Saturday, February 02, 2008

Home again, 2008

It took Ferdinand Magellan's crew more than three years to circumnavigate the globe. He didn't make it, having been killed in the Philippines by angry locals. Of the 260 men who left Spain in 1519, 18 returned in 1522 with the sole remaining ship. A ghost ship, they considered it.

It took me 17 days to do the same trip, with only three days of actual travel. Magellan's men suffered from starvation, disease, violence and mutiny. I suffered one day of food poisoning, confusing gates in Germany, smelly fellow travelers and the indifference of the US airline industry. The only violence I encountered came on my last leg when a young man with a shaved head told me he was entitled to board our Southwest flight before me because his number was 32 and mine was 35. I told him to go right ahead, he said "I will" and I'm sure he felt triumphant as he walked down the gangway and ended up sitting right across from me.

I saw some wonderful things looking out the window, most mentioned earlier but worth listing one more time if only to keep them fresh in my mind's eye. The lights of Seoul while landing, women sweeping the snow from the shoulders of the highway in Dalian, snowflakes contrasting with the bright red satin New Year's decorations outside the subway station in Shanghai, the sun setting over the snow covered Gobi, the lights of Frankfurt, the sea crashing on the rocks in Galway, the sun rising over the Irish Sea, the ancient patchwork of green fields in rural Ireland, Reykjavik on a sunny January morning, a single snowmobile track breaking the snow across a lake in the empty white expanse of Labrador, Hudson Bay frozen solid in winter's embrace, the sun blasted hardrock desert of Nevada and the endless urban stretch of Los Angeles. So many different things in so short of time. Such a huge difference since Magellan and his men sailed off into history, a little less than 500 years ago.

The best part of traveling for me is completing the circle. Going out is great, but coming back is ever better. I completed 19350 miles in my transit, short of the true circumference, but still completing all 24 time zones. It was a milestone event for me, and one I am not sure I am done with. Perhaps next time it's on one of those open-ended tickets that lets you zig-zag to your hearts content.

Well that's about it for this adventure. On the upcoming calendar - three days in Jackson, Mississippi, Ireland again in March and back to China in April. Stay tuned in.

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