We hope to see the rest of you all this summer in Chicago or at the lake! Please don't be shy. And while we couldn't bring back gifts for everyone, we do have authentic triple-strength, salted Dutch licorice for anyone who is brave enough!
On this trip I have learned a lot. But if you ask me to say it in one sentence, I could not answer you. Because what I learned was a bunch of little things, not one big thing.
The world is very complicated. In India, all most everybody is poor. In Dubai, the average car would be a Ferrari, not a mini-van. In Japan, toilets are amazing (Seriously. Some can play music.) Everywhere else, not so much. That was just kid stuff. If we look through the eyes of an adult; POLITICS. Politics this, Politics that, so much Politics. But it is important. But complicated.
My dad said that there was going to be constantly asked the 'five most asked questions' such as “What was your favorite country?” (which I’ve now been asked that like 10 times. So here is a list of those questions and the answers:
Q: What was your favorite country?
Q: Are you glad to be back?
Q: What did you learn?
A: How to get through an airport.
Q: Would like to go back to any countries that you visited?
A: Yes. I would like to go back to Australia, Japan and Sweden.
Q: What did you miss most about America?
Other thoughts in a list:
Favorite things about the rest of the world:
1. The orange Fanta soda tastes and looks like carbonated orange juice, no flavoring and stuff like that.
2. All of the knock-offs like Hungry Jacks and Target. The Target there just a capital T and had a period at the end. (Australia)
3. That on Mothers Day all of the business give out roses to mothers.
4. The money is really colorful.
5. They have the best toilets. (especially Japan)
Least Favorite things about the world:
1. All of the poverty
2. They don't have Root Beer any where else
3. They don't have Marshmallows
4. They don't have the letter W. (France)
5. Too many cigarettes. (Europe)
Pros and Cons of the world trip:
•I got to see a lot of amazing things
•I got to see popular monuments
•I got to try different food
•I got to see different cultures
•I got out of my comfort zone
•I learned things that will apply to life when I'm older
•I got to see some funny things
•I learned a lot about my family
•We went to a lot of malls
•We also went shopping a lot
•I went scuba-diving in the Great Barrier Reef
•It was warm in Panama and Argentina
•I got some really cool things
•I spent too much time with my family
•I missed my friends and cats
•I missed having my own space
•I missed Hinsdale
Places I want to visit again:
•Buenos Aires, Argentina
•Amsterdam, Holland (maybe)
What I learned:
•Borders are always changing
•There are more Muslims in Europe than in America
•They don't have Belgian Waffles in Belgium
•There are a lot of smokers in London
•Cattle ranches are really popular in Argentina
So apparently we all have to write our final thoughts here. I guess since I've been really vague to everyone here and in person so far I might wand to be clear here. As such, I'll try giving a breakdown of each country in chronological order. Here goes nothing:
This was interesting. The country was nice, the people were nice, the weather was nice, and I'd imagine everything else would be amazing if only I could understand it. And that was the problem. Nothing was in English. If you weren't in either the tourist district or a major attraction, the only English you could find would be the a quarter of the fine print on a newspaper somewhere. I'd imagine if you new enough Spanish to hold a conversation, it would be an amazing place to spend a few weeks, but I could only get so much out of it.
United Arab Emirates
The only Arabic country we visited, and I'd say it lives up to it's name. I wanted to go to look at buildings. I didn't realize that the only entertaining thing you can do in that country is look at buildings. Cool, but boring.
Surprisingly nice. We did in fact stay at the house of the American ambassador to the AU while here, and it was actually enjoyable, surprisingly. Yes, it is a very poor nation, but they manage to make the most out of what they have (probably because they are the only northern African country without constant violence).
Wow. Not much about it. Mumbai wasn't nice. Delhi was nice. The Palace on Wheels was really nice. Nobody outside that train was enjoyable to be around. Not really much else to say. I wouldn't recommend it.
This was a vacation stop. We stayed at a resort on the west coast. It was nice.
It was a combination of a small India and a poor Japan. The people were nice, the resort was nice, andmost of the stuff we did there was pretty fun. I got a laser pointer and a switchblade at a street market.
It was a better Dubai. Everyone was friendly. Everything was expensive.
By now I've gotten bored of writing this. I might finish it. If I don't I'll make a good ending.
Alright, it looks like I'm finishing this. By now we're in mid-March.
This was one of my top three. Everyone was nice and spoke English, the weather was nice, and everyone was very laid back. Nothing tried to kill me. I would recommend it.
This was another top 3. The country itself wasn't that interesting, but the stuff they make was awesome, especially considering that it's the home of Sony and Nintendo. The food was great too, with the minimal amount of sushi, the yakatori, and the best packaged food in the world (and not just for ramen).
This was interesting, although more boring than fun. We did see the Parthenon, and Santorini was nice, but it was really: "look at stuff, buy stuff, go back to the hotel, look at stuff, buy stuff, go back to the hotel, look at stuff, buy stuff, go back to the hotel", etc.
My final top 3. It was cold, but nice. Stockholm is actually at the same level of latitude as southern Greenland. and it averaged around 40F the entire time we were there. It was a lot more mixed that I thought it would, which I would later learn was because of the ridiculously friendly immigration laws. Still, everyone spoke English and was really friendly. I'd like to go back again.
Total of 8 days
Licorice, beer, licorice, beer, pizza, licorice, beer. Thanks, Dad.
Venice was a tourist trap. No, not parts of it. The entire city was nothing but tourist shops and fancy restaurants.Tuscany was boring. The internet was terrible. The place we stayed at had quite a view, but that and playing bocce were the only things to do.
By now we're in mid-May.
I'm still mad that we missed the actual F1 Grand Prix race by just three days.
Total of 10 days
Cheese, wine, and old creepy houses.
We stayed with a front-row view of the biggest tourist attraction of Barcelona, although it would seem that (hyperlink the word "everyone" to a picture of the church) does too.
I was disappointed by the lack of chocolate and waffles. The EU Parliament building was cool though.
Total of 7 days
Think of modern England. Whatever you just thought of, you're right.
There was a castle and some shops that sold touristy stuff. There was a (hyperlink the word "Games Workshop" to their website) surprisingly. The sun set at 11PM.
So yeah. I guess that's it.
It's been fun.
P.S. I'm not going to redact my statement that it would be a better idea to stay here in Hinsdale, considering the ever-changing environment, the limited contact with friends, and having to do all my gaming on a measly MacBook Pro (gasp!). Still, it was fun, and I have now increased my countries visited by 625%. I guess my favorite country would be Australia, considering that it's just a small America - but Japan and Sweden would be close seconds.
Wow, we make quite a team. Team Wychocki. I knew the travel would be hard on the kids and even on me and Mike as a couple but I was pleasantly surprised on how well we all meshed together. Now, not everyone in the family would agree but I'm looking at it as a glass-half-full scenario and saying that we all got along well over 75% of the time. Yes, we all had our moments but never, never at the same time. Any mother will be able to appreciate this. There is something in the forces of nature that will only allow for one child at a time to be difficult. I've learned this is also true for parents. A big thank you to my fabulous husband for being the ying to my yang.
We've been asked if we would have done anything differently and other than reducing the time we spent in Argentina to a few weeks instead of a month, I'm not sure I would change a thing. Everything happened as it should have. We were beyond lucky to have not had any illness (besides of bit of Delhi Belly), no delayed flights (none, zero, zip), no lost luggage, no theft, accidents, missing children, only one lost phone, and a few days of paying for hotel rooms that we didn't stay in (just to hold our reservations).
I'm looking back on the trip with a clearer head now and I can see how my role was always looking forward. Planning the logistics for our next destination. Tickets, time tables, reservations, packing and unpacking. I felt like Mike was looking back; writing, taking pictures, blogging. Again, the ying to my yang;)
I'm still looking forward, even now. I'm hoping to see a glimpse of the experience come out of our children. Referencing a place, experience, family memory, running joke (Your face is a ???. So what's your favorite color?). All of the things that bring families together. I'm hoping that applying the family glue for six straight months rather than a week at spring break will hold us all together a bit longer and tighter.
1. It's a huge world, both geographically and in terms of population. The 300 million people in the U.S. account for only a little more than 4% of the global population. The scope and size of earth's humanity is mind boggling
2. The logistics of feeding, supporting and removing refuse from the 7 BILLION people on the planet is a 24/7/365 job. Now when I go to bed or am reading late at night, I know there are at least 4.5 billion people going to work, at work, or coming home from work while I sleep (we could count them instead of sheep!)
3. Going to over twenty countries isn't even really a 'world trip' as it only scratches the surface with it being 10% of the planet visited
4. And no world trip is complete without some significant visit in the Middle East (Dubai, UAE not withstanding), so I am hoping for stability in that region soon for those suffering peoples and being able to walk amongst them someday soon
5. Speaking of Islam, over 20% of the world now considers itself Muslim, and it is only second to Christianity - and has 100X more believers than Judaism. We saw a great number of Muslims everywhere we went (except Japan and Scotland) and most of Europe is now very heavily Muslim
6. The discomfort we feel about that growing and migratory Muslim population is felt around the world, and has deep historical roots and precedence. However, and also historically, borders change more often then we care to remember, and expanding populations typically move towards better economic conditions - so perhaps we have to see our world and cultures as the fluid mixture they are, and more than just 'our favorite snapshot' in time. I truly believe their is no understanding of the world on a larger scale without getting past our discomforts with Islam if we want to truly have a global understanding of the world
7. It is also worth noting that even with all of the holy shrines, temples and churches we visited, many areas of the globe we visited are very non-religious and secular like Japan, Sweden and Australia - and they all have some of the highest lifestyle, happiness and satisfaction rating scores
8. Everywhere we went, we found that the universal spirituality of kindness, patience and respect will get you 95% of what you seek in life. When you respectfully and humbly connect with people, they will take on, own, and help you solve most any problem gladly (except in the Moscow airport - ha!)
9. We have noticed that traveling heightens most people's anxieties and 'sense of scarcity' which causes a lot of pushing and edginess to get "yours". Some societies really "queue" and line-up well in stores, transportation stops and in restaurants, while others just mass-gather and shove. Civility is so much nicer when the majority people feel they will 'get theirs'. And consider yourself forewarned about tourist groups from China! :)
10. In regards to the vast cultural differences and differing views of the world and current events, the best method for discovering and understanding non- and even counter-American POV's is by watching international cable news stations like BBC, Al Jezeera, CCT (China), NHK (Japan), RT (Russia), etc. It is eye-opening and makes one realize how much happens everyday that doesn't involve the U.S., or creates a vastly different perspective than we have back home on the events that do
11. As we all know, because of mass communication and interconnected business globalization with trading and monetary policy, it truly is a 'global community' where the U.S. is both still 'a big deal', and yet a somewhat 'lessening deal' all of the time. Thank goodness for Hollywood and Silicon Valley, especially if the U.S. dollar ceases to be the go-to standard
12. And to that point, forget BRIC: Brazil is a regional superstar at best because of it's layers of government corruption, Russia has only one real asset and a cold war military mindset, and seeing India first-hand, they have more issues to solve within their own borders than most before they can become a leader on the world stage (it's a complex country, but having a lot of consumers does not a leader make). Which leaves China, who by every measure, will be the big gorilla going forward. As our place in the world slowly diminishes (just a tad), China will fill that vacuum easily, readily and will be a/the global leader for the next 50+ years
13. So I hope that China, and the U.S. and all of the largest countries and global leaders start to think outside of their own borders as I believe in this advanced stage of human development, cooperation is as, or more important, than strict competition. And a hope that strict nationalism gets down-played just a little to make more room for a joint vision of 'global citizenship'. I saw a great quote the other day on the internet that stated: "Nationalism is often used as an excuse for people to take credit for things they did not do, and hate people they have not met." Go U-S-A, but go the-rest-of-the-world too! Maybe we save fervent nationalism just for the World Cup and the Olympics?!?
14. We did not see most of the pure tragedy that is happening around the globe right now in war-torn, terrorist-bullied and poverty-stricken parts of the globe, but we did catch some uncomfortable glances in both portions of Mumbai and Ethiopia. I don't think most of us (myself included) can comprehend the struggles and burdens that billions of people in this world shoulders everyday. It has also strengthened my Buddhist beliefs in reincarnations, multiple-lives and karmic lessons as I think we all get to live in the nice house in the suburbs some lifetimes and in others, we are the crippled beggar or the kidnapped school girl. It wouldn't be fair or spiritually comprehensive otherwise, IMHO. Anybody remember this excellent comedy or scene about past lives? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAaX9SvNAUo
15. Lastly, and what you really wanted to know here, but had to suffer through all of the soap-box speeches above; what did we like best, least, recommend, etc. Obviously everyone had their own ideas, but I had different favorite parts for different reasons:
- Great food and happy people who have to be scrappy just to get by - Ethiopia
- Super polite, clean, smart, organized, humble - Japan
- Challenging, but with great life lessons (and reclining sacred cows at every turn) - India
- Great culture, booze, coffee, clothes, cheese, cathedrals, museums, cars, shopping, cuisine - tie: Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Netherlands. How can you go wrong in any of these countries? I am partial t to Germany however!
- Yet even a half-notch cooler and with better education - Sweden. We definitely have to go back there and also see the rest of Scandia (Finland, Norway, Denmark)
- Easiest country to hang-out in with good-looking people and even better looking fish - Australia
- Favorite "off beat" cities visited: Adis Abba, Brisbane, Barcelona, The Hague, Edinburgh
16. Any places we would yet like to go?
- Well, since we could only do Western OR Eastern Europe, we choose the easy and more kid-friendly half and hope to go back "east" to Warsaw, Prague, Budapest, etc. someday soon. Has anyone seen this latest Wes Anderson film yet, it is amazingly good and all in a fictional setting - http://www.youtube.com /watch?v=2bTbW70umbQ. We saw it on the flight home and it WAS THE PERFECT travelers story on which to leave Europe
- We abandoned our plans of additional S.E. Asia countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, etc.) for Australia, so I'd like to go back there too someday
17. My two most "must do" things from our trip to add to your bucket-list :
1. Spend quality time in Japan - it will teach you a great deal about the completely different Asian-ways-of- life...and is easier than China (or North Korea)!
2. Drive through Europe - it is a dream. Great roads, great cars, and they drive on our side! The views and roadside stops are breath-taking as are a multitude of picture-ques towns away from other tourists!
In final, please know we truly look forward to hearing your traveling stories and thoughts on where you visited, and of course, comparing notes! We may not travel for a while, so we will need some vicarious stories to tide us over!
Until next trip!