After an incredible 12-month life-changing journey stretching from Mexico to Antarctica, we were on our way back home! Bittersweetly, while packing our bags for the long trip, I was getting very nostalgic. Once upon a time, I was homesick and couldn’t wait to be back in the States. Now, Erik was eager to see our family and friends and enjoy the comforts of home, and I was sad about leaving South America. Oh, how a year of travel changes you…
Our 10 hour flight from Buenos Aires took us to a 4 hour layover in Mexico City. How fitting, since Mexico was our first stop on this trip. I had wanted to venture into the city for a quick bite and just say ‘goodbye’ to one of our favorite countries. But, Erik insisted there just wasn’t enough time.
Turns out, he was right! Strangely enough, due to increased security at Mexico City airport, all passengers, even those in-transit only (like us), had to go through security with all of our luggage. What a pain! After that headache, there was only time to have a nice coffee, a quick breakfast and some fresh fruit. Even though it was just a taste, we realized how much we missed Mexican food.
Boarding the plane in Mexico, the tears flowed again. This was it. We were going home. Engaged. And two very changed people from the two New Yorkers who boarded a plane to Mexico exactly a year earlier.
I was excited, but also apprehensive about seeing our family and friends again. It would be wonderful to catch up with them, but would it feel strange? Awkward? We had no idea. Even though we write our blogposts and send emails and photos, it just doesn’t really encompass everything that we experienced through our year on the road. Like the old saying, “you really had to be there.” And we were.
After the 8-hour flight, the Empire State Building finally came into view. I cried. We were finally Home.
My Mom and Dad picked us up at the airport. It was so great and surreal to see them! We were exhausted, but still on some sort of high from the excitement of it all. I had seen on Facebook my friend Marie’s status about heading to Rodeo Bar on 27th and 3rd in Manhattan that night for Happy Hour. I thought it’d be cool to surprise her there to say hello. She and Roz were the friends we had started the whole journey with in Cancun. She was so shocked to see us, and it was great to see her. It was cool to be in a New York bar again, and to speak English again!
After a very long two days of traveling, we were back at my parents’ house. It felt so good to be home. As we walked in, my Mom said to my Dad, “why don’t you help them bring their bags upstairs.” I had a strange feeling something was up. Sure enough, they had completely redecorated one of the bedrooms for us! It was so beautiful and so sweet. Since they knew we’d be staying with them for a while, they wanted to surprise us and make us feel at home. It was wonderful and after a year of sleeping on hard hostel beds, the bed was SO comfortable! My Dad also surprised us with a beautiful array of wines from Chile and Argentina to welcome us home from South America.
We had no idea when we booked our flight that we would be home in time for Easter. It was so late this year – April 24th. We were so happy to be able to celebrate Easter, our engagement and being home with our family. My little sister Caitlin even drove home from Buffalo for that weekend just to see us! It was a very special time.
I have to say, although nice, it was a bit strange to be home at first. Just a total change of environment, language, food, people. It was all a bit overwhelming. But, it was also very comforting.
While we were home, we got to see most of our family, met my cousin’s daughter who had been born while we were away, and saw some of our friends who we had missed over the past year. We had drinks and dinner with two of my best girlfriends, Frozan and Cynthia. Took my parents to a Broadway show (“Catch Me if You Can”). Went to our favorite restaurants, requested our favorite home-cooked meals, showed some of our 25,000 photos from the trip, told some travel stories, played board games, and watched American TV. And relaxed.
We also got to go to Massachusetts to see Erik’s family. It was wonderful to see them and they were happy to see us. We got to catch up with them in person, share some stories and photos. We took them to see a wonderful production of “42nd Street” in Stoneham, MA at a fantastic new theater. Top notch cast and production. Then, we treated them to dinner at a really nice steakhouse in a farm turned restaurant. It was nice to spend Mother’s Day with Erik’s Mom. A very special day. While in MA, Erik had his teeth cleaned and a new retainer made. Very necessary, but definitely not very cheap! We got to catch up with a few of Erik’s buddies from home which was nice, too.
If you thought this was the end, our journey continues! We hadn’t seen and visited everywhere we’d wanted to in one year, so we decided to come home for a month to see family and friends and take care of some things. One task to tick off our list while home was to replace some gear and clothes that had gotten well-worn over the past year.
My little sister would be traveling to Turkey again this summer for an ongoing archaeological research and dig project and had a flight out of JFK on May 19th. That was around the time we wanted to set off again, so we booked a flight for the same day from JFK to Bangkok, Thailand. My Dad’s birthday, falling the day before on May 18th, gave us a great idea – we decided to celebrate all of our birthdays at our group birthday party, since our birthdays are in May, June, July, August and September. Everyone bought each other gag gifts and we had a blast, even though other patrons at the restaurant we celebrated at thought we were nuts, they seemed to get a kick out of us, too!
The month home was wonderful. It was fantastic to reconnect with so many people who mean so much to us. It was strange to pack our backpacks again so soon.
Thankfully, our flights left from neighboring terminals. Caitlin’s flight to Istanbul left before ours, so thanks to the JFK Skytrain, after checking in our bags, we hopped on and in just one stop we were at Caitlin’s terminal. A lump grew in my throat over lunch as I’d have to say ‘goodbye’ to my family again. I would miss them so… Thank goodness for Skype and Facebook!
Stay tuned as the Around This World duo heads to Southeast Asia!