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“True North Strong and Free”
We landed in Vancouver, Canada on Nov 15, at midnight
Here we are, Right back where we started 11 months ago
(Written by Helen Nov 20, 2005)
I can’t believe we made it. Well, let me re-phrase that and say, I can’t believe I made it! To think that all that worrying was for nothing. Or maybe, because I worried so much we made it fine. I’m just a little superstitious.
But really, it is so amazing to be home. I think Danika phrased it the best by asking us, “Is this a dream or are we really home?” That is exactly how it feels.
Our flight from L.A. to Vancouver was truly one of the best flights I have ever been on. I was a little nervous flying with Alaskan Airlines but it was just great. It felt like we were just floating on air it was that smooth. For the first time on our entire trip I got the window seat and I just spent the whole flight looking at all the lights as we glided home. Unfortunately, we arrived at 11:30pm so it was very dark and I couldn’t see any of the landmarks of our great city as we were landing. When that plane hit the runway I almost burst into tears and to be honest I’m not sure if the emotions were all happy. It certainly was bittersweet. I was just elated to be home but at the same time I was so sad that our once in a lifetime, amazing, planned for five years trip was all over. Back to reality. How were we going to react? I have to admit that my nagging sense of dread that I carried with me throughout the trip in anticipation of the flying we had to do, just disappeared. I actually got down on my knees in the airport terminal and kissed the ground! I really have come a long way though. I think back to that flight we took from England to South Africa (the first of three 11+ hour flights) and remember how anxious I was before that flight. By the time I boarded that flight home to Vancouver my anxiety was a quarter of what it was then. So maybe I proved that sometimes you have to meet your fears head on and just confront them and maybe they will go away. Now I’m getting a little too analytical.
Like I said, it was very late when we landed but my sister and her two boys and my mom were at the airport to greet us. I am so grateful for that. That’s one of my favourite things about airports. I love to watch people come out of customs and be greeted by friends and family. I always get choked up when I see really emotional reunions.
We all hugged each other and hugged some more and then we headed to the hotel at the airport and checked into our rooms. Because we flew in so late we decided to spend the first night at the airport and we booked a room for my family as well. I slept like a log that night; I guess we were really tired even though spending 5 days in Hawaii did help with the time change and jet lag. The next morning we had breakfast at Milestone’s at the airport and checked out of our rooms. My sister works at the airport so she left for work before we even got up. When we had all our luggage packed up we stood in front of the hotel and took a picture in the same spot where we took it eleven months earlier. It was hard to believe. In some ways it feels like it went really fast and in others, it feels like we’ve been gone for years. Steve and I talked about coming home a lot in the few weeks beforehand and we kept reminding ourselves that when we come home we can’t be talking everyone’s ear off because we have so many stories. Once we get going it’s hard to stop us. We’re hoping that our friends and family will tell us when they’ve had enough.
The first full day we were home felt like we were in a fog. I’m sure it was part jet lag, part excitement and part exhaustion. I was trying to think of a way to best describe the feeling and it reminded me of how I felt on my wedding day. I know that sounds a little crazy but it really had that feeling about it. You feel really happy and excited with a little nervousness added in there. Plus you are in the main spotlight and everyone wants to talk to you and see you and hug you. There’s a flurry of activity and excitement and everyone is so happy and you feel on top of the world. The first few days I felt so happy to be home and that desire to jump on the earliest plane outta town didn’t happen until about four days later. Once all the excitement dies down, the reality sets in. When we picked up our mail from Steve’s sister’s house, the pile of letters from collection agencies kind of burst our lovely little bubble. To make matters worse, these collection agencies were from The States and that made us even a little more concerned. When Steve had his angiogram done in the States before we left he paid the rather large bill right away. What we were soon to find out though, was that for some reason the communication broke down and the hospital was never paid. Hence the collection agencies. After a few nasty phone calls from the bill collectors we were assured that the matter would be handled completely and that it was a mistake on their part and they would rectify the problem right away.
Another ‘surprise’ was a charge made to one of our credit cards that we did not take with us. It was charged in July and it was from Telus for some unknown internet charge and boy did that cause us some problems. People are certainly not interested in what you have been doing in the past year, they just want their money. American Express still can’t tell us why or how this charge was made but they sent a collection agency after us anyway.
We also got a speeding ticket in the mail from Australia which wasn’t that surprising. I was surprised that we didn’t get caught with all the driving we did. But you never know maybe this one is just the first of many to come through the mail.
We also had some upsetting family matters that occurred while we were away. It’s unfortunate to see that some things never change. You feel somewhat removed from emotions when you’re away for so long. All of a sudden you are thrust back into reality and it kind of throws you for a loop. I think it will take us a few weeks to get back in the groove of everyday life. Someone once told me that life is like a merry-go-round and once in a while they just need to jump off and take a break. That’s how I feel. I feel like I jumped off the ride for a year and all of a sudden I’m right back on it and it’s going pretty fast. After reading that last bit I’ve realized that many people will probably be saying, “Oh, please! Give me a break; your life is not that bad.” That is not what I am saying. I know that I am so blessed and fortunate with my life, I’m just trying to express my feelings and the reality is that no matter what it is, sometimes life has its ups and downs, whether those up and downs are trivial or not.
Anyways, enough serious talk. We have spent the last few days staying at hotels and a couple of nights at my sister’s new home in Langley. They bought the house while we were away and I was so happy to see them nicely settled in their perfect home. It is so cozy and extremely homey. We really enjoyed our stay. The kids were beside themselves they were so thrilled to be home hanging out with their cousins and their Nana. My sister and mom made us an amazing home-cooked meal as a “welcome home” gesture and it was purely heaven! My mom made her famous cabbage rolls and my sister cooked up a seafood feast. The wine was flowing and we had an excellent time sitting around the table laughing and talking. It’s good to be home.
We spent one day out with a realtor in West Vancouver looking at over priced homes. When we sold our home before we left, Steve thought that the housing market would settle down a bit. He was wrong. We have actually laughed out loud when we see what some people are asking for their homes. It’s outrageous! On the flip side of that though, on a world scale, Vancouver is really reasonable. The prices around the world are way higher and if that’s any indication; the prices here are just going to keep going up. Well, who knows!
We haven’t found anything yet although a few places have peaked our interest. We also went to Whistler for one night (without the kids!) and found something interesting there too. We have a lot to talk about and discuss in the next few weeks and it will be very interesting to see where we end up. Who knows, maybe we will still be living out of suitcases by the New Year. Nooooo!!!!
Overall, we are absolutely thrilled to be home. We have loving families, and a group of great friends and we missed everyone immensely. We are so happy to back in this city as well. This time of year is spectacular here. The air is crisp (about six degrees Celsius), the sky has been blue (no rain), the mountains are topped with snow and the Christmas decorations are out in full force. It really is the best place in the world and I think I can say that because I’ve seen a fair share of it. Since we’ve arrived we’ve done a lot of “home” things. On our first day we went to Costco and looked around. We have been to The Keg, Red Robin, Starbuck’s, walked Robson Street, watched a hockey game on T.V., and as we drive around the kids yell out all the familiar places they see out the window. All these things you appreciate so much when you don’t have them for so long. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” is very true!
Looking back at the last year makes me feel very proud of my family. We could not have done this trip if our kids were not as flexible as they are. They have matured both physically and more so, mentally and I am so very proud of both of them. The impact of this trip will never really be known but I can honestly say that it has been the greatest experience I could ever imagine. It has brought us closer as a family in a way that we could never have achieved had we not done the trip. We see the world in a different light and hopefully we can take what we have seen and learned and try to make the world just a little better than it is. I hope it will make my kids want to travel when they are older and I believe it has opened their eyes to so many different cultures and traditions. Maybe through this understanding they will grow up to be open-minded individuals that appreciate and respect all people and all cultures. If this happens then this trip was successful.
We have met so many incredible people on this trip and I can say, without question, that that was the best part. We had so many people open up their homes to us so freely and we will never, ever forget that. We know that we have made some friends for life and we hope that each and every one of them know that we will be forever grateful to them for their warmth and hospitality. To some we were complete strangers and yet they embraced us as if they had known us for years. Just proof that there are good people with kind hearts out there, all over the world.
At the beginning I really didn’t like the idea of this website but now I am so grateful that Steve persevered and forced us (me) to do it. I don’t ever want to forget this experience and now I have it all recorded for us to reminisce about for years to come. The other fantastic part of it is the correspondence with all the people we met along the way. I will sit for hours and read all our guest book greetings and remember everyone that we’ve met along the way.
The trip is over now but I think it will be with us forever. We have so many memories and so many stories and so many pictures, there’s no way we can ever forget it! What I do have to look forward to now are all the people who promised us that they would come visit us in Vancouver. We can’t wait to open our home to all our new friends! We just have to find one!
Just a final Thank You to “Captain” Ron for all the hours of work he put in making this website what it is. He did such a fantastic job and never once did he complain when Steve sent him 5,000 pictures and a bunch of stories. He is a very dear friend and we are forever grateful!
To everyone who has followed us, supported us, and send us those wonderful messages in our guestbook. Thank you!
That’s if for now until the next trip………………………………..
(Written by Steve Nov 23, 05)
Well, here we are back in the best country in the world! O.K. maybe not, but you always have to toot your own horn once and a while.
Being back in Vancouver for me is bitter sweet for me too. I could continue to travel for the rest of our lives if I had my way, but it is just not healthy for the kids. If there is one thing we have learned, it is not that healthy for children to travel more than about 6 months. It will be the main topic in the book. If we do a book and it will be named after a phrase we must have heard over a million times, "Are we there yet?".
I am so happy to be home, but we are looking at homes, have serious family matters that have just developed and I am already involved in heart testing at one of Vancouver's major cardiac centers (St. Paul's Hosp.) I start work in just over 30 days, Yikes! So lets just say I find the pace here at home pretty fast.
I am really glad to be back though and get the kids back in school and playing sports. You know, we promised some of folks who have been following us on our little journey that I would continue a Canada story. So check it out in the next few weeks.
(Written by Steve Nov 28)
So we have been home almost 2 weeks now and I can only tell you that it is bizarre. I can tell you that all four of us are kind of lost, we are so glad to be back in Canada, but for some weird reason it does not feel like home. Maybe that was because we are still in and out of hotels. Well that is going to change because yesterday we sealed the deal on a house up in the Mountains just outside Vancouver. Finding a house in the hottest Vancouver housing market in history was quite a trip, but somehow we did it. The house is not really our dream home, but it should be nice when we renovate it. Yes it has a few problems such as a leaky roof, very steep road and some dated issues but it is a project and we love projects????
Today we registered Nik and Dani for their new school and it was really emotional and they start in 2 more days. Wow, what a week! Did I mention that I saw the Cardio doc at St.Pauls hospital yesterday too? I have been given the green light to have fun again and return to work, yehaaaa! So in the last 3 days we have bought a house, seen the specialists, went to a Canucks game (Hockey), registered our kids for school, called the roofers (to fix the leaks in our new home), bought a car, and today it snowed. I know I told everyone that it really does not snow in Vancouver, but today we got a bit of snow and it was great, unless you had to drive.
All in all, life seems to be back to normal around here, we are just having a wee bit of trouble catching up to speed, but we will.
The Kids on their way to a new School (Yikes)
Thanks for all the emails and please keep in touch everyone, and come see us, will ya
We just want to send you one last note here before this fantastic year comes to a close. We are, for the most part, settling into our home and getting back into the day to day routine again. I (Steve) start work in less than 2 weeks and I am getting a tad anxious about riding around in a fire truck again after 1 year of total freedom, but I work with super great people so that will make it so much easier.
The Kids love school and the new area, and we the parents are just starting to find the time to relax and enjoy this wonderful city again.
It has been just over 4 weeks now that we have been back in Vancouver and we all miss our old life that allowed us to just pack up everyday and move on. In some ways it feels like years ago that we were back traveling and then when we think about the many friends abroad, it seems like only days.
The one major thing that is different in our lives is the newest member of our family (The little baby in picture below). This little guy that Nikolas and Danika was adopted by Steve's sister and was brought from Perm, Russia to our home in Vancouver. Wow what a wonderful gift that has been introduced into our life, and we are so honored to be a part of his new life here in Canada.
Nikoas, Danika and baby Jack
We would like to send out a very Merry Christmas wish to everyone, and a super big thank you to all those folks who enriched our family’s life in 2005.
From all of us to all of you,
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Steve, Helen, Nikolas and Danika
Did you know that many folks around the World believe think Canada is just some frozen tundra of just another American state? Well, we traveled across some of this great country and we will show you how beautiful this land and the people really are.
So stay tuned!
Steve, Nikolas and Brandon going to the movie theatre (Not!)
(Actually Steve is taking the kids dog sledding when we were back in Canmore, Alberta last year.
From Whistler, British Columbia to Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada is one beautiful Country
Whistler, British Columbia