The Peripatetic School, Pt. 2

Conundra

We had been planning a trip like this for years. For three years I submitted Fulbright applications (First, I denied a 2nd round offer for my 3rd choice, then my 1st round 1st choice approval was cancelled by the federal budget sequestration of 2013, and then my Distinguished Award proposal for New Zealand was not approved.), but at the same time we saved money and prepared to do something like this no matter what. In the meantime, we explored other international programs, overseas jobs, and volunteering opportunities.

Then, in August of 2014 my father died a week after his 90th birthday and by fall we had moved my mother up to Santa Cruz to be near my sister and I. About that time my aunt died as well, at 95. In a matter of a few months, we had to move out a lifetime of stuff from our family home in Riverside, and my Aunt Lourene’s abbreviated collection from her little apartment in Alhambra. The process of going through drawers, cupboards, closets, boxes of stuff, photo albums, and rooms of furniture was a lesson. A lesson in nostalgia, reminiscence, and all those things that may have personal value or merely monetary value, all those things you can’t take with you. I’m a bit of a collector, that is packrat, memorabilia aficionado, thrift store hound, family archivist, sentimentalist/hoarder, and so the process was replete with physical and metaphysical angst.

In addition to the stuff, we inherited some money, but now of the mind that experiences are more important than things, we opted for a trip around the world. Good for us, great for our children. However, a new set of conundra confronts one: where and why? The “how” is the money, and my brother’s sage advice was to pick a budget and stick to it. Budgeting is a post in/of itself, and is an object lesson in lifestyles, priorities, and possibilities. Who doesn’t like nice things, but we don’t need them, often don’t want them, and again, you can’t take ‘em with you – into eternity or just around the world. So our lifestyle, travel-style, would be humble. Our priorities included showing the kids cool parts of the world, learning, doing some good, and staying safe enough to make it home.

The where and why gets more complicated. I’ve come to learn that planning a circumnavigation is an excruciating exercise in deciding where you’re not going to go. Other sites & blogs mention the reality that you can’t go everywhere, no matter how much time or money you have, so where is it, and where is it not? Every decision evokes an opportunity cost and some kind of rationale. Money can be part of both of those, limiting transportation and accommodation options. Safety, especially with kids, limits certain regions. Making up for yanking them out of school for a year necessitated showing our children some of classic sites (and having them write about them). Inspired by John Marshall’s book, “Wide Open World,” we wanted to do some volunteering. Having traveled a fair amount already, we wanted to see some places we’d never been. Still the decision-making process is difficult.

Before making excuses, let me say that the places we won’t go this time, we’ll try for a next time. So, we ruled out South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa, and Russia/China. Safety issues dictated some of this, altho’ we’d considered Turkey and Israel (but the news there recently has not been good). And we have visited Morocco, so that was at least some of Africa and gave us a taste of the Arabic world. Also, spending quality time – which is simply more time – is important, and we’ve realised that already we’re too much “on the go.” We settled on mostly Europe and Asia, with an emphasis on Spain and India. This blog tells the details, but in my next post I’ll elaborate on particulars and travel tips…

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