Year in Review
At the end of November, 2015 we began a 75 day budget overland tour in Southeast Africa. The trip took us through parts of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Yes, it was a two and a half month group tour! With that, and upon returning to Italy in April, we have reached a milestone of visiting 25 countries on our Journey. The others are the United States of America, Canada, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Qatar (Doha airport only), and, the Vatican, in that order. And, yes, we learned The Holy See is the world’s smallest country!
After overlanding, we then stayed on our own in Cape Town from mid-February through early April. We had hoped to do some volunteer or sustainability work but that never materialized. It became apparent that with two fractures to my pelvis from a fall in mid-December which I had refused to allow to ruin our 75 day tour, that I actually needed a good part of those weeks in Cape Town for me finally to rest and recuperate. We rented a car for two of those weeks to drive to the Eastern Cape and back, then we finished our final 10 days at a retreat center for me to take a training with Father Michael Lapsley, founder of the Institute for Healing of Memories. Loren was my roommate, and when he was not out hiking, joined me and the other participants for our meals.
In April, we left southeast Africa to return to Italy for three whole months! We began with 10 days in Rome, with one highlight of seeing Pope Francis speak from his apartment window to the amassed crowd in St Peter’s square. We traveled south on the western coast – visiting Pompeii, hiking on Mount Vesuvius, and staying along the Amalfi Coast. We flew to Sicily for ten days, then flew to Sardenia for nine days, before flying north. We rented a car in Bologna to drive to Assisi, of St Francis’ fame-another highlight.
The third highlight to mention is how delighted we were to be able to spend time with dear family and friends at different times while we were in Italy. First, friends from France and the USA joined us for 10 days together in Bologna then the Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera. With friends from near Verona we had a lovely weekend in Lucca before they drove us to the Piemonte region to visit Loren’s cousins on his maternal grandmother’s side of the family, both meaningful visits. And, we rode the rails to visit cousins on his maternal grandfather’s side, which was also a very special time.
We spent a week in Lake Lugano on the Italian border, actually in Switzerland though formerly of Italy, and another week in Lake Como before friends from Germany joined us for a great week at Lake Garda. We were also able to spend a day bicycling in Verona with friends who were there from New York City. For our last three nights, our same friends from Verona picked us up, brought us to their home to stay, and then saw us to the airport. Three fabulous months for this portion of our Journey, and another month last fall, were still not enough time for us in Italy. Arriverderci, Italia – just for now. We so hope to return again!
Starting in July, we traveled in Morocco for three weeks, and in several countries of Central- Eastern Europe: Romania for one month, then Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia through early October. We traveled again through Western Europe: this time to Greece, Czech Republic, Germany and Iceland.
To finish out our year we were in New York, visiting several family members and friends both there and in New England. We celebrated our niece Jazmin’s 16th birthday then had another memorable Thanksgiving with very dear family members.
We had a wonderful, unexpected opportunity to travel to Antartica in December, 2016, requiring a sudden decision in that we had just 24 hours to accept a tour company’s 50% off special, on an already reasonable fare for such an exotic destination. Since it fit our schedule and budget perfectly, how could we not accept?
We first flew from New York to Florida to spend a week visiting wonderful family and friends there. Then the trip to Antartica was for a 10 day cruise out of Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of Argentina, to the Antarctic Peninsula, which is a continuation of the Andes mountains and back. It was otherworldly to see the glaciers, ice, and icebergs, along with the wildlife – penguins, seals, whales, and numerous species of birds. One highlight was going on an overnight outing, cocooned in sleeping bags during a night of eternal sunlight on the landmass. We had one day in Ushuaia beforehand that we spent on a guided tour to a national park, and, a few days outside Buenos Aires afterwards. We returned to New York on Christmas Day for a great holiday with family.