Our children were sound asleep in bed, blissfully unconcerned with the monumental event that was looming a few hours hence. I was staring at the assortment of travel accessories, medicines, and emergency survival supplies. Our suitcases were packed and everything else was supposed to fit into a large duffle bag which was already starting to bulge. After more than a year of careful planning, time had finally marched up to the brink of our departure for an entire year of travel, and I couldn't see how half of the critically important supplies would fit. Lynn said that she had it all planned out, but I could see that she was as exhausted as I was, and the mountain of last minute details and seemingly unpackable things loomed dauntingly in front of us, threatening to keep us awake long past the point where we were capable of rational thought.  We piled the total collection of luggage by the front door shortly before 1am. There were 5 suitcases (each with a detachable day pack), a 70 pound duffle bag (with rollers and a handle), a 25 pound backpack with laptop computer and assorted electronic accessories, a 20 pound camera bag, one small pocket trumpet and a guitar. It took me about 10 seconds to decide that the guitar wasn't coming. It was far too late and we were much too tired to lay awake worrying or wondering about our upcoming adventure, so we slept quickly and soundly. Our flight wasn't till mid-day, and we didn't have to get up in the dark and rush out the door. There would be plenty of time to ponder the future tomorrow.

A shiny white stretch limo picked us up in the morning, an otherwise ostentatious extravagance, but comparing the cost to the overall expense of what we were getting into, it seemed only fitting. And we did have that large pile of luggage. Gliding across the Bay Bridge on our way to the San Francisco Airport in a state of nervous excitement and fully awake, we could now contemplate the process of how we had arrived at the beginning of our journey. It was about 18 months ago when my wife Lynn first proposed the idea of taking a long trip. She was reading in bed and I was lying next to her doing a crossword puzzle, when she blurted out "Oh we have to do this!" and I said, "Yes dear, that sounds nice".  In other words, it was like hundreds of other evenings and hundreds of other trips she wants to take and places she wants to go. I generally treat these statements with the same serious concern I give our children when they ask if we can go to Disneyland or Great America soon. "OK, that sounds nice, how about sometime during the summer after the one after next one?"  But she was starting to read several books about traveling with children that she had just bought. Each one seemed successively more exotic and fascinating to her, and the process of devouring them all took an annoyingly long time-long enough that she kept bugging me until I started agreeing to the possibility of at least a long vacation. I started thinking about it more and more, especially driving back and forth to work.

Why was I driving back and forth to work? I was becoming frequently frustrated with my job after a bureaucratic monster of a giant corporation had acquired the company I worked for… a job that I used to love and was reluctant to admit that I now couldn't stand. Of greater concern was the fact that my frustration was bubbling over into my personal life, and I was behaving more and more like someone I didn't like. Things were deteriorating rapidly and there was no doubt that I would have to do something different. At least I had the economic resources to leave and take my time figuring out what to do next, after having helped the former company grow from a handful of eccentrics occupying a small office leased from Levi Strauss in San Francisco into a large, profitable, and publicly held telecommunications equipment maker. The problem was that I didn't want to do anything next, but I couldn't turn back the clock and recreate the job that I had grown to enjoy so much before corporate Godzilla showed up. I didn't know how to quit. A long trip seemed to accomplish two goals at once, getting me away from the source of my frustration and postponing the annoying little issue of what was next. Perfect! Well, sort of. It did sound like an enormous challenge. But being the parents of small children, and preferring them to grow up remembering their parents as something more than just hedonistic, wine-sipping, gourmet food, yoga and massage junkies (does this mean we were tiring of Northern California in general?), we took the old Buddhist philosophical recommendation seriously: "If life offers you two paths, it is usually the best choice to choose the most difficult", or something like that.

Lynn's idea started sounding more enticing than crazy each day that I reluctantly pulled into the parking lot at work. Lynn is an optometrist, and was working 3 days a week at her own practice, but she had been doing this for over 10 years and was also tiring of the hassles of small business ownership. It was also, as she pointed out, "the perfect time". We could take the trip during the 8th grade school year of our oldest son, Geoff, so that the records of his away-from-home schooled 8th grade year wouldn't be part of his high school transcript, and possibly end up as an issue for college applications. We figured that teaching 2nd grade to our twins, Thomas and Anna, would be fairly easy since they are both good readers and were doing great in school. Geoff was going to be a little more work. He had beginning algebra and chemistry scheduled for 8th grade and we would have to brush away the cobwebs and try to teach things like factoring polynomials, electron orbits, and molecular bonds. It still sounded a hell of a lot better than going to work at a job I couldn't stand, so I started negotiating with Lynn. "OK, how about 6 months."  She actually agreed and started trying to plan such a trip, but it quickly became apparent that if we wanted to see lots of places, and use around-the-world air tickets, 6 months wasn't long enough. We asked the kids at dinner one night. "Do you want to travel around the world for a whole year?"  All three said things like "Yea, cool!" Then they noticed the school thing. "What do we do for school?"   "Mom and I will teach you."  Tom and Anna said, "Cool!"  Geoff said, "H-m-m-m-m, I guess maybe it would be OK."  Geoff was wise to be nervous about this. 

We started the process of taking the whole thing seriously and planning for everything. Very early on we decided to have an itinerary and stick to it unless we felt seriously threatened somewhere or there was some sort of family emergency among our relatives or ourselves. We knew that we couldn't pull off the schooling on an ad-hoc, go-as-we-please adventure unless we just plunked down and stayed for an extended period of time in just a few places. After travelling back and forth from one end of the US to the other in a station wagon with her mom and younger brother every summer, staying put just isn't Lynn's travel style. She wants to see it all. And during our weekly family meetings on the subject, it became obvious that her children feel the same way. We gradually hammered out a long list of places that at least one member of the family really wanted to see, and started honing our own around the world adventure. The planning process of lining up the rules of an around-the-world airline ticket with our desired destinations, while trying to maximize our encounters with important social activities and minimize our encounters with things like monsoons, was no simple task. Fortunately for me, Lynn tackled this Rubik's cube of a problem and slogged away until things started to take a reasonable shape. 

I told my boss our plans about 9 months before our departure, and I'm sure he didn't take it seriously at first. He probably felt the same way that I did when Lynn first described this idea to me while we were lying in bed. "Yea, sure, that sounds nice".  It gradually became clear to everyone that we were really going to do this, especially when they could see that we didn't really care if they believed us or not. Lynn started working on details with a travel agent and planning a 2nd grade and an 8th grade curriculum. The months before our departure became cluttered with a continuously compacting schedule of preparations. Shots. Visas. House Sitter. Power of Attorney for an Accountant. Meetings with schoolteachers and counselors. Box up packages of schoolwork and regional supplies like malaria pills and mosquito nets. Change car insurance. Cancel subscriptions and fill prescriptions. Budget... Cash flow... Oh my God!

So our journey will not be an amazing tale of a strange sequence of events that finds us in unintended places, at least not very often and not by design. It will be more of an exercise in tolerating each other as well as becoming tolerant of other cultures, expanding our perceptions of our world and our place in it, and trying to stay healthy and safe. Oh, and as Lynn often reminds me, it is supposed to be fun. Once we had decided to bring a laptop, I figured that I would try and write a journal, and possibly publish some of it as a web page as we went (also testing out some of that equipment that I helped design a few years ago). The ensuing journal garnered many casual and a few fanatic readers. After establishing a small loyal readership that complained via email whenever the journal wasn't updated for more than just a few days, I was motivated to write about everything everywhere. Since returning home, I've tried my best to consolidate the story of an entire year’s worth of events, knowing that not everyone is interested in the same level of detail as my mother.  Also I realize the fact that I'm writing this now in the present tense removes some of the element of suspense. It is obvious that I made it home in good enough mental and physical shape to both talk about the trip and type. Presumably the rest of the family did as well, or else I would be a heartless monster to chat so cavalierly about the experience.

Now that we have returned home, we are often told "I can't wait to hear all about your trip." or "Do you have any good stories?"  Then we sort of shrug and then everyone seems to realize it is a monumental topic to tackle in casual conversation. I hope that this journal provides a reasonable answer to those requests.

- Rolf  (circa  late 2002 or early-mid 2003)