May 23, 2014 I woke up this morning on tour for the last time. My arms, legs and heart felt heavy as I packed up my trusty Osprey pack, and headed downstairs to breakfast. Here, I had one more meal with the greatest people I’ve ever met, sans Canada.
Here’s how today would go: We would be leaving some of our number here at the Blue Square Hotel. These guys would be off to new adventures (many were staying to continue traveling around Europe), and some had later flights out, or flights out the next day. The rest of us would be loading on to the coach, and we would make one stop at the airport in Amsterdam to unload a few more people who were flying out this morning. After that, the rest of us (about 12 people), would make the journey back to the start, to London.
We dragged our bags to the coach and turned to face some hard goodbyes. I hugged Emily first and we reminisced for a few minutes and promised to keep in touch. I had gotten really close with Emily, the first friend I’d made on tour, and she’s not too far away (Vancouver). Next up was Dicky, a really tough goodbye. Dicky brought life, color and comedy to our tour, and he was our fearless leader, second-in-command to Jon Snow. I couldn’t help but cry as I hugged him goodbye, knowing that there would be far less laughs on our journey today without him cracking jokes.
We piled onto the bus and waved a sad goodbye to Dicky and Emily, and the others who stayed behind here. Then, we made the drive to Schiphol airport. We were feeling really blue by this point, and Jon Snow didn’t really help. He played a series of sad songs as we approached the airport, including Leaving On A Jet Plane and I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.
Here at the airport, we said goodbye to most of the couples, and a few others. Hugs all around, but we had to make it quick since we were in the loading zone.
After this drop-off, we boarded the coach for the last time to start our journey back to London. I was so exhausted from the goodbyes, but I was happy to have Pat, Kieran, Shandi, Alex & Sam next to me as we traveled back to the start.
We passed through Belgium (Jon Snow had us stop at a rest stop there so that we could officially say we’d set foot in Belgium), and sooner than I expected, we were boarding the ferry in Calais, France, to cross back to England. It’s funny how different this ferry ride was from the first. The first had been so awkward since none of us knew each other yet, but it had been filled with the promise and excitement of an incredible adventure. This time, we hugged, teased and laughed like brothers and sisters, but the mood was sad and somber, knowing that we were sailing right into the end of this fantastic adventure. I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly sad as I caught my first glimpse of the White Cliffs of Dover. Funny, since this had been the symbol that British soldiers had once rejoiced at upon their return home from war. For me, it was a symbol of the end of something wonderful.
As we entered London, Jon Snow got onto the mic for one final goodbye speech, and played our tour songs one last time. Tears filled my eyes listening to Pursuit of Happiness and Wonderwall one more time, knowing that I wouldn’t be getting back on the coach the next day.
Too soon, we were back at the Royal National Hotel, the very place where we had boarded our coach 22 days ago and driven off to explore Europe together. We all said goodbye to Jon & Kev, and thanked them for their patience, generosity, and all of the fun and laughs they’d brought us on tour.
Next, we said goodbye to a few more of our number who would be going off and doing their own thing that night. The rest of us, Pat, Kieran, Shandi, Rosie, Chantelle, Alex, Sam and Gabe, checked into our hotel and then met up for one last excursion. We were going to take a ride on the London Eye before ending with one last group dinner. The next day, everyone would be leaving except Pat & I, who still had one more day in London.
After the London Eye, we walked along the River Thames until we stumbled upon the Giraffe restaurant. Giraffes had special meaning for us (long story), so we chose this place for our goodbye dinner.
After dinner, we wandered back to the hotel and said a few more goodbyes. This time, Alex & Sam left us. There were plenty of tears and hugs to accompany this one too as we said goodbye to our favorite New Zealanders. We also said goodbye to Rosie and Gabe here, and Pat and I made plans to meet Kieran, Shandi and Chantelle for breakfast the next morning before they left for the airport.