Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Last Chapter...

Here we are, sitting on the last plane of our trip! It's a lot more bittersweet than I thought it would be.  We have definitely been looking forward to going back to Vancouver, but now that we're actually there it's hard to believe that the adventures are over (for now)! On the other hand we are so looking forward to seeing friends and family again.  The more I travel, the more I appreciate how incredibly beautiful Vancouver is, with the mountains to the North, the ocean, Stanley Park, false creek and the fact that it is green green green in both meanings of the word! 

We have so many pictures to sift through, bags to unpack, and various odds and ends to take care of, but more than anything we've been left feeling like we did everything we wanted to do and more on the trip and on top of that we have met countless people along the way who were really what made our trip so memorable.  

The Tomatina Festival left us feeling pretty damn exhausted, but the night in an actual hotel room was heaven- what a great sleep!! We had dinner in Barcelona- one last paella, yum! The hotel room was actually a fall-back seeing as we were trying to hit up a campground but it was 60 Euro for one night!! So we payed 80 or something for a real room. Absurd, but in the end awesome!
After a ridiculous argument over whether or not it was worth it to pay for the breakfast buffet in the morning (Chris 'won', and we stayed for breaky.  After traveling for so long together, you're bound to have a few silly disagreements that you can later look back on and laugh at), we headed back towards Switzerland to stay with Ketty once more.  We showed up late only to be surprised with a traditional African meal, with outfits and everything! We were so excited to share in her traditions from home and the food was absolutely amazing! Both Nico and Ketty have been so good to us, we hope to return the favour one day! We took some pictures after creating our African safari background and had a great night catching up.  Nico was flying in from Africa in the morning and going straight to work so we popped by for a tired hello/good-bye on our way towards Luxembourg.

Does it look like we're in Gabon?!
We met up with our buddy Onur in Geneva! We first met him in New Zealand, how cool is that?!
I must say that Chris is generally an organized person, especially for a guy. He loves his lists and is great at organizing events when he commits to them, and I love that we shared the job of Couchsurfing communications during our travels. Unfortunately, he had one small error, accidentally replacing the word 'Friday' with 'Saturday' and as a result, we showed up at our hosts' doorstep to some shocked faces. "You had said you would be arriving tomorrow..."! Oops! Anyway, it was Jean-Marc and his family of seven kids- what's a couple more people? Of course they were having family over that night (a four-person family), so now they were suddenly entertaining and feeding 15 people! We had an awesome night having home-made sushi- what a fun activity for the kids! There were bowls of different accoutrements all over the never-ending dining room table and we had small hand-sized squares of seaweed, so it was like making Japanese tacos. Delicious! Maybe the kids will come visit us in Vancouver one day (though let's hope not all seven at once!). Honestly, you have GOT to check out Couchsurfing!

It was our last day in Europe, so we headed out fairly early, headed for Luxembourg. Here in 'Lux city' we saw the coolest street performer. Everyone gathered around to check out the illusion! We walked around a bit, but with little time to spare and after having seen soo many main squares we decided to just buy the traditional shot glass to add to our collection and move on. We detoured through Belgium JUST so that Chris could by a shot glass, but ended up in a really cool city which we both liked a lot, called Liege. We walked around the main area (starting to see a trend here?) and did a bit of last-minute shopping for chocolates and a giant bag to help us carry all our stuff home. 

Finally, we made it to our last stop, Dusseldorf, and where we would meet up with our first and our last CouchSurfer for the Europe leg of the trip, Joe. We popped some champagne to celebrate all of the memories we have to look back on through our travels in the last 7 months. Chris and I both value the people in our lives so much, and I think one of the highlights for me was meeting people from all over the world and sharing experiences and stories. We met them as a couple, and learned about each other through listening to stories and opinions shared.  What I love about the people we met is they were all so open, so kind, so happy.  Sharing the love of travel gives you this mentality and I hope we hold on to that openness and desire to share our lives with everyone we meet in it as we return to life back home.

Joe! Our very first (and last) CouchSurfer in Europe!

Speaking of important people in our lives, I can't imagine ever being able to do this trip with anyone else. Chris, to me, is the ultimate travel companion- he is up for anything, reminds me of the things that are most important, knows how to make me smile no matter what the circumstances, and has such a happy, easy-going personality that it's no wonder everyone he meets almost instantly realizes how awesome he is. There were definitely bumps in the road and we learned a lot about each other (for better and for worse) along the way, but I'm so excited for what lays ahead for us after passing this ultimate relationship test with flying colours. 

Looking back I can honestly say we're happier and closer than ever, so thanks babe! I wouldn't have wanted to be:
dodging the cyclonic rain of Fiji, digging 'wobbles' the van out of pea gravel, partying until mugged at the Full Moon Party, sweating (and let's be honest, complaining) in Anchor Wat, braving the animal market in Bac Ha, breathing in the dust of Aswan, tandem biking the streets of Amsterdam, beer-tasting in Belgium, CouchSurfing through Europe, posing in front of the Eiffel Tower, freedom camping in Germany, hiking through the hills of Austria, checking out the Prince's palace in Liechtenstein, listening to the cowbells in Switzerland, sunbathing in Nice, surfing the internet in McDonalds, wine-tasting in Provence, getting kicked out of a lake in Carcassonne, indulging in unique views at the pool in Andorra, swimming on the coast of Spain, walking (with difficulty ;) through the streets of Marrakech, riding on a donkey-pulled platform through the outskirts of Asilah, navigating the streets of Europe for countless hours and finally getting sprayed in the face with water, fighting to stay on my feet and dodging tomatoes at La Tomatina,
with ANYONE else!

To Chris, I love you more than ever, and can't wait to top this adventure with all the more to come in our lives together!!

To everyone we met along the way, we hope to meet you again and will eagerly have you to stay if you ever come to Vancouver. Thanks for all the memories and big love to you all!

To all back home, thanks for following along and sharing in our journey! Happiness and adventure are that much more awesome when you share it with those you love.

Until the next adventure then,...

Much love, Lauren and Chris!!!

Ha ha, we MADE IT!!!!!

Peace Out!!!

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