Sandy reflects on our thoughts on being back on American soil for a day after traveling for 11 months.
When we built our Trekking the Planet itinerary we paid special attention to the cruises that would take us between continents because of our desire to stay close to the ground when traveling. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle to get the cruise pieces to fit so that we could travel from North America to Australia, Australia to Asia, Europe to South America and, finally, South America to back home. To get from Europe to South America, the best cruise option was to take back-to-back voyages on the same ship, the Pacific Princess. This meant that we would have a day in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, between the 18-day Trans-Atlantic leg and the 14-day voyage to South America.
Our oldest daughter, Lauren, emailed us a few days before our arrival in Florida, asking if we thought it would be weird to be back in the U.S.A. We really had not given it much thought but as we got closer to our arrival in Fort Lauderdale we wondered how it would feel to be back on American soil after almost 11 months of traveling the world. Would things seem the same or different for us? Would we want to stay in the U.S. or could we keep traveling for the three remaining months of our journey? We were not sure how we would feel.
We arranged to meet Darren’s parents, who live in Key West, Florida, while in Fort Lauderdale. After leaving the ship, we walked a short distance to a Starbucks to catch up on some fast Internet before Darren’s parents arrived. As we walked along the sidewalk it was amazing to see so few people. In many countries we had visited the streets and sidewalks were crowded. Here, the only people on the sidewalks were joggers. In the streets cars were few, quiet and stopped when you entered the crosswalk.
At Starbucks the free Internet was lightning fast. It felt perfectly normal to order a coffee at Starbucks and but it seemed like we were in some kind of time warp as we listened to the Christmas music being played in the background. Had 11 months really gone by since we had been in a Starbucks in America? Looking around at the baristas wearing reindeer hats and the customers coming and going, things seemed so relaxed and carefree compared to rural Africa where we were just six weeks ago.
Soon Darren’s parents arrived to meet us. They brought gifts of sorts: new shoes, clothes, portable speakers and other supplies to replenish or replace things which were worn out, broken or depleted. We purchased all these items on Amazon.com a few weeks ago and had them sent to Darren’s parents. It was like Christmas a few days early to have some nice, new things.
Darren’s parents helped us with a few errands, since they had a car. We went to a nearby post office to send a box back to California. Hopefully this will be the last items mailed home; now we will travel with everything else for the remainder of our journey. We did a little shopping and loved walking into stores to find the shelves full and filled with familiar brands.
We noticed a Chipotle restaurant close by and could not resist going there for lunch. Being from California, we just love Mexican food so this was an unexpected treat. It was a nice time catching up with Darren’s parents over a relaxing lunch.
Before heading back to the ship we took the opportunity to call other family members on my cell phone. It was great to dial the phone without entering a country code or incurring roaming fees. All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Darren’s parents and wish them an early Merry Christmas.
As we re-boarded our ship, we compared our feelings about the day and our short time in the U.S.A. Although we both had fleeting thoughts of what it would be like to stop traveling and stay put, we also felt adventure calling and a definite desire to keep on moving. Our journey continues as we sail toward our sixth and final continent, South America, over the next two weeks.