I'm now back in the Ithaca after almost six months on the road. As always, it feels a bit disorienting to be back at home. Since I've been home I've been mountain biking, XC skiing, rock climbing (indoor) and visited many familiar waterfalls and friends. Today I'm making a moment to reflect on my second around-the-world journey. This ride took me from Newark, NJ to Anchorage, Alaska and Taipei, Taiwan (briefly); Luzon Island in the Philippines (six weeks); South Vietnam (three weeks); Bangkok, Thailand (one night); Nepal (three months); India (two weeks); Ethiopia (three weeks); Cairo, Egypt (two hours) and finally back to John F Kennedy International Airport in New York City.
In total, I legitimately visited six countries (Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, India, Ethiopia) and visited two new-to-me countries by airport transit only (Taiwan and Saudi Arabia). I took 14 plane rides, cleared 13 immigration check points, received 4 tourist visas and traveled hundreds of hours overland: walking on foot, floating in boats, and rolling aboard buses and trains.
I again proved to myself that by traveling in one direction you'll eventually end up where you started. Last year I learned the same thing traveling east, turns out the same is true if you go west. I just proved it.
Although only one country (Ethiopia) on this half-year trip was a "new" one, there were many new experiences. Reflecting, I list a few memorable "firsts" on this ride.
- Taking a quality shower from collected rain running off a tin roof: La Union Province Philippines.
- Fully geeked out building this website. Problem solving, learning new languages: Dalat, Vietnam.
- Climbed a very muddy path to Lang Biang summit: central highlands of Vietnam.
- Got denied boarding to an international flight and subsequent immediate change of plans: Bangkok, Thailand.
- Built a snowman and a sledding run during a all-out blizzard: Helambu District, Nepal.
- Attended a multiple hour traditional Tibetan Buddhist ceremony: foothills of the Himalaya, Nepal.
- Rallied for 30+ hours on a 2000km transect via sleeper class on the train: Delhi to Kolkata, India.
- Listened to the teachings of "Allah" from a Kazakh man on a holy pilgrimage: Delhi, India.
- Happily stood in the sun to warm up at 4000m in dead of winter: Langtang Valley, Nepal.
- Ate endless plates of "Injera" and "Wat" at a local family's home: Lalibela, Ethiopia.
- Had young kids throw stones at me: Lalibela, Ethiopia.
- Attended a midnight Easter Celebration in the Orthodox Christian Church in the highlands: Gonder, Ethiopia.
- Learned the basics of Illocano, Nepali and Amharic languages.
- Met a slew of trans-africa cyclists and professional documentary photographers and video dudes: Ethiopia.
- Saw a practice session of the Fekat Circus: acrobats, jugglers, contortionists: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A mix of new places within known countries and new experiences proved again that from every journey there's a lot to learn. Although this ride has come to and end, there's many adventures and opportunities for learning ahead. Back to work for Outward Bound and Cornell University starting on May 15. With about 16 days off until August 19th, it will be a busy three months in the mountains of the Sierra. Stay tuned!