- 32,250 miles flown + 2,023 miles driven + ??? miles walked
- 40°42’N 74°00’W
- Temp: 55 deg
- 9 books read, 11 massages + 2 hot stone + 3 geothermal baths in the books
I think NYC was showing off for me. Afraid that I had fallen in love with the beauty and majesty of all the places I have seen over the past two months, this magnificent city welcomed me home looking as spectacular as ever. I will never get tired of this view, my home, NYC.
Two months is not a terribly long time to be away, and yet it felt like a lifetime. Friends, family, my inner voice, kept saying “I can’t believe it’s over already, that went by so fast.” Yes, it was both over far too quickly, and felt like I experienced a lifetime of adventures.
I flew 32,000 miles, drove 2,000, and probably walked the combination of the two — so my aching feet tell me. I visited 12 countries I’ve never stepped foot in before. I took 2,724 photos. I read 9 books. I got 11 massages. I floated in 2 hot stone and 3 geothermal baths. I ate at least 37 different dishes I had never had or heard of before. I met and made countless friends who will forever leave a mark on me and this experience. I rang in the New Year in the first city to do so. I rode a bike through the red-dirt back country of Cambodia, and watched the sun slowly reveal magnificent Angkor Wat. I watched both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean from the same tip of the peninsula in southern Thailand. I woke to a rat in my bathroom. I ate street food down narrow, unmarked alleys, where food that good shouldn’t be hidden from the world. I hiked to 10,000 feet and stuck my head above the clouds. I mastered archery. I danced, I laughed, I walked for hours in silence. I saw Mount Everest and the Alps in the same day. I prayed in Buddhist temples, Catholic cathedrals, Jewish synagogues, and an unassuming stone grotto tucked under a city archway. I walked atop things that are 350 MILLION years old. I was lifted off my feet by the winds of the Cliffs of Moher. I drove on the other side of the road and lived to tell the story. I drank wines from countries I’ve never had wine from before, sipped beer brewed by monks, and smoked cigarettes in Belgrade (secondhand, of course.) I nearly died from bee pollen. I fell in love with kajmak. I surprised myself with an affinity for fermented shark. I poured the perfect pint. I walked on the moon. I left planet Earth. I saw all the colors.
I learned so much. So, so much. I learned what it feels like to unplug. To not check CNN or Facebook or Twitter a single time in over two months. To not be beholden to checking and answering emails. To take a break from the daily, whirling cycle we all so often get caught up in, leaving us ragged. I learned that the rest of the world spends far more time relaxing in cafes and sipping wine over lunch on a Wednesday than we do. I vow to change that. I learned that traveling in January and February means you have the world to yourself. I learned that the same story of power, prejudice and genocide has played out all over the world — the Khmer Rouge’s decimation of 25% of Cambodia’s population, the Nazi annihilation of the 6 MILLION Jews, the English suppression of the Irish and Catholics. It’s the same story, different minorities, and I fear the rhetoric we hear coming from our highest office is no different. But I also learned that the world is very kind and generous and good. I spent entire days with complete strangers who felt like, no, were friends by the time I left them. Lyna, Huat, Mary, Leslie, Kao, Jigme, Chencho, Joan, Tom, Maria. For many, English is not their first language, yet they gleefully guided me around their country, proud to show off its beautiful land while sharing stories and history in my language so I could take that experience home with me. Several of these same new friends fed me home cooked meals and spent entire days with me, simply because I was introduced to them by a friend of a friend. Would we do the same for a complete stranger visiting our city? Their generosity astounded me.
So now what? I’m back in NYC, sleeping in my bed, wearing pajamas I haven’t been wearing for the last two months (ahhhhhhh). I’m seeing friends whose faces I have missed. I’m hugging pregnant bellies that weren’t there when I left. I’m throwing a small party for those who had a direct impact on Going Cold, because this trip was even more meaningful thanks to them. I’m going to find kajmak and learn how to make brown bread and chili cheese and pork toast and I’m going to feed it to the people I love so they can have a little taste of this epic trip. I’m going to figure out how to hold on to all those experiences and those learnings and not let them fade away when I return to the real world, the next job, the next to-do list. I’m going to sit down and drink coffee. I’m going to order a glass of wine at lunch on a Wednesday. I’m going to go OUT for lunch on a Wednesday. I’m going to remember that the world is more beautiful and generous than headlines make it seem. And when we get discouraged by those headlines or current events or weighed down by our to-do lists and daily anxieties, the first thing we should do is plan a trip. Travel is curative of all things.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” — Mark Twain
I hope you consider going to any one of these beautiful places I visited. And I hope you reach out to me when you do, so I can put you in touch with my new friends and you get to see the world through their eyes, as I did. It’s been a journey, one I will never forget. Thanks for coming along for the ride. A magical experience awaits you…