My last three months have been all about reunions and farewells. I’ve slowly traveled through Europe to say goodbye to travel life.
When I wake up in the morning, there’s usually a brief moment when I don’t remember where I am. Full-time traveling has been my life for over two years now, and constantly waking up in new countries and places is a big part of it.
However, all this is about to end. This is my last post before the end of my 2-year trip around the world.
Soon after publishing this post, I’ll take a train from Hamburg to Travemünde and board a ship from Germany to Finland. I’ll be back in my home country on Sunday 1st of July 2018, exactly 777 days after the beginning of my journey.
The next time you hear from me, my trip around the world will be finally over.
Heading Home the Long Way
Instead of an abrupt fly home, I decided to take my time to finish my 2 years of travel. I got back to Istanbul in late March, and I’ve been traveling overland through Europe ever since.
Here are all the countries of my homecoming tour through Europe. (The numbers mark the country count from the beginning of my RTW trip.):
- 39. Return to Turkey (21-24 March 2018)
- 40. Greece (24-28 March 2018)
- 41. Macedonia (28 March – 1 April 2018)
- 42. Serbia (1-11 April 2018)
- 43. Hungary (11-17 April 2018)
- 43¼. Return to Slovakia (17-22 April 2018)
- 43½. Return to Czech Republic (22-24 April 2018)
- 43¾. Return to Poland (24-27 April 2018)
- 44. Germany (27 April – 8 May 2018)
- 45. Switzerland (8-14 May 2018)
- 46. France (14-19 May 2018)
- 47. United Kingdom (19 May – 11 June 2018)
- 48. Belgium (11-16 June 2018)
- 49. Netherlands (16-21 June 2018)
- 49½. Return to Germany (21-30 June 2018)
I previously wrote at least one blog post from each country that I visited. However, I let this rule go once I got back in Europe. Instead of spending the last months of my trip sitting on my tablet, I wanted to focus more on my surroundings.
So, what have I been up to during these last three months? Quite a lot, actually.
Something New, Something Old
Although I haven’t posted much about my time in Europe, I’ve experienced many new things.
I traveled through the Balkans via countries I haven’t visited before. I visited many new places in Greece, Germany, Switzerland and Britain. I also went to France, the Netherlands and Belgium for the first time in my life.
It’s been wonderful to discover new parts of my home continent. The Balkans were beautiful, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed Versailles and other sights near Paris. It’s comforting to know that I can find so beautiful destinations so close from my home.
After two years away, it’s been interesting to note how Europe has changed. McDonalds restaurants have new self-order kiosks, car-sharing apps are suddenly a thing, data roaming within the EU is cheap and people ride funny-looking electric scooters with giant wheels.
At the heart of it all, though, Europe does feel familiar. Something about the way people look, act and dress feels so very distinctly European. Ever since I landed in Istanbul, I’ve felt like I’m in my home territory.
Many Happy Reunions
I had one main reason for this long homecoming tour through Europe: I wanted to reconnect with many people I’ve known and met before.
During these two years of traveling the world, I’ve become friends with many European travellers. Now I had a chance to pay many of them a visit in their home countries. Some people I had met very briefly in an event or a bus, while others had travelled or volunteered with me for weeks.
In a sense, planning my route through Europe was like connecting dots of familiar faces.
While in Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland, I returned to my old Couchsurfing hosts from two years ago. I’ve also met with some study colleagues and other friends from before the trip. I even reconnected with a high school classmate I had not seen in over 8 years!
It’s been wonderful to see old friends again. Many of them have experienced a lot while I’ve been away, and it’s fascinating to hear about these changes.
A Few Rough Edges
As I see old friends, I get an idea about how much I have changed. For example, student life and other shared topics feel very distant to me right now.
Yes, student life. I’ll get back to my psychology studies in September. It’s going to be a big change, so I’m happy I’ve had these first reminders of the different life that’s waiting me out there.
The reunions have been great, but my homecoming tour through Europe has brought up some challenges, too.
As a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a personal sociological experiment, I’ve let my hair and beard grow out of control. I’m not sure, but sometimes I think my looks have changed the way some new people act around me.
It could be just their personality or something else, but there have been a few times when people I meet seem a bit uncomfortable in my presence. I feel like I had less such encounters two years ago when I started my trip and looked less unkempt.
Or who knows, maybe I’ve just forgotten some super important European code of conduct?
I’ve also noticed that my lifestyle and way of travel simply doesn’t fit into some people’s world view. It’s like I’m some strange bird that they are not able to handle. Despite my (and possibly their) best attempts to communicate, we are not able to connect.
However, such meetings are still in the minority. Most of the people I’ve met have been friendly, acceptive and willing to see things from my perspective.
Saying Goodbye to Travel Life
These last few months have been full of mixed emotions. I’ve simultaneously felt excited, wistful and horrified about my upcoming return to Finland. It’s been amazing two years, and I hope that the positive effects of all my experiences won’t wear out any time soon.
At the same time, I feel ready to stop traveling for now. Visiting new places doesn’t have the same impact as it once did. My mind is already moving to new things.
Still, I’m really glad I’m finishing my trip the long way.
Instead of being pulled away from the middle of the adventure, I let one period of my life fade away and seamlessly change into another. I’ve had time to arrange my return, which makes my landing into the stable life a lot softer.
And besides, this is not really the end. Although I call July 1st the last day of my trip around the world, I won’t have an apartment until the first of August. That means that I’ll spend one more month traveling around Finland to meet family and friends.
Then I’ll finally have a home again.