November 11, 2011
Welcome back to that Baskin Travel Blog.
For any readers that are new to the blog, welcome! I hope to make a daily record of our Crazed Baskin Adventure. I am currently sitting in a plane bound for Beijing, China with my wife Susie, and four children - twin 14 year-old boys Wiley and Liam and daughters Terrill (13) and Virginia (10). We will be in Asia for 11 weeks and then go to New Zealand for 3 weeks.
The family is separated due to the vagaries of the Hainan Airlines reservation system. Susie managed to cajole them into getting she and Virginia next to each other. All of us are in middle seats except for me. I am in a bulkhead aisle only after the realization that my entertainment system was on the fritz.
I think this early and minor adversity will not be an issue. The boys assured us that they would not watch any of the inappropriate movies (Hangover 2? Really?). Of course, the one movie I watched had even the mildest curse words edited out. If they did the same thing to the “Hangover 2” track, I think it will effectively become a Silent Movie.
Back to the blog.
This is not a luxury junket. We will be staying in hostels and riding overnight trains. We will trek in Nepal and have home-stays in Vietnam. In short, we will be acting like college backpackers, except without the luxury.
We finished a similar 8-week trip through Europe. During it, we covered 11 countries and bonded a great deal. If you would like to get a feel for that trip, please feel free to look through the blog archive.
As a sane individual, you might ask why we are doing this.
At times, I wonder the same thing, Here is the main reason.
As camp directors, Susie and I spend our summers with our camp family, full of exceptional teammates, counselors and campers. We, however, do not get to take summer vacations with our own children.
We are thinking of this as a heapin’ helpin’ of summer vacations all linked together.
One day in 2010, we were talking about our lack of summer trips as well as the fact that all 4 kids were switching schools in a year. That led to the idea – lets pull them from school and give them an education through travel. We are now living that experiment.
Before we begin to describe this adventure, it might be worth sharing a few thoughts from the first trip.
Happily, we are still alive and speaking to each other. The former is expected, but the latter is somewhat remarkable to me. I marvel at the positive approach the entire family brought to each leg of our European journey. We spent dozens of hours in a car with 6 people and our luggage. We stayed in apartments the size of a large bedroom. We required teenage boys to wake before noon.
In other words, we were taking some risks. As it turned out, they were all “reasonable risks” (to borrow some Camp Champions parlance). It was not leisurely, but they did not mind, In fact, they developed a healthy approach to the trip: “its travel, not vacation!” I think I want to make a t-shirt that says this.
We learned a great deal, not only about each other, but about history, culture, arts, beauty and kindness. We consistently found people that were helpful and simply nice. I found this a wonderfully encouraging discovery. Sure, everyone was not nice everyday, but on the whole, people seem inclined toward decency.
Of course, I think part of this stems from our deciding to expect people to be positive. Over the years, I have found that people who expect others to be nice are rarely disappointed. Similarly, those that assume the world is full of jerks seem to find jerks just as readily. I am not sure if this is because each group only sees what they expect to see or if they actually bring out the best or worst in others. I suspect that it is a combination. When people approache me with the honest assumption that I am a kind person, I find myself striving to meet their expectations.
In any event, the people we met helped infuse our family with a renewed enthusiasm for not only travel, but humanity as well.
I cannot imagine a better education for them during that 2-month period.
The trip did make our month back in the States a little tricky. After 2 months in Europe with limited technology and full daily agendas, the transition back home was odd. They rediscovered sleeping late as well as the remote control. We did go to our major Texas cities to see our campers and parents, but we had an unusual amount of idle time.
We also found that some of the tensions that had formed in Europe were blossoming in the idleness of Texas. Their tones were getting a bit raw. They found it hard to resist the occasional barb.
You might wonder if this is the right warm-up for a 14 week journey. Susie and I wonder too.
Yet I remain optimistic. I have a basic faith that they will be great travellers and family members once again. Ironically, the kids seem to act better in the face of challenges than in the face of ease. I suspect there is a deep insight in this observation. Perhaps ease is a disease. Perhaps we are meant to strive more than be comfortable. Perhaps it is too late on a long flight to wax philosophical.
We will see as we explore even more foreign environs on this trip. I suspect that the kids will soon say, “this is not vacation or travel, it is an adventure!”