A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Category — Reflection

Father’s Day

Layered Fields

My father was 51 when he died.

In the year after his death, he appeared to me regularly in vivid dreams. But one day he stopped appearing; later I stopped dreaming all together.

A few weeks ago, after nearly twenty years, he reappeared in a dream:

I was on a bus. Something like a school bus. My father, my brother, me.

I was sitting next to my father — his younger, healthier self. My brother was in the seat in front of us.

My father and I were arguing about something. I’m not sure what. I was getting more and more frustrated. I couldn’t get him to understand or agree with me.

Finally, exasperated, I got up. I moved several seats ahead and sat staring out the window at a field that stretched on forever.

The bus rolled on and on.

After a while my father moved forward, sat down beside me, put his hand on my shoulder. We looked each other in the eye, but neither said a word.

We rode on together, through the fields, in silence.

And I, still dreaming, found comfort in that.

June 15, 2008   2 Comments

The End of the Beginning

A new American Idol was crowned. The LOST season finale has come and gone. The long wait for Indiana Jones 4 is over. And the Democrat primaries have produced a worthy nominee.

The first half of the year simply disappeared.

Now, with Caroline completing middle school and Conor finishing elementary school, we have arrived at the end of the beginning of our adventure.

Last week a friend advised me, quite rightly, to stop planning. No more surfing the Internet late at night, checking bus schedules from Iguazu Falls to Salta, Argentina.

No, there are more immediate concerns, like getting a rental property insurance rider for our house and renewing my driver’s license.

But before we focus fully on final preparations, Dani and I wanted to congratulate Caroline and Conor for successfully navigating the many hazards of another school year.

These were particularly emotional promotion ceremonies, and we offer our sincere thanks to the very dedicated teachers who have taught our children over the past nine years.

Conor Graduation

Caroline Graduation

June 13, 2008   5 Comments

Dani Weighs In


As I drove Conor home from school, the car’s GPS screen tracked our every move. Some people may feel spied on by global positioning devices, but the feeling I’m inside a map makes me feel safe.

The clear criss-cross of roads and curvy lanes makes me feel sure of myself. Instead of a messy-haired mom in sweatpants, I am a bright red arrow moving steadily in the right direction.

The map in my head is a bit like our car’s GPS, except my range is infinitely smaller. My little mental map allows me to drive anywhere in my well-defined radius: the kids’ schools, the grocery store, library, friends’ houses. From the top of my street, a left takes me to town and a right to the beltway.

And, really, where else could I possibly want to go?

[

February 26, 2008   4 Comments

“Nobody Wants To Hear About Your Trip”

Recently a friend told me a story that struck a chord:

My father worked for an airline. I grew up in the days when employees and their families could fly free – or nearly free.

So my family did something no other family in my neighborhood could do. When we went on vacation, we flew. To Florida. The Caribbean. California. One year, we even went to Hawaii.

It sounds like it would have been a great perk for a kid, but for our family, it generated feelings approaching shame because it made us different. It made us stand out.

I remember once, I was about nine or ten, we planned to go to Disneyland in California. I was so excited about the trip, but my father forbid me to tell anyone where we were going.

‘Don’t say a word about it,’ he said. ‘People will think you are showing off.’

So we go on this trip, and it is great. Every kid’s dream. When we come home, I asked my mother if I could tell my friend Andy about Disneyland.

My mother looked at me and softly said, ‘Sweetie, nobody wants to hear about your trip.’”

This may sound strange coming from a person who has created a blog to document a trip, but I understand where the parents in the story are coming from. I’m not saying I agree – but I understand.

It’s one reason Dani and I have been very circumspect about discussing our trip. We both hear that voice inside our heads: “Nobody wants to hear about your trip.”

[

February 13, 2008   12 Comments

The Kindness of Strangers

I spent the decade from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s working in politics, a business where information is considered a weapon.

I learned to guard what I knew, to not share it with anyone, not even my co-workers or clients, because you never knew what piece of information might one day enable your success – or hasten your failure.

In the mid 1990s I moved into the corporate world, working primarily as a consultant to mid- to large companies. I had the opportunity to get a glimpse into the workings of companies in dozens of different industries, from aging industrial conglomerates to high-tech businesses.

Perhaps I was naïve, but I was surprised to find how closely corporate America guarded the most basic information – not just from people outside their companies, but from people within their companies, from colleagues, bosses and employees.

The thinking in politics and business, I suppose, was the same: Information is the coin of the realm – be careful how you spend it. Never share it willingly. Because you never know when you may need it to gain advantage.

What a breath of fresh air it has been to talk to travelers.

Since I started planning this trip, I have reached out to complete strangers. I have solicited advice with nothing to offer in return. I have asked stupid, naïve questions.

And I have been greeted all around with openness, honesty and a generosity of spirit. Every person I have contacted has responded thoughtfully, in detail and with a sincere desire to help.

Let me share two examples.

[

January 28, 2008   Comments Off on The Kindness of Strangers

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?

[

December 18, 2007   5 Comments


RTW Fortune.jpg

The fortune cookie was the final sign.

Months earlier I had casually raised the subject with my wife over lunch at a local Latin American restaurant. “Would you think I was crazy if I said we should take a year off, pull the kids out of school, and travel around the world?”

I couldn’t tell if Dani was humoring me or if she really meant it when she said: “Sounds interesting. Could we really do it?”

Once I voiced what I had been thinking, the signs began to appear.

It started with my son. One day, out of the blue, he said to me, “Dad, I know what I want to do when I grow up.”

“What’s that?”

“I want to travel around the world, talk to people, listen to their stories, then use what they tell me to make up new stories.”

Conor was ten.

Weeks later, I brought up the possibility of a trip around the world at dinner. I was sure my daughter, Caroline, would object. She has never enjoyed change. Years earlier, when we were thinking about moving to a new house in the same community, she’d objected so strongly I thought she would have a meltdown at the mere thought of moving less than a mile away.

But she didn’t object. She wanted to hear more. What exactly was I talking about?

Weeks passed and we continued to talk about it in pairs, threesomes, and when we all gathered for dinner.

It began to feel like it was all we talked about. It was our family secret – we were sworn to talk about it only to each other. The idea seemed so crazy, we didn’t dare tell anyone else.

One night we got Chinese take-out. Over dinner I asked Caroline how she felt about the idea of the trip now. She would be heading into high school, and it would probably impact her more than any one else.

She said: “Dad, I’ve thought a lot about this. And the way I feel right now, I’m scared to go. But I also know I’ll be really disappointed if we don’t go.”

Then Caroline broke open her fortune cookie. It said: “You will step on the soil of many countries.”

And that, for me, was the final sign.

After my son had, at age ten, expressed my childhood dream in a more direct, articulate way than I could have. After my daughter pinpointed the emotions I felt, and put her finger on the fear of the unknown that had stopped me in the past.

After my wife had said to me, in so many words, I’m up for an adventure with you.

We passed the fortune around the table. I called for a family vote: “All in favor of taking a year off to travel around the world, raise your hand.”

Four hands shot up.

November 1, 2007   26 Comments

Creative Commons License