Less than 8 weeks left on this leg of the trip- or is it the end of my journey? The answer is unclear today. Some of my goals were to meet interesting people, and see how life is lived by other people in the world. Along the way, I wanted to volunteer, learn and experience lots of life. Most of these goals have been accomplished, although the volunteering did not turn out as expected. I found that volunteering for only one or 2 weeks was not what the organizations I contacted needed. Some had a minimum of a six month commitment, another was not set up for an individual volunteer but wanted a group. Probably with better planning or a longer commitment, and I would have enjoyed those experiences as well. Even speaking English and exposing kids at a refugee camp did not work out, since my timing happened to be when they were studying for the most important exams of the year.
Let’s face it, a year is not long enough. The world is an amazing place, and so much bigger than I thought. Our planet is huge and there is so much more I want to see, but am out of time. My incredibly talented daughter is graduating law school, and I am going to be there.
Most frequently asked question of me: Do I like Obama?
Second most frequently asked question: What is my favorite place? (While traveling)
Third most frequently asked question: Do I have a gun? (In the USA)
Favorite places: I cannot say I have a favorite because I liked so many places, but for different reasons.
Most beautiful- Switzerland, but really expensive.
Montenegro is a close second- the Natural beauty is spectacular. Lots of greenery and mountains, and very inexpensive, but harder to get to.
Best Food – Italy. Everything people say about the good food is true. The whole culture is built around enjoying food, and family.
Amsterdam, Netherlands – I enjoyed the “live and let live” attitude. Surprisingly, the city shuts down around 6:00 pm except for Fridays and Saturdays, and even then it shuts down around 11:00 pm. I would definitely go back to see the tulips in spring again, the photos do not do them justice. They are magnificent.
Germany– It is similar to the USA with the modern conveniences and easy to get around with public transportation. The variety of delicious sausages were enjoyable. Wonderful parks- especially the English Garden in Munich.
Scotland- if a person likes to hike and doesn’t mind rain, come here.
Ireland – lots of rain and lots of pubs.
Iceland- Windy. Lots of fish to eat. The Blue Lagoon will bring me back again- but this time in summer. The best organized tourism industry that I experienced.
Serbia – Someone told me to tell everyone to bring your tourist dollars here. The people are so helpful, several walked with me to my destination to be sure I got to where I was going. The public transportation is easy to get around. There is beautiful architecture, and it is a very inexpensive country.
Croatia– Another beautiful country. I didn’t get to spend much time here, but would go back to visit the National Park, and to island hop along the coast. The Aegean Sea is a turquoise blue.
Israel– I don’t think they will ever have peace. I think many people do not want peace. They would rather be right. Really hot and dry. This is where I got over my vanity of being overweight , middle-age woman in a bathing suit. I figured that more people cared about what it was like to float in the Dead Sea, rather than what I looked like.
Czech Republic – I only spent time in Prague, but it is a city with so much historical architecture. This is still an inexpensive area. Great public transportation.
Hungary– I only got to spend a day in Budapest, and would like to go back. It is inexpensive, has good public transportation. The caving experience here was the best caving I have ever done.
Turkey– I went here 3 different times over a 6 month period and explored different areas. The people are very friendly, and the country has everything from sea resorts, to recently discovered cities over 3,000 years ago. The Grand Bazaar is a really interesting place, and for the prettiest jewelry I have ever seen in my travels is located here. It is intricate and stunning. If I am walking down the red carpet in Hollywood, chances are that I will be wearing jewelry from here. Inexpensive.
Zimbabwe– This is where I learned to understand how important it is to have a good leader, and what corruption does to the general population. This is a fascinating country with many, many problems. The local, wonderful people I met here probably had the biggest impact on me through all of my travels. I only spent about a week here, but have a lifetime of memories. Also, a very dear friend joined me here and we shared the experiences. I am so happy to have shared these experiences with her.
Botswana– This is the representation of what I expected of Africa- endless scenery, lots of big animals.
South Africa – I only spent time driving through and then staying a couple days in Johannesburg. The city is growing so quickly they don’t know what the population is, and they have 12 official languages. I now question why some people in the USA think we need one official language. I was very uncomfortable here, partly because of the reputation of the city and people who have not traveled here telling me how dangerous it was. It was a growing experience for me to be the minority everywhere I went.
Thailand – A wonderful country that I will visit again. The people are very friendly and helpful, it is inexpensive, and easy to get around in English. The north has mountains and several Hill Tribes (ethnic groups that do not speak Thai, and dress in their traditional costumes). The south has fantastic beach after beach after beach.
Singapore – Lots of rules. Very clean. Excellent public transportation. Modern architecture. Expensive. A melting pot of Asian people.
Nepal – my least favorite country. The people were very nice, but it is a difficult life for many people. Again, government leadership is so important. When different factions cannot agree on anything, except “leave the tourists alone”, life is hard for its citizens. The capital city, Kathmandu is the most polluted city I have ever seen – air, noise, trash, water, everything. On the other hand, the citizens have bigger problems to worry about.
Bali, Indonesia – such a pretty country with friendly locals. Too bad the places I went in Bali were so damaged by tourism. I would like to discover more of Indonesia, but would hesitate to go back here until the infrastructure catches up, and the trash is gone.
India – I hear that the south is very different than the north. I only had a few days in the north, although I met a very nice family. Next time I will visit the south. India seems to be making progress from what I had expected. It was cleaner than Nepal and school is compulsory. I would not travel as a lone western female in the North again. I was very uncomfortable, although I stayed safe.
Malaysia- Hot and humid, great public transportation. Excellent Chinese food everywhere and inexpensive.
I have met so many kind people and everyone has a story. I have been so fortunate to stay with friends, family, acquaintances and friends of friends, and near strangers. I have found that the world is full of good-hearted people no matter what country, and most people are just like me, trying to find my way on this life’s journey. We have the same concerns, taking care of our family and providing for our children. We are more similar than different, even though we may have different names for our “God”, and wear different clothes and have different manners, but in the end, the world is a wonderful place, and not as scary as we are led to believe.
Future stops in include Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii before I make my way back home. I am looking forward to knowing how to get to the grocery store, and the proper way to purchase vegetables without holding up a line full of people. I also am really, really, looking forward to a cheeseburger!
And most importantly- I am looking forward to hugging my family and friends.