As you probably could have guessed, I am really happy to be re-united with my bed, and with Thai food, and with a computer that has a normal sized-shift key, and with 3G on my phone all the time, and with the knowledge that a bunch of my friends are really close to me, even if I am not with them right now. However, I am sort of sad that the trip is over. It was time. I was totally ready to come home. But I miss waking up every morning wondering what South America was going to pull out of it's hat today.
We watched the DVD, or what of it we could get to play, that we were given by Quark at the end of our cruise and I was sort of sad. I missed the people, the ship, the penguins, and the ice. I get why sailors love their ship. The Vavilov was like home to me for a couple of weeks, and a symbol of safety when we were out in some really extreme locations. The people on it were a single-serving family for a short time, and everyone really cared about each other. But it was a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of people in a once-in-a-lifetime place that will live happily in my memory from now on. I hope everyone that sails aboard her has as great of a time as we did.
South America is really mis-understood up here in the Northern Hemisphere. It's really easy to forget about and to dismiss, since so much of what we focus on happens in the North, but I think that that is a mistake. It's really just beautiful down there. The people are wonderful, the architecture is beautiful, and the landscapes are breathtaking. I have never met a set of people who were harder-working, and willing to go the distance to get the job done as I did, in general, down there. Things move more slowly. Getting things done takes longer in some ways, and in other ways, they happen much more quickly. Things are in some cases much harder, and in a lot of others, much easier. It's a unique experience to be able to spend so long, and at the same time, it was not nearly long enough. I was totally ready to come home, and I was also totally ready to stay there forever.
All I can say is that if you can, you should go. I would recommend everywhere that we went. There's not a single stop that we made that I would tell people to skip. There are certainly places that deserve more or less time than we spent there, but they were all worth going to. Antarctica is a really emotional topic for me, because of how special it is, but even though I sort of want to tell people to stay out because I don't want it to be spoiled, I can't recommend it highly enough. If you can only go to one place, go there. Take a cruise that is good to the environment, be respectful of the life that is there now, and go. It will change the way you see the world.
I would not say that the trip changed me in some life-altering way, but I would say that it changed me in a lot of really small ways, just as any new experience does. It was worth all the money, all the stress, and all the time. I hope that someday we can go back down there and do more of the top 1/2 of the continent. I'd love to do Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil at some point. But for now, I will go back to work, hopefully earn more money so I can go somewhere else awesome, and simply say that it is totally worth it, and that you should really go see all of it for yourself. You won't regret it.