Travel is weird. People aspire to it, plan for it, save up for it, indulge in it occasionally, and reminisce about it after they return. It’s something that brings no extrinsic benefit to its participants, but by and large is something in which only those with the financial and/or intestinal means are able to engage. Travel challenges us. It enlightens us. It unites us as it drives us apart. Those who have traveled understand that it means different things to different people. There are travelers who buy a last minute ticket to a place they’ve never been without a plan and wing it until their money runs out, returning home only long enough to earn enough to go right back and do it again. On the other end of the spectrum are those who book their flights a year in advance to a resort in which their every need is accommodated, sipping mai tais from the comfort of a pool-side lounger, flying back to their stress filled, yet routine driven, life after a 7-day interlude in paradise. Between these two extremes are the work-abroad expats, the traveling yoga instructors, the gap-year students, the European or Australian couples who have quit their jobs, the teachers on summer holiday, the flash-packers, the Israeli post-service travelers, and a host of other types. Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum, there is one thing that binds every traveler to one another. It is the journey. The change of place, from home to ‘other’, is what makes travel unique and what draws people from so many divergent walks of life. The renowned surfing-rock climber-dirtbag, turned businessman, turned environmental activist, Yvonne Chouinard echoes this sentiment, “So, it’s kind of like the quest for the holy grail. Well, you know, who gives a shit what the holy grail is. The quest is what’s important.” Whether one wanders with the wind or has a bullet-pointed itinerary, whether travelers stay in hostels and couches or in all-inclusive 4-stars, is really beside the point. Travel is meaningful when we make it so.
The last few years have enabled me to travel more than usual and I feel it is really one of the most empowering things one can do, particularly traveling solo. After quitting my corporate job in 2011, I worked abroad as a college instructor and micro-finance consultant in the developing Pacific island nation of Micronesia (FSM) for a year. Those were easily some of the best days of my life, practicing a new craft, building relationships with the people there, and eeking out every bit of adventure I could find on that little 10-mile wide island (and for such a small place, there was a lot!). Inspired by that gig to make education a career, I went back to grad school to become a full-time teacher and have, over the summer and holiday breaks since, traveled extensively around four continents and a dozen or so countries. I’ve been scammed in Indonesia, rode a push bike around the temples of Angkor Wat, swam with penguins and sea lions in the Galapagos, climbed to the highest points in Central America and Southeast Asia, and was nearly locked up abroad in Dominican Republic, among other emprises, both high and low. I love teaching and I love traveling. But now I have another love in my life, and this is the real thing.
When I say I love to travel and I love to teach, I’m not lying. But when I say I’m in love with my gal, it means something else altogether. Jenna and I met about a year ago, kind of unexpectedly, and immediately felt “it”. Less than two weeks into our relationship, we were sitting in her tiny studio apartment in downtown Tucson, Arizona, contemplating our future together, when the supposition, like a growing tide, began: To travel the world? When we started tossing potential destinations into the mix, all of them stuck, and within the span of a single day, we had the pinnings of an itinerary sketched out. Since then, we’ve eliminated a few places that are logistically difficult or potentially dangerous, added a few that emerged as intriguing, and are now on the brink of quite the journey.
Tomorrow, we depart for Japan, where we will play the role of western tourists, taking in the sites, sampling the cuisine, and climbing Mount Fuji. Our next stop takes us to Micronesia, and I’ll have the pleasure of introducing Jenna to my local friends and the type of adventures one can only have on a primitive and remote island. A couple weeks later we’ll be in South Korea, where Jenna plans to seek out the orphanage from which she was adopted many years ago and maybe even some long lost family members. Then we’re playing the role of adventure guides to my parents who are linking up with us in Vietnam and Cambodia (I traveled in both last summer). And that’s where our currently purchased tickets leave us. But that’s only the beginning…Next we’ll be headed to the climbing mecca of Tonsai in southern Thailand to tackle myriad four-star limestone tufa sport routes. Myanmar may prove to be one of our most challenging of destinations, as the southern coast (unlike the temple-dotted north of the country) is vastly undeveloped, but the hope is for pristine shores and untarnished culture. In what may be our most anticipated stop, we aim to take on a three week ramble through the Nepalese Himalaya from the country’s lowlands to some of it’s highest passes en route to Everest Base Camp, via the awe inspiring Gokyo Lakes region. And no, we’re not climbing Mount Everest; that’s a $80,000 death wish, with a side of bottled oxygen. After decompressing from weeks at/above 5000 meters, we’re off to India to volunteer for a month (Jenna will be working in an eye clinic with Unite for Sight in Chennai, while I am still working to source a gig) and then traveling, until ringing in the new year Hindi style. From there, we change continents, moving on to Africa, where we will jump on a safari in Tanzania, volunteer at an orphanage in Gilgil, Kenya, and explore the long, rich culture of Ethiopia. In sum, that brings us to April 2017 and leaves us with a couple of months to play with before heading back to the states to get hitched. And then for the honeymoon…? We’re open to suggestions!
When I tell people about this odyssey we’re pursuing, I’m never asked, “why?” People seem to understand, and in some cases share, our passion for travel, adventure, and discovery. The questions we’re most often asked revolve around “how?” To this, there is a long answer and a short one. The latter, is because we made it a priority. The former will be a topic of continuing discussion on this page moving forward. I’ve yet to fully define the purpose of this blog but hope it reflects our experiences and emotions, both high and low throughout our adventures as well as how we made those adventures possible. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the help and support of family, friends, colleagues and others. We know how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to live out our dreams in this way. So, on the verge of this grand voyage, we want to thank everyone who has helped us get to this point and hope that this next chapter in adventure is one that you can enjoy with us. Ahoy, and welcome aboard our adventure year!