Well this was it. After 8 months of globetrotting, our trip of a lifetime was about to come to an end. We had reached the final city of our whirlwind trek: Seattle. For months Seattle seemed like the Kansas City Chiefs' next Super Bowl victory - some unlikely event far off in the never-never. Seattle sat on the very last line of our three A3 page excel spreadsheet. For so long during our travels it seemed like we'd never get off the first page of that spreadsheet, let alone the third. Until we did. And then we finished the second page. And now we were about to finish the whole damn thing.
As you can imagine, our last days were spent in somewhat of a blur. With little money left in the account and our minds half focussed on returning home and all the things we needed to sort out once we arrived (engagement party, wedding planning, moving out of home, updating my Phantom comic collection, etc), we weren't really in the right frame of mind to do touristy activities and excursions in Seattle. So we spent the majority of our time walking to downtown and soaking up the scenes of everyday Seattlans (or whatever hell they call themselves) going about their daily affairs.
We did however, manage to spend a day catching up with yet another of Jess' 2008 study buddies. This time it was the lovely Sarah, her husband Justin and their baby girl Emmeline. They took us out for a day of sight-seeing, whisky tasting and dinner at the Cheesecake Factory - which excited Jess to no end as she kept an eye out for Penny from Big Bang Theory. While Sarah and Jess caught up on old times, Justin and I talked about all things music (Justin is a drummer and his old band did a fair bit of touring), whisky (a mutual appreciation) and football (Justin used to play in College). Needless to say, we never ran out of things to talk about. The day spent with Justin and Sarah was the last great day of our 8 month trip and our 5 day stint in Seattle. But that's not say we didn't enjoy roaming around Seattle on our own for the other 4 days.
Our favourite spot in Seattle was Pike Place Market - located on the Elliot Bay waterfront, it is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the United States. It was also home to some very interesting shops such as the world's first Starbucks coffee house (I'm not a fan of the coffee but there's no denying it's one of the most successful stores in the world), antique stores, and a store selling vintage posters, advertisements and labels. This store gave Jess and I an idea for a cool piece of outdoor furniture when we eventually get our own place. I'd tell you what it is but I don't want to spoil the surprise. You'll just have to come and visit us once we get around to making it.
Another neighbourhood that tickled our fancy was Capitol Hill. It was advertised as another Brunswick-Street-on-steroids-type area (there are few of these in America - see our San Francisco and Austin blog entries) but it failed to win us over in the same way that Austin's SoCo district and San Fran's Haight-Ashbury did. Nevertheless, we had one of the best moments of the entire trip here when we found a segment of the footpath that was engraved with the footprints and steps to the famous Cha Cha dance. As we took our spots and followed the steps, an elderly African American lady approached us and exclaimed "That was so cute. You little twinkle toes!". She absolutely made our day and reminded us of the kind of everyday occurrences that we would be missing once the trip came to an end.
Ah, "the end". It had to come at some point. With the exception of the greatest band in the world, KISS, nothing lasts forever. When Jess first discussed the idea of a lengthy period of travel, I was not immediately on board. I didn't really see the point of it, to be honest. But as we started planning the trip, I became more and more excited at the prospect of seeing all these places. Once we arrived in Europe, it was impossible to contain our excitement. I realise now that this 8 month sojourn was more than just a holiday. It was the moment when Jess and I began the rest of our lives. It was something that we would be talking about for years to come because, let's face it, nobody cares about my junior basketball career or the large files I worked on at the office!
Now that we are back home and catching up with all our mates, the most frequent question we get asked is "What was the highlight of the trip?" As you can imagine there are simply too many to choose from: retracing our family footsteps in Malta, San Marco in Lamis and Rotzo; roaming the Scottish Highlands; cramming our lives into a campervan in the English countryside; cheering on the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium; getting down on one knee in Turville and asking Jessica to spend the rest of her life with me; the list goes on.
If I could pick one moment that sums up our entire trip, it would be the following one: We were in England, about a day or two into our road trip in the campervan. We had just had an argument, probably the biggest one we had on the entire trip. Jess was crying that she missed her family. Then we cooled off and Jess went to visit the home of Beatrix Potter. When she got back in the car we continued driving through the green countryside and Jess put The Eagles on the car stereo. Now I'm no fan of The Eagles but Jess and her family love them. Listening to The Eagles reminds her of her family and all the road trips they did together. So here we were in the north-east of England, driving through box hedg-lined winding roads with "Take it to the Limit" cranked up full blast. Jess was begging me to sing the high harmonies while she sung the lead vocal. I finally gave in and let rip with the ball-squeezing harmonies. The windows of the van swelled as we both screeched out the lyrics as loudly as we could and passing motorists rubbernecked in disbelief.
That moment is our trip in a nutshell - stressful, intense, hilariously silly and getting well outside of our comfort zone. All whilst having the time of our lives.
Next stop: Home Sweet Home.