That was the response I got from one friend after announcing that Kathey and I were going to travel around the world for several months. I then found myself just staring with my mouth wide open, unable to answer the question. Why did I want to do such a strange thing? I wasn't sure, actually.
I did know that the idea of seeing foreign places always appealed to me, even as a kid when I used to look at pictures of England in magazines and wonder if it was as magical as it seemed to be. I suppose the adventure of traveling without a return date was a big part of it too. To be able to roam the world, in search of interesting people and places, soaking in all of the new experiences. During the trip, I often said that we weren't on a vacation, we were on a world photo-shoot. At times our job seemed to be to document, with pictures and words, everything we saw and felt, so that someone back home could understand better what it was like. I remember meeting a South African in Prague that was traveling for several months without a camera. What a concept! To just travel, taking nothing with you but your memories. What a sense of freedom, to not have to document everything you saw! I could never do it though--I still love looking through the photo albums and re-living parts of the trip.
But another thing happened, at times, also. I found myself falling into a "comparison shopping" mode. "Which country is better, this one, or that one?" Travelers often meet on the road to trade stories about which countries were their favorites, and which ones to skip. I often found that each person's view of a place is very dependent upon several things. For instance, after traveling in Asia and the Pacific for almost six months, our view of Europe may have been very different than say, someone who had never been out of the United States. What is "dirty and crowded" to one person may be "luxury" to another. Even our view of Fiji would, now that we've completed the trip, be very different than it was after only one week of traveling. I sometimes found myself trying to "fix" problems, or wondering why the people of a certain country couldn't just do it the "right" way. And then I'd catch myself, and remember the reason for going in the first place. The saying is very true, that if every place were just like home, there'd be no reason for leaving.
My 10th grade English Writing teacher used to say, "State your opinion and stick with it." Which is what I've tried to do with this journal. It's been very tempting, during all the work getting it on the net, to change some of the rough spots (my writing style changes quite a bit as the trip progresses), or smooth over a harsh word or two I might have said about some place we went to. When I started writing these words, I was really just writing for myself, so that in 30 years or so I'd have something to look back on to help remember what I was feeling during the trip. Now, as I present it to the ever-growing number of people on the net, I read certain sections and worry that maybe they give the wrong impression of me--or worse, that they'll offend someone who actually lives in the city that I was just visiting while having a bad day. If you fall into this category, or if I didn't like the country that you've always dreamed of visiting, please accept my apology now--I'm sure there are lots of good parts that I missed as well. But I'm glad to say that I've followed my teacher's advice and am sticking with my opinions--well, they were my opinions at that moment, anyway. Life is always changing, isn't it?
Kathey and I started planning the trip way back in college, while we were both working on our Computer Science degrees. After we graduated, we decided to work for a minimum of two years so that we'd have a better chance of finding jobs when we got back--also to have enough time to save all the money we'd need. By August of '91 we had saved about $11,000 each, plus $2,000 each to help us get back on our feet when we returned, plus enough to cover storage costs for our stuff and medical insurance for ourselves while we were gone. We bought two "around-the-world" plane tickets for about $3,600 each, which would give us about 13 flights starting from Dallas, Texas, going west, and ending up back in Dallas up to a year later. We didn't really know how long we'd be gone, but based on some info from my cousin Dan who had done a similar (but Eastward) trip in '86, we figured the money might last somewhere around 10-12 months. We got married, quit our jobs, and were off by mid September for what would be a sometimes difficult, sometimes wonderful honeymoon we'll never forget.