Goodbye and Good Luck!

We've decided that after South America we're finished with our international travel for the foreseeable future. While we didn't manage to make it to all 7 continents, we did do quite a bit over the course of our 171 days on the road:
Visited 71 cities, towns, or villages
...in 30 different countries
...across 5 continents.

And we used a number of different means of transport:
 - 9 rental cars
 - 3 private vans
 - 8 long distance buses
 - 13 trains
 - 7 car and/or passenger ferries
 - 2 cruise ships
 - 30 airplane flights
 - plus a number of taxis and subways that I'm not going to try and count!
 
We are extremely glad we did it, and we both agree that it had the effect we hoped for when it comes to educating Walter (and ourselves) and expanding his horizons. He has learned about a number of difficult topics like the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, the Nazi Holocaust, the European immigrant crisis, poverty in South America, the history of whaling, and the ongoing effects of climate change on different animal populations. We also did notable hikes through places as diverse as Koya, Japan; Bergen, Norway; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Lake Titicaca, Bolivia; Machu Picchu, Peru; Easter Island, Chile; Ushuaia, Argentina; and of course, Antarctica. And on top of that we walked hundreds of miles through cities of all shapes and sizes.

In terms of destinations, my biggest takeaway is how underrated South America seems as a travel destination for Americans. Many of the friendliest and most welcoming people we met on our entire journey were in South America. And while the language barrier does exist, we generally found it far easier to overcome than in a country like Spain, to say nothing of Japan. A little bit of Spanish or Portuguese goes a very long way in South America, and in my opinion language should not at all be a barrier to going. The combination of people and natural wonders are such that I would be hard pressed to consider a trip back to anywhere in Europe before we get another look at Colombia and Ecuador, my two favorites in South America (Chile and Argentina are both great as well, but in many ways feel as Western as Europe.) I know some people worry about crime in South America, but I'll be honest, we never felt uncomfortable throughout the entire trip. If you take the same precautions in South America that you would, say, in Chicago, then you'll be just fine.

Ages ago I shared a few of the things we packed for Europe that were really useful. Things like packing cubes and a 4-outlet power strip. That advice still holds, but I think it's worth mentioning two phone apps that we found invaluable through all of our travel:
 - The android and iphone app Maps with Me is an absolute requirement for all international travel. This app is incredible and will help you find everything from bathrooms to playgrounds, all without using any cellular data as long as you make sure to download the countries you will be visiting in advance (or over hotel wifi).
 - Similarly, take advantage of the feature in the Trip Advisor app that lets you download a city for offline use. That way when you're looking for a lunch place with decent reviews you can easily search within Trip Advisor without using cellular data.

This is the end of the road for the blog, as I don't expect to update any more after this post. We're going to spend the remainder of ski season searching out great snow in Colorado and possibly Utah as well. After that, it will be back to the real world, both in terms of Walter going back to school full time and me returning to work.

Thank you to everyone who followed along as we lived our little adventure! We hope you found it a little bit educational, a whole lot enjoyable, and most of all, that it gave you some ideas for your own travel.