It isn't easy disengaging from our grown up life. About two years ago I (Loey) started making noises about taking a really huge trip, to see the world and to let go of everything we have here in order to do it. Kind of like Siddhartha Guatama as he quested for enlightenment before becoming the Buddha, or Moses traipsing off into the desert. Except this trip has no religious overtones, and it's a lot harder selling a home, quitting a job and leaving your life while bringing along an eight year old than just wandering away from the tent or palace.
What we are hoping to do is take at least a year off, maybe more while adopting the nomadic life. We are leaving Portland in August 2005, first to visit Andy's family for a mini-reunion in Bozeman Montana, and then flying from there via Seattle to Japan. Our route should be Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, India, New Zealand, Australia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and then over to Central America. After New Zealand the trip planning gets a little fuzzy because it's so far away, and we're really not sure what countries we will be able to visit, what ones will be safer/saner than others and where we will want to sit and park ourselves for awhile. That is part of the beauty of this trip, there are no hard agendas we must follow, and we can alternate our routes as the desire hits.
We are not the first or only family to do this. I have been doing quite a bit of research on trips like this and there are a couple of great books and websites that pioneer round- the- world (rtw) families have created. One of the better known books is One Year Off
, by David Elliot Cohen. In it, David has a mid-life awakening and decides to take his wife, three kids and the kids sitter on a round the world journey. It's a fun read in the form of e-mail dispatches that he sent to friends and family. Another good book is Monkey Dancing
by Daniel Glick. Daniel takes his 13 year old son and 8 year old daughter on a trip around the world that takes 5 months. His goal is not only to process a painful divorce he and his wife have just had, (and the recent death of his brother) but also to show his kids some of the great natural wonders of the world before they're bulldozed over for more Walmarts, or factories that create stuff for Walmarts.
I've encountered a couple of websites on-line, that families who have traveled rtw have created. One well-designed one was by the British family, the Flemmings who spent a year abroad with their two kids www.rfleming.net
. It is especially interesting to read what they thought of the United States. One that we especially liked was done by an American family who left Alaska, traveled for a year, and then resettled in Portland. Their site is at www.worldhop.com
. The really cool thing is that we have met this brave couple, George and Sally, through our mutual friends Daksha and Suzanne, and they spent an afternoon with us over tea and cobbler telling us about their adventure. It has been very helpful just talking to people who have made a similar life change that we are going to make. Like a seasoned parent to a new parent, they understand the reasons, the challenges and the support needed to embark on this kind of journey. But before we can take that first step, we must tackle a to-do list as long as the route from here to China, or at least Salem.
At this point Dylan and I have been totally immunized for every tropical disease there is a vaccination for, except Yellow Fever (only because we are not planning on going into sub-saharan Africa). The trauma of these vaccinations have hit Dylan and I in different ways. She has screamed, cried, hid under the chair, begged for sugar, and generally acted like we've tortured her for the sheer joy of it. The rabies vaccination was especially painful and she shed huge "Alice in Wonderland" like tears over all three that she had to endure. Aside from a few whimpers, the physical pain of the shots I endured was mild compared to the sticker shock once I had to pay for them each time. Let's just say immunizations for overseas travel is not cheap! We went to our local travel clinic which is fairly reasonable but at $159.00 per rabies shot, (and we each need three) plus the shots for Japanese encephalitis, hep A&B, the oral typhoid, just for the two of us it's well over $3,000.00! And Andy hasn't completed his shots yet! Fortunately our insurance covered the tetanus, mmr, and polio boosters.
We've had our shots, we have our passports with semi-flattering photos, we've had our health and dental check ups, the will has been updated, and all of our ducks are slowly getting lined up in a row. So what's left? Oh yeah, paying for this! In a typical American fashion, we are lousy savers. Yes we have the 401(k) (which we would not touch for this) but on the whole the money for this trip is coming from the sale of our house and personal belongings. We live in a lovely English Cottage style home in a nice part of Northeast Portland and we have about 5 years of equity in our place. Five years is the longest Andy and I have lived anywhere together, and so it doesn't seem too crazy for us to move somewhere new. The housing market is still pretty hot here, and to our advantage, and quite truthfully Andy and I would make really lousy landlords. We don't want to worry about our stuff or our home and it will just cause us undue stress to find out about a leaky toilet while we're in Thailand. Plus, we're not even sure when or even if we will return to Portland since we are both open to the idea of working overseas after this trip. Yes, we realize it is unsettling for many to think about not having a home to come back to, or not knowing what kind of job we will take, or even bailing out of the great American dream, which is our life. We have the lovely house, the cute kid, the newish car, the great job, the ability for me not to work, why do we want to mess with that and stick a big ole' finger in the pot? Because it's an adventure and the closest thing we come by adventure in our life is watching the Amazing Race on TV. Because we are always curious, and our curiosity has stirred us off the porch swing to see what's going on around the block, and because it's something we both want to do so much(honestly I haven't had to con Andy into wanting this, he just needed some "gentle" guidance) that if we didn't do this when we could, I worry about myself becoming a really mean bitter person when I'm older, constantly regretting that we chickened out of what we really wanted to do. So to put it into that perspective, why not sell the house, the cars, and the furniture we don't need, or that wont fit into our 10x10 storage unit, and pay for this trip up front, rather than chain ourselves to an uncertain future with huge financial debts?
That said, the house goes on the market on April 5th! Should we sell quickly and need to get out, we plan on renting something through July close to where we live now.