Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coming home....

Today I will leave Athens and begin my 2-day journey home.  Yes, it's a little earlier than I had originally planned.  I had intended to stay another week, visiting Istanbul and then flying to London for a few days before heading back to Dublin for my return flight home.  But, I have heard nothing but horror stories from people over here about women traveling alone in Istanbul.  To a person, everyone I've talked to about my trip has warned me against it.  I've heard stories of women being drugged with something in their drinks at cafes.  I've heard second-hand accounts of women traveling alone being pulled into dark alleyways, the backs of stores, and even cars going down the street.  One woman told me her daughter, who lives in Budapest and has traveled all over Europe alone, was so terrified in Istanbul that after going out one afternoon she stayed locked in her hotel eating room service for the rest of her trip.  She went into a store to browse in the middle of the afternoon and the man who worked there kept trying to get her to come into the back room of the shop to show her some "discounts."  When she tried to leave, he grabbed her and tried to pull her into the back of the store.  So, although it was a place I really wanted to visit, Istanbul was crossed off my list...at least until I can return with a travel companion.  I then began trying to figure out where to go between Athens and London.   Nothing really presented itself as being either easy or affordable, so I made the decision to scratch London and head home early. 

To tell the truth, as much fun as this trip has been, I'm ready to come home.  I am road weary!  One of the reasons I booked a 6-night stay in Athens was that I was tired of moving around every 2-3 days.  I don't regret doing it that way, as I got to see a lot of different places.  I would have liked to have stayed longer in a few places...Amsterdam, Krakow, Venice (because of Vera and Antoanella), Ravenna, Rome.  But what places would I have given up to stay in those locations longer?  No, I don't regret the crazy, exhausting schedule...it's been a blast.  That said, I'm happy to be winding it down.  I'm looking forward to getting back home and being in one place for a while.  I'm excited about seeing all my friends and family.  I've missed you guys!  There will be lots of get-togethers with everyone when I return. 

I sat last night thinking about my trip and compiling some statistics in my head.  I used an online distance calculator to figure out how many miles I've traveled.  By the time my plane lands back in Charlotte, I will have been gone 37 days and traveled 14,136 miles.  That doesn't count the number of miles I've walked in each city.  I wish I had worn one of those pedometers so I could have measured it.  A LOT is the only calculation I have for that!  I will have visited 12 cities in 8 different countries, not counting cities in which I just had a plane layover or change of trains.  I should probably count Bologna since I stayed overnight there and then several days later had to go back for a train transfer, but I'm not because all I really saw of it was the airport, one hotel, and a few blocks around the train station.  I will have slept in 17 different beds in a variety of apartments, hotels, and hostels.  I will have been on 12 different airplanes and 9 different trains (not counting airport transfer or local trains).  I can't even count the number of buses, trams, and subway cars I've ridden in.  In fact, I think I have used every type of transportation known to modern man on this trip: planes, trains, automobiles, buses, trams, boats, and subways.  If only I had taken a hot air balloon or horse & buggy ride, I could have covered them all.

This morning, I have to walk 1/2 mile to the closest metro station, take it to the city center, and transfer to another metro line that will take me to the airport.  Then I will fly to Copenhagen, have a short layover and then on to Dublin.  I will spent one night there and then tomorrow I will fly from Dublin to Chicago (I'm dreading that one...8.5 hours cramped in a small space) and then my final flight from Chicago to Charlotte.  I'll stay at Tanya's in Charlotte Wednesday night and drive back to Spartanburg sometime on Thursday.  And I will be home, sweet home!  Where I plan to stay for a while. 

I have had a spectacular time on this trip.  I've learned so much and seen more incredible things than you can imagine.  I've eaten delicious foods, some of which I had never even heard of before.  I've had experiences that I'll remember for a lifetime.  I've met some amazingly wonderful people.  People who became my friends.  People who through their kindness helped me navigate in so many places where I couldn't speak the language.  People who wanted to know my story and tell me theirs.  People who made me feel welcome in the most foreign of lands.  Of everything I've seen, done, and experienced, it is the people I will treasure most and never forget.  We may come from different places, we may look and speak differently, but we humans are more alike than not.  We should never let our differences divide us.  We should never forget the common humanity we all share.

During my travels, I have often thought of Maya Angelou's poem, The Human Family...so I will end this post with her words, because they capture perfectly how I feel:

The Human Family by Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I've sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land.
I've seen the wonders of the world,
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I've not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike

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