Itís been a few months since we returned from the grand journey. I decided to wait a little while, as I rejoined the "real world", to write this with more perspective. Iím not sure if it worked. I think and feel the same way about the trip as the day I returned. Thatís a result of how the trip changed me though. It wasnít some mind-altering transformation where I suddenly know what I want to do the rest of my life, itís an awakening. An awakening of all the desires, intrigues, and goals that gets clouded in the daily grind. I know Iím going to live a remarkable life. During that yearlong journey, through all of the experiences, it was a trip of a lifetime that is going to guide me for a lifetime.
Carlos and I decided to do the trip at Mardi Gras 2000 (itís unclear what mental state we were in at the time). It was an idea that was harbored in both of our personal dreams and suddenly ruptured into something that had to be done. It was the right time and we were going to Go Big. Next came the painful months of waiting and planning. As the time drew near you start to wonder, "What am I doing? This is crazy. No wonder no one does this." Around September, we made final commitments to each other, "If we donít do it now, weíre never going to do it," and there was no turning back. I was excited beyond belief and just as scared. I couldnít wait to see everything and experience all the adventures but I also had never planned so much for things to go wrong. I had 9 little bandages covering needle punctures and a couple hundred dollars worth of malaria pills to show for that. After doing my taxes 5 months early, signing my life away to my parents, figuring out how to pack for a year, and putting every other aspect of my life on hold for a year, it was time to go.
As I departed LA on a train for San Diego, I said the hardest goodbye to my parents that I could ever imagine. I had to put myself in their shoes. Most parents have to face sending their child off to college, away from home, yet amidst faculty and other college kids that will become their friends in a relatively safe environment. My parents got to do that and then send me off to the world. I was going to be living in a new foreign city every few days amongst no one I knew. Facing unforeseen risks and uncontrollable situations. When I gave my dad the final wave, the tearing of emotions was fierce but I felt so alive. Like I said before I was living my most outrageous dream. Carlos picked me up at the train station and there was a glow surrounding us. That glow that beams around you when you know youíre about to do something great. We had so much ahead of us and it was all unknown and we couldnít wait to get started.
We had a rough plan of where we were going and had done all of the appropriate research. In one night, armed with a map of the world and every travel book we could find, we plotted out our basic route to circumnavigate the globe. Iím sure Magellan couldnít have planned better. Our plan called for 4 months in Central and South America, then off to Europe for 3 months, a jaunt across Russia to explore the Far East for a couple months, and finish up with South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand for 3 months. I wonít bore you with all the details of our daily conquests. Theyíre all in the journal for all to read but it was a combination of amazing experiences that didnít disappoint.
We simply were embracing everything that life is about. Meeting new people, seeing new places, new experiences, learning, spending time with friends and family, doing, trying. Every day was a new adventure with fresh faces and fresh places. I can sit here and remember what I did almost every day of that year. The memories are striking and rich. We met so many intriguing people both native and tourist. I tried things I never thought I would including a bungee jump on my birthday. I ate foods that were never an option like eel and kangaroo. Sometimes we didnít even get what we thought we ordered, receiving chicken soup for breakfast when we thought we ordered eggs in Rio. The random occurrences make for memorable days. Itís all part of the journey.
The way we traveled also added to the spectacle. We covered as much of the journey by land as possible. From 20 hour bus rides through flooded Bolivian dirt roads to a 7 day trans-Mongolian train ride from Moscow to Beijing we saw a dazzling array of landscapes. There were a few close calls like when our Guatemalan bus did a full speed 180 degree spin into a ditch and when our Cambodian mini van almost sank in a flooded city but we pulled through. Thereís a blind faith commitment you have to make when you put your life in so many peopleís hands. On our way down from a volcano over a sheer cliff, you could see us rooting the teenage bus driver on with hoots and hollers while he was making 3 point turns at every bend in the narrow road. We even silently accepted a driverís decision to pick up a "lady of the night" on a late night trip after looking at his blood shot eyes. At least he would stay awake talking to her as he pulled probably his second 15 hour driving shift in a row. Stringing 89 bus rides, 60 train rides, 31 flights, 30 ferries, and 5 rental cars together, we made it back to California safe and sound.
As for Carlos and I, there was a little concern as to how we would deal with being together every waking hour for a year. I can tell you, I only hope I get along with my future wife (still taking applications) as well as we did. It was easy. We knew before that we got along well but we tackled everything with patience and understanding for each other. Weíre like brothers now. Together we formed a great team. We were joined by great friends and families as well for parts of the trip. It added a spark to segments of the trip when people took vacations to join us along the way. A lot of great memories were formed between special friends. We thank all of you profusely.
After almost 12 months of being on the go, we came to the end of the road. It was time to go home. Talking about the trip as we drew to the conclusion, we had no regrets. I wouldnít have changed anything. The exciting parts, the scary parts, the sacrifices, the memories Ė it all molded into a wonderful journey that will inspire me for a lifetime. It was a journey around the world, but also a journey of the human spirit. We traveled through 40 countries and sometimes felt so far away from home but all the while I was learning about myself. I have a better understanding of what makes me "Me". Iíll continue to develop that understanding but I made a huge discovery on this trip, a discovery that you canít put your finger on or tell in one word or sentence. It is a discovery of purpose and the significance of life.
So whatís next? Iím so ready for whatís next. Things will unfold as they must but Iíve put together some great ideas. I canít tell you what they are exactly but it will be exciting and there are a lot more adventures ahead. This was simply a dream come true and a great foundation for more dreams to come. Itís been a wonderful experience to share this journey with everyone whoís visited the website and watched as we made our way from place to place. We appreciated all the support along the way and hope in some small way to have inspired a future trip or shown someone a place theyíll never go. In some ways the world has changed after Sept. 11th but we need to concentrate on the good. There are sights that silence you in awe and people who will stun you with kindness around every corner. I canít wait to go again. To steal a line, "Itís a wonderful world."