Archive for the ‘About Us and This Trip’ Category

Thank You!

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

We have many people to thank for their help during this most unusual year in our lives.  Without this help, we couldn’t have pulled this off, let alone had such a great and successful year.

The original inspiration for this trip came from Dick and Patty Simon, who took their family around the world over a decade ago, and generously shared with us their experiences and perspectives.  Also, many, many others were happy to take time to provide us with advice and suggestions about places they’ve traveled.  The only way we can possibly repay such kindness is to do the same for anyone who approaches us.

Long-time family friend Kristie Jochmann, now living in Milwaukee, did so much to help us on our trip.  She managed all sorts of logistical things for us during our travels.  And she worked tirelessly to make our baseball efforts a big success — finding teams to meet, setting up the meetings, and making sure the hats and equipment we were donating made it to the recipients.  The challenges of working with customs officials throughout the world are enormous, and Kristie made everything happen flawlessly.

We could not have made this trip without the great assistance of Jacqui McCoy, Kate Bragg, Jayne Casey, and Maria Cella of Paul-McCoy Family Office Services.  Historically, they have handled all sorts of tax and financial issues for us, but went above and beyond during our year abroad.

Our travel planners, Samantha (Sam) McClure and Maggie Harshbarger of Small World Travel in Austin, Texas, took on the challenge of planning out this trip with very little lead time.  They worked tirelessly to put together our itinerary, and let us focus on our travels, instead of trying to pull together all sorts of complicated logistics from the road (generally from a third-world country).  While there were some bumps in the proverbial road during this trip, we really appreciate everything that SWT did for us.   This amazing experience would not have been possible without them.

We loved working on our blogs and website as we traveled.  We couldn’t have pulled that off without great technical help from David Cancel, Andy Payne, and Julia Holland.  Julia runs a small consulting firm in California (Blue Penguin Consulting) and really took care of so many things on the fly.  We’ll have a lasting cyber-memory of our trip, and couldn’t have possibly pulled all of this together without such great help.

All of our family members, especially our mothers, were so supportive during our travels.  Not seeing grandchildren for most of a year is not the easiest thing to be enthusiastic about, but they were so excited for us and our adventure, which made the trip a joy.  And special thanks to the Yandow’s for taking care of our fifth family member, our dog Scallop, who couldn’t make the trip with us, but had a great home in Needham for the past ten months!

Finally, we want to thank the many thousands of people we met along the way.  People everywhere were just incredibly kind and enthusiastic, and helped enrich our trip in so many ways.   It was a great privilege for us to learn so much about the lives of people throughout our great world, and we thank the people who shared so much with us.

And, now that we’re back, we will thank in advance everyone who will help us with re-entry to a normal life.  We suspect we won’t adjust all that readily to it, but our family and friends here mean so much to us, and we hope they’ll be tolerant of this wayward family returning to life in the U.S.

Fenway Park!

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

On a memorable Saturday night, August 16th, we were fortunate enough to be a part of the Boston Red Sox pre-game ceremonies at Fenway Park.  We had kept the Red Sox up to date on our around-the-world trip, particularly the baseball aspect.  And they had helped us initially with a set of overseas contacts that we pursued to find the right groups to meet with.

Summer, 2008 439 We were lucky in that the night before’s game was rained out.  Our game had one brief shower around the third inning, but otherwise had gorgeous weather.  We got there early, and were able to go down on the field to watch batting practice.  Gibson got Vernon Wells’ autograph, and we got great looks at many of the players, including David Ortiz.  And I for one was relieved to go to Fenway without the prospect of watching Manny Ramirez, and loved watching Jason Bay.

Summer, 2008 461 Before the game, they put a few of the photographs from our trip up on the scoreboard.  I’m not sure how many of the fans knew what the context was, but it was exciting for us to see some of the kids we had given hats and equipment to featured at Fenway Park.   I wish that the many kids we had met along the way could have been there to see their own photos in an American baseball park.

Summer, 2008 465 The highlight of the night for us was having Gibson throw out the first pitch.  They gave him the choice of throwing from in front of the mound, or throwing from the regulation location.  He opted to throw from where the pro baseball players pitch.  The first pitch took place just a couple of minutes before the start of the game, so the park was almost at capacity.  And with more than 30,000 people looking on, Gibson wound up and threw a strike from the same mound where many great pitchers over the year have stared down at batters.  He left the field beaming, and it was a great moment for all of us.

Copy of IMG_2296[2] I got several e-mails during the game from friends who were at Fenway that night by coincidence and had watched the pre-game ceremony.  One came from Ross Garber, who was at the game with his son.  Ross lives in Austin, Texas, and I first met him when I invested in his company, Vignette, about ten years ago.  Vignette went on to be a big success, and Ross and I have stayed in good contact ever since.  He had tracked us on our trip, and it was great to have him at the game.  And they were sitting right on top of the Green Monster, and he was able to get this great picture of Gibson throwing out the first pitch.  Minutes later, Ross caught a home run hit by Alex Rios, so Ross had a great visit to Fenway.

Summer, 2008 468 The night at Fenway was a complete thrill for the four of us, and a great way to end the baseball phase of our trip around the world.  We thank the Red Sox organization for their enthusiasm for what we did, and we especially thank our contact, Adam Grossman, for his interest in our initiative, and his being kind enough to arrange for us to be part of August 16′s pre-game ceremonies.

Check out a video of Gibson’s first pitch or our Fenway Park picture album.

Home!!

Friday, June 20th, 2008

IMG_1662And just like that, it was over.  We hopped on a plane in London’s Heathrow, had an uneventful flight to Logan, and touched ground again in New England, more or less exactly where we left from ten months ago.  In some ways not that much had changed.  Same four people, same eight suitcases.  To the right above, we have the before photo, and below right the “after” photo.

North America on Big Trip 001In other respects, a lot had changed.  During this ten month journey, we did the following:

  • Continents: 7
  • Countries: 37
  • Airplane trips: 99
  • Lost luggage 0
  • Late flights 2
  • Air miles: 103,128
  • Places stayed: 112
  • Items stolen 0
  • Bird species: 1204
  • Mammal species: 166
  • Reptiles and Amphibians: 175
  • Red Sox hats given away: 760
  • Continents in which Gibson lost a tooth: 5

North America on Big Trip 007 Once on the ground, we headed out the Needham, MA, to the home of Elizabeth’s cousin Julie Hazard Yandow.  The Yandow’s were kind enough to take care of our dog Scallop during our time abroad, and gave Scallop a fabulous and loving home.  We were a bit worried that our dog wouldn’t recognize us, but she seemed to still know who we were.  Anyway, we are most grateful for the Yandow’s for taking care of Scallop, since we could have never left without being sure she was in great hands.  And Scallop will get to see her second family from time to time this summer in Rhode Island, which she very much looks forward to!

So we’re now back in Jamestown, Rhode Island, and are catching up with our friends and family.  We got back in time to see the Celtics trounce the Lakers for the NBA Championship.  And I’ve already made a trip out to Chicago, and gotten reacquainted with the misery of domestic airlines.   I wish I could say unequivocally that it’s great to be back home, but it’s not.  But if we had to pick a place to be, Jamestown is the best place we could spend the summer! 

Wanted: A Great Generation

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I may be wrong, but I believe the world is in grave trouble.  I felt this way before our trip, and am more convinced now.  I fear that our nation lacks the wherewithal to make the hard decisions and sacrifices to reverse so many troubling trends.   I fear our generation will be the first in our country’s history to pass on to the next generation a future that’s impaired, not improved.

During this past year, we had a wonderful opportunity to explore the world.  We wanted our trip to be educational, not an extended vacation.  We wanted to see for ourselves the greatness in the world, but also to see its challenges, its sadness, and its horror.  And we did.

We saw nature at its most spectacular.  We saw stunning accomplishments of ancient civilizations.  We saw beautiful cities, remarkable works of art, and advanced technologies.  And we saw the joy and hope in so many people, many of whom live in poverty.  It was inspiring. 

We also saw the unmistakable signs of global warming.  Acute deforestation.   Pollution in places like Beijing, where air quality gets worse by the minute.  The oppression of Tibet.  Indescribably poor townships and villages.  Children growing up without education, struggling to find daily food and water.  Auschwitz.  And the damaged state of our country’s standing abroad.

I was born in 1952.  Elizabeth’s and my parents were part of America’s Greatest Generation.  All four parents sacrificed immensely during World War II, with both fathers in combat and both mothers working in the U.S. to support the war effort.  Their lives have been ones of dedicated sacrifice to make sure their children had a better future.  They succeeded at that goal. 

I am embarrassed that my generation may be the first in our country’s history to hand our children a degraded future.  We’ve swept a pile of dirt the size of Mount Everest under the rug, while the planet is in peril.  It’s like living in a house that’s burning down, while we bicker over whether to watch “American Idol” or “Wife Swap.” 

As I said, I may be wrong.  Why worry about global warming?  Our addiction to foreign oil, in a nation of gas-guzzling SUV’s?  The staggering U.S. debt that threatens our financial underpinning?  Increasing foreign control of our economy, jeopardizing our ability to stand up to atrocity?  The fool’s errand called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” that has poisoned the world’s view of the U.S.?  The accelerating divide between the rich and the poor?  

Sixty-four years ago,  our greatest generation led the way to saving the free world, built the U.S. economy, and re-built Europe.  Now, our government earns the scorn and enmity of people all around the world for our failed foreign policy and our lack of discipline or resolve.   We are on our way to being one of the most irresponsible generation in the world’s history.  In contrast to Saint Luke’s words, “Unto whom much is given, much shall be required,” we have been given much, but just want more. 

What will it take to reverse these trends, to pass on to our children a future better than what we inherited?   Certainly not business as usual.  Not if we continue to focus on our own narrow self interests.  And not without compelling objectives that we achieve through ingenuity, shared sacrifice, and collaboration.  We need, more than ever before, a great generation to step forward, to lead us, and the world, forward to create a better world for the future.

So we are now at end of our ten-month round-the-world journey.  But we also mark the beginning of our next, less-defined journey into the future.  I struggle today to say what impact our trip will have on each of us.  My fervent hope, though, is that it will influence each of us to stretch, to help fight immense challenges, and to begin turning back a tide that threatens to sink our future.

Our Last Week

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

One week from right now, we’ll be approaching our house in Jamestown, Rhode Island.  We were last there on August 21, 2007, when we left for this family adventure.  So many thoughts run through our minds as we approach the end of this fabulous journey.  Yet we’re staying very focused on our last week, as we travel through Europe.

We are focusing our attention during our time in Europe on places related to World War II and the Greatest Generation.  We have visited Winston Churchill’s bunker in London where he directed British troops during World War II, and we visited Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam, where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years.  Tomorrow, we’ll spend the day at Auschwitz.  Then Paris and Normandy.  So it will be a very powerful last week.

Despite traveling non-stop for about ten months, none of us are tired.  We’re not tired of traveling, the frequent packing and flying have worn well, and we’re going out with a bang.  Even when we get home, rest will be short-lived, since I stay one night in Jamestown, am in Chicago for two nights for Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee, back in Jamestown for two nights, and then to Vienna, Virginia, (we’re in Vienna, Austria, as I write this) for a mini-family reunion. 

Elizabeth and I are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary tonight.  We were just talking about it, and after this year, we’ve easily had three decades of great shared experience together.  We’ve been together almost 24/7 for ten months in a row, and could easily sign up for another trip like this at some point down the road!

Anyway, back to getting ready for tomorrow’s trip.

The Very Expensive Disposable Nikon

Tuesday, March 4th, 2008

A long time ago, Paul Simon wrote a song with the line, “I got a Nikon camera” in it.  Well, I won’t ever hear that song the same way.

In the first part of our trip, I used a Canon S3, with pretty good results.  For Christmas, though, my big “gift” was a Nikon D40X high-end camera.  Not quite an SLR, but a bigger digital camera with multiple detachable lenses, including a powerful zoom lens.  I thought it would be worth the extra weight to have that kind of camera on the part of our trip that includes safaris in Africa.

I have been using the Nikon D40XS cameras (yes, sadly, plural, not singular) since the beginning of January, and it has taken great pictures.  Last week, though, I reported on the dreaded error message I got — “Error:  Press shutter release button again.”  Translation in the User’s Manuel — “You’fe totally hosed.”  The camera completely stopped functioning after we were just two days into our Antarctic Expedition.

But temporary good luck arrived.  The one town we visited on ou4 2 1/2 week Antarctic trip was a small town called Stanley, the capital of the Falklands.  Only one store there carries cameras, and they had three good cameras for sale.  One was a high-end Canon Rebel, but of course the size of lenses for it is incompatible with my expensive Nikon lenses.  And they didn’t carry any Canon bigger lenses, so that was a no go.  The second model was a Panasonic , which looked inferior to my old Canon, so I ruled that out.  BUt I was in “luck.”  They had the exact Nikon D40X that had just broken for me.

So I rationalized my way into buying yet another Nikon camera.  I said, “How likely is a second one to break again?”  And I said, “Boy, it just can’t break again in a matter of days.”  But, yesterday, I learned my Nikon lesson the hard way.  My six-day-old Nikon D40X also broke, frozen on a command requiring me to set the time zone for the camera.  I’ve tried every reset command that exists, and nothing brings the camera back to life.

So I’m looking for a great big box, and I’m going to ship all of my Nikon camera equipment back to the factory.  It was a very expensive misfire, and I’m now left in the Antarctic with a very basic point and click.  When I get back to civilization, I’ll buy yet another new camera, but would never buy another Nikon.  Hard to believe I could go through two Nikons in seven weeks!  Ouch!!!!

Then and Now

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I traveled to Argentina and Chile years ago (1987 and 1991) and return now.  There have been changes in these countries, to be sure.  But there have been far more dramatic changes in my life as a traveler.

Twenty years ago, the only electronics I traveled with was a cassette-playing Walkman, with a stack of music tapes.  I was out of the U.S. for three weeks on two separate trips, and had almost no contact with back home.   Even hotel or pay phones were quite difficult to use, so I was almost entirely isolated from circumstances back home.

In 1987, I was in Argentina during the stock-market crash in October.  I only heard about it days later, and that was in a hotel lobby in Buenos Aires where there were newspapers available — all in Spanish.  But anyone could read the stock tables, and see the drastic declines.  I recall seeing this sea of Americans (mostly older tourists) taking in the news with looks of shock and fear on their faces.  Since my only stock position at the time was a sizable short position, the crash didn’t ruin my trip :-) , but it clearly was traumatic for most Americans with their retirements tied up in a plummeting stock market.

In 1991, I spent three weeks in Chile in late January and early February.  I was back-packing in Torres del Paine, a national park in the bottom of Chile (where we are again right now!), and met some fellow Americans who had a short-wave radio.  On a Sunday night, we were able to listen to the Super Bowl (New York Giants against the Buffalo Bills) for most of the game.  But we lost reception with about five minutes to go, and I didn’t find out who won the game for another two weeks when I returned to the U.S. (and it was a very close game that the Giants ultimately won). 

On this 2008 trip, I’m in constant, easy contact with the U.S.  I’m traveling with a blackberry, a laptop, and an iPod.  Most places have great blackberry coverage, and I often respond to e-mails in real time.  I have been able to get internet access almost everywhere for my laptop, so I’m current on developments in the U.S. and abroad.  And my blackberry gets internet access regularly, so we stay up-to-speed on events in real time (including following Red Sox games during the season) even when we’re out hiking or touring a city. 

I spend a fair amount of time on e-mail each day (probably way too much).  We watch television rarely (although English-speaking broadcasts are generally available), but have been able to catch sports or news broadcasts (primary returns) of interest.  I have a set of daily podcasts that I listen to regularly.  And occasionally, friends will call me, or I’ll check in with them.  Oh, and I make sure to call my mom from every country we visit!

I took pictures when I traveled here two decades ago, but doubt if I could ever find them.  And, while I can’t recall exactly how many photos I took (long before digital cameras), it was probably 100 or so over the course of a three week trip.  I can’t remember a whole lot about those trips, let alone where I stayed or what specifically I did.  I know which areas I visited, have some recollection of what I enjoyed, and kind of run out of gas beyond that.  And I couldn’t retrieve that information now, no matter how hard I tried looking.

On this trip, we have a family website and individual blogs, and keep them current.  My friends and family can follow where we are visiting, ask questions and give us reactions and suggestions.  The four of us take a large number of pictures daily (easily 100-200 per day), save most, store them on-line (we use Phanfare, a service we’ve been very happy with), and add the best ones on our screen-saver rotation every few days.  After dinner, (and, believe me, I know how weird this sounds), we’ll often watch the screen-saver on our laptop and race each other to identify where the picture was taken!?!?

Now, for the hard part.  Which trip experience do I prefer??  Well, if this weren’t an election year, and if I didn’t still have business responsibilities back home, the no-contact trips of the past have a certain appeal on some days.  But for the most part, the 2008-style trip is great.  We’ll save our memories for decades for our kids (and maybe even their kids) as they grow up.  We stay in touch with family and friends.  And we can still contribute to the election process, as well as follow it closely.

Hotel Design School

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

After five months, I now have come to realize that all hotel architects have attended the same school of hotel design.  This school is cloaked in a veil of secrecy that would be the envy of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.  But, after staying in some seventy hotels in recent months, and doing some behind-the-scenes digging, I am now able to report on the courses offered by this mysterious school, which insiders refer to as the Hotel California Training School :-) .

Light Switch Chaos 101:  While most people grow accustomed to the logical placement of light switches in their homes, hotels have a chance to broaden a guest’s experience through clever light switch placement.  Learn the latest in light switch obfuscation, including how to hide switches behind curtains and doors, clustering way too many switches in one long bank of switches, putting switches in rooms far from the light they control, and ensuring that a guest can never find a light in the middle of the night.

Advanced Light Switch Chaos 201:  Added chaos can be injected into the life of hotel guests by using the “master switch over-ride” technique.  Hide in the room a single switch that cuts off all the room’s power.  Make sure the people who clean the room turn off all power whenever the guests are gone and have electronic devices plugged in that desperately need recharging.  And put the switch in a spot where young children can find it, cut off all power to the room at night, and let the parents crawl around in total darkness looking for a way to turn the power back on. 

Sadistic Shower Design 104:  You’ll find many guests expecting to be able to readily turn on the water for a shower, adjust the temperature, and take a comfortable shower.  Why settle for this!  This course will educate hotel architects on creative ways to design bathroom showers to inflict pain on hotel guests.  Learn how to place faucets where guests will inadvertently bump them while their eyes are covered in shampoo, resulting in a surge of boiling or ice-cold water.  Put faucets in locations so they can only be accessed by standing directly under the shower head as the water is turned on!  Connect the shower’s flow of water to the toilet system, so that a showering guest gets an unexpected change in water temperature whenever a family member flushes – guaranteed to promote family harmony!!

Slippery Surfaces 201:  There are many opportunities, often unexploited, to expose hotel guests to treacherous surfaces during their stay.  Learn how to make the surface near a bathtub or shower as slippery as black ice.  Learn how to position throw rugs on slick floors so that an unsuspecting guest has their feet slip out from under them when they least expect it.  And learn how to extend such surfaces to hotel common areas, treacher-izing pools and jacuzzis.

Advanced Rat’s Nest Techniques 35285294:  Many hotels make the mistake of assuming that their guests want to be able to find their rooms readily, and to comfortably make their way to the lobby, restaurants, and other amenities.  But the truly inspired hotel architect will realize that the ultimate guest experience comes by making guests wander all over the hotel, futilely hunting for their destination.  Learn how to design hotel lay-outs with no underlying logic.  Learn how to make hall signs as confusing as possible.  Learn how to use hotel room numbering systems that baffle instead of clarify.  Learn how to maximize the distance from the lobby to rooms.   And master the subtleties of throwing in some doors that you can leave from, but lock behind you!

Voice Mail Torture 911:  As guests get more and more literate on computer technology, it gets harder to waste their time with indecipherable voice mail systems.  Learn the latest in how to make it impossible for guests to access voice mails.  Learn how to start their stay off on the wrong note with a “welcome voice mail” that they spend tens of minutes to retrieve, and then tells them nothing.  Learn how to bury urgent or important voice mail messages in a maze of confusion so guests miss them entirely!

Fireplace Deception 000:  It’s easy to design a fireplace that is simple and works reliably.  Learn the most advanced techniques in building fireplaces – fireplaces that lure the guest in to lighting a fire then spew smoke into the room with no clear remedy.   Fireplace flues need to appear to be open, but then be completely baffling to a family trying to combat the outpouring of smoke.

False Negative Fire Alarms 111000111:  In our increasingly regulated environment, hotel designers need to master the intricacies of fire alarm design.  Naturally, it’s important to have in place alarms that detect the presence of smoke or fire, sound off loudly, and help guests safely evacuate the premises.  But why stop there?  How about fire alarms that go off randomly in the middle of the night?  How about a sensor to determine when guests are particularly exhausted, and pick that night to go off every 45 minutes?  How about sprinkling other alarms around hotel rooms that have nothing to do with dangers, but go off in the middle of the night for no clear or explainable reason.

Alarm Clock Harassment Techniques 445:  The seemingly-innocuous alarm clock can be a valuable weapon in ensuring a miserable stay for your hotel’s guests.  Learn why a room should never have a simple, reliable alarm clock.  Train hotel staff to set room alarms for 4:45 a.m.  Make it next to impossible for guests to change the alarm’s setting.  Better yet, have the clock set to the wrong time entirely, and crank the confusion level up a notch.  Complement vexing alarm clock design with a wake-up call system that rarely works when needed, and makes errant early morning wake-up calls on days when guests desperately need extra sleep.

Noise Management 101:  Hotels can ensure that noise from a range of sources impacts its guests.  Learn how to design a hotel so that every room in near noisy vehicles or elevators.   Learn how to make sure that construction takes place at the worst possible time.  Figure out how walls between rooms can be paper thin when the adjacent room is booked by a screaming mimi.  And design hotel acousticsso that music from groups or DJ systems will penetrate every crevice of a room anytime that sane people are asleep.  All this and more!

Unleashing the Lock-Ness Monster 101:  Every hotel room has locks.  This course teaches hotel designers all the tricks of the trade in lock design.  Course attendees will master the art of magnetic locks that stop working when the guest is in most urgent need of getting into his/her room.   Only the finest lock designs can detect when the guest is checking in late at night, when the guest has far too much to carry, or when the guest has an urgent need to use the bathroom, or when the guest has an important phone call ringing inside the room — and pick that exact time for the magnetic strip to fail! 

Advanced Lock-Ness Techniques 201:  Many families book two adjacent rooms, and there are powerful techniques that can be applied to the locks of doors between adjoining rooms.  Learn how to make it exceptionally difficult to unlock these doors, especially when the guest checks in late at night with very sleepy children.   Gain expertise in getting these doors to lock whenever parents urgently need to get to a crying baby alone in the next room.  And figure out how to make these doors spring wide open when parents want a bit of privacy from younger kids in the next room!  All this and more in this important advanced course!!

 

If you have other course suggestions, add your comments to this blog!!

A Turkey of a Day

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

IMG_1686 We love Thanksgiving!  But this Thanksgiving won’t be all that memorable for us.  We started the day at Nimaj, which is located just outside of Nowheresville, India.  After a short morning hike, we drove two hours to Jodhpur, flew 90 minutes to Delhi, waited in Delhi for seven hours for next flight, flew five hours to Singapore overnight in remarkably uncomfortably plane seats, laid over in Singapore, and then flew another XX hours to Auckland.  Ouch!  We did manage to get in phone calls from India to our families, and that will be about it for our 2007 Thanksgiving.  When you travel, you’ll have days like this.  At least we met one family in the Delhi Airport who also knew what Thanksgiving even is!

Anyway, during this most unusual past few months, we’ve gotten so many great e-mails from friends and family, and we just want to let everyone know how important your communications have been.  We wish you a great Thanksgiving!!

Family Life On The Road

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

 

IMG_1663 Well, exactly two months ago, we left Jamestown, Rhode Island on our 10+ month trip with eight suitcases.  Now, we’re two months into the trip, and I thought it would be useful to summarize how it’s going for us.  When we left, I don’t think any of us really knew what we were getting ourselves into, but we now have a good feel for what this experience is all about.  I’ll start with a few lists, and then add some color commentary.

Positive Surprises

It’s been easy to move from place to place, and we’ve enjoyed being “on the go.”  We’ve stayed in 24 places in two months, and — somewhat incredibly – that pace has worked well for us

Everyone, and I mean everyone, has been remarkably nice to us

We’ve had no real challenges with language barriers

Home-schooling is fun and highly-productive (most days :-)

The Far East has been incredibly interesting, but it’s from learning how people live and their history — not looking at sights

Visiting people who face extraordinary daily challenges has had a dramatic impact on us

This trip is more of an intense educational year instead of a vacation, and we’re working hard (especially the kids)

This trip will change our family forever

 

What We Miss The Most

Friends and relatives

Sharing home-cooked meals with friends

Organized sports, especially Fenway Park in October

A night out at a movie theatre with popcorn

Regular, frequent exercise (thankfully, the scales show kilograms!)

Watching Desperate Housewives on Sunday nights

 

What’s Surreal

Always being a half day ahead of East Coast time

Generally having no idea what day of the week it is, and often losing track of what month it is

Having almost no possessions, daily “chores,” or routine (other than schoolwork for our kids)

Never knowing where the bathroom is in the middle of the night

Being the only Caucasians in most of the places we’ve been

Watching a Sunday night baseball game on Monday morning — live!

 

Biggest Hassles

Charging batteries, lugging chargers, and internet access

Not being able to order stuff, especially books, on-line

Too many smokers

Finding the on/off switches for lights in hotel rooms

Finding a grassy area (or even some asphalt) to play baseball in

 

Prior to departure, my biggest concern was an itinerary that called for moving often from place IMG_1659 to place — generally every 2-4 days.  It’s turned out that, for our family, this hasn’t been an issue in the slightest.  We can pack now in less than fifteen minutes, we generally make good use of our time  to/from airports, and air transportation in Asia has been a welcome change from the U.S.   We rarely leave somewhere wishing for a longer stay, and are always excited about the next place.  There’s just been no wear and tear to date from the moving around we’re doing (despite being in 24 different locations in two months).  We have been relying on Small World Travel in Austin, Texas, to help us plan this trip, and they’ve consistently come up with great agendas for each country we visit.

Hanoi 180 Another surprise is how incredibly friendly people are.  I suspect it helps to travel with kids.  But almost without exception, the people we meet couldn’t be nicer.  It’s really made an impression on all of us, and it’s inspiring to interact with so many kind people in the countries we’ve visited.  Maybe I spent too much time in a highly-competitive business field, but I’ve been deeply impressed with the kindness and thoughtfulness of perfect strangers we encounter.  It also has underscored for us our responsibility to be a great ambassadors for the U.S. as we travel abroad.

IMG_0157 Another positive development has been the home-schooling we’re doing with our children.  We’re covering tons of material, and we can see the weekly improvement in our children’s command of the subjects.  We spend about three hours a day, seven days a week, on core topics, and have been — thanks to Elizabeth — very disciplined in our approach.  Also, since she and I are teaching the core subjects, we can reinforce those lessons throughout the rest of the day.  The kids seem happy with how it’s going, and both Elizabeth and I enjoy the time we spend teaching them.   I believe we’ll be better parents in the future since we’re really understanding how our kids learn.  We’ll have finished a full year of math, vocabulary, and geography by Christmas, so our next challenge is what to focus on come January.

Tasmania 020 Coming into the trip, we had high hopes for what we’d be seeing and experiencing.  But so far, we’ve been blown away by the trip and how educational and fun it’s been.  Even now, two months into it, we will often talk at meals about things we experienced on the trip.  Our kids are at the perfect age for this (ages 11 and 9), and Elizabeth and I are also young enough to have lots of energy for the travel.  This trip will be a part of our family fabric for the rest of our lives.

Tibet 242 In putting together our itinerary, we wanted to make the trip as educational as possible, and to make sure we all learn about life in very different countries and circumstances.  We’ve visited schools, orphanages, families living in acute poverty, a school for abandoned blind children, and facilities dealing with young children debilitated by the genetic consequences of Agent Orange.  I think our view of the world has changed dramatically as a result of these experiences.

Bullo River 135 Probably the best thing about the trip so far is the impact it’s having on our family.  We were fortunate over the past few years to have been able to spend a lot of time together, but nothing like this.  Our two children are with each other 24/7, and we were concerned prior to departure that they’d be at each others’ throats by now.  Our experience, though, has been the opposite.  The two children are having a great time with each other (most of the time :-) ), and we love being together each day. 

One striking thing about the trip has been how few possessions we need.  Everything I have fits in about 1 1/2 suitcases.  I use my iPod almost every day (usually listening to morning news podcasts as I do my exercises).  I have a limited set of clothes  (nothing dressy, and I spend most of my time in shorts), a few books to read, my laptop, and not much of anything else.  I don’t really miss any of the stuff I left behind (although I’ll occasionally visualize a great golf shot, which is the ONLY way I ever experience anything great in golf).  And, as we visit places and families who have so little, it’s reinforcing our view of how much any family really needs, and showing all of us what real poverty and hardship can be for so many people around the globe.

Adelaide Baseball 028 We’re a very sports-oriented family, and a year of travel poses challenges.  Golf and tennis, my two favorites, aren’t on the calendar for eleven months.  We’ve been following the Red Sox religiously, and it’s actually worked out well for our kids.  In the U.S. (east coast), young kids really can’t watch play-off games that start at 8:30 p.m.  But here, the games start early in the morning (7:30 a.m.), so we canBeijing 385 watch them easily.  And our little “Baseball Ambassadors” program has been great.  We’ve played with teams in Adelaide, Beijing, Shanghai,  and Bangkok.  It’s been a great way to meet kids in different countries, play some baseball, and do our best to put our country and the sport in a good light abroad.

 

It’s been great to share our experiences through our website and blogs, and we thank those of you who take the time to keep track of us.  It’s hard not having friends around, and the internet is a poor substitute for personal interaction, but it’s been a great way to keep in touch with people.  And it’s always a treat to hear from you, even a short note or quick question!