Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reflections on six months abroad

I meant to write this post some time ago but life got in the way.  It's  been almost three months now since I returned from my epic six month trip.  How has the return been?  Hmmm...it's been an adjustment that's for sure.  I did go through a bit of post travel depression in July where I could not focus on anything and stared into space a lot.  Just trying to find my way back into my old life... It's been wonderful seeing friends again and being settled in one place but do I miss life on the road?  Oh yes I do.  There is something freeing about only having a suitcase and small backpack to worry about....though I must admit I didn't wear grey for a while!!! Do I want to get back out there again?  You bet!  In the meantime I've been busy buying things for my apartment (which I adore - I do need a home base) that were put off...I am now the proud owner of a Dyson vacuum cleaner.  Woo hoo!  I have a list of new gadgets, etc that are on the list and that's my focus now.  I am calling it the "nesting project".  But more travel will be happening...oh yeah!

Was it life changing?  YES!!! I made a long standing dream come true and that is a huge thing.  Why six months?  Health insurance reasons and that is the length of time the UK stamps your passport for staying in the country.  Well you know and I know that I was in and out of the UK a couple of times and my passport did get stamped again..technically I could have stayed in the UK until late October...however being a law abiding citizen and all...At one point in my life (late twenties...) I had a Certificate of Patriality Visa - a working visa that you can obtain f you are a member of the Commonwealth and your grandparents were born in the UK.  Mine was good for five years and gave me every right of a UK citizen except the right to vote...did I use it?  Nope.  And no, I still don't want to talk about it.  It still hurts that I never made use of it.  I guess in the long run it all worked out but it is something that will always haunt me. Sometimes I wish I was more of a rebel and less of a people pleaser...that's all I will say...

I've been asked what my favourite part of the trip was and I always say London...always London...about three and a half months of my time was spent there and it was the absolute highlight. I fell in love with London on my first trip there in January 1975 and the love just gets stronger. (let's just say you don't want to be with me when I am home and watching a film shot in London) When taking the tube is normal, when visiting Marks and Spencers to buy your favourite ready meals & veggies (and prawn sandwiches any time you feel like it!) is normal, when knowing you can put yourself  into a coma eating Galaxy bars if you wish is normal (okay that was a bit of a strange thing to say but what a way to go that would be...) then it's all good.  I never took it for granted - walking along the South Bank I teared up more than once looking over at St Paul's and I hugged myself in St James Park knowing I could go there every day if I felt like it.

It was fun taking crazy photos like this...St Paul's in the background

Never got tired of seeing these guys - actually this bus is one of the old Routemasters - I do miss those!  Now they are used for the tourist route which goes from Trafalgar Square to Tower Hill.  Never ever tired of sitting on top (and at the front if I could snag it) of a red double decker bus! 

St James Park and what a thrill it was to see the daffodils this year!!!

And of course never get tired of seeing these guys...use them?  Um not anymore...they smell of piss!  But I have used many in my day...Sad to say they are mainly used as urinals these days which is why I bought my first UK mobile back in 2007...but aren't they pretty?

Other highlights were the beautiful Portugese island of Madeira...my friend June joined me for the week and we had a blast doing some amazing hikes and exploring.

My week in Cornwall was amazing as well.....St Ives stole my heart over thirty years ago and I can't imagine staying anywhere else in Cornwall.

There were just so many highlights of the trip I can't even begin to list them all - well if you've been reading my blog you know what I loved!

Of course life has its ups and downs and I had my saddest time within a few weeks of starting my trip when the cat I was looking after died.  Very upsetting especially when I found out that the vet had told them she likely would not survive while they were away...why they didn't take care of it before I left I will never know (no longer in touch with them and don't intend to be).  She was a fifteen year old cat and had a good long life.  So here's to Scylla...I don't like many cats but I loved you....

I think they were deciding what colour to paint the walls - at least I hope so!!!

Scylla and Emma....Scylla loved climbing up on Emma to sleep....  I always seem to fall in love with the pets I look after!

I've no regrets about the petsit and I loved being in a home of my own for just over three weeks - my friend Pat joined me for a few days over Christmas and that was such fun.  Dare I say I am thinking about doing another petsit in London for Xmas of 2016?  With better results I hope!

Then there was the woman who jay walked in front of our airport bus in Lisbon...I often think of the poor bus driver.  Did he ever go back to work after that?  And the woman's family...how are they dealing...perhaps she did survive but it doesn't seem likely.  An elderly woman being hit by a full sized coach going about 60 km at hour (at least) does not bode well.  Something that haunts me to this day....

Okay..back to happier things...Paul!!  I was so lucky to see my big crush Paul three times while in the UK.  I saw him twice in London and once in Liverpool...I had nothing planned for May and it fit into my plans beautifully....perfect!!!  My friend Pat flew over again so we hung out together for a few days and I got to meet up with some old Paul friend and some new ones!!!

46 times now and counting!!!

I loved my stays at airbnb and met some many great people that way....Claudia, Anne, Henry, Jorge, Ann & Steve, Janet, Mary, Sheila...and more.  If you ever go to Madeira and are the least bit adventurous I can tell you where to stay!!!  To me staying with a local family beats a hotel any day.  I couldn't have done this trip without airbnb as not only was it reasonably priced (although with airbnb you can spend big bucks and live in luxury as well) but I was able to use the kitchen to cook...okay mostly heat up ready meals and cook veggies, etc. but it was much cheaper and healthier than eating out.  Of course I did eat out but only a couple of times a week like I do at home.  And it gave me a feel for what it's like to live in the UK.  Sure I've stayed with relatives and friends before while in the UK but not in as many different places.  I loved it and will continue using the service for as long as they have it.  I did use hotels on certain occasions when it was more convenient but airbnb is my first choice.

I was able to see my family in Yorkshire...Sue, Judy and Ann....and meet up in Brighton with my friend Judi a couple of times  I met my long time pen pal Lisa for the first time in Vienna and stayed with my friend Claudia in Germany and we went to Prague together.  I met a friend of a friend (who is now my friend as well!) Janette at Hever Castle.  It was a delightful combination of being with others and having time to myself as well.  (I am my own best friend after all)

Of course Turkey was a huge highlight - the tour was wonderful and my six traveling companions and tour leader were fantastic.   We all got along so well and had so many laughs.

Floating above the skies over Cappadocia - definitely one of the best things I've done!!! (though still doesn't compare to the balloon flight over the Masai Mara I did back in 1982!)

Seeing the Blue Mosque in the "flesh" was a real thrill...

We were privileged enough to attend an authentic Whirling Dervish ceremony - not a tourist thing. (which I saw on my Nile cruise a few years back)  Totally amazing and I can still hear that music...mesmorizing...

Hang glider over Pamukkale as the sun was beginning to set...

Three new countries:  Portugal, Turkey and the Czech Republic - how exciting is that?

I am still editing photos needless to say - I don't know how many I took but I think it hovers around the 12,000 mark.  One question  I've been asked a few times is  "how much did you spend"?  I don't know!  I came back with money...I never add up the cost of my trips.  I can't put a monetary value on experiences that change my life.   Traveling has been a huge part of my life since my very early 20's; it's what I do.  That's a whole other post however....

I've also been asked "weren't you scared?".  No - what scares me is never having lived my dream.  But I did...oh boy did I ever....

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