Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Portland Oregon USA: The final dispatch

Most of us have dreamed, if just for a moment, of chucking life's encumbrances and wandering free through exotic ports of mystery and magic.
--Theodorea Nelson and Andrea Gross

How do you end a trip like this? A trip that circumnavigated the planet, with enough total miles to circle the earth more than two times? A trip where we touched down on 28 countries, learned how to say hello in over 20 languages, and where we come back, to quote my friend Chris, “with a whole basketful of experiences”?

We return to where we started. It’s a bit anti-climatic but more poetic to go back to the city we love, where we have friends, where everyone knows your name (at least at Milo’s) and where we had made a home during the previous 12 years. We returned to Portland Oregon on June 13th, exactly a year from the date that we handed the keys over to our home and set out on this adventure. The first part was house-sitting, couch surfing and massaging the overseas part of the trip into launch mode while in Oregon, Colorado and Montana, but then we got to finally board our first international flight of the trip last August and the rest, as they say, is history.

Like every traveler, from Ernest Shackleton to Edmund Hillary, from Captain Cook to the fictitious Phileas Fogg, we set off to seek the world and came home only finding ourselves. Even now--before getting jobs, housing, cars, and all the accouterments of the American life--we realize how easy it seems to slide back into the place we were before. We have different priorities now: a smaller home is fine, renting is fine for a while, and we aren’t in a hurry to open up the storage unit full of boxes, let alone add to the piles of stuff in there. Chucking life’s encumbrances seemed easy and freeing and I think we kind of hesitate to embrace them again since that means the trip is truly over.

The immediate fears we had about getting hurt, getting really sick, or even getting killed on this trip were never realized, thank the gods, but what is more liberating is that we no longer have the fear of not having done it. For that reason alone we have no regrets and it was worth the money, the time, the frustrations, the bouts of homesickness, the culture shock, the sense of discombobulation and the fact that most of the time we lived with no more than we could carry on our backs. In fact, if we have any fears now, it’s that we didn’t stay away long enough, that we didn’t see every place we wanted to see, that we didn’t try harder to find a home overseas and that we let our time in Asia (mostly China) rule how we reacted to the rest of the trip.

What can we say? We’ve seen so many places, the historical and the modern. We’ve encountered so many people, 99.9 % of them pretty friendly and helpful, and we’ve come away with the most important lesson of all, that we are not the only people on this planet. Of course, intellectually you don’t need to travel as we did to know that, but the lessons really hit home when you are looking at clear cuts in New Zealand being sold to the Chinese, or anxiously awaiting a stop light to change so that you can get by the seven year old beggars who keep tapping at your car window while sitting in traffic in Mumbai. However we paint the picture, it will look different than life here in the USA, and in most cases there are no judgment calls to be made of better or worse, just different. Perhaps Mark Twain summed it up best when he said “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” We can’t say that we’ve conquered all of our prejudice or narrow-mindedness (we still wonder at the lack of root beer or a decently cooked egg in most of the world), and we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface in learning who we are as Americans and where we fit into the rest of the world, outside of the Bush/Cheney agenda of American hegemony. But for ourselves we know that we will soon pick up where we left off in Portland, seeing friends, arranging play dates for Dylan, going to work, the whole kit and caboodle, and the trip will be condensed to stories we remind each other about, stories we share with others, and stories we hope to create as we continue to cast our nets out into the world. Because once you’ve gotten wanderlust, it never goes away and there will be another trip--in a month, a week, a year--that demands to be taken.

Until then, the first order of business is to get a place to live. Since we sold our house (a decision that we don’t regret in the least), we need a new place to call home until we can settle into work and hopefully a new house.

But we come back to changes. Dylan will be attending the Arbor School in Tualatin starting in September, after sitting three years on a waiting list. While she is hesitant to leave her friends once again, she is at least willing to give it a try. The fact that there was a pet rat in a classroom when she visited Arbor doesn’t hurt.

Since we’ve joined the ranks of the 45 million uninsured Americans and also hope to buy a house again, Andy is already working on a job search. It helps being in Portland where he can follow up on applications and make appointments for interviews and networking.

As for me, well, there’s a lot on my to-do list. I have plans to write a book about the trip, not only because my wonderful friends and family keep encouraging me to produce one based on the blogs, but because once you start fulfilling one dream, the others seem do-able, and I’ve been dreaming of making writing my “paying” career for a long time. Should the needs arise (private school, a new home) with the money slow to appear, I may find myself working the stacks at Powell’s, or pushing KitchenAid mixers during the holiday rush, but my priority remains to make the writing a paying gig.

Sharing our adventures has been one of the joys of our trip and we thank you for subscribing, reading and passing the blog along to your friends. We are especially grateful for the emails we received on the road, encouraging us when we were down (like in Cambodia or Xi’an China) and sharing the “local” news. You were touchstones for us at very lonely times and we are grateful for your support. Our final word and caution is to not take all we say to heart. Don’t judge a place by what you’ve heard from us or by what you’ve read, but if you desire, get out there and see it for yourselves. It may deplete your pocket book but it only makes you richer. Until then, safe journeys to wherever your final destination may be…


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