Category — Preparation
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:
- Met the James family.
- Learned how they decided to take this trip.
- Listened as Craig confronted rational and irrational fears.
- Heard Dani, Caroline and Conor’s hopes and fears about traveling the world for a year.
- Discovered their reluctance to tell anyone about their adventure.
- Found out their initial and final plans for roadschooling their kids.
- Applauded the launch of Caroline and Conor’s blog offering their unique (and unedited) perspective.
- Laughed at Dani’s meditation on travel underwear.
- Identified all the ways a person could follow the James family journey on the web.
- And finally, learned about the ambitious itinerary planned for the year ahead.
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
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.
July 9, 2008 7 Comments
It’s become habit.
Each morning I log on to my computer to check for dispatches from the dozen or so families and travelers I have been tracking around the world.
RSS reports arrive from far-flung places like Puerto Montt, Tokyo, Cairns, Siem Reap, Cappadocia and Durban. Each post brings a new adventure, a new lesson or a new idea for a place to explore.
As our departure date approaches (under a month), I’ve started to think more and more about these travelers, where they are in the arc of their journeys, and where they are headed next.
Some are heading home, others just starting.
Below I’ve listed a few of the blogs I’ve been tracking. They are the perfect distraction if you are looking for travel information, inspiration, or an interesting story.
June 25, 2008 16 Comments
Nearly a week had passed, and still no tickets in the mail. I was mildly concerned: I knew significant OneWorld fare changes went into effect June 1 and I didn’t want any snafus.
When I called the OneWorld round-the-world desk the ticket agent assured me all was in order: “These tickets take time,” she said. “They have to be handwritten.”
Made sense to me. Certainly no two are alike. Still I assumed she meant they had to be individually assembled.
But no, she meant they needed to be handwritten. I hadn’t seen an airline ticket like this in 25 years!
In addition to changing fare rules, as of June 1 OneWorld is moving to e-tickets for its round-the-world tickets. More convenient to be sure, but somehow not quite as romantic.
June 6, 2008 5 Comments
More than a year ago, when we began dreaming about and then planning our trip we made a very long list of destinations and once-in-a-lifetime experiences we thought we could cram into a year off.
I mapped out an itinerary that had us hop-scotching around the globe, taking in every world wonder we’d ever seen in National Geographic and all 1,000 Places To See Before You Die.
But as we progressed with the planning we confronted reality in the form of time, cost and distance. We began to realize: It really is a Wide Wide World. There’s only so much you can see and do in a year.
We’ve tried hard to study and learn from the many families who have gone before us. Through each family’s account of their travels, we’ve come to appreciate the value of taking your time in a place.
About a month ago, as we began to focus on our air tickets and our itinerary, we started to let go of places. I’m quite sure we’ll have to let go of more. It hasn’t been easy, but ultimately, we believe it will be worth it.
After much consideration, we purchased four OneWorld round the world tickets. We considered other options, but decided the OneWorld alliance and product worked best for us.
One important note for others who may be considering a OneWorld ticket: The fare rules are changing, effective June 1, 2008. Travelers will be limited to sixteen segments instead of twenty. There may be other changes, so be sure to do your homework.
In going with OneWorld, we have given up some flexibility in exchange for some certainty, particularly in the quality of the airlines we’ll be flying.
Under our fare rules, we have 365 days to complete our travel. We can change the date and time of our flights for no charge. We can change our itinerary (i.e., the cities we fly to) for $125 per ticket, per change. Overall, I think it’s quite reasonable.
We haven’t done a detailed plan for each country we plan to visit, but here’s a basic outline, subject to change.
(I’ll say in advance, any advice, recommendations or travel tips will be greatly appreciated).
May 9, 2008 11 Comments
When we sat down to dinner I told the kids I had bought our airline tickets. They knew what that meant. Dad wasn’t kidding about this trip.
Caroline cut to the heart of the matter for all of us: “That makes me feel excited… and queasy.”
May 9, 2008 Comments Off
For the past 25 years my friend Jamie has given me one consistent piece of advice: “Go big or stay home.”
Depending on the context this advice has taken on different meanings. For example, when Jamie says it during a game of golf he means, “Go ahead, cut that dogleg – you can take your tee shot over those trees.”
If we were out for a night on the town, the phrase (a taunt, really) would mean something all together different. But we’ll save that discussion for another time – this is, after all, a family travel blog.
Still, Jamie’s advice was ringing in my ears when I picked up the phone to dial the OneWorld alliance to book our round-the-world tickets. I was about as nervous as a person could be. My stomach was in knots. My hands were sweating.
I kept repeating to myself: “Go big or stay home.”
So here’s what I did. I gave the ticketing agent my credit card number. In return, she gave me a confirmation number. Bottom line, we now have four round the world airline tickets.
Our tickets allow twenty travel segments and will take us to five continents. (We expect to hit our sixth continent by land.)
Here’s the basic itinerary:
May 7, 2008 15 Comments
We’ve been looking for an opportunity to do a “dry run” trip to test traveling with our packs, to experience a sample RTW week on the road and to work on a few editorial ideas for the blog.
In the back of our minds we have been targeting the kids’ Spring Break week for a trip that would test our road-worthiness.
When our friends offered us the use of their Brooklyn brownstone while they were on a ski vacation, we jumped at the chance. What better place to test ourselves than New York City?
Rumor has it, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.
We’ve got our Lonely Planet guide book and intend to spend the week seeing the sights (some off the beaten path). We’re going to try to live on a “road budget” (OK, the way high end of our RTW daily allowance – it is New York after all). And we want to experiment with a few different types of blog posts – the kind we hope to be publishing regularly on the road.
Over the next several weeks we’ll post the content we develop in New York. Hopefully this will give us a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. Constructive criticism will be necessary and welcome.
March 25, 2008 1 Comment
I’m not out on the Internet looking for trouble. I went to the CDC web site to research the recommended vaccines for the places we plan to travel. I never knew there were so many exotic diseases that could kill or permanently maim you.
When I talked to my doctor and to our children’s pediatrician, both recommended that we see a travel medical specialist to discuss vaccines. There are a number of specialists in the Washington DC area, and after checking around a bit, Dani and I made an appointment at Passport Health.
As we sat through an hour consultation talking about malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, rabies and Japanese encephalitis, I kept stealing glances at Dani to make sure I wasn’t losing her. I know she hates shots, and I must admit, she remained remarkably calm.
The nurse was looking through our prospective itinerary, cross-checking it against her chart that displayed the CDC’s recommended vaccines. Each time she identified another shot we would need, she would lay on the desk another CDC fact sheet describing the benefits of the vaccine and the potential horrors that awaited anyone foolish enough to not take it.
Then she shared with us a booklet containing advice for staying healthy abroad. It included 28 specific recommendations.
January 28, 2008 5 Comments
For most of 2007 U.S. citizens faced frustrating delays getting new passports or simply renewing old passports that were about to expire. Apparently the U.S. State Department wasn’t prepared to handle the record number of applications that resulted from a change in travel rules requiring Americans to have passports for to travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
Imagine my surprise when we were able to renew our children’s passports in just seven days. It may have been my most painless, efficient interaction with the U.S. government ever.
I was so impressed by the State Department’s handling of the passport renewal I thought I would spend some time on their web site familiarizing myself with the travel information and services they provide.
First I checked out their travel alerts and warnings. I read their ominously labeled “Worldwide Caution.” Just to be fully briefed, I read their “Avian Flu Update” and the memo on “International Travel Scams.”
Then I delved into a few of their “country-specific” reports. This quote is fairly typical:
“…Crime, including violent crime, has increased over the last few years… Incidents include pickpocketing; mugging; “snatch and grab” thefts of mobile phones, watches and jewelry; and theft of unattended bags, especially at airports and from cars parked at restaurants, hotels and resorts…
“Pickpockets target tourists, especially at historic sites, restaurants, on buses, and trains… Walking in isolated areas, including public parks, especially after dark, should also be avoided, as these provide advantageous venues for muggers and thieves….
“Travelers should not leave drinks unattended in bars and nightclubs. There have been some instances of drinks being spiked with illegal substances, leading to incidents of robbery and rape.”
That’s the report on London.
After spending time on the State Department web site, it’s a wonder any American would leave their house, let alone the country.
January 21, 2008 2 Comments