At 5:30am our laptop’s “Banana Phone” alarm song went off for the last time.  We each put on our one clean outfit (saved especially for the plane ride!) and packed our meager belongings into our new suitcases…rather, our two cardboard boxes.  Here I am posing with our new luggage set.  I suppose our belongings can’t technically be called meager; they are bigger than me!

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We’d reserved a van to bring us to the airport in the morning and for the first time didn’t get ripped off on transportation in Istanbul.  A porter with an extra large trolley cart met us at the curb and we decided to pay him to help us navigate the check in lines.  He went over and above his duties and actually spent the entire time we waited in line maniacally smothering our boxes in multiple layers of tape.  The check-in lady told us that our boxes were all under the weight limit, but we would have to pay a fee for our bicycles anyway.  We were really annoyed (as usual) because people with super heavy golf clubs or scuba equipment are never charged a penalty fee, but after an unsuccessful try at telling her that bicycles were supposed to be free on international Turkish Airlines flights, we forked over the 80 Euros required.

The first plane flew from Istanbul to Chicago – 12 hours of flying fun.  Normally I can sleep without a problem on airplanes, but maybe because this plane departed at 9:30am I was unable to sleep at all.  Neither could Jamie.  It wasn’t fun.

We arrived an hour late in Chicago and on top of that found out the panic inducing news that upon arrival in the USA all passengers had to collect their baggage, pass through customs, take a train to the domestic terminal, and then recheck everything back in!  What a nightmare, especially given that we only had an hour and a half until our connecting plane left!  We went into full panic mode and split up – Jamie waited for our regular sized boxes and I ran to the oversized luggage area to look for our bikes.  We shouldn’t have worried about splitting up and running around to reclaim our boxes because they were the last things off of the plane.  I did manage to have fun while waiting for the bicycles, though, because I was reveling in my ability to have a conversation in English with anyone! 

We finally gathered everything and loaded it onto a trolley to go through US customs.  On the plane we’d filled out a customs form which required us to list all the countries we’d visited since we’d left the US – in a tiny 2″ by 1″ box!  We’d been to 17 countries and Jamie told me there was no way I was going to be able to fit everything in that tiny space.  But I was up for the challenge!  I got out my super fine tip pen and went to work.  In the end I fit all 17 countries with room to spare.  Super-tiny writing ability is one of my secret talents, and I am happy that I was able to put it to good use on the trip.  We were a little nervous about getting through customs given how long we’d been out of the country plus the amazing amount of baggage we were traveling with, but it ended up being a breeze.  We told them we’d been on a one year bicycle tour, they said “Welcome back to the USA!” and that was that.

Getting our boxes on the train between terminals was no fun, and neither was rechecking our luggage.  We missed our connecting flight by quite a bit and I was starting to get really depressed about the thought of being stuck in Chicago for Thanksgiving.  However, there was another flight two hours after ours that we were able to get on, and amazingly enough this later flight still left us enough time to catch our final connection to Wilmington.  A Thanksgiving miracle!

We arrived in Wilmington around 11:30pm and our whole plane cheered as we touched down.  My mom was there waiting for us, and snapped a homecoming picture of us in front of the American flag.

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We waited around for an hour or so for our boxes, but three of the four never came.  Instead there were about 15 unclaimed suitcases that had been mistakenly loaded onto our plane.  Who knows where our stuff was!  This was great timing for losing our baggage, though, because we were pretty much wearing everything we needed. 

My brothers were waiting for us at home, and we all marveled at the fact that it’d already been a year!  The next day we had a big Thanksgiving dinner with my mom, grandma and grandpa, aunt and uncle, and brothers.  It was so much fun to see everyone.  And fun to eat a meal that hadn’t been cooked in one pot! And to be able to use a fork, spoon, and knife!

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Now that the holiday is over we are brushing up our resumes and looking around for our next jobs.  Seattle is looking like the front runner, but we are still keeping our eyes out for interesting opportunities in other cities. 

Finally, here are some things that feel really luxurious and strange to us, after a year on the road:

– Having a large, clean, well lit bathroom to yourself.  Taking a hot shower with good smelling products.  Drying off with a clean fluffy full sized towel.  Doesn’t sound like much, but feels like pure heaven to us right now!

– Eating meals that consist of multiple dishes.  A meat, a salad, fruit, and a grain dish.  Using utensils other than a plastic spork.

– Looking out the window and noticing that it is cold, rainy, and windy…and not feeling a dread about having to ride in it.

– Getting hungry, opening up the refrigerator, and being astonished at having so many options to choose from.

–  Walking through the parking lot of Target on Black Friday and marveling at the size and number of all the cars in the lot.

We’re collecting our thoughts for a final post with our impressions, advice, etc. Stay tuned.

16 Responses to “Homecoming”

  1. Dad Says:

    “Welcome back to the USA!”
    Peace & Love,

  2. Aunty Jane Says:

    Welcome back to the “land of plenty”. It’s hard to believe you are back!! I imagine it will be overwhelming for awhile. Looking forward to your final posting.
    love, Aunty Jane
    The Christmas stocking will be in the mail tomorrow.

  3. Dad Says:

    10,000 kilometers = = 6,213 miles
    The average radius of the Earth is 3,959 miles
    East Coast to West Coast of the US approximately 3,000 miles
    No wonder you’re tired!
    Peace & Love,

  4. Renato Says:

    Caught some of your photos on Flickr a while back and kept reading y’als occasional outdates. Pretty awesome and congratulations, from a small-time bike tourer. Dare I ask what was the best meal of the entire journey? I shall! What was it?

  5. Simon A Says:

    Congratulations from a big fan of your blog. I spent too much time checking it out instead of working. I was on a similar 7-month honeymoon last year in S America and Asia, and can totally relate to the novelties you mention about home. Particularly the bathroom bit and the amazement at everyone speaking English. I also liked not having to make constant decisions all the time, particularly food. Just open the fridge! And no more haggling!

  6. Jim Ray Says:

    Welcome back, you two! So, when are you coming back to Seattle? (Mostly) kidding, I know you’re probably a bit travel weary and anxious to figure out the next steps in your lives, so welcome back!

  7. Taisuke Tanimura Says:

    yay! welcome back! you two must be happy to have all of the creature comforts again, but i’m sure its a weird feeling adjusting to life again. its been wonderful to be follow you through your travels around the world! i’m looking forward to seeing what’s next in store for you two :)

    – t

  8. erin Says:

    Welcome back. I’m glad that you made it home safe and sound.

  9. Scott Moody Says:

    Welcome home!

    It has been a blast reading your blog for an entire year. I’ve shared your pictures and your stories with many family, friends, and some of our previous software coworkers and have loved experiencing your world travels online. Michelle and I couldn’t wait for the next post!

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences–

    Let me know if you hear Redmond calling your name again! 😉

    Welcome back.

  10. Mike Hedge Says:

    congrats guys!!!!

  11. Jana Says:

    Hello you two guys, the whole campsite where your bike got “hurt” and replaced by Czech frame is happy that you two are safe and in the warmth of your homes !!! Thanks for the postcard, your website of your trip is amazing, it made me think about some crazy trip too ! I am happy to have met you two. I will have one of our delicious beers for you :-)

  12. Mike Says:

    It’s been very enjoyable reading about your adventures for the past year. I’m glad you made it back safe and sound, and best of luck to both of you.

    I’ll be leaving for a year long backpacking/hiking tour in February and your writings have inspired me.


  13. John Says:

    What an amazing journey you have completed; and your dual ability to relate these travels to us in such a personal way has been a joy! As a Seattle native I look forward to your possible, return and to your continued success! :)

  14. Mike Says:

    So what’s it like being back??? Your faithful following wants an update :-)

  15. Fang Says:

    Sarah and James,

    Welcome home! What an adventurous year you had shared together and with all your family and friends as well! Reading your blog has been an enjoyable experience for me. Do you plan to write more? I sure hope you do.

    Please let me know when you come back to Redmond. We have moved to Lincoln Square new space….no office, only cube. Still remember our old building 22 office?


  16. Jill Says:

    We’ve been fascinated by your pictures and commentary, and kept telling our friends to check out your journal. Thanks for letting us share your adventures!

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