JOURNEY'S END ... BUT THE VOYAGE IS NEVER OVER.
All roads lead home. Well, in truth, the journey itself has been our home, a life on wheels, every day with new views out of the windows and new neighbors at our side.
Over two years ago we set out on the open, timeless road which stretched out towards a thousand endless, unreachable horizons. At every junction, we enjoyed a free choice of going left or right or just straight on. Going back was never an option. But, as inevitably as day turns into night, the oceans and borders eventually steer your path and subtly push you back towards your point of departure. Time and travel conspire and combine to set an inexorable and often involuntary course back to where you started. It is one of life's truths.
It has often been said that when you have the time you don't have the money, and when you have the money you don't have the time. These are true words. Money and time are the two lifetime currencies and the demands of long mid-life years of responsibility and graft rarely permit you to indulge in both at the same time. But then retirement arrives. Suddenly, a new freedom opens up and the time comes to uncage the free bird within you. It has to be done. As Mark Twain said "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do".
Travel is about replacing preconceived images and prejudices with a real and enlightening experience. And, as we say to young Americans we meet, the more you travel around the world, the more you learn about your own country. And yourself.
Our journey is at an end. Well, this one is. For as one journey ends, another begins.
As we neared St. Augustine, Florida in the RV, the barrels on the mileage meter mesmerically rolled over to exactly 25,000, a tidy conclusion to our odyssey. This is the same distance as if we had circumnavigated the Earth. We had, in effect, driven the wobble-bus around the planet and never left America (except for brief sorties into Mexico and Canada). We can add to this another 20,000 miles driven in the faithful Mini, which was the equivalent of our lunar module, leaving the mother ship every day to explore the stubborn little corners of this wonderful land. It had taken 822 days of excitement and revelation to uncover and discover some of the myriad of secrets and highlights that define this vast country.
We have learned so much about America. It is clearly still a young country, not hidebound by tradition and heritage like Europe but bursting with all the bluster and confidence that accompanies youth. It is an excited adolescent who looks only forward, knows no boundaries, is indestructible - and, arguably, a bit too self-absorbed. It is, after all, the most successful country on Earth. But it is still finding itself, often dependent on the prophetic 18th century writings of the Forefathers for guidance but still wrestling uneasily with the problems of the human iniquities that its inception created. Gaining independence from the British colonial overdog in 1776 created a unifying identity amongst the mishmash of bag-carrying immigrants who had arrived on these shores whether escaping persecution, seeking opportunity or driven by a sheer sense of adventure. This is the stock that America is made up of. The boring and the unambitious stayed at home. It was the Free and the Brave who crossed the waters to start a new life here in the United States.
We love America. It is still the most exciting place on Earth, with the brightest future. It still has a great deal to learn, not to confuse compassion with weakness for example, but its pride and calling on every citizen to play their part is at the very source of the country's greatness.
So now we rest up. We have rented an 1890 wooden house in the most Bohemian quarter of beautiful St Augustine. Yes, we set out to find somewhere to live but learned that nowhere compares to the charm, homeliness and friendliness of this, the oldest city in the nation.
We have just one more blog to write, a selection of categories with the top 5 places to seek out if you ever get the chance to open up America for yourselves. This will follow after we have sat down with a bottle of wine and trawled back into our memories. Wine always helps.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for following our little trip. It has been a true comfort and pleasure to have your companionship on board to share some colorful moments.
If you have any comments, good or bad, please, please feel free to post them. We would love to hear some of your thoughts.
T.S. Elliot, the author of the Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, once wrote: 'The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started'.
We disagree. The voyage never ends. There are always crossroads to consider, new roads to follow and fresh horizons to head towards. And still more stubborn little corners to prod and probe.
Thank you all. Till the next time...
Bon voyage. Valete. Adieu.