Entry #36: 4 Months, One Planet, Many World Wonders

I have arrived at my final Wonder of the World: the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. At this point I am a bit tired of traveling, but it is amazing how viewing a new Wonder of the World can energize me. I arrived in Athens at 11:30 PM, several hours too late to be taken hostage on that bus. As I checked into my hotel, the manager mentioned that the Acropolis was right around the corner, so I thought it was worth just walking the 100 yards to get a glimpse of it at night. After turning the corner and seeing this amazing work of architecture atop a rocky pedestal crowning Athens, I decided to get a closer look. I stayed up until 2:30 AM. walking around Athens (this city really doesn't sleep) catching different views of the Acropolis.

With only the final days of my trip left, I’ve been reflecting on my 4 month journey, considering the highlights, low points, oddities and people and places I’ve encountered. I am sure a few of you are wondering what I enjoyed the most/least etc. and since I love lists (hence the whole idea of seeing all the wonders of the world at once), here’s a long one that might answer a few of your questions.

Favorite Natural Wonder: Safari in Tanzania, with the Galapagos Islands coming in at a very close second place. Honorable mention goes to Patagonia and Iguassu Falls.

Favorite Street Side Vendor Food
: Fresh cut pineapple on a stick, but then again isn't everything on a stick great?

Best Melons: The honeydew is the best, but its window of ripeness is small so the consistency of having good honeydew is shaky. Watermelon while an inferior melon is more consistent in its freshness- a safer bet.

Best "moment:” watching a 300 x 50 foot chunk of ice explode off the face of the Perito Moreno glacier and fall into the lake with a thundering roar. Close seconds: Near death experience via a charging elephant on Safari; and swimming with sharks, turtles and sea lions in the Galapagos. Oh, and watching the blue footed boobies dive-bombing the water in a feeding frenzy.

Best overall experience: watching the Red Sox beat the Yankees over the course of 30 hours in New zealand pubs to come back from a 3-0 deficit and to eventually win the World Series for the first time in 86 Years.

Best part of planning everything to the littlest detail: getting lost. With the knowledge of the city from my research, it was fun to get "lost" in a city because I knew I was never actually lost.

Best bakers: Israel. They must have stolen the recipe for Manna from heaven, as it was the first place that really knew how to do deserts and other baked goods.

Most underrated US government federal agency: a tie--I miss the EPA and the FDA equally. An honorable mention to the Department of Education, too.

Best meat: Craig’s Grill in Argentina- the lomo was awesome and the wine was tasty, too. Honorable Mention: All you can eat Brazil Poraco Resturaunt

Best man-made wonder: Petra was the best! Jordan is somewhat wealthy so the sight
didn't have the beggars that the others had. But really it was the combination of a beautiful architecture set in an equally beautiful slot canyon. Honorable mentions: The Grand Palace in Bangkok followed by the Taj Mahal In India ( too much poverty surrounding the Taj to overlook)

Best City: Sydney.

Best country that I might consider moving too if a woman or job brought me there
: New Zealand.

Toughest country to travel in: India - just because of the constant attention.

Worst experience: Being sick 3 times...thank God for Ciprofloxin.

Most disappointing wonder: the Great Barrier Reef was a let down, but I did get my scuba certification, so it was not a total loss. Besides, I saw kangaroos and koalas, so that made up for it.

Most overrated fear: body lice and squat hole toilets. I only experienced one squat hole toilet on safari and at last check didn't have any body lice from a bed I slept in.

Best beer selection: New Zealand. Most of the world only knows larger, New Zealand had a wide selection of beers to choose from.

Most non-western country: Burma. They didn't even have Coke!

Where I would return: I left a lot of Australia untouched, but Iceland, Spain, and the Canadian Rockies are more likely destinations the next time I travel.

What packed that I didn't use
: Duct tape.

What I didn't pack but wound up buying along the way
: jeans and a button down shirt. I realized when I hit Brazil that I looked like Panama Jack and needed some different clothes if I went to a club. I also bought boxer shorts after a few that I had grew a few holes.

What I learned about different cultures: Ecuadorians like to honk horns; the Chinese like to spit; Egyptians like to yell at everyone; and the Indians like white people. Now, I also need to dispel some myths for some readers and for future travelers thinking of doing a similar trip.

International Playboy. Or not.

Before departing, many people suggested I might find "true love" on this trip, or even that I might just experience "different cultures" in a more intimate setting. I had been lead to believe that the women of the world like dumb Americans such as myself.
And others have noted that there is a disproportionate number of young attractive women in my photos and have sent emails suggesting that upon my return they would enjoy a good "kiss and tell" story of my adventures that were "too hot" for the website.

With only a few days left, I must admit that any tales of Sean "International Playboy" McGrail you might hear will be pure fiction. The journey has been one long and lonesome road for this weary traveler. I did not find an Armenian Princess in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem that my mother wished for. In Thailand I couldn't tell who wasn't a prostitute. And in South America, the language of love is Spanish, and I didn’t understand a word. But on the brighter side, my involuntary celibacy means that I'm closer to becoming an Emperor in China, or the Pope in Rome.

I guess I’ll start looking forward to being set up with more unsuspecting bar maids who provide my mom (the matchmaker) with free drinks. Oh joy.

Will I Write a Book?

Some of my fans have suggested that I write a book with the material I have compiled in these online journal entries. First of all, I haven't read a book in about 10 years. Second, have you not noticed the run on sentences, the misspellings, the grammatical errors and the flagrant abuse of the English language? Actually I'm sure you have, and I apologize. So while it’s flattering that you've enjoyed this trip with me, the last thing I need are delusional dreams of grandeur of becoming the next...the next... (See? It’s been such a long time since I read a book that I can’t even think of a comic travel writer to name drop—actually, I can’t think of a writer, period!) Anyway, its been fun getting your emails while on the road that have encouraged all the effort Pam and I have put into this website--it is appreciated. You can send cash or checks too...

All in all this has been a wonderful trip and I think I planned it almost perfectly. I might have added or taken away a few days in a few places, but all in all, it has been a nearly perfect trip. I have seen about 75% of everything I really wanted to see on this planet. The remaining 25% is easy stuff that I can see over long weekends or with kids in tow.

My wanderlust has been satisfied. I'll be happy to spend most of my remaining days in New England.

What’s next? I'll be happy to return to my normal life and chase after dreams and ideas I had before I left.

Oh, and one last thanks to all the people along the way who gave me shelter, food, a clean bed, and my mother one less thing to worry about. Thank you to the Welty's in Quito, the Weimers in Cairo, Lucy and Shane in Sydney, Erin and Craig in Buenos Aires, Lauren in Santiago, Andrea in Brazil, Daria in Israel, Ann Marie and family in Hong Kong...I can't thank you enough for opening up your houses and making me feel at home.

Also another thanks to my family and friends for supporting me on this trip and in life in general. I'll be home in 6 days, Yippee!

Happy trails!


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