Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Not Quite There

Originally, I had proposed that the phrase "Not Quite There" be the title of this travel blog. Or maybe it was the phrase "Not All There." Regardless, I liked the way it sounded, and thought that it was clever how it related to both geographic space (the imfamous "are we there yet?") and mental space (or "are they crazy?"). But, while Sarah and I ultimately went with Strange and Benevolent, I have to say that right now the phrase "not quite there" explains how I'm feeling perfectly.

Let me explain.

I'm sitting in my office, on my last day of work. My projects are all completed. The posters and notes are down of my office walls. My photos and knick-knacks are all boxed away. I've found homes for my office plants. And, heck, I've even already had my going away party. Yet, here I am, still at work.

And that’s a bit bizarre.

When I see coworkers in the hall, the greeting has now changed from "have a great time on your trip!" to "you're still here?" The momentary TylerFest 2007 that had swept work for the last couple days has subsided; and my old coworkers have resumed working. The company continues on without me. I've become some sort of office ghost; roaming the halls of RealNetworks. My very presence is slightly unsettling, even a little eerie. I think that the collective assumption is that when a person says "goodbye," they are going to follow that up by leaving.

And, I promise I will. Soon. Hopefully.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I feel some obligation at some point to go through some logistics for fellow travel planners, but I think that entry will have to wait.

I realized this morning that Tyler and I rarely get asked why we’ve decided to take this journey. We might get asked how we’re making it happen or why now or what about our jobs, but most people in our circle of friends and family seem to take for granted that travel for travel’s sake is a good thing. And—caught up in the logistics, last minute details, and exhaustion of moving and closing up life for awhile—it’s easy for me to lose sight of the “why” in face of the “how.”

During our honeymoon, Tyler and I took the Alaska State Marine Highway through Southeast Alaska. After the end of the two weeks of living like hobos on the ferry system, moving from town to town as the spirit moved us, and running into a handful of other intrepid travelers for whom Alaska was one stop on a longer journey, I had a serious itch to keep going. The Aleutians! Kodiak! Japan! New Zealand! It seemed like such a natural stepping stone to go see the world. But then we returned to Seattle, our lovely apartment, friends, jobs and the usual responsibilities. We still talked every once in awhile about wanting to travel—really travel, for more than 10-14 days—but I worried about having to give up a good job that I almost always find satisfying to pursue this whim. But after a few particularly grueling days at work, while brushing my teeth and staring at my world map on the wall, it hit me that life is short and that I would always regret it if Tyler and I never did this. We are as unencumbered as we may ever be—no kids, no pets, no mortgage. And I didn’t want to wait until we got old enough for Elderhostel to see and do things we care about now. Not terribly original, I know, but from that day on, Tyler and I got serious about saving, budgeting and planning.

Yet that still doesn’t really answer the “why.” Tyler and I are on a well-worn and comfortable path. If we weren’t doing this, we’d be house hunting and starting a family. But I think both of us feel a desire to get out of our comfort zone, be the minority, be uncomfortable, be awed, be jolted out of our normal routine. I want to have the time and space to think about what we want our life together to be like, how we want our family to be, what’s important to us. We usually get a few days of that every summer when we go backpacking, when our lives are reduced to getting water, fetching firewood, deciding how many miles to go that day and going to sleep not long after the sun goes down. And there are other less extreme ways to have the chance to get away and think (maybe spending a week out at the Dungeness Spit lighthouse, for example). But I think and hope that experiencing different cultures, lifestyles, standards of living, and places will help bring new fodder to these thoughts and conversations to help us shape our decisions and lives going forward.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sarah and Tyler’s Itinerary

Almost a year ago, Tyler and I sat down in a neighborhood coffeeshop and individually brainstormed our top 20 places to go on our still fantastical round the world trip. After seeing what matched up and what one or the other of us had overlooked, we crafted an initial itinerary. Basically, we decided to go places neither of us had been before (so no Thailand, Bali, or Argentina); that wouldn’t be too expensive (knocked off Japan, Scandinavia, most of Europe); and that seemed like a logical route, so nothing too far north or south or out of the way (took out Estonia and Patagonia). And then a few locations (like Easter Island!) got added along the way due to fortuitous flight connections. So here it is:

February 14-March 15: South America (Peru, Bolivia and Chile)
March 16-March 23: Pacific Islands (Easter Island and French Polynesia)
March 24-April 29: Oceania (New Zealand and Tasmania)
April 30-May 28: Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos)
May 29-July 1: India
July 2-August 11: Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Egypt)
August 12-September 12: Europe (Turkey and Croatia, flying home from Munich)

Our itinerary matches our goals for the trip—we want to spend chunks of time in different parts of the world (about a month or so per continent traveled to), but we also wanted to see a fair amount of the world.

People often ask what location we’re most excited about. Because of the way we really crafted our itinerary to exactly what we wanted to do, it’s a hard question to answer. When pressed, I’m tempted to say Easter Island. It’s a place I never imagined I might ever go to, and I grew up thinking I wanted to be an archaeologist, so I can’t wait to check out the moas (big, giant stone heads that scientists still can’t re-construct without modern tools).

But I can get easily just as excited and starry-eyed about Tasmania, South Africa, Turkey……

Two and a half weeks and counting!

Next blog—logistics.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Travel quotes and stomach knots

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” - Mark Twain

You know how I know I'm ready to travel? Because quotes like the one above have shifted from being "obnoxious" to "inspiring." There was a time not long ago when a quote like this would have caused me to roll my eyes.

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” - St. Augustine

But now, I find myself clucking along, "so true, so true" like a librarian listening to Nancy Pearl. So, yeah, I'm ready to get this show on the road.

Then again, as I finish up my last full week of work, and prepare to finally move out of our apartment this weekend, I've been noticing a knot slowly build in my stomach. A knot that will probably get larger and larger, and which will probably remain there until I finally set foot in Lima... only to have it most likely replaced with my first stomach bug.

In fact, I should probably apologize in advance to all the friends and family members I'm going to see over the next couple weeks. You all are probably hoping to spend some last quality time with Sarah and I before we jaunt off around the world. But, little do you know, I'm going to be replaced by some jittering, wide-eyed, sleepless creature. A creature who is only capable of quietly mumble words like "Titicaca" and "Dharmasala" to himself as he tics things off his mental to do list.

Plane tickets? Check. Immunizations? Check. Travel Insurance? Check. Visas? Check. Stomach butterflies? Check.

But, yeah, it's exciting. This weekend, Sarah and I move out of our apartment and effectively become homeless for the next seven plus months. On Wednesday, we'll both become jobless in a way that neither of us have been since college. Then, it's two dizzying weeks of couch-surfing, shopping, packing, parties and goodbyes.

And then, we're off!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why Strange? Why Benevolent?

Strange (adj) : Not normal, odd, unusual, surprising, out of the ordinary; Unfamiliar, not yet part of one's experience

Benevolent (adj) : Having a disposition to do good; possessing or manifesting love for mankind

It was two summers ago, shortly before our wedding, that Sarah and I first saw Circus Contraption. And, at the end of that amazing and (Dare I use the word?) magical evening, the ringmaster wished the audience a night of "strange and benevolent dreams." It would be a phrase that would remain stuck in my head until this day.

So it wasn't surprising that, when scratching my head and trying to brainstorm a name for this travel log, I would find myself revisiting that phrase. But, what is surprising is how well that phrase matches our feelings and hopes about the coming Round the World Trip!

As Sarah and I pack up our lives and place the boxes neatly into storage, and as we prepare to quit our jobs and say goodbye to friends and family; our lives have already become strange and surreal. And this is only the very beginning! Ahead of us still lies seven months of traveling, away from home and visiting more than a dozen countries on five different continents.

In addition, while we have no doubt that the coming months will be challenging in ways that we can't even begin to predict, we both also have no doubt the experience will ultimately prove to be benevolent. It will be something that will expand our views, knowledge and opinions of the world and mankind; and something that will not only improve us both individually, but also as a couple.

Speaking of being a couple, while I had been chronicling some of the early planning for the trip on another Blog, General Travels, Sarah and I decided to create this new blog to cover these final weeks, and then to use over the course of our trip. The main reason to do this was because, while General Travels (like General Admission) was distinctly my Blog, we wanted this Blog to by both of us, for both of us… and for you. To this end, you’ll be seeing entries by Sarah too in the coming months; which will allow you the opportunity to see both our perspectives on the various misadventures that lie before us.

So, while future entries of this log will hopefully lay out our itinerary, and do a better job of laying out the practicalities of the trip, I'll end this first entry now, with a cheer:

Here's to our trip, may it indeed be strange and benevolent!