri - I'm really glad we had the opportunity to do this trip. I learned that I like backpacking in theory more than in reality. There are still so many places I want to visit, but I think we'll limit future trips to one month.
A: Chris - 3 months is a long time to be away from home and friends and family when you're living out of a backpack. I like to think I would do something similar again if the opportunity arose, but I doubt the opportunity will arise again in my current situation so I don't have to worry about that for awhile, anyway! There are definitely many more places I would like to see, though.
Q: This blog entry is getting too long. What else do you want to say?
A: (Chris) & Teri - we want to thank people. First of all, to Mom, Jim, Norleen, and Levi for their parts in checking on the house almost daily, clearing the driveway, watering the plants, getting the furnace fixed, and stocking the fridge for our return!
A big thank-you to our friends in Australia - Jill in Brisbane, Doudles in Newcastle, the Floyds in West Wyalong, and the Harkers and Steads in Port Adelaide. It was so great spending time with you, your hospitality was amazing, and we'd love to host you whenever you come to Canada! Chris would also like to thank those responsible for letting him take 3 months off from his job and also his co-workers who might have had a little bit of slack to pick up!
Finally, everyone who supported us through emails, reading the blog, and just keeping us in your thoughts and prayers and wishing us well. This is what I mean by the trip making me feel really good about people - your support feels like being wrapped up in a big bear hug! Consider yourself hugged right back!