August 17, 2016
Five years ago, Susie and I decided to embark on an odd adventure – traveling with our four children for 6 months. The boys would start the trip as 14 year olds and finished as 15 year olds. Terrill and Virginia would be 13 and 10, respectively.
As camp directors, we never have the opportunity to long family vacations in the summer. Instead, we got the rare pleasure to spend our summers with hundreds of wonderful campers. We would not trade that for anything, but we longed for some serious family bonding.
This trip would be the answer.
I should start by stressing that this trip was about adventure travel, not luxury stops. We would live out of backpacks and stay in hostels. We walked a staggering amount. Perhaps the most disruptive aspect of the trip was the fact that we were nearly completely off the grid. I made sure that we would have internet most evenings so that we could check emails and blog, but the other 23 hours of the day we were disconnected. We had no phones, no texts messages, no social media, no GPS, no streaming and essentially no news.
Time slowed down and we moved at a pace more attuned to the 19th Century than the 21st. Please do not think I am longing for the sanitation, health care or challenges of the 1800’s. I deeply appreciate access to family, friends, information, medicine and comfort that our modern lives allow. But we did find some unexpected joys in the disconnected journey.
We found more time to tell tales and share random thoughts. We had a chance to steep in each other’s company and develop a deep mutual appreciation. Over the months, we ended having conversations that were at times deeply silly and at others times truly profound. We also talked about some of the tough topics that parents and teens can find good excuses to avoid, including drugs, relationships, intimacy and fears.
We had high expectations for the adventures we would have. The trip met these expectations. We managed to get lost in Prague, loss children in both the Alhambra and Versailles, faint in China, and almost freeze in Nepal. We saw magnificent sites both natural and man-made.
The trip exceeded our expectations as a bonding experience.
For this reason, Susie and I have been longing for one last trip.
This year, Wiley, Liam and Terrill all graduated high school. If we were to take one last trip, this would be our chance. We decided to take one more trip.
This trip will take us to Africa, Asia, Australia and South America. Once again, we will go off-the-grid. Several stalwarts world travellers have suggested ways we could stay connected. Many of these suggestions involve levels of techoligical mastery that exceed my abilities (unlocking iPhones and buying SIM cards “loaded with data”), but even if I were more adept, we would still choose to be disconnected. Sure we might get lost, but we might also get lost in conversation. That seems like a nice change for me.
Today, we begin our journey. As I write, I am in the Detroit airport awaiting a flight to Amsterdam where we will transfer to a flight to Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania.
A psychologist with a sense of humor might enjoy observing our familial interactions as we progress through our travel. We remain cordial to each other now, but we are only 7 hours into our 38-hour odyssey. Nerves will certainly fray over time. That is inevitable. So I think it is a shame that no one studying human behavior could benefit from our attitudinal deterioration.
I will conclude with a few pictures. No, I will spare you the Detroit Airport.
This first picture is the one we took 5 years ago.
This picture is our effort to recreate the previous shot.
The picture at the start of this article was also taken as we left camp. We took it under the “Spur” at Camp Champions. Many campers have described the spur as a portal, so we chose to treat it as one today.
I hope you will enjoy this blog. I will attempt to make it interesting for you and not indulgent for us. We will not rave about great meals as much as share our missteps and lessons. Our failures are more interesting anyway.