Saturday, December 22, 2012

Captain's Log: I Survived Epic World Tour 2012. Operation: Escape Europe, Return to North America Fully Underway. ETA: 18 hundred hours.

Captain's Log: I Survived Epic World Tour 2012. Operation: Escape Europe, Return to North America Fully Underway. ETA: 18 hundred hours.

With a fruitful European invasion under our belts (as well as an extra 5 pounds from mass consumption of fromage, fois gras, chocolate, and creme brûlée) we depart for North America...Victorious in our conquests (to drag a bag the size of Sweden around the world without wearing half of the clothing or shoes packed) Triumphant in our endeavors (to stay alive). Yep, smoke em if you got em, my dear friends, because we can congratulate ourselves on a job well done. Due to the fact we did not break our backs under the weight of our ovrsized luggage, nor perish via the various options available on this epic journey that took on a life of it's own.

Nope, we managed NOT to fall off the ship as we marauded our way through the South Pacific En route to the land down under. And although our journey included a near shipwreck off the coast of New Zealand all 2,000 cruise passengers made it to the land down under relatively unscathed...physically, that is...mentally is another matter to be dealt with at a later date as the nightmares involving mobs at midnight buffets continue. But for NOW, let's raise our glass to avoiding the many dangers to our health and safety that we had the opportunity to encounter over the course of our travels:
-shark attacks while failing to learn to surf in Bondi,
-snake and spider bites while spraining our ankles in the outback,
- angry bulls in Spain,
-and last but in NO way least, being run down my an angry mob of Frenchmen, appalled at our lacking French vocabulary and use of ketchup on potatoes for breakfast (a distinct threat potential which fortunately never materialized)

And I haven't EVEN mentioned surviving the end of the world as predicted by the Mayan calendar. Congratulations are CERTAINLY in order that we live to see another day. And return home triumphant (to still be breathing). Yes, victory is OURS, my friends! High fives to still be alive! And make it through our travels in sound body and spirit (again, the mind will have to be dealt with at a later date as yours truly is now unable to hear the words cruise, Bingo, buffet or formal night without twitching)

As we reminisce on the good times and bad, the happy and the sad over the last 90 days abroad, we can rest easy knowing we have managed to conquer the South Pacific, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, France, Switzerland and Spain, with a brief layover in Istanbul for good measure. And though we return with less in our bank accounts, we return RICH with experiences, adventures, friends and acquaintances. And though our epic travels end today, our new friends and 5,000 photos will remain with us throughout the years (at least on Facebook). And the memory of Epic World Tour 2012 will live on in infamy... In our hearts and minds (and on Facebook). And I LIKE this. (In real life too. Not just on Facebook).

Captain signing off. Over and out for now. More updates to follow.

Sent from my iPad

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This just in: the French use "baby on board" signage too. See below for more details.

The question remains as to whether the use of this outdated and somewhat tacky signage is ANY more effective in preventing aggressive driving and subsequent motorized vehicle accidents in France than in the USA. Will continue to report as additional information is obtained on this very important subject. 

Captains Log. Day 8 in France. 015 hundred hours. Man cannot live on Cheese and Chocolate Alone...or CAN HE?

Captains Log. Day 8 in France. 015 hundred hours. Man cannot live on Cheese and Chocolate Alone...or CAN HE?

After a successful invasion of the good country of France, a jaunt in gay Paris and the festival of lights in Lyon is now under our belts (along with an inordinate amount of fantastic French food). Accordingly, we venture over to Geneva to expand our european horizons (and probably our waistlines). All the while, our epicurean adventures continue, and the question on everyone's mind remains: Can man survive on fromage, chocolate and vin chaud ALONE? The answer remains to be seen, but we are scientifically testing our hypothesis that the answer MAY be <insert bad french accent here while twirling fake mustache> "Oui, Oui Oui!"

Time will tell whether we survive this riveting inquiry into the collective amount our digestive systems are willing to withstand before staging a revolution. In the meantime, we are busy occupying ourselves with Swiss army knives, Swiss watches and, yep, you guessed it, Swiss chocolate (god help us) before venturing back to France to continue our mass consumption of cheese and vin chaud, with charcuterie on the side. When in France...Viva la fromage!

Over and out for now. More updates to follow.

Look Mom! Les Poisson! In Lyon!


It's not a festival without jugglers and dudes dressed like Christmas trees. When in Lyon

Fete de la lumières. Lyon's Finest!

 Lyon likes lots of lights...and Ferris Wheels. I do too. So can you. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Whelp, it's not EVERY day you meet someone who puts life into perspective. But it happened to be today. Meet Peter Hughes. Bali Bombing survivor and Australian hero

Spent my last day in Bali with none other than Peter Hughes. A survivor of the 2002 Bali bombings and renowned Australian public speaker. The guy's been through more in this life (and technically died 3 times) than you or I could imagine. Speaking with him really puts it all into perspective: Life's short. Live it. 

His story is inspirational and his attitude and generosity are even more so. An all around fantastic person, I am lucky to have made his, as well as his friend Rippy's, acquaintance. Couldn't have planned a BETTER ending to this epic Australian and Balinese adventure.  

As I prepare for the next port of call in this around the world in 90 days tour (hint: Europe!) my first order of business is to pick up a copy of Peter's book, "Back from the Dead". I'm sure it will be just as thought-provoking as hearing his story in person. 

Cheers to staying alive, Peter!  You inspire us all to do the same.

For more information, following is an article from the BBC that gives a brief overview of his ordeal. 

Bali bomb survivor: How my life has changed

Peter Hughes at the trial of Umar Patek
A court in Indonesia has jailed for 20 years Umar Patek, the man accused of making the bombs which killed more than 200 people in Bali in 2002. Among those killed were 88 Australians - and among those who survived was Peter Hughes, from Perth.
"I was just ordering a drink at the bar, when the first blast went off. I thought it might have been gas explosion," he recalls.
He said he found himself dazed by the explosion and staggered outside.
"It was a bit like a war zone," he says. "There were people who's hair was smoking and others with their clothing shredded."
But the horror wasn't over.
"Then there was a second blast, a car bomb, I think and that created more chaos. I knew I was injured, but I didn't feel any pain. I just remember seeing lots off bodies everywhere. You don't forget that," he said.
The hours and days ahead would reveal that there would be 202 bodies, nearly all tourists, drawn to Bali on the promise of a few days or weeks in Paradise.
"I'll never forget 12 October 2002," says Peter. "We were supposed to have a few drinks with some friends. I still can't believe what happened, it's like living someone else's experience."
At his new, white-walled, apartment in central Perth, Peter pulls out a large brown book.
It's his Bali photograph album, filled with the images, articles and headlines of the attack and nearly each one featuring Peter, himself, in its aftermath.
In one photo he's unrecognisable, his face bloated by the ferocity of the debris hitting his face during the attack.
In another, the only bits of his body visible are his finger and toe tips, everything else is covered with bandages as part of the hospital attempts to heal his burns.
"I had to be put into a coma for a month," he says. "To reduce the pressure on my brain. It's taken 10 years to get fully well."
At that point Peter lifts the trouser on his left leg to reveal a deeply scarred calf. He then lifts his shirt to show me where a shard of glass lacerated his stomach.
"I was covered in so many cuts and wounds, these are just the worst ones," he says.
"I feel lucky," says Peter, in one unexpected comment.
"I don't get many nightmares, or flashbacks and I don't mind asking about it as I feel it's better to be open about what I went through."
Peter Hughes hasn't been a bystander to the trial of Umar Patek.
At the request of the authorities, he travelled to Indonesia to give a witness impact statement to the judges.
"I didn't want to go," he says. "But I felt I owed it to the families of those killed, to give them a connection between those who lived and those who died."
It was a painful process.
Peter came face to face with Umar Patek in the courtroom, sitting just a few paces apart from each other.
"I just said what I wanted to say," says Peter. "I said that the bombings had left me feeling isolated, depressed, lonely, but, above all, very, very angry."
His opinion of Patek, himself, is equally stark.
"He's nothing, just a coward," he says.
Peter Hughes in 2003
Hughes in Bali for the trial of Amrozi Nurhasyim in 2003
You don't have to spend too much time in Peter's company to feel his intensity.
He admits that he's gone from being a carefree, 42-year-old man who went to Bali as part of his everyday mission to enjoy himself, to being a more introverted 52-year-old, somewhat reflective and much more serious.
"I have changed, but I try to just live my life as best I can," he says.
During his extended period of convalescence, Peter has immersed himself not only in his own construction company, but also in setting up a burns foundation to help people caught in fires.
"I don't have feelings of guilt, like some people who survive horrific experiences," he says. "But I do feel as though I have to give something back and the Burns Foundation helps me do that."
With the end of the trial and the 10th anniversary of the bombing approaching, Peter finds himself in a contemplative frame of mind.
"I try not to be bitter, I try to see the best in people, but I also see the worst," he says.
"I am, by nature, an aggressive person, but the Bali attacks helped make me a more humane person, a more compassionate one. I think the experience has actually made me a better person."

Friday, November 30, 2012