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View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

As I “open at the close” (the final Harry Potter reference, I promise), I thought it might be interesting to share some statistics of our trip:

71 accommodations (so 71 pack ups)
7 flights (Paris, Sicily, Malta, Athens, Turkey, UK, Canada)
13 000 airplane km
32 000 driving km
6 ferries (Ireland/UK X2, Malta/Gozo X2; England/France; Victoria)
104 loads of laundry
18 capital cities
23 countries (plus Gibraltar)
24 languages
257 blog entries
769 blog comments
4 dead watch batteries
3 police encounters
25 fridge magnets for most countries (missed the one from Iceland but got one for Wales and Scotland)
22 pins for Moe
Broken: 1 glass door, 1 washing machine, 1 car side mirror (unfortunately, not ours), numerous glasses/dishes, 1 power adaptor, 1 camera
Lost: 1 power adaptor, 1 headlamp, 2 wash cloths, 1 sweater, numerous single socks, composure (a few times)
4 saint’s relics
Uncountable churches, mosques, and synagogues
Uncountable bottles of alcohol
7 public transit systems (Madrid, Rome, Paris, London, Budapest, Venice, Istanbul)
154 West Wing episodes (22 x 7)
25,000 + photos
8 car rentals/leases
21, 482 bug brains on the windshield
Unlimited opportunities for growth

Coming back home has been both welcome and somewhat jarring at the same time. Of course, we expected variable feelings, given that we have been away in a cocoon of sorts and are now being immediately thrust back into real life. What else could we have expected? We anticipated the euphoria of seeing family and friends again, and of enjoying the pleasant familiarity that comes with pausing at favourite haunts and imbibing the much-missed sights, sounds, tastes and smells of our country and our home. We steadied ourselves for the reality of working and understanding what a regular work day is like, or in Ben’s case, what an extended work day can be as he prepares for his position as vice principal and generic classroom teacher after several years being dedicated to library and technology classes. We predicted the increased pace that comes with Abby and Hannah going into Grades 10 and 12, respectively. Their lives scheduled to the brim with school work, extracurricular activities, friends and now work will force us to be more diligent about squeezing out the joint family times we can. All these things were on our minds in the last couple of days in Europe as we purged our once-so-necessary collections: our just-in-case assortment of dishwasher tabs, laundry soap, dishcloths and matches; our kitchen spice kit accumulated over several months and even more countries, the various languages on the bottles tracking our path through Europe; the worn shoes once so valuable but now admittedly shabby and past the point of no return; the half disintegrated candies from Turkey that seemed durable at the time of purchase but now couldn’t in good conscience be shared with friends (or even colleagues); and the scraps of papers, receipts, and travel information we had amassed and purged at regular junctures. It all had to go so that our electronics, key though well-worn clothes, and few souvenirs could fit neatly in the packing cubes one last time. You can imagine the furor as we endeavoured to get things ready the evening before the trip home. The morning saw us do a last check around, turn in the final lease car, and pass through the concluding security checkpoint. Our flight was scheduled for early afternoon and as all check ins, transfers, and customs checks went very smoothly, we were tired but happy travellers arriving back in Victoria on July 31, walking off the evening ferry with light still remaining in the sky. As we made our way in the direction of the ferry waiting room, towards our friends Marianne and Calvin, whom we knew to be delivering our trusty vehicle, Abby broke into a run. While she had hardly been able to lug that big packsack across Europe on her small frame, straining at most airports and subways, she somehow forgot the weight when she saw that three dear friends were waiting for her. Welcoming her with open arms were Shaleyn, Leah and Lydia and after all the hugs and pictures, they came in very handy indeed, relieving us elder travellers of our bags. As we travelled back along the peninsula, the months melted away in one fell swoop and we were BACK. As the next few days evaporated with unpacking, cleaning and settling back into the house, we couldn’t believe how different those two worlds were. We had discussed all quickly writing a ‘final reflections’ blog while our trip was still fresh in our minds but never did get to setting down to write that. And in hindsight, most of us feel that it will take some time to digest our adventures, learnings and ponderings so perhaps those reflections will come in time.

Even as some realities were so anticipated, as I mentioned above, one was not. It is this new reality that has sent us reeling and off kilter the last few weeks. The week after we returned home, Ben’s dad (aka Opa) went into the hospital and was subsequently diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It had been such a boon for us to share the trip with him and, ironically, the more the miles lengthened, the closer we felt as he proved to be such a loyal fellow traveller. All the Skype calls, witty and articulate blog comments and quick, meaningful visit while I was in Victoria served to cement our familial bonds. So it is with sad yet peaceful hearts that we prepare to let Pa go on his next journey. We don’t know when this will be but Ben has taken time off work to be with his dad more and is shuttling between Port Alberni and Victoria quite a bit. Pa has many family members and friends visiting and it is this that cheers him most and helps his days. It is sad to think the girls will lose both their grandpas in one year but, as Pa has commented, he and my dad seem to be on the same trajectory, having been born within months of each other as well. All the realities we’re experiencing, but this one most of all, support us in our conviction that we did the right thing to take this past year off. Life is all too short a journey and to have been privileged to share an intense, collapsed year with our immediate family has been valuable beyond belief. We have grown as individuals but also as a family unit. Individually, it has been maturing for the girls, and life changing for Ben and me. Possibly life changing for Hannah and Abby as well, but I think that may take some time to become more apparent.

We are very grateful to the many who have shared our journey with us in various ways – you were and are so appreciated! Till next time.

Posted by KZFamily 07:23 Archived in Canada Tagged home canada

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Loved this journey. Love you guys. Keep writing!

by Irene Fennema

What a summary and you did do the right thing for your family.
I am sorry to hear of Ben's Dad having a lung cancer and pray for all of you. At least you via his posts got to share with each other on your trip about his life where you went. Not all of us have these conversations with our loved ones. Welcome back. / Rob

by RobBar

Thank you for the finale! I am so, so happy for you all to have had this fantastic opportunity, and proud of you all for grasping it.
As mentioned above, you made the most of your time over this past year and have such wonderful memories to carry you through life!
Big hugs to you all,

by Lauren

The privilege of sharing this journey has been all ours. I expect this time will be a touch stone for all of you in the coming years. Even the events surrounding both fathers, that are so big in life, now have this wonderful life experience wrapped around them. Peace, and as you say, Till next time..Gordon

by Gordon

Hi. My name is Nelly Kazenbroot, and I am a close friend of Jane. Thanks to her, I began reading your travel blog and I've followed it faithfully to the very end. It's been wonderful. My husband and I are both professional writers so I can really appreciate the wonderful skill you all have as storytellers. I especially loved listening to the individual voices both Hannah and Abbey had as they wrote. Thanks again! And welcome back to Canada!

by nelinda

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