It’s now been more than two years since we returned from our big trip. It remains a huge part of our lives and will undoubtedly remain so for the rest of our lives. Exactly what it means, however, is hard to nail down. On the one hand I question my recollections and it all appears as a dream; on the other hand it is the year of my life lived to such a vivid extent that I can still choose a date from that 11 months and remember exactly where we were and what we were doing. One of the books I read on the trip was V.S. Naipaul’s Magic Seeds. The main character’s mental trick to stay sane during times of boredom or captivity is to remember every bed in which he has ever slept. I have stacks and stacks of hotel keys which make that an impossibility for my whole life, but I do find myself in times of boredom, not captivity, going through every city and stop on the trip and pondering what each place must have meant for each of the kids. I am sure sleeping in tents and riding camels seemed normal to a 4 year old and playing pool in hostels with travelers from around the world was about the coolest thing a 12 year old could do.
More than being just a source of reflections, I am amazed at how the trip continues to influence our lives. I recently left MySpace and am figuring out my next move. Part of this process is meeting with VC’s, recruiters, and companies. It is the rare meeting that doesn’t include a conversation, usually at the beginning, about our adventure. Unlike the comments we got pre-trip when everyone had doubts about what we doing, post-trip the comments are universally positive. The adventure stands on its own merits, especially since we all came back in one piece, but our Oprah appearance was a big validation. Thanks Oprah.
Even more significant than personal reflections or the interest of others is the deeper changes we’ve experienced: the way we look at each day, the way we think about the world and its people, the way we face challenges, the ways we rely on each other, the way we understand America’s, or should I say, the USA’s, role in the world, the way we look to the future with hope and optimism. I can see these changes in all of us. I can specifically point out the following things that are different pre and post trip:
1. One day is a lot of time and you can pack a lot into it. Rather than plan on getting through the day, I find myself planning on what I can add to a day.
2. Although I always believed in the brotherhood of man, I am less enamored with power, money, and position and more enamored with character, intellect, and personality.
3. I have a greater desire to be green because the American lifestyle does not scale to 6 billion people without serious ecological damage. (Our current home is about 1/3 the size of our old home, still waiting for a plug-in hybrid on the car front.)
4. I am less scared of failure, which allows me to take more risks, like quitting a job when I didn’t have one lined up.
5. There is so much to learn, so many books to read, so many people to meet, I am going to be busy for a long time.
6. Anne is and has been for nearly 20 years my best friend and I didn’t realize how much we help each other be better.
7. I am less afraid to dream and look for new adventures or alternatives.
8. The kids are individuals and we need to expose them to lots of opportunities, let them choose the activities and lives they want, and then support them.
9. Finally the world is really small. People are social and with technology advancing at the pace it is, the future will be insanely great and completely different than the past. (This was only reinforced by the people I worked with at MySpace.) I almost want to do the trip again now because three years later the technology is even more amazing. I would love to incorporate my Iphone, Twitter, Kiva, GPS tracking, AR, and the various social tools we only touched on in 2006.
I have a few other things I will add to this blog and I will encourage the rest of the family to post about their reflections on the trip. (It’s much harder than you’d think.) I keep a personal lifestream at tomandrus.com. This isn’t a professional site but rather a collection of my own thoughts, and things I find on the web that strike a chord in me. It isn’t meant to be anything other than a web version of all the different thoughts and interests that often rage inside my head. I’m sure as the next few years unfold it will reveal the path toward our next round the world trip. 2013 or bust!