I think the seed for this trip was planted a long time ago.
A LONG TIME AGO. Like, almost 20 years? Which is pretty much how long we have been a couple. JBot and I had found out about Rick Steves‘ Europe Through the Back Door in a Kevin Kelly edited Whole Earth magazine and were really inspired with the idea of travelling “through the back door,” that is, far away from resorts and other phony aspects of big business travel and closer to the more authentic experience of getting to know about different cultures. It was probably attractive to us as undergrads because of our classes in anthropology but, to be more honest, it was because it was a far cheaper means of travel!
We talked a lot about motorcycling through Europe, even going as far as buying motorcycle testing MTO books and researching the best bikes for long distance travel. Eventually, we realized that we were having a hard enough time surviving as poor students, let alone saving the money needed for a big trip.
Looking back, I can see how the flame of inspiration didn’t die and how we were naturally drawn to travel as an adventure and to travel-on-the-cheap. Our first year at university included a bare-bones trip to New York City during the Spring reading break. We stayed at a youth hostel and worked for the owner for an extra night’s accommodation. We had (and still do as a keepsake) a print-out of “Things to Do For Cheap or Under $10” in New York City. Later, JBot took a job that allowed him to work and live in the Yukon for the summer. I travelled to San Francisco by myself. A wonderful adventure! We travelled through New England by car, camping along the way. And, what I think is the biggest example of our core values, even stayed at the YMCA in Brooklyn on our honeymoon! Nothing says romance like a shared bathroom!!
Another influence has been YouTube. We have seen many, many travel montages over the years. Probably the most influential for us was “Where in the Hell is Matt?” which started in 2005:
For a bit of context, remember that YouTube was brand new at the time and videos like this just weren’t around. Now they seem ubiquitous. The advances in technology has really helped with this as well. (JBot found a GoPro knock-off that we used on a trip for Costa Rica for example – great shots of ziplining!)
This is Matt’s video from 2006:
I watched another YouTube video today actually. Not a travel montage but its evolution, the TED talk:
This raises what I think are going to be some major questions for us in the future: How do you travel “through the back door” as a family? Hitchhiking as a main mode of transport is obviously not going to work. Going hungry? So not a good idea. But becoming conscious of our biases and tearing them down? Kinda seems like the point of travelling to new places, right? Increasing our awareness of how precious nature is? Yup. Being open to adventure, trusting people, getting that spark in your eyes? Check, check, check. These are the things that sort of run underneath the conversations that we have had as a family about this trip. They are like a sweet bonus to the list of destinations we have come up with so far, a melange of wonders of the ancient and modern world.
Basically, we have no idea what is going to happen or how it is all going to work. What will the kids even be like five years from now?!
But, hey, it sure as heck beats staying at home and doing the same old thing.
The real deciding factor (besides work allowing for paid sabbaticals) has been the trips we have taking with the kids so far. Our kids seem like natural travellers. Indeed, they take real joy in having real life adventures. The bigger the bug, the cooler it is. Hurtling through the jungle dangling from a wire? Awesome! You can’t go home for two weeks because a volcano erupted in Iceland? Cool! What JBot and I discovered was that the kids will have an inherent trust in the situation as long as we were together. I am hoping that our big trip will be a lot like those previous trips with them but, you know, longer. Like, waaaaaay longer.
Another question: can a vacation still be fun if it is ten months long?
Galldangit! Imma gonna try!