A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about home

The Last Post


sunny 22 °C
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 Comments (5)

On Hiking and Home

By Hannah

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

Now THAT'S a picnic table

Now THAT'S a picnic table

Austria is pretty much all about the outdoors for us. Today was no exception. We took a cable car called the "Flying Mozart" up the side of a mountain in order to hike one of the trails recommended to us at the tourist office. We were as motivated to do this trail by the recommendation as by the need to use the six euro map that Mom had convinced herself to buy. The walk was much easier than the hike we'd been expecting, and as we ambled through the woods, it felt exactly like walking around a campground in BC. It wasn't exactly filled with breathtaking views of mountains and valleys, but I think that the woods were a nice change, and they provided some relief from the muggy heat. On a related note, it's possible we prayed a little too hard to the sun gods, as we're expecting 25 °C+ weather for the rest of our stay here.

We met a few tourists from Germany, and Mom and Dad were able to have a conversation with one of them, despite there being about ten mutually understood words between the three. It involved a lot of improvised sign language, but was still very impressive. Dad received a genuine "gesundheit" from one of the other Germans, which seems much more likely to grant good health when spoken by someone in their mother tongue. We also met a friendly lady who pointed us in the right direction after we'd gotten lost (or "turned around", as my parents put it). Austrians and Germans seem to be an amicable bunch, especially the trekkers.

Wagrain walk

Wagrain walk

We have just a month and a half left in our trip, which is a fact that all of us are reacting to differently. Abby is very, VERY excited to go back home. Not to say that she isn't enjoying the trip, but home is something that's been in the forefront of her mind ever since we left the UK. Dad, on the other hand, is dreading our return. Well, perhaps that's a bit hyperbolic, but I think he'd like at least another year of travelling. Mom is looking forward to coming back, but is definitely savouring the last weeks of the trip.

Now that the length of time until we come home is short enough that I can wrap my head around it, I don't find myself as homesick. I'm looking forward to the next several weeks, and while the thought of home is always in my head, I try not to let it overshadow the happenings of here and now. I feel comfortable travelling, happy to be in Europe, and am anticipating great experiences both east and west of the pond.

Posted by KZFamily 12:45 Archived in Austria Tagged home austria walk hike gesundheit Comments (1)

Staying Home


rain 12 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Today we decided to have a stay home day, one of the reasons being we didn't get up until about 9:30. We were all up for the idea as we felt we had done some exploring and outdoorsy things the day before, and that we weren't skipping out on a place to see. Hannah spent her day doing homework, while my parents read, went on some walks and slept. I spent the day catching up with friends through facebook, catching up on Britains Got Talent auditions (but this could just as easily go into the category of catching up with friends, really), and a little bit of reading as well.

Tonight we plan to eat ice cream, play games and watch some West Wing, which is, in my opinion, how every day should end.

Posted by KZFamily 11:09 Archived in Scotland Tagged home Comments (2)

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