June 13, 2007

The End Of The Road

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but where to does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started. Where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us."

-Herman Melville

ALGOMA MILLS, CANADA - An overnight bus ride from New York and a quick drive (6 hours) North of Toronto and I'm home. I rolled in yesterday afternoon just in time for a home cooked dinner with my parents.

I suppose I'll come to some conclusions over the next weeks and months as I reflect on my travels. Until then, this will be my last post. The trip is finished. A resounding success.

Now is the time for reconnecting with friends and family - to unpack the boxes and build a life for myself. I'll admit, it seems a little daunting, though I'm confident it's nothing I can't handle.

June 10, 2007

Full Circle

Statue of Liberty from QM2NEW YORK, USA - Even though it was barely 5am, the promenade deck of the Queen Mary 2 was crowded with people. A couple helicopters and more than a few coast guard boats escorted us past the Statue of Liberty and into our berth on the Brooklyn side of the East River as the skyline continued to form in in the pre-dawn mist.

It was during this spectacle that I realized with a sudden start that I'd finished; I'd completed the circumnavigation. For it was more than 20 months ago that Brian and were on the Staten Island Ferry in that very spot. Here is the photographic proof. That's it. I started traveling West and, today, arrived from the East. Around the world.

As people spilled out of the Ferry Terminal and into black limousines and yellow taxi cabs an old friend, Matt, met me this morning at the Ferry Terminal. He was the only person to arrive by bicycle. I was delighted, though it was a long walk back to his apartment in Brooklyn.

For the moment I'm sitting here in Matt's Brooklyn apartment digesting both the feast of pancakes in my belly and the last two years. I suppose that at some point today I'll make my way over to the Greyhound terminal for one last overnight bus ride. I expect that I'll be in Toronto tomorrow morning.

**The photo I've used in this post is one I took of the Statue of Liberty this morning. It's a terrible photo but for me was a great moment so I've used it anyway. It looks better if you squint.

June 06, 2007

Halfway Across The Atlantic

Queen Mary 2THE ATLANTIC OCEAN - I'd really intended to write a post from London. But with only two full days in the city I was occupied nearly every moment that I was there. I'll say that it was a great time and it's a place that I would love to return to. It's one of the bigger-than-life cities of the world like Tokyo, New York, Moscow and probably Paris. A city that's cosmopolitan nature makes most others seem small; A great place to live provided you can earn the wage. I did however, miss posting about London by a couple days and it's already fading into the distance as I'm currently sailing for New York City.

With 13 restaurants, 5 swimming pools, more than 1000 crew to cater to my every need, the Queen Mary 2 is providing me with a much different style of travel than I've become accustomed to on this trip around the world. If my goal was to have as much diversity as possible, then I've definitely succeeded with regards to modes of transportation. By sea alone, I've made progress via one decrepit sailing yacht (Panama - Tahiti) , a high-tech racing catamaran (Tahiti - Australia), a bare bones container ship (Austraila - Asia), countless ferries, and now a luxury ocean liner.

While there is very little hardship (in fact none) aboard the Queen Mary 2, I am having some difficulties. It seems that my 13kg rucksack filled with a couple pairs of jeans, a few pairs of shorts and a bunch of wrinkled t-shirts which has been so perfect for the entire world thus far, is letting me down out here in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. For some reason crossing an Ocean is meant to be a more formal affair than, say, cruising in the Caribbean. Beginning at 1800 hours each evening there is a dress code in effect for all public areas of the ship - which as best as I can tell is everywhere except my stateroom. Initially I thought I'd be able to dodge the formal nights and participate in the rest. The programme shows that on this 6 day crossing there will be two formal nights which require tuxedo's or black business suits. Uhhh.. no chance there. Two other nights are classes as informal but still require the use of a shirt and tie. Oops. And even the casual evenings require slacks - they tell me that denim is not appropriate. Dang. It seems that my tired old wardrobe has finally let me down with only 6-days left on this round-the-world trip.

This all means that beginning at 6pm each evening I start acting like a stow away. A stow away with access to free room service, a television and a private stateroom. Now to be fair, I have snuck out on more than one occasion already and it's a shame because there really is a certain romance to dressing and dining with such style as the ship sails smoothly through the ink black water, if I had a partner in crime and black tuxedo, I'm sure this would be a fabulous trip.

As it is, it's been a chance for me to collect myself as I prepare to leap back into the real world. I'm tweaking my resume, I've started exercising, I'm trying my best not to eat too much, and I'm spending a lot of time reflecting on this journey and also looking to the future; to the next big thing. I will be in New York City early on Sunday morning and after having breakfast at the very same Brooklyn diner that Brian and I ate at at the beginning of this trip, I will have officially finished what I set out to do. I expect that I'll be in Toronto that same day, ready to leap back into life.

June 01, 2007

A Guest Post From Jonathan...

Ryan and JonAMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS - Tonight is Ryan and I's last night together. He leaves in the morning to London by train and I leave Sunday aboard an airplane for Toronto. We'll make the most of it. So far Amsterdam has been very good to us.

We met up in Prague 12 days ago. We've spent time in Prague, Berlin, Koln and here in Amsterdam. It's been really great traveling with Ryan seeing how he is both a great friend and a pro-traveler. He has become seasoned over the last 20 months; North America, Central America, The Pacific, Southeast Asia, Asia, and Europe. He'll be back in Toronto soon enough, so parting wont be so bad. Next time I see him (in about 10 days), we'll both be in the real world.

I've gone 2.6% around the world without taking a plane. It was amazing. Ryan will have done it all. I am very proud of him and look forward to having him back.

-jonathan

May 29, 2007

Berlin To Cologne

Cologne CathedralCOLOGNE, GERMANY - When the ticket agent at the train station in Berlin quoted us the fare for the the 4 hour journey to Cologne as 180€, my wallet shrieked. I´d heard that trains in Germany were expensive, but this was more than I´d bargained for considering that I almost went from Beijing to Moscow for that amount.

I think it was Jon who asked if there was anything cheaper. This is how we discovered the joy of riding local trains all over Germany. For 35€, Jon and I were able to spend the entire night hoping from local train station to local train station. Not only did we save the nights accommodation in a hostel, but we had a strangely enjoyable night of adventure.

All in all, we changed trains seven times and missed only one connection. In many of the towns we had some time to wander around the centre before hoping on the next train, and for 35€ we couldn't afford not to do it.

In the end we arrived in Cologne just before 4am. We ditched our luggage and spent most of the morning wandering the city and seeing the sights while we waited for a reasonable time to check in to the hostel and pass out. Except for the odd drunk trying to find their way home, Cologne is a peaceful city at 5am on a Sunday. We had the entire Cathedral to ourselves.

May 23, 2007

Prague

BERLIN,GERMANY - I seem to be one step behind on this website now that the countries are so tiny and easily traversed. The pace I´ve set for this last few weeks is blistering. Our time in Prague was typical, which is to say very enjoyable. I now have a partner in crime (Jon) and we´ve managed to maintain a healthy mix of sightseeing and wandering by day and partying by night. The city really is beautiful once you learn to see past the throngs of tourists, in the centre it´s rare to meet a Czech person.

We´re in Berlin now, just arrived. We plan to stay for 3 or 4 days before moving on.

May 18, 2007

Krakow

KRAKOW, POLAND - The warm weather has arrived and with it comes the tourists. I'm successfully blending in to the tourist crowd as I hop around Eastern Europe. The last four days have seen me in Krakow, the only major city that wasn't destroyed in WWII, and hence the only Polish city with an intact, and original, Old Town. My days here have been spent seeing the obligatory sights in the area. The big one being the staggeringly huge and horribly efficient Nazi concentration camp and death factory, Aushchwitz. This single camp killed no less than 1.1 million people, probably more in a few short years.

On a brighter note, I did get a chance to see visit the Salt Mines of Wieliczka. They are like no other mine I've ever seen. The entire underground complex is made from salt. The tile floors, the walls, the stairs, the carvings and even the chandeliers. Yes, there are chandeliers. There are statues and even entire cathedrals in the mine all made from salt. It seemed unbelievable to me, but I confirmed it with a few strategic and inconspicuous tastes of some of the structures. For enough money you can even host a banquet or business function 130m under the ground. Strange place indeed.

Tomorrow, or rather tonight I'm getting on my 1 millionth overnight train, this time bound for Prague where I hope to squeak with enough time to meet Jon at the airport, as I assured him I would. The man behind the scenes is stepping to the fore front for a change and we'll be travelling together for rest of my time in Europe.