Goodbye Europe, Hello Africa!

As we awaited our airport shuttle in Rome on October 21st, it was clear that we all felt a bit melancholy about our departure from Europe.  Our journey of a lifetime is officially 25% complete. We have woven our way through 11 countries, and roamed 30 cities since leaving Seattle almost exactly 3 months ago.  Of those 91 days, nearly a third (26), have been “travel days” with packs in tow as we transfer from one accommodation to the next.  We have slept in 23 different accommodations, and 2 additional nights spent on a train and boat. We have traveled by plane, train, metro, bus, tram, overnight train, overnight ferry, vaparetto, canal boat, chartered sailboat, hired drivers, cabs, and rental car (x4). We even traveled a few miles on ATVs, horseback, and I can’t begin to calculate the miles traveled on foot on our numerous hikes and city traverses.   And yet, it has all been in Europe, one continent, and with the exception of a few stops, it was all places Jon and I had been once before.  Now we are embarking on a new chapter of our our journey, Africa…and beyond.  It’s time to recalibrate.

Before we move on, here is a conglomerate list of votes on different aspects of our travels:

Cities with Swagger: We enjoy our outdoor experiences and getting out to the country, but we also appreciate cities for their energy and complexity.  At the top of our lists were Venice (there is no other place like it), Rome (where all roads lead), and Istanbul (exotic, beautiful and friendly).

We could stay here a while: We were fairly split on our favorite accommodations –  either the cool penthouse apartment in Denmark; or the many-terraced abode built into the Dalmation Coast in Dubrovnik.  We booked most of our places via www.airbnb.com, which is very easy, efficient, and allows and you to pay online.  We also used www.homeaway.com, which allowed some flexibility in price and payment methods.  Other than that we also used www.flipkey.com, www.booking.com, www.agriturismo.it, and searched many other sites as well.

It’s good to be a kid: Austria got a lot of votes for being kid-friendly because there were tons of playgrounds and we did a lot of outdoor activities there, and Turkey was also popular for how the kids were doted on, receiving lots of attention and little gifts.

Gastronomic Pleasures: Pizza (the best was in Naples), Apples in France (Viv voted for this), Gelato in Italy, Black Burger in Naples – (Maggie’s vote). My vote: Turkish Breakfast (hard-boiled egg, feta cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, bread and honey)!

The People we Meet: This was tough for all of us – we have met the most amazing people and characters on this journey and so many individuals have touched our lives and been so gracious and kind.  But, as a whole, the people in Turkey and specifically Goreme, were the kindest that we have met throughout Europe.  Despite all the changes I saw in Turkey over the 15 years since we last visited, it was a relief to see that the people are just as warm and open as they were back then – and the kids are forever changed by this experience.

Animal sightings:  For me, it was the Icelandic horses.  Jon mentioned a massive herd of identical orange cats we saw in Naples; Molly and Vivian voted for the hamsters at our hosts’ house in Denmark; and Maggie voted for the dog at Bagnacci, one of our agriturismos in Italy.  David loved hunting for lizards all about but he brought up two incredible “animal planet” worthy episodes I had forgotten!  One was in Venice, where we actually watched in horror as a seagull swooped down and attacked a pigeon, ultimately drowning it in the canal!  The other was in Tuscany, on our horseback ride.  We had just mounted up and were standing there and right in front of us a big lizard (maybe a foot long) comes running on its hind legs across the arena, and right behind slithered a huge snake!

Favorite travel mode: Airplane was unanimous amongst the kids.  I don’t care for all the security and long hours, so I said rental car, which gives us the most independence. Jon always drives, so he voted for the overnight ferry from Croatia to Italy – which was a simple, hop on-hop off experience.

Biggest “Wow” sight: Lots of variety here….Castles, Zuspitze, Icelandic Glacier, Via Sacra in Rome’s Forum, and Sistine Chapel and Blue Mosque

Biggest laughs: Waterslides in Prague; staying up late on the Summerlove boat in Turkey listening to our friend, “Tebow” talk; Jon’s laugh attack over something nerdy I did; Viv’s knock-knock jokes; the “Wake me Up” day; and Jon badly bungling a joke about “snow snakes” to some very confused tourists in Iceland.

We’d Rather Forget: homesickness, car sickness, Viv’s near-death experience of running down a hill in Prague, Maggie’s foot injury, Jon and I being locked out of our apartment in Prague (overnight) and having to sleep in the stairwell, and watching waste coming out the side of our boat into the Canal du Midi in France.

Magic Memory: Viv liked biking the canals in France; David still talks about the amazing meal prepared for us by Suleyman Ikman in Goreme Turkey, enjoyed in his carpet shop on the day we left; Molly loved buying the carpet in Goreme; Maggie remembers swimming in the pool at night with David and Molly in Dubrovnik; Jon mentioned several moments in Turkey – the hike in Rose Valley and reuniting with our friends in Goreme; and for me it was watching the sun rise over Cappadoccia in my first ever hot-air balloon ride. 

So there you have it, in a rough format – some of the all-star takeaways from our travels through Europe.  During our last few nights in Rome, we were able to plug Jon’s iPad into our television and watch a slide show of our trip thus far.  I think we are all touched by the realization of how much we have already experienced.  I definitely feel blessed.


  1. Dad Boppa

    Waking up each day to new posts and Instagram photos has become our way of hugging all of you as you bring the world to us through your words and wonderful experiences. We miss you and love you all so much for sharing this amazing journey. We are also blessed.

  2. MAC

    I continue to thoroughly enjoy your posts and have copied and pasted your Europe summary into my YOLO folder for future reference! Enjoy Africa!

  3. Lisa

    Awesome post! So fun to hear the highs and lows!! I want to hear more about sleeping in the stairwell when we see each other next time! Sounds like something that would happen to us 😉 Lisa

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