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a new pilgrimage

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

(actually written on 21 January 2010, post-trip….but I’ve dated it to appear at the top of the blog forever-n-ever….and then reinstated it in its proper chronological home as we kept pilgrim-ing)

When we set out we had *a long way to go*.
In particular, a pilgrimage from Singapore to London and beyond – overland all the way. The beyond bit was because we had time to fill, but no definite plans. As it turned out, we did not get to London, but we did get a lot further – as far north as Lindisfarne, as far south as Greece and as far east as Turkey.
And we did manage to go overland all the way – in trains, busses, tuktuks, elephants, bicycles, boats, motorhomes, taxis, oxcart, trams, tow trucks, motorbikes, horses, and on foot. We spent 568 hours in long haul travel in vehicles not our own (and then what must add up to a few more days in waiting time too!)…plus we covered over 15,000km in the motorhomes we bought (and later resold).
In the 449 days we were away (that’s fourteen months, three weeks and two days) we slept in 158 different places, passing through 33 different countries – staying anything from a day (and although you can drive the entire length of Serbia in one long day, we would NOT say we’ve really been there!) through to six weeks, occasionally stopping three weeks in one town.

newzealand australia singapore malaysia thailand laos
(thailand) cambodia  vietnam china hongkong (china) mongolia
russia estonia
latvia lithuania poland germany austria switzerland (germany) thenetherlands belgium england france italy greece
serbia hungary slovakia czechrepublic (germany) (poland)
(czech) (hungary) (bulgaria) romania turkey
unitedarabemirates (australia) (newzealand)

We experienced temperature extremes from well-below-zero to mid-forties; that is freezing cold to blazingly hot.
We visited castles, cathedrals, temples, museums and ruins.
We climbed mountains, rode bicycles and horses, and took long walks.
We ate everything we were offered, the least favourites being sheeps’ tail soup in Mongolia and green Mekong river sludge in Laos.
We filled forty-three journals.
We repaired our shoes more times than we can count.
And that’s about how many photos we took, too.
We stayed with people, who live in bamboo huts with pigs under the raised floor, felt gers without running water, highrise apartments in cities…and we visited people, who live on the rubbish dump, in orphanages, in old stone buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years.
We were awed by the scenery, enveloped in the history, and had our hearts touched by the people we met.

We thank those who have virtually travelled with us on this journey for the encouragement they have given. We thank those, who, sacrificially in many cases, opened their homes and lives to us. And we invite anyone who happens across this spot in cyberspace to take a wander with us – many of the places we went were timeless; a century from now they will still be the same, they will not date, or not quickly anyway.
Maybe you won’t make it to all the places we did – there are 634 posts on this blog, not to mention a fair few extra pages as well. There are over one and a half thousand comments (no wonder we didn’t end up replying to them all!) from some of the more than 26,000 people who have visited (over 185,000 hits to date).

We went a long way, but the adventure of our lives-in-the-future is not over and we still have a long way to go. We will always be pilgrims.

You can find us writing now at have pinny, will cook,
and Jgirl15 is launching a new blog for children,
stemming from her own artistic passions and adventures
and inspired by the world-creativity we have experienced.
~ made by a child ~

One last word:
We were privileged to spend time with the folks at Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang. If you get the opportunity to go there, you will not be disappointed.
If you go nowhere else on this blog, please take a look at this post.
As suggested by a reader, we set up a paypal account to collect donations,
but we are having trouble linking it to the blog,
so our ongoing fundraising efforts are
going to remain localised for now.

Now I’m off to do the very last blog-job – turn the order of posts around so we can read chronologically as we revist our trip over the next year! (I’m ignoring the enormous job of editting every post in order to be able to print a hard copy for the children to have for posterity)

The Last Post

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

We’ve finally done all the firsts….first time visiting the supermarket and vege shop, first checking the mailbox, first play with neighbours, first chat over the fence, first BBQ, first time to the organic shop, first summer swim, first walk, first day back at work, first contact with medical personnel (thankfully this does not tend to be a regular occurrence for us, but we are going to have booster shots done so we can take off again any time in the next ten years without having to go through the rigmarole of weekly jabs for Far Too Long At Far Too Great An Expense), first rain, first vege planting, first bread baking (we’ve even got a sourdough bug on the go now)…we had completed all the firsts except going back to church.
Now that’s done too.
One lovely (obviously-blog-reading) lady spoke to us afterwards, saying she had looked over and seen us and thought that if she’d been us she’d have been sitting there missing the close-knit Romanian church group we were a part of for a month; she’d have been feeling today was impersonal and non-interactive and very big. Strangely enough, these were not the things that stood out to me. I noticed the niceness. As a matter of fact, in a number of different settings, this keeps happening over and over. Everything seems so pristine, so well-cared-for, so unbroken, so matching, so nice. We don’t attend a church that meets in a big fancy cathedral or even in a modern church building – we set up shop each Sunday in a local school hall. But, even still, it looked nice. And when the lights were dimmed, it seemed like a performance!
Secondly, everything felt slow. Instead of needing to race to try and keep up with the words of the songs, we were able to sing along comfortably. Even the song that had been learnt while we were away. It was not completely unfamiliar to us though – we encountered it first in Romania, and now we know what it meant;-)
Thirdly, there was real English. The sermon included turns of phrase that you just don’t hear coming from language learners. This added a depth and made me aware again of the importance for people to have the Scriptures in their own tongue. Having not given it a moment’s thought for many years, I remembered that once upon a time I had thought I would be a Bible translator some day….clearly that never happened.
Fourthly, we were able to connect with people we know. What a comfortable blessing, and one we shall try to not take for granted.
The last thing we noticed was how our trip continues to affect this new life.
Cloths draped over a big wooden cross made us think of similar ones draped over statues in Cambodia.

A sermon reference to the multiplicity of gods in ancient days brought forth images of statues lined up outside temples, both in Asia and Europe.

A prayer for those suffering as a result of the Haiti earthquake led my thoughts to the suffering elsewhere as well.

Our experience of the past fifteen months will no doubt continue to mould us into the future. But the time has come for us to stop the recording.
Our adventure of life for the next year will involve Rob continuing to serve the local community at his place of employment….giving to the wider world community by raising money for Big Brother Mouse…becoming a biking family….possibly becoming a farming family….we’ve already started new learning experiences through books and activities….we’ll hopefully take road trips round our own country….we’ll dream dreams.

And one day, we hope to reopen Pilgrims’ Progress, for another chapter.

insert picture of the ten of us lined up like our front page picture….but we need to take the picture first 😉 (and we’d quite like to take it on the new land we are going to call home signifying our new adventure into a different lifestyle….we have been to look at properties, but haven’t found The One yet….so maybe any picture will do)

PS In a few days – or perhaps when we’ve taken that last photo – we’re planning on rearranging the blog. We are not going to close it completely as some travelling families have done when they finish their travels (maybe because we do not feel we have finished), but we are going to reverse the order of the posts so that we can read from beginning to end!

PPS When we had a look at an old post the other day we discovered it had somehow got truncated…..Grandpa Gene, we’ll be sending you the full version of the story you were in the middle of reading!

another question

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

Another dinner out.
Another question: how have you changed as a family as a result of the trip?

Now *that’s* a hard one!

The first thought springing to one of ... [Continue reading this entry]

one of the nice things…

Friday, January 15th, 2010

…about being home is that Grandpa asks the big girls over to help him put together a top secret that cannot be discussed with anyone else until after dinner.
The little kids agonise through BBQ-ed sausages, onions ... [Continue reading this entry]


Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

ERgirl3 has resigned herself to the fact that Dadda will go off to work every morning.
Now she is asking, “Please may I go wif you?”

PS Rob has not ... [Continue reading this entry]


Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand Of course individual replies are much more personal, but responding to readers’ comments and question in a blogpost is much easier. Even though we do not usually shy away from difficult, *easy* is good right now. Oh you ... [Continue reading this entry]

old learning ways

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand

Little Routine We Wrote In Romania is now up on our wall: [Continue reading this entry]

back to work

Monday, January 11th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand We wake, legs entwined, his breath gentle on my neck. We stir, but say nothing, savouring the last moments, not wanting to let go. “It’s over,” I finally whisper. “Until next time,” he replies. “We’ll do it again.” For a few ... [Continue reading this entry]

Road Trip

Sunday, January 10th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand (via Whananaki) New Zealand is smaller than we remember. We can get to the Far North, spend the day with two different groups of friends and family, and be back home again – all in one day!

[Continue reading this entry]

of books and spare parts

Saturday, January 9th, 2010
Auckland, New Zealand The wealth of Europe was a stark contrast to the poverty we experienced in Asia. But it did not challenge us – we were removed from it, living relatively simply with just our seven backpacks. The wealth of ... [Continue reading this entry]