A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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Signs II

Our Tokyo taxi was about to pull away from the curb when there was a rap on the window.  An older Japanese woman was standing next to the cab peering in.

When she had our attention, she began pointing to the rolling backpack on the sidewalk.

Our rolling backpack.

If there hadn’t been heavy traffic, we would have pulled away and left it behind.

Inside were two laptops, two Ipods, a video camera and a point and shoot camera.  One of the laptops held all our photos, our music, our videos — documentation of our life on the road.

For nearly nine months we had moved from place to place flawlessly, never once misplacing a piece of luggage.  Was leaving the backpack a sign, perhaps, that we were losing our travelers’ edge?


At that moment, I thought about Forrest Gump — the movie, not the person.

I had always liked the movie, but I never really understood the scene when Forrest begins running cross country.

He runs for years, grows a beard, attracts a following.  Then one day he just stops running because he knows it’s time to go home.

Sitting in the back of the Tokyo taxi, I felt like Forrest.  After running for so long I was beginning to sense it was time to go home.

Over the previous month we had become increasingly road weary.  It was taking more and more to excite us.  It was as though we had gorged ourselves at a magnificent buffet — now it was time for some digestion.

After much discussion and a lot of soul-searching, we decided to save Europe for another time, another trip. But not just yet.

Still ahead is India, Jordan, Israel and Spain. A short stopover in Madrid is all the time we’ll spend in Europe. Then, after 17 countries, 38 border crossings and nearly ten months on the road we’ll head for home.

It hasn’t been an easy decision, but we tried to heed the signs, as we did in deciding to leave in the first place.

I was reminded of what was, in retrospect, the first sign that it was time to think about home.

During our final days in Chiang Mai, we took a bike tour.  We stopped at several temples that day.  David, our tour guide, patiently explained the concept of morality in the Buddhist religion to us.

Late in the day we entered a temple where people could have their fortune told.  Visitors shake a can of numbered pick-up sticks till one falls out.  Then you find the fortune that matches the number on the stick.

I decided to give it a try.  When the number seven fell out I found the piece of paper that held my fortune.  In part it said:

Don’t be greedy.  If you grasp all, you will lose all.

I took those words to heart.


1 Marc { 04.29.09 at 10:40 am }

We know exactly how you guys feel, Craig. I think we hit the proverbial wall (not just the Great one) during our stay in China about 10 days ago.

Sometimes I have to keep reminding myself that we’re taking this trip for us, not to prove anything to anyone else. (Of course, now we’re getting a second wind in Thailand!)

I’m glad you didn’t lose all your stuff in Tokyo – and I’m glad that in all your travels you haven’t lost sight of what really matters. Like so many others, we have really enjoyed following in your footsteps (sometimes literally), so keep the posts coming!

I wish you all some good nights’ sleep back at home. After all this traveling, I believe you’ve earned a vacation! 🙂

2 Doug Spiro { 04.29.09 at 12:21 pm }

As I have learned from the 17 countries you have visited, the 38 border crossings and nearly ten months on the road. You need to pay attention to the SIGNS!

And as Forrest Gump said, “I’m pretty tired… I think I’ll go home now” sound like good advice for the James Gang.

3 Nik { 04.29.09 at 3:52 pm }


Those words in the fortune really does ring true to heart eh? I’m sure that no matter what, your traveling experiences would be something to treasure and cherish.. And when the signs came back in future to whisper you the sweet nothings of travel, dont hesitate to heed it and jump back in again!

Very glad you didn’t lose all your stuff right there in Tokyo..


4 Dawn { 04.29.09 at 10:46 pm }

There is definitely a time when you know when to say when. And when it hits, you know it. I think we tried to ignore it for a while, but then it was a matter of us saying “we’re ready” and heading home. Travel is tough, a vacation it is not. Then you wait for the bug to bite you again….what an adventure you have all had, and what experiences you are coming away with. Europe will be there when you are ready to pack those bags again. And fresh new eyes will take in so much more than doing it just to say you did it.

5 Kati { 04.30.09 at 10:06 am }

I have lately become quite obsessed with your journey and website and the careful way that you have put together clearly one of the top5 RTW websites that exist… So I have to say: For someone who plans their trip and everything with care, how is it possible that you don’t have back-ups for all the pictures/videos/stories? Surely they cannot only exist in one piece of your luggage…

6 Craig { 04.30.09 at 11:22 am }

@ Kati: Chalk it up to another effect of road-weariness. When we left the backpack on the sidewalk, I had fallen behind on doing back-ups… You can bet I caught up quickly as soon as we got to our new hostel!


7 Claudette { 04.30.09 at 11:34 am }

Hi James Family,

We have loved following your updates. This post in particular reminder me so much of what we experienced that I had to look back at our weblog to discover that Rick had wrote about exactly the same feeling in his post “Reflections After Nine Months” on May 7, 2008. My only suggestion to you is that if you have the time in lieu of staying in Europe, visit family and friends around North America, before getting back to your home, as the familiar is a very nice way to finish off the trip relaxed and rested.

8 Rick James { 04.30.09 at 1:34 pm }

Never mind visiting family Claudette, the W-James’ should come and visit us!!!

Yes Craig, I seem to remember a certain phone conversation with you almost exactly a year ago about this very topic. I think you were a little mystified at such an occurrence, but still respectful of the possibility. It’s a concept almost impossible to explain to those who haven’t experienced it. Claudette’s correct though in saying that our drive across the country reconnecting with various friends and family was a perfect transition back into “regular” life.

9 Craig { 04.30.09 at 2:50 pm }

@Rick –
I thought about that conversation often 😉
@Claudette –
We will be following your advice!

10 Lisa { 04.30.09 at 8:58 pm }

You know, there is nothing particularly magical about a year (don’t tell Joan Didion I said that). Nine + months is really a significant chunk of time. I think it has a natural rhythm about it. How long is a school year? A pregnancy? Think how ready we and/or our kids are to be “done” or to move on to the next phase at the end of nine or so months.
‘See you on Sunnyside.

11 Warren McBride { 05.03.09 at 7:31 am }

Dear James Family: After visiting the “other” James family in Canada’s north, then on your way back to Washington DC, drop into the Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and visit the McBrides (the RTW Snowfree McBrides). We’d welcome you to our house and give you the royal tour of our fair city.

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