A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Posts from — December 2007

A Map For Saturday

There is a priceless moment near the beginning of the documentary film A Map For Saturday when writer-director Brook Silva-Braga tells his co-workers at HBO’s Inside the NFL that he is leaving his job to travel around the world by himself.

One colleague asks incredulously, “You’re doing this alone?”

Another is less charitable: “There’s the idiot. There’s the idiot. He’s the one who had it all. He’s the one who’s giving it up.”

For the next ninety minutes Silva-Braga explores the world of long-term solo travel. One reviewer called it, “the single best cinematic response to ‘why we travel.’”

On the Saturday before Christmas, Dani, Caroline, Conor and I sat down to watch the documentary. I thought it would be a good idea if we watched together and got a small sense of the reality of being on the road for a year. Let me tell you, Silva-Braga delivers in spades.

He has produced a remarkable documentary that communicates the arc of emotions that are part of long-term travel. His early days of loneliness and second-guessing give way to moments of incredible discovery and friendship, and ultimately to the emotional recognition that it is time to go home.

One of the things I’m interested in experiencing on our trip is the emotional journey that parallels the physical journey. What happens when you thoroughly disengage from your settled life? What impact will it have on us as a family?

David Elliot Cohen and his family took a year-long trip around the world, which he chronicled in the book, “One Year Off.” Apparently, at some point after their return, Cohen and his wife separated. I know nothing about their situation or if the trip played any role in the couple’s eventual parting. I do know that Cohen had this to say in the last chapter of his book:

“Neither Devi [Cohen’s wife] nor I would have made this journey if we weren’t getting along, and even then, there were tense moments – especially at the outset… If anything, we learned that a trip like this accentuates problems rather than solves them.”

I’ve always felt that our nuclear family was very tight, that we are a good team and always try to be respectful and supportive of each other. It will be interesting to put our relationships to the test. I’d like to believe that we will take something strong and make it stronger. We’ll see.

Thanks to A Map For Saturday, we’ll be going into this journey with a better sense of what to expect. At least now we can all visualize examples of the highs and lows of long-term travel. For anyone interested in a journey like this, I highly recommend this documentary.

For the record, the film presented no “deal-breakers” to any of us, though bedbugs and some Asian toilets may present a real challenge. 😉

Check out the trailer for the movie.

December 18, 2007   1 Comment

A Cold Hand in the Dark

Nearly everyone has felt the powerful doubts that come on a sleepless night. A friend said: “It’s like a cold hand in the dark.”

Last week I woke in the middle of the night and couldn’t quiet my mind.

At first my thoughts were innocent, as I tried to work out details about the trip. “Should we travel east-to-west or west-to-east? Can we follow the good weather? Are there places we should settle in for a while?” I spent a good thirty minutes shifting pieces of this puzzle in my mind.

Then I felt that cold hand: “Do you really think this trip a good idea? Think about all the things that could go wrong. Think about the risk you’ll be taking.”

It grabbed hold: “What if someone gets hurt or sick? Will we be able to find medical care? What if we get mugged? What if we get separated from one of the kids in a strange city?”

It tightened its grip: “Tsunami. Earthquake. Pandemic. Plane crash. Recession. War.” The future can look pretty grim in the middle of a sleepless night.

Out the window the sky was brightening. It was time to get up, to get the kids off to school. But I couldn’t shake the feeling. Was this trip going to be a terrible mistake?

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December 18, 2007   5 Comments


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I didn’t know what to say as a fellow parent pressed her point.

“You’ll be putting your kids at a great disadvantage, you know, pulling them out of school for a year. What’s it going to do to your daughter’s transcript when she applies to college?”

Well. I had to admit I hadn’t thought about that. School was an issue we needed to figure out.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, there is a well-worn path to success that leads through demanding private schools or public school magnet programs, SAT prep classes and extensive college application engineering.

There’s little time for just being a kid, not when there’s another advanced placement class, enrichment activity or volunteer opportunity to add to the resume.

Given its reputation as having one of the best public school systems in the country, I was surprised and pleased to find Montgomery County was rather broad-minded about homeschooling.

Aside from the hole in our daughter’s transcript, Dani and I felt we could figure out a way to make homeschooling roadschooling work and ultimately our kids would be able to graduate high school with their peers.

As we began to investigate how to do it, we were amazed at the educational resources available on the Internet. From Indian tutors online to free college lectures, there was no shortage of educational materials that would allow us to focus on the places we planned to visit.

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December 4, 2007   8 Comments

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