What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

It's great to be home, where:

gasoline is as cheap as $3.00 per gallon;
you can brush your teeth with water from the tap;
you can flush toilet paper;
the showers are sized for real people;
we have washcloths;
air conditioning is plentiful;
there is variety, variety, variety in everything;
parking is free and abundant;
you don't have to pay to use the toilet;
we can understand the news broadcasts;
a second mortgage isn't necessary to make a long distance call to a loved one;
our friends and family are at most 3 time zones away;

and most importantly -
the amount of stuff you are permitted isn't limited to 20 kilos!

God Bless the Red, White and Blue!

Seriously, it has been "a great ride" that has taken us the entire way around the globe, into both the northern and southern hemispheres, across 5 continents, visiting 23 countries and traveling 66,061 miles. We have flown 29 flight segments on 10 different carriers, spent 227 nights away from home and stayed in 81 unique locations. We have been on planes, trains, automobiles, ridden in taxis, subways, boats and even a tuk-tuk. We hired 13 cars, driving these vehicles over 10,000 miles, took 25 taxi rides, rode on 14 trains and cruised in 5 boats.

With all of that, some of the high points of the last 8 months are:

Best Hotel Room - Without any hesitation, the bi-level suite at the Renaissance St. Petersburg in Russia (although, we have been fortunate enough to stay in many really nice rooms!)
Best "Self-Catering" - Marriott Mayfair in Bangkok was the most spacious and luxurious accommodation, with Latitude 37 in Auckland in second place
Best Airline Lounge - Hands down winner is the Cathay Pacific lounge in Hong Kong, complete with Noodle Bar and Hagen Daz (all complimentary!)
Best Flight Segment - Again, accolades to Cathay Pacific for the flight from Johannesburg to Hong Kong
Best Taxi Ride - This was a tough one, but we chose Sue in Melbourne (actually a "private" car) - honorable mention definitely goes to the taxi driver in Wellington and "Lucky" in Auckland
Best Hotel Proprietors - Chris Rye and Colin Ashworth of Fyffe Country Lodge in Kaikoura, New Zealand - truly two of the loveliest people we met on this incredible journey
Best Food - At the risk of sounding like simpletons, it is a bit of a toss-up here between the Italian restaurant in Garmish, Germany and the Irish pub in Brugges, Belgium (not exactly expected, eh?), but, definitely, the best seafood chowder was Colin's at Fyffe Country Lodge in Kaikoura
"Friendliest" Nation - No doubt about it; New Zealand!

AND, the Best Moment of the entire 8 months - Was it:

The first time we ever stood in Red Square;
Gazing upon Rembrandt's Night Watch;
Standing on the beaches of Normandy, overcome with emotion;
Whale watching in New Zealand;
Being woken at 3:00 AM by the roar of a male lion;
Admiring Michelangelo's Madonna and Child in Brugges;
The first time we touched down on U.S. soil in nearly 8 months;
Watching the sunrise over the dunes at Sossuvlei in Namibia;
Waking up to the haunting call of the muezzins in Istanbul;
Seeing a personal glass blowing demontration at Vecchio Murano in Venice;
The ATV ride in Kaikoura on the South Island of New Zealand;
The sunset behind Kata Tjuta;
Spending Christmas morning alone with God's magnificent creatures in the Simwanza Valley (Chobe National Park);

There are lots more, but we truly can't decide! It has all been so incredible - definitely, the stuff of dreams.

In closing, we just wanted to say that we hope you all have enjoyed being able to keep up with us on our odyssey. Our wish for all of you is that, someday, you may have the opportunity to experience a similar journey.

With all our love,
Bonnie and Mark