49. Concluding Thoughts
[Charlotte, North Carolina]
As promised, Concluding Thoughts on The Trip of a Million Lifetimes.
Before I get into it I want to say thank you again for the Blogosphere, FlyerTalkers, Friends, and Strangers who have chimed in to cheer us along on our amazing journey. Your encouragement was endearing and kept us going with zeal.
Well now that we are a couple weeks back in the thick of things at work Lady Tocqueville and I have had some time to let things digest. It was terrific to return home to see nothing adverse had happened to the house. We are thankful to some of our local friends who were looking after things while we were gone. A couple even decorated the house with Americana for our return. It took us a good day and a half to get our lives back in order. And the jet lag finally caught up to us, it was about 4 nights later before we started sleeping through the night.
Going back to work and getting back to our “routine” lives was surprisingly not difficult. You would think it would have been much harder. Hell, for 10 weeks straight we had been cruising the world in First Class or Business Class, staying mostly at 5* hotels or charming alternative accommodations, and doing nothing but being young and in love and basking in copious amounts of leisure time and exploration. What a treat! But this trip, almost as a culmination of all our past travels, really made us appreciate how good we had it back home. Here are some of the things we have begun to appreciate in new light:
- We have a beautiful, old rental house that is just the right size for us with wonderful character. It is our nest and it is a clean, comfortable place to live in a fantastically fun and charming neighborhood. After seeing how so many others live, from Saigon to St. Petersburg, from Sao Paulo to Sydney, we have an appreciate for how we really have it made. We are so lucky.
- We are gainfully employed, paid fairly for the work we do, and get to learn and be challenged every day at our job. Yes waking up at 5:30AM on Monday to go visit the TSA on the way to a client site isn’t the most fun. But we could be working so much harder, at so much more painful a task, for so much less money. In fact most of the world does. This trip really made us appreciate having a job. We are thankful to be working.
- Our health is our biggest asset. We are young and healthy. We have a solid foundation. This trip just reinforced to us what a gift that is to us and how we have to enjoy it every day. Whether raking insane amount of leaves from the 100 year old tree out front or just laying on the couch catnapping, being healthy and happy and sound is such a gift from God. For some reason this trip really helped reinforce this for us.Life is good. We can owe all that is good to our freedom. Our freedom, inherent in our humanity, is God’s greatest gift to us. If you don’t believe in God, then consider human freedom the Earth’s greatest gift to humankind. Governments all over the world artificially restrict this freedom in the name of safety, false equality or libido dominadi (the lust to dominate). While this is a fundamental shame in the world, and yes, certainly in the USA, we try to enjoy what freedom we have left every day. The USA used to be the freest country in the world. That is what made it truly great. That was “American Exceptionalism”. Slowly our freedoms have been restricted by federal and state government and we are no longer the most free. At least we are still in the top 15 or so most free. Freedom is being free to engage in voluntary transactions with others. Freedom is to not be aggressor unto others. Freedom is the just power to fight back when someone brings aggression or restriction unto you. As somebody way more brilliant than I will ever be, Judge Andrew Napolitano, once said, “Freedom is our natural state and is the ultimate natural right.” Seeing others who have more government restrictions placed upon them all over the world made us look on the bright side of our American freedoms remaining in comparison to them.If you don’t exercise your freedom on a regular basis, it atrophies like muscles unused If you don’t use your freedom at all, or allow others to substitute their muscle for yours, you don’t stay strong. And you become subservient to those with stronger muscles than you whether you consent to it or not. What happens when a benevolent government turns evil? Has it happened repeatedly, all over the world, and in our own backyard in our lifetime? Regrettably, most Americans are no longer of the tradition to exercise their freedoms as the government restricts them of their rights which existed before governments ever existed and is guaranteed to the people in their own constitution. Wasn’t it Alexis de Tocqueville that 175 years ago said, and I paraphrase, “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom”? This trip reminded us that life is good because of freedom as the natural state of our being, and we still have more than most, even if it is being taken away from us more and more each day. I hope the USA can become the freest nation in the world again. I hope all people in all nations have their artificial restrictions of freedom by their governments reduced in all sectors of society. If they can become more free than us, cheers to them.We saw the good side of people everywhere we went. So many people, of so many nations and tongues, welcomed us with hospitality and open arms. Around the world people shared smiles, stories, and their time with us. As rock and roll hall of fame inductees Rush said, they were… “bearing a gift beyond price, almost free”. And in our case thanks to strategic frequent flier mile and hotel spending it was almost free. There is no price we could pay for the value, learning, insight, perspective, fun, excitement, and enjoyment we gained from meeting and learning from others around the world.We also learned from the bad side of people. As I outline in this FlyerTalk post we got what we felt was an unfair shake by a Brazillian Border Guard. What would you do in our shoes? I found it insightful, interesting, and absurd to read what some other FlyerTalkers thought of us and our perspective on the situation^:td::confused:. Read the thread for yourselves and see what you think. And don’t miss my sophmoric magnum opus on “Responsibilities of a Guest vs. a Host” in a foreign country in response to some of my detractors on FlyerTalk. We are thankful that across our 10 weeks that was the worst that happened to us. There could have been many more bad outcomes from that or other situations while traveling abroad outside of your comfort zone. I guess that is part of the adventure.
Many people have asked us about the more personal aspects of our trip. That is a fair question considering our blog and FlyerTalk mainly focused on the nerdy Airline and Hotel aspects. Well I will try and share a tidbit or two on each place to paint some more color on the beautiful portrait of a trip we got to enjoy.
- Cuzco, Peru: Taking the unbelievably full $1.50 public bus the 1 hour trip from Cuzco to Pisac having the opportunity to sit next to some local indigenous people on their giant ruck sack on the hot center console of the bus while having Peruvian mountain flute music blared out on the radio and holding on for dear life around curvy roads.
- Lima, Peru: Exploring the childhood home of Lady Tocqueville’s mother near the Mira Flores district. Runner up experience: Ceviche in the Chorillos bario.
- Easter Island, Chile: Renting a ATV/Quad for the day. From beautiful serene sun-up with the Moai keeping watch over us to a dusty day of seeing all the spiritual aspects of the Rapa Nui people and their amazing Moai we enjoyed the adventure cruising around the island.
- Santiago, Chile: Eating delicious casita empanadas in the historic center of Valparaiso. Runner up: Enjoying a delicious Chillean Asado meat feast in the Andes Foothills after a wine tour at Concha y Toro vineyard outside of Santiago.
- Mendoza, Argentina: Private wine tasting at Trivento hosted by the head of marketing and a full hour of insight with the Head winemaker himself of one the reserve line of Wines. Runner up: Celebrating my 30th birthday with my lovely wife and her parents in the Andes at a alpine churrascaria in the Historic Manzana village on San Martin day.
- Buenos Aires, Argentina: Getting a straight edge shave while Lady Tocqueville sipped Fernet at one of the (#7) 10 best places to get a men’s shave in the world
- Iguazu Falls, Argentina Brazil: NOT the border crossing which is supposed to be easy. What was awesome: After hiking around and viewing the magnificent Iguazu Falls sitting back in the living room of the Secret Garden with our host Bernardo enjoying homemade snacks and delicious caipirinhas.
- Sao Paulo, Brazil: Crushing a shrimp and cheese pastel at the Mercado Centrale after moseying around some beautiful neighborhoods all morning
- Istanbul, Turkey After touring the Hagia Sophia getting into a beautiful 45 minute discussion about Iznik tile art and classic middle eastern antiques with a Kurdish shop-keep in SultanAhmet
- Santorini, Greece Hiking all the way up the volcano to the fascinating ruins of Ancient Thira. Then coming down and raking our thirst and hunger on awesome gyros wraps and ice cold coca-cola.
- Athens, Greece: Seeing the Acropolis. Holy smokes.
- Vienna, Austria: Watching Carmen at the Vienna State Operahouse with Lady Tocqueville, an Italian friend of mine, and his lovely girlfriend. Then coming back to the hotel room at 1Am to watch Georgia beat South Carolina in football.
- St. Petersburg, Russia Being in Russia with my wife, my parents, and four of my good friends from Zurich. Eating a delicious Georgian feast which included the discovery of Khachapuri into my life. The Summer and Winter Palaces, Hermitage, and St. Issac’s cathedral also did not suck. I’ll give the St. Petersburg ballet for their performance of Romeo & Juliet, but by then I was getting a little of tired of enjoying “the classics”. It was over 3 hours long!
- Saigon, Vietnam: Taking in the assault on all senses. Favorite assault on taste sense included street food and amazing restaurant food serving street food. We even got to meet up with one of Lady Tocqueville’s friends there who brought us to some incredible insider’s restaurants.
- Tokyo, Japan: Eating the freshest most delicious sushi ever at the Sushi Zanmai by the Central Fish market. Runner up goes to seeing people performing Cosplay at Asakusa Square at about 3PM on a random Tuesday.
- Kyoto, Japan: Other than seeing a grammatically incorrect Subway Restaurant napkin, walking hand-in-hand down the philosopher’s path seeing all the temples, zen gardens, and Shinto shrines.
- Hong Kong, China: Hiking up Mt. Victoria from our hotel to see the stunning views of this amazing shrine to the testament to human freedom and capitalism Hong Kong represents. And the Dim Sum was killer too.
- Auckland, New Zealand: Catching up with a friend on our quick stop in Auckland.
- Noumea, New Caledonia En sirotant du vin sur un banc de parc avec vue sur la plage et océan magnifique. Runner up: eating pizza made with Roblechon, which is one of my favorite cheeses in the world. It is restricted from consumption in the USA because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t want to let American’s choose for themselves if they want to eat unpasteurized dairy. If I eat this back home, I go to jail. They call this a “Free Country”.
- Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia: Rambling about the gorgeous Le Meridien Ile Des Pins. Being drunk on how nice and relaxing our private beachside bungalow was. Paddle boarding to uninhabited pine islands and frolicking on private beaches.
- Melbourne, Australia: Taking in all the interesting neighborhoods and enjoying the Anglophone Commonwealth culture.
- Port Douglas, Australia Snorkeling the great barrier reef. (A few of you have asked for photos, we took none of the reef itself since we didn’t have the equipment- so here is some consolation photos from Google). Seeing a sleeping tiger shark was pretty cool. So was hiking for a few hours through the Daintree rainforest looking out for Cassowarys. I did not know Cassowarys even existed until we came to this place. We did eventually see one at a nature reserve.
- Sydney, Australia Hiking for hours around the beautiful eastern suburbs with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in five years. It was a treat to catch up with him. Also watching the Sydney Union Rugby League finals at a local bar in Bondi Beach was a lot of fun. My memories are a bit hazy on that one.Can you believe how much fun we had? What a blessing to be able to have the health and resources to take a trip like this. The world and its people are such a gift. How are we so lucky? Our Parents? God? Hard work? Creativity? I would argue all of the above.As of today the FlyerTalk thread about our trip has over 58,000 views. 58,000! In less than 3 months! The Tocqueville Miles and Points: Putting the Free in Freedom blog has over 20,000 page views in the last 3 months! I never could have imagined the response and readers who have followed us along on our journey. Thank you again for your support.I am happy to answer questions about our trip or share our lessons learned, pitfalls, and game changers along the way. Let me know how I can help. And I can’t wait to learn from you.You saw how much of an appreciation we got for our home on our return based on my blathering introduction at the beginning of this post. With this concept in mind, I leave you with a sage quote Lady Tocqueville taught me before she was even my girlfriend or my wife:
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot