The wise traveler seeks counsel from those who have gone before; so fancying myself wise, I consulted travelers far and wide before embarking on our journey in 2006. One of those who advice I particularly craved was billionaire Jim Rogers. I first emailed Jim in 2001 when I read about his 2-year round the world adventure in Fortune magazine. Oblivious to his standing in the financial world and assuming him to be a struggling writer like myself, I naively asked whether he had received sponsorships to help fund his travel. He immediately replied that he had not, but he encouraged me to pursue my dream of round the world travel by whatever means possible. I contacted Jim again in September 2006 when we were in Australia. We were only 1 month into our 11-month journey and starting to feel discouraged at the expense of the continent and our prospects for smooth travel in the coming year. Once again Jim replied instantly, encouraging us to never give up and reminding us that even if we failed in future months, at least we had had the courage to try–something most never muster. At the time he asked whose particular “madness” it was to embark on our trip, citing a certain mania as requisite for our type of travel.
Fortunately Tom and I shared the madness, which meant the ensuing months only got easier as we hit our rhythm and defined our complementary roles (in a nutshell: I planned, he executed). From country to country and continent to continent we met others who were subject to the same madness Rogers cited and had left their domestic lives behind to hit the road and explore the world. Now that we’re RTW veterans ourselves, we are frequently contacted by potential travelers seeking advice. We are always happy to offer it and hope we have inspired others to realize extended family travel is a possibility rather than a dream.
One unexpected benefit of of our trip, and our subsequent move to LA (an international gateway), is that we’ve heard from families not just dreaming of taking off but actually in the process of traversing the globe. Last week, the DeWilde family from Canada passed through our fair City of Angels while en route from Nicaragua to Australia. They’ve been traveling for 4 months and thought Election Day a fitting time for a US pit stop. Dad John contacted me a month or so before they arrived and we arranged to get together for an evening. I invited the family to our home and assumed they’d rent a car for their few days in LA. I realized just how removed from travel mode I’ve become when I was shocked to learn they planned on riding the bus around the city. I gave the DeWilde’s the number of the bus they could take to the the bottom of our neighborhood and figured they were masochists to brave LA traffic via public transport.
At 5:00 pm on the dot the doorbell rang and there stood this adorable family, looking particularly fit but a little thirsty after ascending the hill from the bus stop. The kids, Danielle and Simon, were happy to join Kieran and Asher on the Wii while parents, John and Pam, sat down to share stories with me. I learned about their adventures studying Spanish and volunteering in Nicaragua and what the kids considered to be a near death experience ascending a Canadian mountain in their van. I sighed with longing as they laid out the remainder of their itinerary for me: it includes extended service stints in such unusual locations as Bangladesh and Burkina Faso. We piled into my Yukon XL and met Tom at longtime family favorite Tito’s Tacos in Culver City. There we learned more about the DeWilde’s lifelong commitment to service and admirable activities on the road. One of Tom’s co-workers who happened to be checking out the famous burritos snapped a few pictures for us before I drove the DeWilde’s back to their airport hotel.
In August, we spent an evening with the Edmeads, a British family who were in the final days of a yearlong walkabout. Disneyland was the last stop in a trip that included an extended stay for SCUBA training in Thailand and their own Rolling Turd adventure in New Zealand. The Edmeads first contacted us in April when they stayed at one of our favorite hotels, the Elephant Crossing in Vang Vieng, Laos. They gave us the heads up that they would be passing through LA in August and true to their word, they appeared on our doorstep four months later. We ordered in Thai food, let the kids play Wii (all traveling kids seem to seize on this sedentary pursuit), and talked a lot about re-entry. Chris left a firm in the UK that actually had a garden dedicated to employees who had died at their desks. Overcome by a desire to never again subject himself to office-related stress, he and wife Rachel, explained their plans to open a small, family-friendly bed and breakfast in Spain, where Chris could make use of his new advanced SCUBA instructor certifications. As we have succumbed to a back-to-the-grind lifestyle, we sighed in understanding. I just checked their blog, http://fourgortw.travellerspoint.com/ and see that Chris made it only 23 days at home before jetting off to Honduras for more SCUBA training.
What we did, what others are doing, and what others plan to do to many seems madness. But to those who share it, it is far more sane than schlepping kids to a dozen lessons each week, waiting in line at the supermarket, or spending 10 hours a day behind a desk. To those who have returned to more ordinary existences, it is a badge of honor, the source of priceless memories and deep understanding. We proudly claim our mania and as Jim Rogers offered, hope to “meet some day and talk endlessly” about it.