WE ARE HOME!!!

December 1, 2013  – Indianapolis, Indiana

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“No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his own pillow.”  Lin Yutang

Well, we have been gone 184 days.  Our dream trip of a lifetime can be summarized by the following numbers:

34—The numbers of flights we have taken

71—The number of hotels that allowed us to stay in them.

5—The number of train rides we have taken.

14—The number of ferry trips we have taken.

13,052—The number of kilometers we drove in Europe.

30—The number of countries we have visited.

32,962—The air miles we have traveled.

12,200—The number of photographs we have taken.

6819—The number of photographs Rita’s iPhone could hold before having to delete any.

8712—The number of hits we received to our blog.

1356—The number of solitaire games Rita played on my IPAD.

13—The number of solitaire games Rita won.

We have seen breathtaking sights and captured them in photographs on our blog, including:

Fatima

Melk Abbey

Lake Bled at night

The snow capped Zugspitz

Neuschwanstein Castle

Ronchamp

The Jung Frau Mountain

The Susten Pass in Switzerland

Positano

Lourdes

St. Emillion

Chambord

Eiffel Tower

Chartres

Brussels Grand Place

Drive from Oslo to Bergen

The Kremlin and St. Basil

The Diocletian Palace in Split

Dubrovnik from Mount Srd

The Taj Mahal

The Lake Palace

Bangkok from the Sky Bar on the 63rd floor of Lebua

Ta Prohm

View from Villa in Phuket

The Skyline in Singapore

The 12 Apostles

Waiheke Island

Sunset on Aitutaki

View of Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay from Belvedere

The lagoon at Bora Bora

We have also had our share of adventures which we captured in photographs and shared them with you on our blog, including:

Seeing the Royal Family

Visiting Scotland, the home of my ancestors

Wandering the Djemaa El Fna

Walking out on the Maria Bridge

Driving the Susten Pass

Driving the Amalfi Coast

The ride from the airport to our hotel in Istanbul

Visiting Samos, Greece

Traveling the highways everywhere in India

Elephant Ride

Camel Ride

Driving the Great Coast Highway

Wine tasting in New Zealand

Lagoon Tour and Snorkeling on Aitutaki

Wave runner tour of Bora Bora Lagoon

Finally, we shared our trip with our European family and friends as well as those of you who followed our blog, including:

Lisel Scharf and her family

Anne Scharf

Isabella S. Zanella and her family

The Popot/Desmadryl Families, Dominique, Alain, Yann, Peggy, Aude, and the grandchildren

Everyone has asked for our thoughts and feelings on the trip.  First, it has made us appreciate family, friends, faith and our home, Indianapolis.  We could not have done this trip without the love and understanding of our families.  Friends gave us support and encouragement throughout the trip.  We were constantly reminded everywhere we went how important our faith is to our day-to day lives and how it connects us to others around the world whether we worship God, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Vishnu or some other supreme being.  And, home, well that is where our hearts are; and we are fortunate to call Indianapolis our home where most people are good, decent, and honest, hardworking, and a pleasure.

The most rewarding thing to us about the trip is that we set a goal, and we accomplished that goal.  That is immensely satisfying to us.  It is an accomplishment that few people can claim as their own.  But, we can make that claim.  We dreamed of going around the world.  We made a plan to go around the world.  We successfully completed that plan.  It was no easy task to plan and execute successfully 34 flights in 184 days to 30 countries without a mistake.  That is an extremely rewarding feeling.  It warms our hearts to know that our efforts have met with successes beyond our wildest dreams.  While we made substantial sacrifices to make our dream successful, we never looked back once to second-guess our decision.  No matter what the future holds for us, we will always have the memories.

Norm – I could not have made this trip without my faithful companion Tonto.  Tonto’s original responsibility was to be in charge of IT.  But, she ended up being in charge of the budget, finances, expenses, cell phones, iPad, MacBook, TV remotes, light switches in hotel rooms, cameras, blog, nursing, cheerleading, driving, electronic toll booths, ATM machines, boarding passes, pop culture, decisions on dinner, face timing, and everything else I am not good at.  Thomas Jefferson said:  “One travels more usefully when alone because he reflects more.” Ernest Hemingway said: “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.”  Mark Twain said: “I have found out there ain’t no surer way to find out if you love people or hate them, than to travel with them.”  Personally, I think they are probably all right.   I could not have made this trip without Rita, nor would I have wanted to do so.  Rita was the best traveling companion.  We spent 184 days together, 24/7, and when we were not out and about sight seeing during the day, we were together in a hotel room at night that was approximately 400 to 600 square feet!  In other words, we shared one room, not a whole house, with each other as most of you do with your loved one, for 184 nights.  As one of Rita’s close friends warned her before she left: “Do you know that you will be with Norm every second of every minute of every day for 184 days!”  There was no place to hide or get away from each other.  But, we never had a fight or a serious disagreement.  Try spending six months with your loved one in basically one room of your house sometime!

Rita – I’ve got to say that first of all, I never imagined in all my lifetime that I would ever take a trip around the world.  Remember from the very beginning, on the “about us” page, I never daydreamed; I was always too busy studying, working, or raising two girls on my own.  When I had “down time”, I usually caught up on sleep.  LOL!  But in the last several years I’ve had an inkling of what dreaming was all about and watched first hand how you can turn those dreams into reality.   Well, this was one heck of a reality!  Going on this trip was the most amazing adventure anyone could imagine.  Being able to experience the culture in all of the cities, seeing the religious sights, castles, mountains, the people, the traffic, and oh yes… the food, was more than anyone could ever imagine.  I have to admit that some of the destinations on our agenda, I had NEVER heard of prior to this trip.  But, even so, I was willing to travel to them and see what they were all about.  None have disappointed, every place was fascinating in its own way.

I still cannot pinpoint a “favorite” place, because all of them were very special in one way or another.  I would have to say that meeting my Aunt Lisel and her family and being able to see the house my mother grew up in and the town where she was raised, Aunt Anne, who entertained us with her singing and dancing, Isabelle and her family, who welcomed us into her mothers home in Lille, had a wonderful dinner with them and a look at their town, which we found to be really a sleeper city with a lot to offer, is very high on my list of the great moments of this trip.  The visits to Fatima, Lourdes and Ephesus would be next on my list, as those places were overwhelming with all the religious history.  Participating in the evening walk at Lourdes was something we didn’t even know about and turned out to be a very special and touching experience.  Walking through the streets and on the same steps as St. Paul in Ephesus and being able to walk through Mary’s house was another moving experience. “Life if not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”. –  Maya Angelou

Now about traveling with Norm…. I’ve got to tell you all that he is a walking GPS.  I cannot tell you how many times I would walk out of our hotel room and turn the wrong way just to get to the elevator!  Then, as we would walk out of the hotel, onto the street, I would do the same thing!! I am so geographically challenged, that I would have never made it to the first airport correctly without my personal GPS! He is also very good at picking hotels based on their location.  We would walk out of one, and he’d say… “Yeah… the restaurant is up two blocks over there on the left”.  Wow!! How did you know that??? Well, when researching where to stay, he always takes into consideration, the restaurants nearby, things to see and do and anything else on our agenda for that certain city.  There is much more time involved in this part of the preparation than you would think.  It takes months to figure out all of the logistics of this type of travel.  Maybe he could be a travel agent.  He’d be perfect! I certainly appreciated all the work he put into this trip even before we boarded our first flight!

One thing I wished I could have accomplished was to have Norm take off his watch.  I think because he has always counted his time, it may be something that he will always do.  He gave me the countdown on everything, like “7 more hours till our flight”, or  “8 more minutes till we take off”, but mostly it was more like “we were supposed to depart 11 minutes ago!”  I’m still not sure if it has to do with the timekeeping habit or because he wanted a nice tan line where his watch was!

Traveling with Norm was very, very easy, (except for the carry-on luggage part). Ironically, we had to check our luggage almost always, as our American carry-on is much larger than European carry-on standards! Other than that, being with him for 6 months, in close quarters, every minute of every day was a breeze! I am very grateful and appreciate being able to enjoy this journey with him.  I’d do it again without a doubt!

I must share one of the funniest experiences! The first time we went to the ATM to withdraw money, I’m showing Norm how to punch in his secret code, pick the denomination that he wants, hit the green “enter” button, and wha la… your money comes spitting out of the machine! He was so tickled by that and could not believe how easy it was to just walk up to a machine and have it give you money!! Norm, at 65, had NEVER used an ATM prior to this!  “It just gives you money??”  Was what he kept saying as we were walking away, shaking his head.  I can’t imagine living without an ATM machine!!

In addition to the people we’ve thanked below, I would like to personally thank Michael Andretti, JF Thormann and John Lopes for allowing me this time away from Andretti Autosport to take this wonderful journey with Norm.  They were all very understanding and very supportive even though I was leaving them without someone to step in for me.  We immediately enacted a plan and found someone to take over for me quickly, which eased the transition for both of us.   It gave me a huge relief knowing that they would be taken care of while I was away.   It was very hard for me to give up the racing life, as it gets in your blood, and it took me a long time to NOT think about whether all those contracts were getting done, but eventually, I did get the hang of relaxing and enjoying this most awesome adventure.

Thank you so much for that!

“Regrets? …I’ve had a few.”—Frank Sinatra.  We were within 10 minutes of Pompeii and chose to push on to Monaco, rather than tour Pompeii.  That was a really bad decision.  After driving all day, we chose not to spend the night in St. Tropez and pushed on till midnight to stay in a bad hotel in Sete.  That was a stupid decision.  We regret that we hit Paris during a heat wave making it impossible to walk the city.  We missed wandering around the streets of Paris.  In Bangkok, we ran out of time to take the Hangover Tour.  We regret that very much.  In Phuket, I did not have a chance to take a day trip to Phang Nga Bay, because of Rita’s illness.  After Phuket, we had to decide whether to turn north to Laos, Vietnam, China and Japan or go south to Singapore, Bali, Australia, the Cook Islands and Tahiti.  It was a difficult decision to make.  We chose the southern route.  I am not sure we made the right decision.  Time will tell.  In New Zealand, we did not have time to see the South Island.

Thank you’s are owed to our children and grandchildren Angela, Jada, Kyle, Mandy, Kayla, Connor, Stephanie, Ben, Annabelle, Tyler, Missy, Bob, Isabella, Owen and Brody for sharing us with the world.  It was difficult to leave our families behind, but they have been very supportive of us.

A big thank you is owed to the firm for making this trip possible.  It has been very supportive and encouraging from my first emotional meeting with Greg to discuss my desire to do this trip before I got any older.   I sincerely appreciate the help you have given to me while traveling, the way you jumped in to make this trip possible and the way you serviced my clients while I have been traveling.

Finally, the trip would not have been possible without Anne Messer, who helped us in innumerable ways while we were gone.  Thank you Anne.  Thank you Shane, Joe, John and Dawn who helped me replace my phone after it drowned while swimming.  Thank you Kim who helped me with the transfer of money while traveling.  Thanks to Lynne and Pam for their helpful travel tips on Melbourne and Bora Bora.  Finally, last, but not least, we would like to thank Alki for urging us on and being one of our biggest supporters and cheerleaders.  And, a big thank you to all who emailed us and placed comments on our blog. There were tough times on this trip and your emails and comments gave us encouragement to keep going.

As we enter the month of December, we will be especially appreciative of family, friends, faith and music and the part they play in our lives.  These were the things that were reinforced in Rita and me again and again in every country visited and every culture we observed.  To have a happy life, fulfilled and loved, we need family, friends, faith and music to sustain us, challenge us and nurture us.  These things can keep us healthy and young and will comfort us as we prepare ourselves for our next life.

Happy 12th birthday to Jada Garvin.  Next year you will be a teenager!!  Enjoy your day.

This blog will be dedicated in memoriam to my best friend Jim Poshard, who died 30 days after we left on our round the world adventure.  He went with me everywhere on this trip and was at home to greet me when I returned.  You will be missed, but never forgotten.  Love ya man!

“That’s all folks”.  THE END.

Norm & Rita

Oh… It’s a Christmas Miracle!!

Our house has Christmas lights on the outside, all done and lit up when we came home, and walked inside to find all of our kids who weren’t at the airport at our house and the whole inside is decorated for Christmas!

GOD BLESS OUR KIDS!!

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4 thoughts on “WE ARE HOME!!!

  1. I am so glad that you are home safe and the trip was wonderful for you both!

    Dad, you are so inspirational to me. I smiled at Rita’s comments…that you are a GPS! I am, too!! I wonder if that is hereditary? My keen sense of direction has only ever failed me in one place (on three different visits!) – I cannot find my way anywhere in Amsterdam!!!

    I love planning trips and I learned so much from you about how to make a good trip GREAT – the importance of location, pre-trip research of all the possible great things to be done in a place, and, of course, locating the best food experiences!! You have taken me to so many beautiful places and experienced so many great things with me…you have NO idea how much they impact me every day. The other day, I was JUST talking about the dolphins that swam with our sailboat in the Caribbean and also was talking to someone else about the delicious glacier water in Banff. I know that I grew up lucky. I am SO blessed to have you for a dad. Thank you for showing me that the world in always in my backyard. And, thank you both for bringing it even closer with your journaling from each place. Reading your musings kept me closer to you and I truly appreciate the efforts you both put into removing the distance between us.

    I am so glad you went and am so glad that you are back.

    I love you guys!!

    -Angela

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    • Mary,

      I know!!! I’m glad to be home and we both LOVED the surprise! Norm thought it was awesome how they all got together and helped decorate my whole house. Kyle and Bob even put up christmas lights on the outside of my house! Really cool! And then to walk into our house and think only Bob and the boys were here and then Kyle and Mandy and Connor and Kayla were all here too! Oh, YEAH!!! Bob was wearing his MAN GOWN!!!! (He had sweats on underneath, but we made him pull them up to hide them for the picture!)

      Too Funny!

      Rita

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  2. Yeah! Your home!

    CANNOT. WAIT. TO. SEE. YOU. GIRL!

    You did good Norm! J

    ( p.s. We were there after Nick’s State Football game, and I hung the life size santa on your patio door! J )

    Wine soon!

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