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Palm Sunday: breakfast in our Austrian zimmer
A few days ago, I was walking alone along a canal in Venice, when I was suddenly struck by the reality of where I was. I'm in Venice! And next week I'm going to Austria! And after that I'll be in Germany! It is wonderful that even after eight months, the newness of this experience can still excite me so strongly.
When we first announced that we were planning a one-year trip around the world, many of our friends expressed envy and joked, "Take me too!" But the reality of circling the globe for twelve straight months is actually "worlds away" from taking a long and glamorous vacation.
If I declared to a roomful of people, "Who would like to spend a year traveling around the world?" every hand would probably go up. If I then added, "But for twelve months, your only wardrobe will be what you can fit in one suitcase," I imagine that hands would drop. "And we won't be staying in fancy tourist hotels. We will hand-wash our own laundry in the sink." More hands drop. "Instead of dining in fine restaurants in France and Italy, we will eat a lot of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches..." (fewer hands) "...while we drive and navigate ourselves through foreign cities among native drivers" (even fewer hands). "Also, we will not be spending any of our time shopping for exotic souvenirs. Our only memories will be our photographs."
By now, I might spot just a few diehards left with their hands still up. "Oh, and by the way, we'll be traveling with two children. A nine-year-old boy and a pre-teen boy will both go everywhere that we go. And we will not have any kind of au pair or childcare. Part of our job will be to keep them occupied and amused during many-hour drives and many-kilometre walks for more than three hundred days... using only what we can fit into their backpacks. Oh, and for the entire year, we will also be responsible for homeschooling them."
Keeping amused: a chess game in cramped quarters
By now, I would be lucky if there was one hand still up... or anybody left in the room. Luckily there was... and that hand belonged to Gail, the amazing and superhuman wonder woman. Gail has been an incredible partner (and good sport) through the unbelievably hard work that has gone into preparing... and undergoing... and surviving... eight months (so far) of being cooped up into small spaces with the same three men. Sure, the spaces themselves and the view keep changing, but it's an endurance test nonetheless.
Gail, lugging her own wardrobe in Venice
At the moment, we are simultaneously staying in Vienna, emailing for accommodations in Prague, and telephoning for accommodations in Berlin. We have secured a place to stay when we arrive in London, but that has necessitated changing our flight from Paris to London, which in turn has required us to revise our accommodations in Paris. We are still in the midst of securing a rental car for the British Isles, and we're still not sure how we're going to get from Detroit back to California.
Much of our infrastructure has failed us. We had to purchase a replacement digital camera, DVD player, and PC disk drive. We have gone through a boxful of cigarette lighter adapters (apparently, they don't last very long). We severely underestimated our budget; and every day we have to look for ways to preserve our dwindling cash supply.
A PC workstation on the road
This trip has taken a sheer physical toll on both of us old folk. Our joints ache (you would think that so much walking would be good for us) and we have never seen so many gray hairs on ourselves and each other. For some inexplicable reason, everybody's skin is drying out -- radiated heat?
At this point, the people sitting on their hands would declare, "Well then, why on earth are you even going?" Because despite both the expected and unexpected hardships, this is still a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is a world of fun. Because this is still something that many people dream of doing, but few actually do. We have seen and experienced and learned so much. And at the end of our lives, when we're sitting on the porch in rocking chairs and fighting the urge to drool, we won't be saying, "Gee I wish that I had done something like that when I was younger..."
We have taken almost 10,000 photographs (we're not going to relish going through those), shot almost ten hours of video (you'd better run if we invite you over to our house), put 15,000 km on our leased car, and written more than 150 letters home. We have dragged luggage through China in 100-degree heat, and driven through Hungary in the snow. And strangely enough, we will absolutely and forever cherish every one of these unique memories... making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the back of the car... eating fast food on the floor of a European pension... accidentally dyeing half of our clothes blue... and spending a year of wondrous family time together, before our children have grown up and we have grown old.
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