God speed, America
This officially marks the end of a major part of my trip. That is, the America part. Because although I'm now 8/12 months through my trip (that's 2/3 through, for those of you that can dredge up your memories of high school mathematics, and of simplifying fractions :P), I've spent the whole time so far in America — whether it be North, South, or Central, it's all "The Americas". Tonight, I fly east over the Atlantic (the first transatlantic trip in my life, I might add), and I leave the Americas behind, to begin my adventures in Europe. It's been great hanging out here — the lack of jetlag for 8 months has been particularly welcome — but the time has come to fly onward, and to start actually making this a round-the-world trip, rather than just an up-and-down-America trip.
It's been really nice hanging out with my dad, with Ivor and Manuela (while they were here — they left on Wednesday), and with all the cousins. Spending time with my dad has been particularly relaxing, as he's naturally a very hard-working and enthusiastic tourist — i.e. he'll go and research the attractions, and he enjoys working out all the logistics — and as such, I've spent most of my time here just following him, and not having to do much tourist homework myself. Although I guess it's only natural, in anyone's case, to get lazy when your parents are around, as they're some of the very few people in this world that you can count on to always take care of you.
Having a break from backpacking has also been super. The luxuries of staying in a house, having exclusive TV and Internet use, sleeping in, and enjoying some modicum of privacy, are some that I've sorely missed lately. Tara and Ashki have been the most warm and accommodating hosts that anyone could ask for — after going from hostels to their house, I hope that I'll never take heimische Jewish hospitality for granted again. I know that nobody believes us, let alone sympathises with us: but I swear, backpacking really is hard work! And after this long, I wasn't at all complaining about a 2-week holiday from it.
Also, on the backpacking holiday note, it's been great to have enjoyed a break from alcohol during my time here in Boston. I wasn't a big drinker at all before I started this trip; and even after all the many big nights I've had this year, I still have no desire to drink purely for the sake of drinking. In the case of hostelling, I do it because it's the only practical way of socialising (i.e. the peer pressure is simply too great). But without the pressure, I'll happily go weeks without a drop. Beer, in particular, I truly believe to be the scourge of the Earth, and an utterly foul substance: I wrangle my way out of drinking the stuff whenever possible; although all too often, beer cannot be escaped — such as when someone shouts you one before you can protest, or when there's simply nothing else available at the bar (and yes, this is not uncommon for bars in South America — hell, sometimes you're lucky if they even have more than one type of beer).
It's been great doing America™, and after all of America that I've done, it's also been lovely to see the folks and to relax on the couch before moving on. As the World Police would say: "A-Me-Ri-Ca, F$%# Yeah!"