Three Years of Travel
365 Days; over 16,000 miles traveled; 8 nations explored (10 touched) by foot, bicycle, tuk tuk, car, van, trolley, bus, boat, train, and plane; one child born; 306 travelogue entries posted; and 11,138 photographs and videos taken (of which 2,012 were uploaded to the snapshots gallery).
36 Months; over 81,000 miles traveled (more than three times the circumference of the Earth at the equator); 40 nations explored (47 touched); one new family formed; 697 travelogue entries posted; and 38,396 photograph and video exposures taken (of which 7,396 were uploaded to the gallery)…
It's been another amazing year.
An Unexpected Path
On this day last year I thought that I was only days away from becoming a father. By this time Tatiana, my Peruvian girlfriend, and I had already spent a month finishing off the third trimester of her pregnancy at her family home in Lima.
But as Christmas and New Year's Eve came and went in a blur of pyrotechnics, superstitions and anticipation, our son-to-be seemed to be stubbornly defying all predictions regarding his supposed birth date.
Tatiana's petite Latina body was practically about to pop by the time her doctor told her she was in labor, scheduling her caesarean for the following afternoon. So it came to be on the 10th of January, amidst a whirlwind of drama at the clinic, our son, Aidric Ignacio Heimburger Boza, was born—very large, very healthy, and very white.
Needing a breather from Lima and some personal time to reflect, I took an expiring tourist visa as an opportunity to explore some of Southern Ecuador and Northern Peru in February, before returning to Tatiana and Aidric two weeks later (having left the pair in the very capable hands of her large family).
By March we'd secured Aidric's U.S. citizenship, Peruvian and American passports, and a flight to Miami. Back in the U.S. it was my turn to reconnect and celebrate Aidric's birth with friends and family on both seaboards, and for Tatiana to replenish her exhausted savings.
In July we left the Miami Beach hotel that we'd been living out of for a new lifestyle of fulltime travel with an infant. Eastern Europe was selected as the initial destination (of many), with us touching down first in Kraków, Poland.
From Poland I took my small nomadic family south, along a generally eastern arc, heading towards Turkey and the Middle East. Moving slowly, in the five months since arriving in the region, we've traveled through portions of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.
CouchSurfing was quickly adopted as an integral part of our strategy for survival in Eastern Europe, and during this time we've watched our son grow and become increasingly complicated to maintain in our ever-changing environment (…rolling, crawling, walking, mommy separation anxiety).
But travel is simple and easy in this part of the world. We've generally stayed far off the tourist trail, traveling to the towns and cities that our CouchSurfing hosts have lived in, mostly untainted by tourism and without need of a guidebook. And as a trio, we've explored concentration camps, endless fields of golden wheat, centuries-old wine cellars, local traditions and superstitions, depressing communist-era architecture, and the homes and lives of our hosts.
Who knows what the next year of travel and child raising will have in store for us (both individually and collectively), but without question this past year has probably been my most arduous and fulfilling to date.
My Slowest Year of Travel
Looking back, this has certainly been my slowest year of travel to date (22 countries in year one, 16 in year two, and just 8 for year three). But I don't make the mistake of looking at slower travel across fewer countries as a negative. I'm not a European teenager with a EuroRail pass doing 15 countries in 12 days. Depth, not breadth, has always been a motto I advocate for travel. Give your brain time to digest what it's experiencing.
But between child and CouchSurfing, I'm forced to think out the logistics of my travel with more advanced notice than just waking up and deciding if I want leave the city that day. Yes, in this respect there's a loss of spontaneity/freedom and an increase in planning, but I'm damn good at the logistics, so such things don't wear on me too much.
Good travelers are resourceful and adaptable by nature.
Dealing with a Proper Winter
It's been years since I've experienced a proper winter—back in 2001, I believe. Since, I've lived in Arizona or in regions of the world where the climate is either tropical or the hemisphere flips the seasons (resulting in what's generally been a perpetual summer).
Before arriving in Eastern Europe this past July, I'd wear a pair of shoes maybe three or four times a year. Barefoot or sandals and near a beach is generally my lifestyle of choice. So, in many respects, these past few months have been very trying on both a physical and physiological level (not to mention logistical).
Why logistical? Well, aside from the increase in volume of clothing that need be carried around for both adult and child, there's the mindset that for years I've been doing most everything in my power to keep from arriving in a city after dark. And now that the days are mercilessly short, it's hard to move anywhere and not arrive at night.
Fortunately, this part of the world is the safest and easiest that I've ever known for travel, so such things aren't problematic, save for the temperature.
Tatiana's a topical kinda girl, and for months I've been dealing with the fallout of what happens when you put a girl that detests the cold in Eastern Europe, during the middle of winter. Gray skies, gray buildings, and single-digit temperatures do not a happy Peruvian make.
Take Responsibility for Your Own Happiness
'Take responsibility for your own happiness' has been a phrase I've been finding myself using with increasing frequency this year.
There are some of us who are better capable of creating happiness for ourselves than others out there, but doing just that is something that everyone should be spending more time focusing on.
Instead of merely complaining, you need to take the initiative for creating the happiness in your own life. If something's broke, fix it. Some around you care for your state of being because of love or proximity, but being dependant on others to make you happy is no way to live.
This year has seen a lot of significant changes to Travelvice. As the Web site has grown in content, direction and visitors, so has the amount of time I've been investing into it. Moments without substantial movement around Aidric's birth have allowed me to totally overhaul the snapshots gallery, finally dump Google's Blogger in lieu of my own WordPress install, and revamp the home page not once, but twice (some twelve months apart).
I believe I've finally gotten the bulk of the site to a place where I'm happy with it (both visually and functionally). There's always more tweaking that can be done, but for the most part, Travelvice will hopefully stay as is for the next two or three years.
Just like the two years of travel prior, 2008 would've been a different experience if I didn't have the support of my father. He started the year off acclimating to his son becoming a father himself in a far-off country, immersed in a family and with a woman that he'd never met in person, surrounded by a different culture in a different hemisphere.
Dad has lead the charge in my extended family, gathering and bringing with him the support and smiles of many hearts and minds. And for that, among countless other things, I thank him.
Thank you, dad.
…Always the curious topic for those who've been following my escapades.
In another month's time, just after Aidric's first birthday, both Tatiana and our son will take my leave for three months. They'll return to the Americas (Miami and Lima, specifically) whilst I continue heading deeper into the Middle East, alone. Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt are all on the horizon during the first half of 2009. There's a strong possibility that India and a return to SE Asia will be in store for the second half of the year, or maybe even a trip up to Norway to do some under the table work in a country that pays very well for such things.
I know that the longer I travel the more certain I am that a life in the United States will never again be for me. But I also know that at some point I'll need to do some proper work. Naturally, I'll do whatever I can to keep this from happening in the U.S., but spending in 2009 will surly bring me very close to financial levels that must be responded to. I've got more than myself to think about these days, after all.
Wish us luck.