The Big Picture
Gregg and I have both done a bit of travelling on our own before we met, but it has been about six years since either of us has gone on a long trip. One evening, like any other, I asked him to list out the places in the world he would want to visit...just for fun. I'd written down about 15 countries; Gregg had at least that many. We compared lists and found a number of countries overlapped. Boy, has it been awhile since our fanciful scribbles turned into a round-the-world travel itinerary!
the big picture
nuts and bolts
prep notes
shout outs
How do you plan for a big trip? Some people don't; they say, "What do you mean? Just throw some clothes into a pack and go!" Gregg did a 10-month trip a few years back, and that's basically what he did. Though I haven't travelled this long at one time before, I figured some planning wouldn't be a bad idea. If it's anything akin to producing Web sites (which I can do), I think I'm on the right track—boil things down to the basic components and make some generous estimates of time and money.

Visas, shots, gear/supplies, money, where to go and when, where not to go and why, etc... most of this information already exists on the Web and it's hard to imagine if we had to get to it any other way. The Web has been an invaluable source in finding pertinent information from experienced travellers; a community of world travellers thrives online. Then there is saving the money and cutting off income for the year. As Gregg put it, "No income. Only outcome." While not a lot of people are in a position where they can take off unemployed for a year, you would be surprised how possible it is. A little here goes a long way in lots of other places. And finally, there are the less tangible, more difficult matters to deal with. My parents are by no means thrilled, and to their credit, it's not an easy thing to let your kid go off and do, whatever their age. Hopefully convinced that I'm not escaping reality or experiencing an early mid-life crisis, but rather making an opportunity of a lifetime, my parents have given up (perhaps, on me).
Summing it up in a paragraph makes me wonder where all the time planning has gone, but once you set out to do it, you discover tasks within tasks. And of course a big time-sucker has been developing this site. It's consumed most weeknights and weekends to the point that friends think we've abandoned our social lives. (Which we have, temporarily, and only so that we'll be able to socialize from the road.)

Our goal with is to be able to share our experiences almost as they occur by updating and maintaining a site from cyber-cafes we find along the way. That means anticipating all that we might want to do with the site and pre-building those features into a Web-based front-end. We did not want to travel with a lap-top, as we already have enough gear, and anyway, part of our adventure is to suss out the state of the internet in far-flung places. Our two-person team has made this the ideal project—we both laid out the architecture and UI, I designed, and Gregg is (still) making it work. There's more in "nuts & bolts" if you're curious about what has actually gone into building this site.

Skedaddle already!
Although logistically we wouldn't be ready to leave tomorrow, I am beginning to see how one can prepare to the point of not being prepared at all. It is ironic how much thinking, planning and procuring goes into something that is about letting go. By taking this trip, we are shaking up our familiar and comfortable existences. Letting go of how we are used to doing and seeing things. Learning what it is like in places foreign to us, and perhaps seeing differently what it is like where we come from. Making preparations for this trip has given us renewed purpose, a goal to work toward, in some ways, defined us. Once we're finally en route, it will be interesting to see whether the actual experience of letting go catches us off guard.

"Everything sacred moves in a circle." -- Black Elk
This trip is sacred. Not in a way that we seek to be spiritually enlightened (although surely some of that comes with any journey), but simply that traveling from here to there and back again, we will be individually affected by things that wouldn't otherwise reach us. It is our chance to understand for ourselves how things are elsewhere, or in many cases respect that we cannot understand them at all.

In a book I'm reading now by Robert Kaplan called "The Ends of the Earth", he repeats a quote he had heard: "Think of a stretch limo in the potholed streets of New York City, where homeless beggars live. Inside the limo are the air-conditioned postindustrial regions of North America, Europe, the Pacific Rim, parts of Latin America, and a few other spots, with their trade summitry and computer-information highways. Outside is the rest of mankind, going in a completely different direction." I wonder how accurate a metaphor this is, and what, after stripping things down to the core, it is we have in our stretch limos.

It is a significant time to travel as we round out the millennium. Never before has the world seemed so small with the kind of communications and transportation systems possible today. But that's just from where we are viewing the world. I'm sure we will be encountering places that might as well be on a different planet. And we hope you might catch a glimpse of some of these places through our site.

Evelyn, San Francisco, 3/28/99
© 2007 ~ All Parents Perturbed.