A Travellerspoint blog

Coming Home

Ends are not bad things

sunny 78 °F

Friends, this will be the final post of what has been a truly amazing journey.

I have been home for a week now and over that time I have been trying to figure out the best way to tie all of this up and I believe I would like to do so by saying thank you.

If you were someone that I was lucky enough to meet along the trip, thank you for sharing a piece of your life with me.

If you are one of my friends from back home who has been reading along each week, thank you for encouraging me to go and for the open arms upon my return.

If you are my family, thank you for your love and support through what has been a very difficult year for each of us.





After nine countries, seventeen cities and over 17,745 miles traveled, I found exactly what I was looking for.

For the first time in more than a year, I feel at peace. Thoughts of my father are where they should be and what comes next for me in life is clear.

I couldn't be more excited about the next chapter.



“Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin. And there are many things that don't really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way. Ends are not bad and many ends aren't really an ending; some things are never-ending.”
― C. JoyBell C.




I love you, Pops. Thank you for all the moments we had. My love for you is never ending.


large_24EB9D18A359B1FC21B8FBF3C720E0F9.jpg

Posted by meagle 16:48 Archived in USA Tagged travel love beginnings Comments (0)

Sicily

All good things must come to an end

sunny 75 °F
View Europe 2015 on meagle's travel map.

Ciao dalla Sicilia!

large_1E43C158A289A3BA9B2E46FB0EF3C0E9.jpg

Well, here we are. The final stop. Hard to believe we are at the end.

This post is going to be a bit different than the others. After almost two months of travel, walking cities, exploring churches, and hunting out great local spots to eat every day, I realized that I am back in the office in a few days and perhaps it was best I took it easy and actually recharged a bit.

So I booked a flight to Palermo, Sicily along with a hostel that's two blocks from the beach. Should be perfect, right?

Wrong.

Turns out the water that is nearby is actually an industrialized port and the nearest beach was two bus rides and forty five minutes away.

Strike 1.

So I get checked into my hostel, a small place run by a mother and son and a cat. It is a little weird but they are nice enough people, and I am thinking, "Ok, maybe this will work."

Here's mom cooking in the kitchen.
large_1E3D5D0F9CE60EDE0F6C497E5EFFE581.jpg

And me hanging on the couch with LuLu.
large_1E3FD53097332C3486F6C8D5B64EF7BA.jpg

Then he takes me to my six person room...and all of the beds are pink or purple and look like they are for eight year old girls.
large_90_1E3CCC4C0634BF50A45BD5239EEE6A03.jpg

Strike 2.

So I say to myself, "Ok, so the beach is nowhere near and you kind of feel like a pedophile in the bed but maybe you should try to give the city itself a shot...see something cultural and feel better."

So I make friends with a Brazilian and a Canadian from the hostel who are off to see some cathedral on a hill outside of town.

Perfect.

The next morning, we walk 30 minutes to the bus stop. Wait 45 min for the bus. Bus 35 minutes outside the city to a small town and it immediately begins to rain. No problem, we duck inside the cathedral but have an hour and fifteen minutes to kill before the next bus back. By this point in my trip I am trying not to have serious cathedral malaise but I am fighting it with everything Ive got. Twenty minutes later, we have seen the cathedral so we wait in the rain at the bus stop for another 40 minutes. The time comes and goes when the bus is supposed to arrive.

Uh oh.

We ask a local and they tell us that is a fake bus stop. Or its not a real one. I don't know. They kinda shrug their shoulders and say, "It's Sicily."

Eventually, we find the real bus stop but just minutes after our bus had left. No bus for another hour and fifteen minutes. Just us, the side of the road and some goats. Eventually, we are able to thumb a ride down the hill back toward town and catch a bus to a station so we can catch a second bus that turns out to be headed in the wrong direction.

  • sigh*

More rain.

No more fooling around. We exit the bus and hail a cab directly back to the hostel. Cultural excursion fail.

Strike 3.

I need beach and privacy and relaxation stat.

Even though I paid up front for all five days at the hostel, I booked a nice hotel three blocks from the actual beach, said thank you to folks running the hostel and hailed a cab toward redemption.

When I arrived at my hotel, I opened my windows to this view:
large_1E418580DBB1650661CF2249063E6D9F.jpg

Had a great meal in the restaurant downstairs:
large_90_1E431F89D2B4D05D66762F0819D2FA0B.jpg

And for the next three and half days I laid on this beach:
large_1E40EBAEBE11309A7E67F33764309328.jpg

And
ed98aa0b98d5b16489926e9cd988f3e1fe3e44c3c30e0e226b8afad9395c9c39.jpg

It was the perfect way to relax and recharge after an amazing two months through Europe.

I will be following up this post with one final post to wrap everything up so I invite you to stop reading here if you are easily offended because I feel as though what follows may be a bit of a rant surrounding the touchy subject of religion. If, however, that sounds like your cup of tea, then here we go...

...Giving those who don't wish to be a part of this next section time to file out...

...That it?

Ok, good.

I would like to start by saying that I am in no way religious. I am not making any assertion as to the validity of the Bible. In all honesty, whatever you want to believe in your life is great with me (within reason). I have simply made some observations over my time in Europe and would like share them with you.

To begin, here are a few pics from inside the cathedral outside of Palermo. This cathedral is not so unlike most I visited throughout Europe so it should serve as a good exemplar.
large_90_1E3E072CAF13CE339BE667876C8F3AF7.jpglarge_90_1E3EAD52CC918B4AB4A9A61AF922DE55.jpg

I walked into this place and noticed all of the lavish gold and ornate decorations as well as the extremely large mosaic of Jesus on the ceiling and couldn't help but think to myself what Jesus' own reaction would be to this place if the man ("man") himself came down and saw it.

And I can't help but think he would be embarrassed of it.

Why do I think that?

In Luke 18:14 Jesus says, "For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

His entire message was, "This isn't about me. Follow my teachings, love God, be humble, take care of the poor and love your neighbor." That's really about it. Nothing about exalting himself above others or enshrining his likeness throughout the land.

It just feels like the appearance of these giant cathedrals can be very much off-message and they often miss the heart of what Jesus tried to teach us during his time on earth.

I would love for someone to show me anything written about Jesus saying that he would have preferred or even tolerated his likeness to be mosaic'd in gold above a grand cathedral, ams outstretched as if he was the center of everything.

I am not suggesting we don't have churches. I am not suggesting that those churches don't have the likeness of Jesus inside them. I think they should. But if you are going to build such a thing, it should be done with deference and a keen eye on his message. And with many churches, especially the one pictured above, I don't think they have done so.

I suppose if your heart is in the right place that's all that would matter to the man himself. To me, this was just an interesting thought that I wanted to share.

And now, this has officially been more talk about Jesus than I have done cumulatively in the last ten years so I think it's best we stop here.

Feel free to message me your thoughts. I would love a discussion (not a debate) about it.



Thanks again for reading. I am home bound and I couldn't be more excited!

To the States!

Posted by meagle 14:50 Archived in Italy Tagged travel sicily Comments (0)

Malta

Welcome to The Rock!

sunny 80 °F
View Europe 2015 on meagle's travel map.

Merħba lill Malta!

Friends...wow...Malta.

This. Place. Is. Awesome.

After two weeks of tracking through glaciers and over the frozen tundra of Scandinavia, this little rock in the middle of the Mediterranean was a very welcome sight!

large_DCBB3C01ED4E00CFB5D59520B665BCC4.jpg

And I say rock because this whole country is just that. In fact, the locals refer to it as "The Rock."

I was secretly hoping for Sean Connery to greet me at the airport.
z9McbpX.gif

Unfortunately, he did not. Nor did my luggage... *sigh*

So, my brother and I did what anyone would do in that situation: We went to the nearest beach shop, bought a swimsuit, sandals and some sunnies and headed directly for the Med.
large_DC91CF5DC2903925F5777A7D5A3B7467.jpg

When I say this whole place is rock, I am not kidding. There is one sand beach on the other side of the island made from sand imported from elsewhere. Otherwise, this is the beach.
large_DC8B074492EE5AFD49851A5992C713FA.jpg

They have cut interesting pools into the rocks so water can flow in and out. They actual create a very welcoming place to relax and swim.
large_DC91004BE403590E8CA4663B542E972A.jpg

While this was my first time to Malta, this was visit number 14 for my brother. For those of you who don't know, he used to live and work in Libya which is just a 30 minute flight south. He would visit here as often as he could both for holiday and to have his visa renewed. Over that time, he made a number of great friends who are still here today.

We were lucky enough to stay with some of those good friends, Emilie and Kris who are dating and Roxana, Emilie's Romanian roommate. While Kris is Maltese, Emilie will tell you she is more Maltese than French, even though her accent gives her away. They are all seriously some of the best people I have met in a long time. They spent the week showing us around and taking us to all of the spots that tourists wouldn't know about. It was great to live like a local.
large_DCB775E09A02DF4B967B688AB9A83742.jpg
large_DCE25006AC3A86400D2F21253E24B76A.jpg

Back to the fun in the sun!
large_DCAACA81B0FED8908C891F01DB562AA8.jpg

A beautiful bay that Brandon decided to swim across so he could fatgirl at dinner. I decided not to but to fatgirl anyway. #bigisbeautiful
large_DC8CC1DFA3362440AF59958A6053F319.jpg

That form, tho!
large_180_DC8EF060F307DE5A1849E8FC94F51B7A.jpg

We spent a lot of time on the rocks at a waterfront bar called Surfside. Great drinks, free wifi, horrible food. Eh, two out of three aint bad. You can see all of the sunbathers behind us. Popular spot.
large_DC8F99A1E7C369CFD81176DE230CF0E6.jpg

One day Kris was nice enough to take us around to some of the more rocky cliffs and caves around the island.
large_DCCF8045EFCCFFF07A74CBD270B16AB2.jpglarge_90_DCDFCE26A2114AD8426E51FEAA9C03F3.jpglarge_DCE0DDC2F364B3612E90047956B3B571.jpg

Malta is only 122 sq miles with a population of around 450,000 making it one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries. But it is more than just pretty coast line. It boasts a rich history of nations invading and has been under the control of the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and the British until it gained it's independence in 1964.

The new capital, Valetta was built in the 16th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
large_DC92A3CAF9B66E3C29B06C2A64A59913.jpg

The streets are beautiful and hilly.
large_DCA52AF5FBC90580AA6578202666E380.jpglarge_DCA81BC1E2169F234E59EEB1CA70ED31.jpg

And the walls fortifying the city are enormous.
large_DCA35E01DC471F50C2A46DD4BD0D0AB8.jpg

For all of the Game of Thrones fans out there, a lot of it is filmed here. Welcome to King's Landing:
large_DCD22C619634CC4BAD4F3D10046ECE5D.jpglarge_90_DCDB3C8293116DBA22001530BA97E5F7.jpglarge_DCDC55B49FAD587C6509887AB4CC8802.jpg

A few miscellaneous extras:

One night Brandon and I hit the casino for a little black jack. His winnings vs. my winnings...le sigh.
large_DCA2A37CB7B1767F67D1B883E9BC8A49.jpg

Brandon had to take off a day early to get back to the States so Kris drove Emilie and I around to some of his favorite spots around the country. We stopped for what were easily the best strawberries I had ever had in my life. GMO and pesticide free. Just real. Hard to believe.
large_DCDED4159ABCB7BF9FFA0D9024EFBBB8.jpglarge_DCE2B55DC43F1EAAA9076896E4B24175.jpg
large_DCE33B3606532C066EEB56CC5D5417F3.jpg

large_DCB85933E1655330129EC2EDEAC79E0D.jpglarge_DCB67B3C904D613553EFD9925AF879E1.jpglarge_DCA1E665FF3B93732EBAF63D3E5C8452.jpg

Malta has easily been one of my favorite spots along my trip. Exploring it with my brother and being shown around by awesome locals made it really special. It is a long way from home, but there is no doubt that I will return.

And while I am sad that my time here is ending, I have one week left before I return to the real world.

"Hey, Ryan Air, where can I fly from here thats cheap and awesome?"

"Wanna go to Sicily for €17??"

P3eKZ.jpg

Thanks for reading!

Posted by meagle 05:43 Archived in Malta Tagged travel mediterranean malta Comments (1)

Norway

Where everything and everyone is beautiful

overcast 50 °F

Hei fra Norge!

I have to start by apologizing. Norway was the first stop in almost two months where I failed to upload a blog post before I left for the next destination. I am a few day behind, but better late than never!

So, Norway!
large_2A806075955CBF830A4E4D3BE5BE8F70.jpg

While we flew into Oslo and spent a day or so there, the main focus of our trip was to head northwest to see the Fjords. So, let's pick it up from there. Desert first!

From Oslo, you can take a seven hour train to Bergen, a quaint city situated along the western coast of Norway. It is heralded as one of, if not the most beautiful train rides in the world. Here are two images taken along the ride to show you the contrast in environment and elevation over seven hours.
large_DBDDC625BF24897024716ED2A9BDC36D.jpg

From Bergen, we took a five hour boat ride north into the fjords and despite it being a bit rainy, the scenery was unbelievable.
large_DBDB2384B8A4B702B36166C31D63623B.jpg
large_CD047895A08AFDBB26EF4A7E977B8BCC.jpg

Fun fact: a fjord is a long, narrow arm of the sea bordered by steep cliffs: usually formed by glacial erosion. Science!

The ferry took us into the Sognefjord which is the largest and most well known fjord in Norway. It is the longest open (ice-free) fjord in the world and stretches 127 miles inland from the ocean.

large_2A785F59B69B2FD3CE6933CC181AEFD0.jpg
large_2A78DEABCF48DDAF58384B4902AF006D.jpg
large_2A9F7DC0A3D0C156699FDCB4D370988C.jpg

Similar to Iceland, all of the rainfall and glacial runoff creates a number of very impressive waterfalls.
large_2A8220EAC304F63564EA1C2B390A0398.jpglarge_2A79702DDF232A6CFC4DA431280E1E7E.jpglarge_2A835555FDEAEF663000FCAF9FB965B4.jpg

Here I am in my natural state of squinty-ness but this time for good reason as the cold and rain was worse than it looks in this photo.
large_2AA00FADF69DC5E3E480D063FD0239CA.jpg

Brothers, less squinty. More smiles as requested by many of you.
large_2A80E0BF9E31D16082FF3436CCA9CDEF.jpg

As I mentioned earlier, the city of Bergen is situated along the western coast and used to be the capital of Norway. Established before 1070 AD, it is now the second most populated city in Norway and boasts the busiest port in the country. With all that being said, the population is just over 250,000 and the city itself is quite small. Tucked into the mountainside, it is easily walkable from end to end.
large_2A73EB76A042D3E74E7A14E0BF43B266.jpg

Behind us is pretty much the heart of the city itself.
large_CDFA8BABC415689493CC501FBE79022D.jpg

Along the water's edge near the harbor is a UNESCO world heritage site called Bryggen which the old wharf of Bergen. It's a reminder of the town’s importance as part of Norway's trading empire from the 14th to the mid-16th century.
large_2A9EDD51061959146EF05866B79D0CC7.jpg

Bryggen has been damaged by a number of fires through the centuries and has been rebuilt after every fire, closely following the previous property structure and plan as well as building techniques. Today, some 62 buildings remain of this former townscape and these contain sufficient elements to demonstrate how this colony of German merchants lived and worked.
large_2A75C004DEA8B620843B6A64BA0DD5D3.jpglarge_2A752543B2FB95415FEB860FA902E08A.jpg

Oh, and while we were in Bergen, it was the National Day of Norway...or Norway day, as Brandon I kept calling it. Essentially their equivalent to our Fourth of July.

So, we did as the locals. We bought flags and raised a pint in honor of this great nation. Ok, maybe more than one as you can tell from Brandon's face.
large_2AA0C185F1F0602FE23D0ED01F5D7A18.jpg

But we were not prepared. Apparently, this is the day for men to dress in their best suits and for women to don their traditional dresses. We were the only two guys who didn't look like they stepped out of an Armani ad. Many men also wore traditional clothing and dressed their children in the same.
large_2A869925DCB86405F5E85FC1D1815903.jpg

Despite our jeans and traveler looks, a few local girls were more than happy to show off their traditional dresses. Each are different depending on their home towns.
large_2A84E268C05E9C3758FDEED338655244.jpglarge_2A84671CC7F2405C245B51B981FFA452.jpg

Did I mention everyone here is super attractive? Its ridiculous. Men and women.

The night ended with fireworks and an outdoor concert by many of Bergen's more famous artist and musicians - one of whom is the music duo Ylvis. If you are not familiar with them, they sing the song, "What does the fox say." It only has 516 MILLION views on YouTube.

large_2A87E761EA9B9AC64379DC2AE2BCB837.jpg

Norway was a blast, but bring your wallet. They boast one of the highest standards of living in the world and things are quite expensive. In fact, also bring your friend's wallet. Beers run $12 to $15 a piece and a fresh seafood dinner will run you $50-$60.

My reaction every time the bill came to the table:
eSQNaTb.gif

A few miscellaneous extras:
large_2A85F503F604D6998319EB95E4D9BDA3.jpglarge_2A855D53D5D145B662A5F5BFB4B0EAC2.jpglarge_2A83DD5FEA338FAA84A9B6C7F8DFD9FE.jpglarge_2A829F03A171C8B2225F5EE493E48A5A.jpg

We really enjoyed our time here and there is so much more to explore of this great country but we have had almost two weeks of cold, snow and ice.

We need to thaw out. I think it is time for a little fun in the sun.


"Hey, Malta, is it warm down there?"

"Yep! Wanna come hang for a bit?"

ZLV6URW.gif

Posted by meagle 08:57 Archived in Norway Tagged travel norway Comments (1)

Iceland

Stunning landscapes and beautiful people

sunny 38 °F
View Europe 2015 on meagle's travel map.

Kveðjur frá Íslandi!

large_17EE118907519EFB25707FEA67DC315A.jpg

After seven weeks of traveling solo, backup has finally arrived!

As much fun as it has been to explore Europe on my own, I couldn't be more excited for my brother to join me for a few weeks.

In fact, he flew through the night and landed with about 30 minutes to spare before we were to be picked up for a tour through the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is a 300 km loop through southern Iceland that has a number of the more scenic spots around the region. We were picked by our awesome guide Einar (pronounced Einus) in his lift-kitted 4x4 and we were off!

Without a doubt, the highlight was driving on the glacier. Unbelievably expansive, we could explore wherever we wanted to go.
large_17EAB3C6D07BC4A3CAE93C99344CCE5F.jpglarge_17EB416AD4DCDBC5221006B9C7F50846.jpglarge_180_17EBD56EC805E1497A9E86DA6A0E3D7E.jpg

Im not kidding, up the sides of mountains, wherever. Here we are on about a 40 degree slope.
large_180_17F3DAD4EACEFFF8914B724946227A74.jpg

We rented a car for three days and drove clear across the country to the eastern coast to a glacial lagoon called Jökulsárlón.
large_1843D569B7694EA89D73DF5DD92BB7B2.jpg

In the lagoon we saw seals enjoying a sunny day among the icebergs.
large_32765165F44707CEDD80BAAA323F40CE.jpg

It is about 1.5 km away from the ocean and icebergs often wash out from the lagoon into the ocean, eventually finding their way to the black sand beaches nearby.
large_18410963F5B1F4A8B8F59BF9BD481C1D.jpglarge_1842ACCDB57BEE8F8F3A43A64B7E444C.jpg
large_327A45D9DFBBEBBE1BCF8CF65F858B85.jpg

And with all of this glacial ice and rainfall, there are waterfalls everywhere. These were some of the major ones through the Golden Circle as well as along the southern coast.
large_17F56D80C9691CC411DE63C2D09ED86E.jpglarge_1806A342A49642EAD75B032521A11E82.jpglarge_1804B78FCF3C3C3F3E284D8E9FCEC1C1.jpg

Here is a two minute video montage of a lot of our experience here. Even on film it is difficult to capture how big this place is.



My brother and I were overcome with a sense of love for this country and we could only think of one way to really express it. That, or when my brother and I get together we do dumb things. Either way, I think this is how Iceland is best enjoyed:
large_18076AE2F81A5F5C9C7109B0ACC0EC7A.jpg

I don't know who thought it was a good idea to buy child's mediums but weird things happen in Iceland (Sorry mom).

Jesus...where do we go from here?

Quick! Pretty pictures of horses!
large_3275D560DC298E4FE8FA6DFE03C30DF6.jpglarge_32795BC3C0026FF5EC6131A70E5A0521.jpg

See, isn't that better?

Ok, moving on...

Iceland boasts some of the most beautiful, rustic coast line I have ever seen. Not exactly the place to relax and catch a few rays, but the black sand beaches and rocky cliffs create a dramatic view around every turn.
large_182ADF9FFF9F93A9A6C2098FBF42E800.jpglarge_182BC70AD833369E5F3BBC381B01305E.jpglarge_90_182CA8C397F6FF010C42EA6108779C07.jpg
large_1808300BE58A9E172458FF3B35D82B40.jpglarge_90_1829D9C1F8BCD1968FD36C4DBFFF5111.jpg

And speaking of the terrain, most of this country is lava rock covered by moss. There are almost no trees in Iceland. Just barren expanses like this leading up to rocky mountains.
large_182E6AC69D6E427739A876F375407B31.jpg

Oh, fun fact: the days are getting to be so long here that the sun doesn't set until 10:45pm -11pm. I took this picture at 10:30pm to give you a sense.
large_180210E805FB3B20AC1895A6299FC2C7.jpg

The city of Reykjavik is a beautiful place. The city center is quaint and filled with restaurants and shops. When the financial collapse of 2008 hit, Iceland was wildly affected. Just seven years ago, the cost to visit this country was more than double what it is now. But the financial collapse lowered the barrier to entry for most tourists which has created a boom in tourism throughout Iceland. Last year alone, this country of only 300,000 inhabitants had more than one million visitors.

Don't be fooled, though. Life is still very expensive here. An average dinner will cost you between $30 to $45.
large_17FE8C3394FBBE5343F9FFF068430B24.jpg
large_1845C76D055B8ABE699B0980AF8DA22E.jpg

Oh, and while here, apparently you need to try something awful called Hákarl. It is a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark which has been cured with a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. Essentially, it is rotting shark and let me tell you, it absolutely tastes like it.
large_90_18018AA5DDE4CF339593940A66209196.jpg

It is recommended that you wash it down with a shot of Brennivin, an almost equally bad vodka. I am very glad I only have to do that once in my life.
large_90_1800F8EA0796B431307E3A53A7FDEDF6.jpg

One of the coolest experiences that Brandon and I had was when we hiked to a waterfall we saw pouring from a mountain. We turned off the road and made our way as far as we could by car until we had to hike up the creek bed by foot. Situated between two mountains, this beautiful waterfall seemed untouched and unexplored.

Then Brandon got naked and went in. This is the only safe for work shot I can show you. Please send requests for additional shots to brandoneagle@gmail.com

large_1844DC70C146D22C880DF5F4AF9CC23E.jpg

There was a lot of male nudity on this trip...

A few miscellaneous extras:

large_32784CE090CDF8189155FAC4071DFBDB.jpglarge_1849114AC4A2AA6DB8A74BE927ECF0AB.jpglarge_18465C75E437200386F83CDF0D950E11.jpg
large_183381FAEB9BCA774B0D122066A86AF6.jpglarge_1838B669B2139EF3FF1956AD92D54AB1.jpg

Iceland is an amazing place. I highly recommend a visit. It is a beautiful country filled with beautifully friendly people and I can't wait to come back to see the northern lights and do a bit of fishing with Einar.

Thanks for reading, everyone.

Time to catch a plane to Norway!

Posted by meagle 12:36 Archived in Iceland Tagged travel iceland Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 17) Page [1] 2 3 4 »