May 26 – My Reflections of This Trip by Molly

Traveling for this long, it’s no surprise that we’ve seen lots of things and had lots of new, sometimes very weird experiences. Now that we’re in Fiji, with just days left of our year-long trip around the world and all the time we need to think about this past year, a multitude of memories, both wonderful and otherwise, are surfacing.

We’ve all got different favorite parts of the trip, but we’ve got a few things that stand out for all of us. One of the things that we’ve all loved is when people visited us. All four of us have fond memories of Ireland with the Comaskeys and Longeneckers, Paris with the Gottesfelds, Barcelona with Lisa Maier, Italy and then Bali with Marmie (also known as Mom or Marion, depending on who you’re talking to), and Portugal and Vietnam with Grandma and Grandpa. Those are all highlights for me, and I think the rest of the family agrees.

Of course, there are lots of other highlights for me. I loved Ireland more than I can say. Turkey is what we call our ‘sleeper’. We expected it to be a lot like Morocco, but it ended up being very modern and the people were some of the friendliest out there. Spain was another of my favorites, especially Barcelona. Mommy and I both loved France, and we all loved Italy. Southeast Asia was both interesting and very, VERY different from anything else we’d seen. I remember in Bangkok, our first taste of Asia, I wrote in my journal:

“We’ve been to many big cities. Many of those are vibrant, bustling, colorful, wonderful, and weird. Bangkok is no exception! If you don’t have all your senses wide open, you’ll miss something. If you blink, you won’t see something interesting. If you exhale, you won’t smell a weird/wonderful/not-so-nice smell. If you are daydreaming, or have switched into a more things-aren’t-all-that-strange mindset, you will let the whole city pass by as just an interesting place in the back of your mind that you can’t access directly, only in dreams or daydreams or the fiction-writing part of your brain. To really feel like you know what Bangkok’s all about, you need to be very alert, 24/7.”

We’ve also had some not-as-great experiences, that we all like to laugh about now. We have entire dinner conversations about the Top 20 Worst Places We’ve Stayed, which includes the Bedouin tent, the night train to Luxor, the Iban Longhouse, and the Paradise Hotel on Perhentian Basar. I’ll never forget being sick in Pai, Thailand, and being told by the doctor, who hardly spoke English and who seemed to be around 20 years old, that I had typhoid, and by the way he said it, you’d think I had won a prize. It’s funny how sometimes the nastiest things end up being the funniest later on!

A few weeks ago, Mommy asked, “What is our next big dream?” That got us thinking. Move to Paris for six months? Write a book about traveling for a year? There are so many possibilities! Mommy says that doing something big, like this year, requires getting past some boundaries and doing some hard things. I think my next big thing is going to a new school, which I’ll be doing in September.

Whatever it is we’ll be doing next, this year has been really important for all of us. We’ve all changed. We’ve learned more about the world, and more about each other. More importantly, we’ve learned more about ourselves. And, maybe even more importantly, we’ve learned that we can do something huge, something that we didn’t know if we even could do, just by deciding that we’re going to do it and working to make it happen.

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May 25

Theo spent the day with some friends, one from Tasmania and one from Sydney.

Yet another fine day. In the morning we did a few “errands”—shopping for car insurance, trying to figure out our move back into our house, and a few other logistical things like that. We are making the transition from travel to daily life back home, and it looks like the universe has contrived to help us get a little practice before we actually arrive.

We are feeling a little nostalgic about the end of our trip, and trying to process what it will be like to resume our lives in Denver. We find that our conversation at happy hour seems to focus on big subjects, like what are the most interesting things we have learned on the trip, and how has our trip changed us—plenty of food for thought for future posts. But for now, it feels like we’re in the mood for another swim and maybe a nap.

(Dan)

May 24

Nothing to do, and all day to do it. I could get used to this...

Without putting too fine of a point on it we relaxed by the pool; catching up on journals, math, Latin and reading good books then experienced a fierce afternoon tropical storm while enjoying happy hour.  Fine day indeed.

(Lisa)

May 23 – surfing, take two

Molly, making us all look good. Let's hear it for teamwork!

We spent the better part of today with Dave and Shawn, our surfing instructors for the day.  Most beaches on the big Fijian island on which we are staying have very little surf so we hopped into a van with seats covered in plastic (just like your great aunt’s couch) and made our way to a beach across the island that promised enough surf for these beginners.  Having never understood the couch covered in plastic it finally made sense – perhaps they had visitors arriving after a day of surfing, wet and covered with sand.

Our first couple of waves proved pretty good as we applied what we had learned in Australia.  Molly’s learning curve continued throughout the day but I must admit that the rest of us faced diminishing returns as the day wore on.  While it could have been easy to get frustrated it was hard to feel too bad while bobbing in the water and studying the surf and a beautiful deserted beach.  Thus, rather than discouraged we are ready to try again in the future especially once the pain of our tired and battered bodies begins to recede.

(Lisa)

May 22 – Another Day in Paradise

Kickin' it by the pool. It's good to relax.

Lisa and Molly made their way into town to the spa for some pool touch ups.

In the meantime, Theo and I swam in one of the several pools at the Sheraton. I have to admit it is awfully nice to have really nothing to do. We are tired from our travels, and it is nice to rest and play in such a beautiful place.

(Dan)

May 21 – Travel day from New Zealand to Fiji

The view from our balcony. Ready for some R&R. That's more like it!

A very rainy drive into Auckland was followed by a cup of joe at the McCafe, McDonald’s stab at incorporating a coffee house into the mix.  Don’t know if McCafe has made it to America but I must say I think there is something a bit off about having your coffee house infused with the smell of french fries and frying burgers.  Nothing wrong with getting your morning cuppa at Mcee D’s if your thing is inexpensive, quick coffee but implying an actual coffee house with good coffee and charging accordingly is something else entirely.  The experience brought to mind the axiom to do what you do best and let someone else do the rest.  It also brought to mind how close we are to a good cuppa at Perk Hill!

After an uneventful flight through the weather we arrived in Fiji and made our way to the serene, if a bit sterile, Sheraton complex.

(Lisa)

Culhanes Unable to Blog from Fiji

Dear family and friends,

For reasons unknown, the Culhanes are unable to blog from Fiji.  They asked me to post this message so you all will know that everything is OK.