Tuesday, 7 May 2018 – USA, California, Home, Office…
Heading back from Miami to SFO, where the whole 2018 event started weeks ago on April 13–23-days, 11-countries and over 43,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) ago–I was struck with awe while flying over the country peering out the window like a little kid. The Florida everglades, storm clouds brewing on the horizon, the bayous of Louisiana, the plains of Texas, glorious Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon, the snow-capped Sierras and the multi-colored salt pans of the San Francisco Bay…then the drive home across the Golden Gate bridge into the still green valley’s of wine country.
And for those that know me, I am not a little kid; but, some might wrongly suggest, a jaded veteran traveler of the world for decades now. I have done a lot and probably seen even more. But I am not jaded, and that awe-factor hit me; I am still enthralled with travel–the destinations, the people, the colors, the food, the cultures, the conversations, the sights and smells; and yes, even the getting there still impresses me. I still love to look out the window of a 747 slipping the surely bounds of earth. And I say this because before the adventure started, I was quietly questioning myself, wondering to myself, if I had maybe hit the travel wall? Was I maybe done with it all? Well, I am not…
And so our 14th event comes to a close and I must sum it all up in short pithy prose…and those that know me, know that is not easy.
Hmmm…bullet trains and dumplings in Taiwan; smiles and the Taj in India; ceremonial dancing and Lucy visits in Ethiopia; the roar of lions on African safari; zip-trekking across Victoria Falls; steaks, Malbec and tango in Buenos Aires; dawn beach walks and the wineries of Uruguay; playing with seals and exploring ruins in Peru; the everglades and South Beach glamour of Miami. Three weeks around the world; nine new event countries (the 14-year old event is now sitting pretty at 85 countries visited thank you very much); and hundreds of new global acquaintances made along the way. Our cups runneth over, again.
It was an ambitious trip…9,000 more kilometers flown than ever before. We had to go east to go west, south to go north. Visiting Southern Africa like we did in Zimbabwe and Zambia put us in a deep hole…but we maneuvered west to South America. Not as easy as it looked. For me, these events are always a combination of herding cats and taming lions, putting out fires and orchestrating the band. (Maybe that’s why my nickname has become the Ringmaster?) But this was a good year–they all aren’t.
There were no: cheaters, drama queens, inflated egos, bouts of malaria, acts of terrorism, liars, overly competitive teams, infectious diseases, May Day riots to circumnavigate, drunkards to contend with, cliques to infiltrate, hotel potatoes to mollify, intolerable heat waves, lost phones, wayward luggage, blowhards or Debbie-downers to counteract. The right team won. No one got too sick. Everyone genuinely liked each other–and traveled with each other from time to time. We had a good time; each of us did, I know it! We only heard grumblings about a few early flights and plastic water bottles soon overwhelming our world. That was it… All our destinations were fun. Our travel was seamless, our hotels grand, our adventures too numerous to mention. (At least right now!) Our collective memory banks full once more. We did it, again.
So, thank you all for traveling with us; both Pamela and I appreciate you taking such an amazing leap of faith with us and allowing us to show you our version of the world–that very few ever get to experience. We think it is special. And thank everyone else who followed our 2018 adventure online and via social media, we appreciate you too. But honestly, instead of sitting on the sidelines watching and pressing the like button, wouldn’t you really rather join the fun? Come…choose adventure, get out of your comfort zones and experience our world.
Life is all too short my fellow friends, enjoy it while you can.
And this point was brought home all too real for me on Sunday when I hit the tarmac in SFO. I received a sad e-mail informing me that one of our own, two-time participant (2013 & 2014) Gerry Obrecht of BC, Canada (The Ogopogos) had died after a short bout from cancer the night before. He died on the same day, five years after he and his son Phil were crowned the 2013 winners of the event and The World’s Greatest Travelers. Gerry was a kind, funny and gentle man, who lived life to the fullest and it showed: when competing; when traveling; when making practical jokes; when grinning and bearing the trials and tribulations of traveling as we do; when tying the shoelaces together of a sleeping hungover fool on our bus; when beating us, continually, at cribbage; and when generously retelling travel war stories over a cocktail in some exotic bar in an equally far-flung destination. Gerry was a gentleman and a champion. Gerry was a member of our tribe…and we will miss him. Till we meet again my friend, when the round is on you.
To that, all I can do is repeat myself: life is short–spend your time and money while you can…eat the cake, kiss the girl, and travel more!
Our dates are already set for 2019: April 12 – May 4, 2019! Let’s do it again…