This is a hard entry to write. How can I convey in words and photos how this trip has changed me. Only one person will really ever understand my words, my photos, my experience, because she has shared and lived every moment of it with me. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I never thought that I would travel so far. I am a woman who has barely been out of her own country (to Canada, yes, and a few Carribean islands, a few hours in Mexico on a cruise day tour last year). I am a woman who, until she was 41, had never traveled on her own (to Atlanta). I am a woman who grew up in a family, a time and a place (a mental place) when world travel was for the rich, the daring, and/or the foreign service. I know, I sound terribly old-fashioned and naive. I have friends who back-packed over Europe fresh out of college, 4 of my children have been to exotic lands like Italy, Brazil, Turkey and Nicaragua. But for me, travel was always a distant and until now, unobtainable dream.
In this day and age, people travel easily. The world is at our fingertips and any place is now just a plane ride away (if you have the $$$, of course). As an adult, I have overheard conversations about shopping in Singapore, B&Bs in Ireland, favorite restaurants in exotic lands - all spoken about as if they were common and routine events. When I was with a group of people who were comparing world-wide travel experiences, I used to feel like a kid listening in on grown-up conversation, not sure I would ever experience what the world has to offer. And now I have - and with wide-eyed wonder and astonishment at every turn.
"Here I am, me, with my feet in the Indian Ocean." "I can't believe it's me, here at the opera in Sydney, the Sydney OPERA house. "Here I am, me, lunching in the New Zealand countryside, eating foods I never knew existed." I made sure I fully stopped and drank it all in, imprinting in my mind and in my heart every single moment, every sight, taste, sound. The warm breezes, the calls of birds that do not fly in my America, the trees that do not grow here. The foods so fresh and tasty, cooked and served in ways that were delicious and new. The sound of voices speaking English, yet in a different tune and melody. Gentle people and dramatic places. Sunshine (no rain!) The very same moon my family slept under over but thousands of miles away.
I stood where the earth's crust is it's thinnest, on an inactive volcano in Rotorua, NZ - earth so hot my feet almost burned while I took this photo, steam escaping the earth's crust all around me. A day later I cooled my feet in the South Pacific. As guests of the most generous and remarkable people (my next entry will be about these people), I was able to visit places and experience both countries in ways I never imagined. Each day was a surprise.
In some ways, Nina and I were like children, being driven around by our parents, who made sure we learned everything we could about the places we went, the sights we saw. I have never felt more at home, or more knowledgable about these places I saw, the people I met. As I said in the beginning, I will never be able to explain it fully. It was an experience of the heart as well as the eyes and feet. Over the next few days, I will add more entries - taking you through my trip from start to finish. I am so proud of the fact that I documented every step of it in both words and photos - 2 countries, 3 oceans, too many sights and people to count.
In spite of the added weight, I made the decision to bring my journal. Along the journey, I recorded my thoughts, my impressions, snippets of overheard conversation and phrases ("that's got to grind you"), labels, stickers, shells and leaves, and of course travel ephemera. I can't wait to share it all with you. And no, there won't be any more feet photos. (Well maybe just one or two!)