Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In January 2006, three and one half years ago, I said to Marty, "If we are ever going to take this trip, we had better start planning it." At that point I really wasn't convinced that this trip would ever occur but I was certain of one thing, if we didn't start planning it, then for sure it would never happen. Just thinking about it or even talking about it was not going to make it a reality.

As we started to make plans in earnest, book flights, arrange for accommodations, obtain VISAs...it became clear that this trip was really going to happen - sort of. I still found myself saying "We are PLANNING on taking a trip around the world." It was so difficult for me to say "We ARE taking a trip around the world." Even at this late date was I still scared that it wasn't going to happen? Or, was I scared that it really was going to happen?

Well, it did happen. Of course I don't need to tell you that, you watched it unfold right here on this blog. And the most amazing thing of the whole year was just that; that it did happen. We took a dream and made it into a reality. We didn't let the myriad of obstacles that could have gotten in our way, get in our way. We didn't let the abundance of emotional issues that surfaced stop us either.

Taking this trip was the biggest thing that I have ever done in my life. And at this stage of my life, it may be the biggest thing that I will ever do. The good, the bad and the ugly of it all doesn't really matter. Just having made the trip made it a huge success. It was empowering, it made me stronger and if I can do this, I can do anything - as long as I can hold onto this feeling.

Avocet and Siena are young; they have their whole lives ahead of them. They will probably do something that will surpass this experience. That's OK. This wasn't their gig, it was ours. For them, this was a gift. An opportunity to see a world greater than the microcosm in which they live. An opportunity to have a different perspective as they grow and mature. And an opportunity to have a lifetime of memories that they can share with us.

I will miss writing this blog. For over a year now, this has been an important part of my life. Whether you were a religious follower or one who just popped on for a peek now and then, I thank you. While we will always have this blog as a family memento, knowing you were out there reading and going with us on our journey, made it that much more enjoyable to write. It was a great ride and I'm glad you all came along.


For me too, this process feels like it started decades ago. At the beginning, the onset of the trip was a lifetime away. What I didn't think about was the end of the trip. You plan for the things that must be done, the itinerary, the visas, the accommodations, etc. Those are “easy” in the long haul to work on because there is an excitement, an anticipation...even though they felt “hard” at the time. Now, after 42,000+ miles, what is there to look forward to? We won't be doing this again, at least the way it was done the first time. Av and Si's next adventure will be one of their own, maybe backpacking in their early twenties. The old farts of the family, lisa and I, will do something travel related in the future but not soon. A year on the road takes it out of you. So what is the next frontier? Job? Career? New Hobby? Volunteering? Green business? Astronaut? Run for President (not)?

I have discovered that the past year has reminded me that life is an adventure. It is too precious to not consider it so. I know that on the cusp of fifty five years of age that I don't have even forty good healthy years left. Doing something just to make money or to please someone or to conform...forget it. This year was the adventure of a lifetime. But maybe just one of the adventures. There are many more to come. It was a GREAT, GREAT year.


Sunday, June 14, 2009


We've been home for going on two days now. I still haven't adjusted. No altitude or time zone issues...it's a brain issue. I'm running on slow speed. When we unpack I do it in slow motion. I have the motivation of a slug. I do want to get stuff done but my mind and spirit are saying pole, pole (go slow, go slow in Swahili). I feel like I'm a step out of “the” world but haven't yet stepped back into “my” world. I want to talk to people about the trip but also want to shy away from it because....I really don't know why. I'm whacked!!! What I want is a simple project that I can do by myself where I don't have to talk to anyone. One whose complexity only uses 10% of my brain and can be done with a cerveza in my hand.

Being a traveler is diametrically opposed to being an efficient, functioning person of society. On the road you enjoy, observe and ponder. Being back in America requires thinking, planning, scheduling and analyzing what goes on every day. It is the sad epitome of being “local”. I guess I don't want to give up being “global” yet.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Throughout the past year, we have written numerous blog posts on people that we have met as we circumnavigated the globe. Meeting these people was certainly the highlights of our trip. We loved the sights, sounds and foods of each country we visited, but it's the people we met and the relationships we had with them that hold a special place in our hearts.

The Johnsons are no exceptions. We didn't meet them at an internet cafe or the guest house in which we were staying. They weren't sitting at a table next to us in a cafe or standing in a long immigration line right behind us. They're here. In the USA. In Cincinnati. Right across the street from where we live.

Valerie and Craig are our friends and neighbors. Valerie and Rachel (their daughter and friend of Avocet and Siena) were the last people we saw before we left for our year long adventure – they took us to the airport in June 2008. Valerie and Rachel were the first people we saw after our year long adventure – they picked us up at the airport in June 2009. While we were gone, their son Sam took care of our lawn while Rachel tended to the flower beds. The Johnsons kept an eye on the house and kept us updated on the comings and goings of our neighborhood.

The Johnsons are representative of the many friends and family that we left in Cincinnati and are now returning to. Our friends helped us out in various ways while we were gone. They kept in touch with us through emails and Skype calls. They followed our trip via pictures and blogs, and they prayed for our safe return.

It will be nice to see our house, sleep in our own beds and be surrounded by our familiar belongings. But, just like the people that we met along the way, it is the people that we left behind that will be the highlight of our return. Throughout the year, it was our friends and family who held a special place in our hearts.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Well, here it is, the moment we've been waiting for: going home day. Our bags are packed and we're ready to go, we just need a ride to the airport. We call several airport shuttle services for a quote. $70.00 for a van to take all four of us to Tampa International. We explain that a van isn't really necessary – we've had all four of us and our luggage in cars ½ that size. Be he insists that only a van will do. We have refused to pay that much for taxis in other countries and opted for public transportation but that is not an option around here. In the end, a friend of Mom's takes us to the airport and we give her $45.00. Everyone is thrilled!

For the first time in a year we had the opportunity to print boarding passes, so we go directly to the USAir “Check In Kiosk” at the airport. Upon logging in and indicating that we will each check one bag, the computer promptly lets us know that we owe $60.00 for our checked luggage. This must be some kind of mistake! We leave that line and go to the line with the human behind the desk – certainly he can rectify this situation. WRONG! Same price in this line. Let me get this straight. The outrageously expensive one way tickets we have from Tampa to Cincinnati do not include our luggage? I wonder if I will have to pay extra to bring my purse on board; our computer, the girls' dolls? I don't get it. Our previous 30 flights always included our luggage, why is it that now we are back in the USA we have to rent space for our suitcases at the rate of $15.00 per bag?

For that matter, all our other flights always included food and beverages. Even our 20 minute flight from Zanzibar to Dar Es Saalem served us a snack – GRATIS! But not here in the USA. You want food, you better fork up some cash.

How is it that everywhere else in the world they can afford to transport your luggage and feed you for free, but not here in the wealthiest country on the globe??? I really would like an answer to this one.

We have had “sticker shock” every since we arrived back in the USA. Prices have definitely gone up since we left but the increase is magnified by having come from Ecuador where things were much cheaper. But we weren't prepared for the a la carte nature of the US economy. If I order coffee is the cream now extra? How about toast? Are the butter and jam now costing $.50? Is this the USA's answer to making prices look more reasonable? Just itemize everything?

I can tell now that this culture shock is going to be an ongoing thing for a while.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Over the past year of travel, we have had our share of trials and tribulations – problems if you may. An airport security issue in Delhi, India left us standing at our airport gate for a half hour while we watched everyone else board the plane that it looked like we were going to miss; multi pickpockets in Argentina which left Marty without a drivers license, credit cards, an ATM card and cash; wandering the streets of Dubrovnik, Croatia with our luggage, lost and no one able to direct us to our apartment; traffic in Delhi which almost caused us to miss the train that we had reserved months before and might have to wait days before we could rebook... At the time they all seemed like problems. But having spent the last 12 days in Florida with my Mother, it is now so easy to see that those were not problems, they were merely trivial inconveniences of life .

A problem is a 78 year old woman who at one moment is traveling though Europe on her own and the next moment is blind. A problem is a person who needs a lot of assistance but who is still quite vital so she doesn't really belong in a nursing home or even an assisted living facility. A problem is a loved one who wants to keep her independence which means living more than 1000 miles from any of her family members. These are REAL problems. For almost two weeks now I have been trying to rearrange my Mother's life to try to make it work for her. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done: emotionally, physically, mentally and even spiritually. It has left me feeling sad, angry, frustrated, trapped and hopeless. If I feel all these feelings, I can't imagine what my Mother feels – yet she keeps plugging along, trying endlessly to recapture some of her previous life.

All those day to day encounters we have that seem so troubling, aggravating and impossible, they are simple blips on the radar screen of life. They will pass, often without any significant consequence. Losing one's health, now that's a real problem.

Monday, June 1, 2009


No one else wanted to list their favorites. Av and Si were asked repeatedly along the way "what was your favorite place"? Their answer was always "We like them all". They believe that an attempt to say what is best (and worst) would diminish the experience. I don't believe this will happen for me. I rate things. I log and score the books I read. I used to keep a daily log of how much I jogged. GEEK!!! So I have always scored and rated things. Here goes:

10) Score of 9.1 The beautiful city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. The views of the city from the fortified walls were incredible. So were the views of the Adriatic from the rocky escarpments near Dance Beach.

9) Score of 9.2 I didn't anticipate that the Leaning Tower of Pisa would be spectacular. It was. The views of the Pisa Cathedral and Baptistry from the top of the tower (leaning) at sunset were breathtaking.

8) Score of 9.2 I loved the street scenes of McLeodganj, in Northern India. The smells. The look of the older people. The beggars. The ever present burgundy robes of the Tibetan monks at ground level...and the foothills of the Himalayas up above.

7) Score of 9.2 The incredible symmetry and beauty of the Taj Mahal. Wonderfully landscaped gardens contrasted with the poverty of Agra. I expected it to be the #1 sight in the world before we left. Not quite, but it's a gorgeous world and the Taj adds to its beauty.

6) Score of 9.3 The incredible grandeur of the karst formations on our Li River outing near Yangshuo, China. They jut hundreds of feet up, solitary in their beauty. Much better than the calendars and posters in Chinese restaurants at home.

5) Score of 9.3 The beauty of hundreds of paper lanterns (kom loy) floating in the air during the festival of Loy Krathong in Thailand. The energy and gaiety of the festival added to the wonder.

4) Score of 9.3 The stunning views inside the volcanoes of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The caldera rim was bleak with beautiful vegetation growing in the lake down below. I didn't expect the scenes here to have this much of an impact on me. They did.

3) Score of 9.3 When the lions walked directly beneath my window of our Safari Land Cruiser on game day in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Incredibly gorgeous scenery and animals.

2) Score of 9.5 Gargantua del Diablo or Devil's Throat Falls inside Iguazu Falls National Park in Argentina. The extreme force of nature astounded me. Too loud to hear.

1) And the #1 sight for me with a score of 9.6 is Peron Dunes, outside the hamlet of St. Helens in Tasmania. It is an unlikely #1 since I had never heard about it before we left and even as we got to Tasmania after leaving Sydney. I walked out and saw the starkness, the mist, the deserted beach, and the dunes rising high into the sky. The outerwordliness of this place. I felt totally at peace.