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

A Beautiful Surprise


None of us knew what to expect of Quito.  Frankly, I’m not sure I knew it existed before we decided to travel to the Galapagos as part of our round the world journey.  But it has been a beautiful surprise.

Flanked by volcanic peaks, blessed by near perfect weather and home to friendly and helpful people, Quito has proven to be an excellent starting point for our adventure.

We’ve been spending most of our time in Old Town, the historic center of Quito.  It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.  In 2006 the city completed a massive multi-million dollar restoration program that has revitalized Centro, as the Quitenos refer to it.

Narrow streets, colonial architecture and lively plazas make it a great place to wander.

Here are some of the sights from our first days here.

A view of Quito from our hotel’s rooftop deck.
City View

View from the Plaza Grande.
Old Town Quito

View from Plaza San Francisco.
Old Town Quito

Detailed stonework on the La Compania de Jesus.
Old Town Quito

Conor mets a street performer on the Plaza Grande.

Street Performer

You can see more pictures of Quito here.

July 29, 2008   5 Comments

Kids’ First Ecuador Adventure

Caroline and Conor have published their first posts on their blog – be sure to check them out.

Also, we’ve posted our first batch of pictures from Ecuador.

July 27, 2008   2 Comments

The Way

July 27, 2008   9 Comments

Finally, Quito

Quito Hotel Roofline

After a tearful goodbye to friends and family and a long day of travel, we arrived safely in Quito last night. We were able to get a good night’s rest and awoke to a beautiful day. We are taking it easy today, acclimating ourselves to the altitude and planning our time in Ecuador. Good stuff to come.

July 25, 2008   15 Comments

The Story So Far

If you’ve just arrived and want to know the backstory to this adventure, check out the posts we link to below. Or you can skip ahead to Quito using the link in the upper right hand corner of this post.

Since this blog first launched in November 2007, subscribers to this site have:

Read these posts and you’ll have a pretty good understanding of what led us to this point. Or, skip the backstory and just enjoy the travelogue. Either way, we’re glad you stopped by.

Last night I was doing some final packing, shuffling favorites on my iPod. Just as I was about to call it quits for the evening, a Bruce Springsteen song put the trip in perspective for me:

Now all that’s sure on the boulevard
Is that life is just a house of cards
As fragile as each and every breath
Of this child sleeping in our bed.
Tonight let’s lie beneath the eaves
Just a close band of happy thieves
And when that train comes we’ll get on board
And steal what we can from the treasures of the Lord.


Next stop: Quito.

July 23, 2008   11 Comments

Toot & Puddle

When our kids were toddlers, Dani and I would take turns reading to them each night. Both loved to hear the adventures of Toot & Puddle, two endearing pigs from Woodcock Pocket.

These two best friends couldn’t be more different. Toot is an adventurer, longing to see the world.  Puddle is a homebody, most content when enjoying familiar rhythms and routines.

One day, Toot takes off to see the world. He invites Puddle to come too, but being the home-pig that he is, he decides to stay in Woodcock Pocket.

Throughout his year of travel Toot sends postcards from exotic destinations, sharing his adventures with his friend at home. Toot scales cliffs in the Alps, visits an Italian pastry shop, swims with hippos in Africa, takes a camel ride through Egypt and more.

Puddle, meanwhile, enjoys life at home, celebrating everyday moments in familiar surroundings. He spends his days gathering maple sap for syrup, playing in spring mud, painting a self-portrait, or trying out a Halloween mask.

At the end of a year, Toot and Puddle reunite and share their experiences.

As we make our final preparations to leave, each of us seems to be alternating between the sentiments of Toot and Puddle: Eager for new experiences on the one hand; deeply wistful for our everyday life on the other.

Emotions are running high around our house. We are looking forward to our once in a lifetime journey.  At the same time, we are looking forward to our return, and will be eager to hear from family and friends about life at home.

For now, we are content to enjoy a few final hometown adventures until this time next year.

Caroline Swimming

Dani and Craig

I have a feeling that if Toot traveled today, there’d be no more postcards.  He’d be blogging his way around the world. And Puddle would enjoy it all the more.

[Note: Thanks to John Whealan for the wonderful pictures of Caroline, Dani and Craig.]

July 20, 2008   7 Comments

Gearing Up

I’m the first to admit it’s a bit twisted to talk about the gear we’re buying for this trip so soon after I’ve written about how good it feels to get rid of our belongings. What can I say? I’m a walking contradiction.

Not to mention a gadget freak.

So here are some of my “finds” – gear that may or may not be useful on our trip.

The ASUS eeePC (below left) is an amazing little computer – not big enough to be a workhorse laptop – but definitely more useful than a Blackberry-type device.

The Nokia E61 (below right) is a very nice unlocked quad-band phone. I’ve installed a MaxRoam world SIM card and TruPhone software that provides the option of low cost international calling over wi-fi networks.


The Leatherman Wave. 18 Tools. A Million Solutions. Say No More.


Dani found the SteriPen – a UV device that will sterilize water. Not something to use every day, but when you need it, you really need it.


This little gadget is truly amazing – the Aiptek HD video camera. It shoots nice quality HD video and fits in the palm of your hand. Best of all – it cost just $140.

Aiptek Camera

Finally, there’s the IronKey, an encrypted USB flash drive that comes preloaded with Firefox. It facilitates safe web surfing in Internet cafes and helps to protect your passwords. It may not be foolproof, but it does give another level of protection.


And, it is worth noting, the picture also contains the best pen on the market today: The Pilot G-2 Gel Pen. Combine it with a Moleskine notebook and you become a bonafide travel writer.

July 14, 2008   12 Comments

Roadschooling Too


When we last discussed the issue of roadschooling, we were considering working with Learning Community International, a Maryland-based organization that initially seemed excited about working with us.

But when the time came to put together a course of study, we felt their interest in working with us had waned (to put it charitably), and we decided to look at other options.

We considered a broad range of possibilities:

  • Nonschooling (probably the best idea, but it’s hard to make the leap);
  • Unschooling–I swear, this is a legitimate movement;
  • On-line schooling presented by Maryland’s Department of Education (sadly, ironically, the county we live in does not yet approve our state’s online curriculum);
  • Making up our own customized “curriculum” to reflect the places we would be visiting;
  • Purchasing the Montgomery County curriculum and administering it ourselves, figuring out how to manage the legally required periodic reviews by homeschooling office personnel (fly them to Thailand?, Budapest?);

However, none of these options would put us in the best position to accomplish Caroline’s ardent wish: To graduate high school with her peers.

It’s important to her, and we didn’t want our wanderlust to put her ability to graduate with the class of 2012 in jeopardy.

Ultimately we settled on the most “conventional” of the unconventional choices open to us. We enrolled Caroline and Conor in online private homeschool programs that have been accredited by Montgomery County, Maryland.

Both kids are enrolled in Griggs International Academy’s online homeschooling program. The school provides a comprehensive, county and state accredited curriculum and will supervise and grade schoolwork and provide transcripts at completion.

We also registered Conor in a math class at the impressive Calvert School.

One thing we learned so far in this process: The text book industry is far, far behind in the digital revolution.

We have had to dedicate one piece of luggage to text books. There are no online or CD-ROM versions of books the kids will be using in their studies.

At some point, not long from now, I imagine text books as we know them will be a thing of the past. But for now, they represent about forty extra pounds we’ll be hauling around the world.

RoadSchooling Kit

July 9, 2008   7 Comments

Shedding Our Skin

Junk in the Trunk

We didn’t have to call the folks at Junk in the Trunk, but we could have. Instead we stuffed our Ford Freestyle with 15 years worth of things we probably didn’t need to begin with and delivered the load to a local charity.  (And soon the Freestyle will be gone too).

As we purged belongings I was appalled by the sheer volume of stuff that had come to rest in our house.


I have to admit: I am looking forward to shedding my skin, traveling light, and learning once again what is essential. This trip is an opportunity to drop weight, physical and psychological.

A friend asked: “How do you pack for a year?” I said: “You don’t. You pack for 4 days and repeat 90 times.”

We each get to walk out the door with a backpack and a small personal bag. We have a large-ish rolling suitcase that will contain the kids’ roadschooling materials. That’s it.

Bruce Springsteen said it better than me: “We’ll take what we can carry, and we’ll leave the rest.”

Packed Up

Even so, as I look at our bags, I am reminded of the saying —
When traveling, take half as much stuff and twice as much money.

July 2, 2008   5 Comments

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