Leaving Palermo this morning we arrived in Gatwick, UK and are sitting in a pub called the Parson’s Pig reminiscing about our incredible 10 months abroad spanning over all four seasons. By plane, train, automobile and ferries we managed to slow travel through 10 countries, visiting over 183 cities, towns and villages while staying in 51 different accommodations (45 plus 6 housesits). Lord knows how many miles we logged but here are the countries we visited (mostly in order):
- Scotland (over 19 cities, towns or villages)
- Ireland (16)
- Italy (51)
- Wales (16)
- England (8)
- Croatia (25)
- Bosnia (2)
- Montenegro (1)
- Slovenia (17)
- Austria (1)
- Sicily (27) an island of Italy
We swam in the Mediterranean,Tyrrhenian, Adriatic and Ionian Seas. We visited more churches and castles than we could possibly count. We hiked, kayaked, climbed a volcano- Etna (visited another by boat-Stomboli), visited ancient ruins and temples, saw amazing waterfalls and mother natures best. Lord knows how many stairs, stairs, stairs…. we climbed. We drove on the left, we drove on the right, we drove cliff side roads, single tracks through the mountains, narrow scrape your side mirror streets, mastered ‘the roundabout’, questionable GPS trips, 130 km Highways with no rules and don’t get me started on how the Italians drive (Naples and Sicily-oh my!)
We ate and drank our way through all 10 countries, trying all the local specialties, regional wines, local beers and cocktails, dolce, pasta, pizza… and mama mia we have a few extra pounds as souvenirs.
The best and most soul fulfilling parts of our journey though were all the amazing people we met, who we hope to continue long distance friendships with (and hope they visit us, you know who you are!). From the 26 Airbnb owners who went above and beyond to make our stays as comfortable as possible; they gave us homemade wines, liquors, home baked goodies, local specialties, made us dinner, brought us dinner, took us sightseeing, gave us souvenirs…. unexpected hospitality. The family in Milan who invited us to Christmas dinner and took away the homesickness we were feeling over the holidays, a new friend who went out of her way to help us ship out our costumes for carnival in Venice and then arranged a church for us to renew our vows. Then the six housesits that allowed us into their homes, gave us their cars, made us dinner, and trusted us to look after their beloved pets and allowed us to spend some time with them before or after their trips. In a short amount of time it was like we had been friends for a long time, special people that come into your lives and you never forget. All along the way people would come along when we needed help, conversation over dinner, just for a coffee, to share a boat ride, joined us on a tour or to give us insider tips. The people we met and the different cultures we got to experience and learn from are the greatest gifts you receive from travel.