We're on our way home, so this will be one of the last posts. We may do one on our re-entry process (with friends, families and the kittens) and maybe some final thoughts on the trip by each of us.
But, by the time we land at O'Hare Airport (after 9 hours in Economy; more on that in a bit), these will be the final numbers on the trip:
58 Cities (30 stay-overs, 28 visits of lunch or more)
53,000+ Miles traveled overall
3,600+ Miles driving in Europe
18 Hotel stays
12 Housing rentals (4 apartments, 4 houses, 2 villas, 1 chateau and 1 houseboat)
3 Cross-country rail service trains
7 Metropolitan subway systems
2 Boat taxi's
7 Hop-On, Hop-Off buses
And what did we see...?
Evita's tomb and Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the world's tallest building and the Palm Islands in Dubai, the 21st Century African Union and 19th Century countryside in Ethiopia, the slums and skyscrapers of Mumbai, Gandhi's final footsteps in Delhi, the Taj Mahal, the turtles of Sri Lanka, the Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Tokyo subways, the Hiroshima Peace Museum, and Mt. Fuji in Japan, the Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens, the blue-domed churches in Santorini, Swedish harbors, a Bavarian Beer Hall and the BMW Museum in Munich, the Olympic ski village in the Alps in Innsbruck, a Villa and winery in Tuscany, the Canals of Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the F1 Races in Monaco, the Cannes Film Festival plus Provence and the 'South of France', Tapas and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, a Chateau in Bordeaux, The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre in Paris, the E.U. Parliament in Brussels, the canals, Anne Frank Museum and Pot coffee shops in Amsterdam, the London Tower, Westminster Abbey and Big Ben..and even the Harry Potter Train station in England, plus the original British castle in Scotland.
What else did we see? Thousands and thousands and thousands of people, lots of dogs being walked, cats loose on the prowl, cows in fields, streets and houses - and a ton of sheep in Scotland. Plus, small grocery stores, restaurants and out-of-the-way places with real locals not employed to cater to tourists.
But the most important number is five, as in the number in our family that made it home safe and sound and in one piece (hopefully true as we are still in route). Sometimes at night on this trip when I had a hard time sleeping, I would lay awake still not believing we actually had the guts, or were dumb enough, to try this. :)
I'm glad we did, though, and I'm glad Suzanne inspired us all to do this!
P.S. Oh, and the cost? Can't say specifically here, but less than most people would guess, and in reality a lot less than many would guess. How did we manage the costs? I give Suzanne 110% of the credit for being an amazing discount-seeker online (not quite as good as her sister Stephanie, but pretty darn good), always finding the cheapest hotel room, flight and apartment. In a few places we had to bite-the bullet circumstantially, but 90% of the time it was mid-level hotels, off-hour flights and middle seats. And of all the things we were proudest about our kids (in addition to learning how to exchange currency rates, and read subway maps for transfers) was their unprovoked input many times when they would say things like "We don't need to spend too much money here, we'll just split a hamburger". Or, "We really don't need to spend money on this souvenir". Along the way, they all became good stewards of the budget without us ever asking. We were thrilled.
P.S.S. Obviously we had a great time and would recommend "extended family travel" for educational purposes for any family. Believe it or not I think the biggest challenge for many/some isn't financial resources to go away for longer than the typically American 7-10 days, but coordinating the time off from work and other commitments. We feel beyond lucky to have been able to make all of this for the amount of time that we did, and like many of the Europeans we met on this trip, believe that extended family travel is an important aspect to really seeing things beyond your own backyard and learning to be global citizens.
A BIG THANK YOU from both of us to everyone who directly or indirectly supported us back home; you guys made this possible! And know that we all look forward to hearing about your Spring Break and Summer vacation trips too!