Patty’s Closing Essay – August 2000

I am sitting at this computer in France after having a few weeks to ponder the thought that this trip is coming to the end! Our good friends from home, the Levitts, just left and I feel like we have had our first taste of ‘re-entry’. (I have to say I feel like an astronaut that has been on a long space mission about to come ‘back to earth’!)

If someone were to ask me what this trip has been like· I would quickly answer, “Surreal!” I know I went through the motions. It was tremendous amount of preparation and a lot of energy to do but I still feel like I had to pinch myself all the time to remind myself that it was actually happening. I cannot believe after 22 countries that it is actually over and we did it with such success. (I keep thinking of the people back home that had bets on how long we would last· with ourselves, with our children, with the hassles of traveling or lets face it, with the ‘differences’ of culture we were always up against.) But there is the side of me that would say it was absolutely heavenly. Dick says I do a good job of ignoring the ‘junk’ and have a tendency of dwelling on the ‘romantic’ side of life. So be it, it works. I loved being with just Dick and the kids. I loved the different cultures (even the hassle times). I loved the time spent away from our normal life to just relax, take it all in, read, write and learn. What a treat! And I can’t help but wonder why we were the lucky ones to get to do this sort of thing. Viewing the world on such a broad scale makes you ponder the big picture and how one fits in. It makes you think of what is really important and what is not. It keeps you focused on your family and gives you the opportunity to really find out who your kids are and who you are. It gives you the chance to set your own pace, go your own direction and do your own thing.

I remember 15 years ago when Dick and I went with another good friend, Dale. We were all wondering how we would feel at the end of the year. Would we be ready to go home· did we get traveling out of our system? I will never forget standing in the French train station and we all said “No!” to both questions. I look back on that time and realize we were younger and in transition on so many levels and we all never really even knew where we were going to live. This time is very different. We are older and we left a great life back home with friends and family. So, in some ways the ‘re-entry’ will be much easier. But, I have a little confession to make. There is a part of me that is sad it is all over. I now know the truth about myself. I love to travel. I love to see the world· all the people, all the landscapes, all the animals, all the histories, all the folk art, all the delicious food, all the differences! And, best of all, I got to do it this time with the kids. It was great to see our they processed each country. It boggles my mind that as I will be living my suburban life in Newton, Massachusetts, there will be all these people I have met that are living right along with me in their own ways. I feel connected with the whole world and that feels comforting.

The big question for me is how will this trip affect my future life in suburban Newton, Massachusetts. The answer is “I don’t know but, I guess, that is the next great adventure!”

I wanted to take this time to thank our family and friends who have been so, so very supportive of our craziness. It was comforting to me to feel so loved. I really enjoyed all my new email relationships and hopefully I will continue when I get home with those that are out of town. Thank you to all the people we met along the way that helped make each day wonderful. We have many new friends that I hope we will stay in contact with.

And lastly,
For my own processing of the trip, here is a list of my favorites along the way!

Costa Rica – the Scarlet Macaws flying in pairs almost in silhouette but then the sun would shine and show off their brilliant color. WOW

Guatemala – first day outside Guatemala City going to Antigua and seeing my first Mayan women in traditional dress carrying a basket on her head. I almost cried.

Honduras – snorkeling for the first time with our kids and watching the wonder as they discovered what was ‘under’ the water’.

Mexico – as we only spent 6 hours there·buying folk art for my multicultural ‘Discovery Boxes’ I want to develop for children in school.

Thailand – hiking and camping overnight in a traditional village and watching how the people pound rice

Laos – waking up at dawn to watch the orange clad Buddhist monks with their brass collecting bowls go from door to door collecting food from the locals.

Cambodia – the gnarly monstrous roots growing out from Angor Wat and other temples (something I had wanted to see all my life)

India – the fairytale quality of Samode palace with its grand entrance in candlelight and drumming· hand painted mirrored rooms and silver furniture. The camels on the road and Ben (6 years old) who quickly figured out his version of how economics works in developing countries· from bicycles to taxis!

Nepal – the family trek· doing something so physically challenging, being in the Himalayan landscape and meeting the villagers along the way.

Bhutan – going to a closed culture in a Shangri-La environment and feeling like you are part of the culture· not a tourist. Thank you Chorten and Samba!

Japan – the beauty of Miyajima Island, Shinko (our hostess who cried when we left), the deer, the walk with Katie, the little song which woke you each morning!

China – the adventure we had on the Great Wall!

Greece – the visual beauty and splendor of the turquoise caldera in Santorini off-season and relaxing for so long!

Holland – the short but sweet visit from Anne Franks house, all the teapots hanging from the Dutch pancake house and the Fairy store (thanks Dee Dee!)

Namibia -absolutely for me the LANDSCAPE· it dug deep into my West Texas upbringing· the red sand dunes I will never forget.

Botswana – gliding along in ‘mokorros’ (dugout canoes) in Okavango Delta taking photos of every water lily and watching the kids take great delight in making campfires like they did on the trek in Nepal

Zimbabwe/Zambia – the wonders of Victoria Falls· the intensity of the water, flying over to actually understand what happened geologically and thinking what it must have been like for Livingstone to discover it.

Kenya – our first glimpse and understanding of the Massai people. They are the first group of indigenous people that actually have figured out how to beat the system and exist along with it. Bravo!

Tanzania – ahhhh· those animals that I connect with almost in a spiritual way. I already miss them and the landscape. And, getting to meet and learn about how the ‘hunter /gatherers’ live. I, again, almost cried. I love indigenous peoples.

France – going back to a place we loved so much and finding that we still loved it (St Leonard des Bois and St. Ceneri)· we truly relax there so it felt great.

Denmark – an added jewel· my size of country, you immediately feel good in and not overwhelmed· our dinner with Leif ‘s Mother (traditional Danish cooking which resembles and touches on my Irish roots) And of course, Legoland! The country feels like it celebrates children and I like that!

Norway – as Alex says, “the air”· so clear, clean, healthy! The sky that wanders in and out of the craggy landscape of rock and sea. (As we flew into land in Bodo, which is above the Arctic Circle, I could not help but think of the landscapes in Namibia and Tanzania, which are so different.) What a world we live in! For all the Scandinavian countries · the sense of design. I love it.