Two Years of Travel
365 Days; over 46,000 miles traveled; 16 nations explored (17 touched) by foot, bicycle, scooter; motorcycle, tuk tuk, tricycle, car, jeepney, truck, bus, boat, train, and plane; 224 travelogue entries posted; and 19,152 photographs and videos taken (of which 2,826 were uploaded to the gallery)…
24 Months; over 65,000 miles traveled (close to three times the circumference of the Earth at the equator); 35 nations explored (39 touched); 391 travelogue entries posted; and 27,258 photograph and video exposures taken (of which 5,384 were uploaded to the gallery)…
It's been another amazing year.
An Unexpected Path
On this day last year I said that "two events are certain: Carnival in Brazil, and a flight off the continent." With this lifestyle, I knew that trying to plan or predict anything more than these two simple milestones was wasted energy. And it was a good thing too, as I could've never predicted the path I found myself journeying 2007.
After spending 80 days in Argentina, I continued my counter-clockwise journey around the South American continent. I saw/experienced big waterfalls, famous beaches, infamous celebrations, low-key fishing villages, the Amazon River from the comfort of a hammock, and the casino carpet-like interior of Latin American buses for far too many hours. I also bested Brazilian thieves, fought with fists on the streets of Salvador, and got rolled twice in one day by crooked cops in Caracas.
The more I grew weary of Brazil—and Latin America in general—the less I wanted to fly towards Spain/Morocco. In my head, the idea of Southeast Asia grew until the vision of me in it was as sweet as a spoonful of dulce de leche on the tongue.
The Simple act of flying out of Venezuela and into the United States couldn't have been more exhilarating. Traveling from Miami to Oregon, I took the opportunity to take a brief "vacation" from 16 months of backpacking by stopping over to see friends for a week at a time in Florida, Arizona, and California, before spending a handful of days with family in the Pacific Northwest. The pampering and love received upon my return was more than enough to fuel me for years of continued travel abroad.
In SE Asia, I continued traveling independently throughout the region until the time came to catch a flight to the Philippines, to rendezvous with a Peruvian woman I'd met almost a year earlier (and seen again in Uruguay/Brazil, and again in Miami). Her name is Tatiana, and on July 30th she rocked my world with the news that she was pregnant with our son.
I stood by Tatiana, and continually stared at her in amazement as the only pregnant backpacker I've ever seen. We traveled together for three months, through seven of Southeast Asia's countries, before flying out of the region, hand-in-hand.
After brief layover to catch our breaths in Los Angeles and Miami, we finally touched down in Lima, Peru, in mid-November, where we intend to spend the short remainder of her pregnancy.
I never dreamed I'd be returning to South America so shortly after departing it. I never dreamed I'd be a father, or at least not one at this time in my life. I never dreamed I'd be celebrating New Years Eve, 2007, with a newborn.
I never dreamed of such an… unexpected path.
Upright Seatbacks and Tray Tables
I'm not tired of flying, but I'm so tired of airports and flight bureaucracy. I took 20 individual flights in 2007, compared with nine during the travel-year prior. This is an excessive amount of flying for a backpacker, which I'm attributing to combination of low cost carriers, and a compressed travel timeline. It was an unquestioned fact that Tatiana needed to be out of SE Asia by November, and traveling within the confines of a deadline is always more expensive (…and less fulfilling?).
Tatiana with Child, Nomad with Laptop
I really couldn't believe I did it, but the opportunity was such that I felt I couldn't pass it up. I purchased a laptop this year.
The technology I left the United States with in 2005 was a battery charger, CD-player, mini-speakers, thumb-drive, memory card reader, and a digital camera. In 2006, I ditched the speakers; my bulky CD-player was replaced with an MP3-player; my digital camera (twice broken) was replaced with a donated third; and two iterations of PDA's used for composing travelogue posts found their way into my pack.
In 2007, I replaced my donated digi-cam with a new fourth, purchased on my pass through the U.S. in April (although I still carry the third in my pack as a backup); and I've added a laptop, purchased in Malaysia. I still have the PDA and collapsible keyboard in my backpack, as I'm considering carrying it too as a backup—although this is really pushing the envelope for the amount of electronics that I feel comfortable walking around with.
The decision was made to purchase a laptop so that I could have the flexibility to work on projects aimed at generating income in 2008. I've always rationalized not buying a laptop and carrying it around on account of the liability, weight, and price (compared to using Internet cafés), but have rethought things now that I've got a kid on the way. And so far, it's been an absolute delight to have, and never realized before just how many viruses infect and re-infect the thumb-drive I used on Internet café computers.
While I was still in SE Asia, I picked up a few items to help making using and traveling with a laptop more friendly. These items were a small mouse, a knock-off Kensington laptop lock, and a padded case that I can slip the laptop into, and then shove inside my backpack. I absolutely hate having things in my hands while mobile, and the sight of Tatiana's traditional laptop bag made me feel like a target (as I'm the one who was always carrying it). I bought one for her massive, 15" screened, bullet-deflector of a machine as well.
I still have serious trust issues—and for good reason, my backpack is all I've got.
In SE Asia, men are much more likely to be sneaky, opportunistic thieves, than openly aggressive. That means it's much safer to walk around a city by night compared with Latin America, but more dangerous to stow a backpack under a bus or leave unattended in a hotel room. I have continued to practice a policy of locking my backpack up whenever it isn't on my back. Doing this with a homemade cable, instead of the PacSafe mesh I was using up until I replaced my top-loading backpack earlier this year, has been wonderful.
I still feel that traveler-on-traveler crime is one of the worst violations occurring within the backpacker community.
By the end of my travels in Brazil and Venezuela, I'd grown particularly intolerant of tourists, and tourist-related activities, towns, and destinations. Thankfully, I was emotionally recharged/refreshed with a vacation in the predictable bliss that is the United States, but have since noticed a serious decline in new acquaintances/friendships formed while traveling (in SE Asia).
It's hard to meet new people in SE Asia, where private rooms are the norm, and the only communal gathering point is a bar. Instead, I've noticed a tendency to maintain old friendships, and meet up with people encountered during my first year of travel. These things are important to me.
During my first two months with Tatiana, I hardly wrote for Travelvice at all—although those gaps were eventually filled in. Days without posting would roll into weeks. I found that the silence affected my friends and family more than I expected. At a time when they craved new information about what was going on with Tatiana, our situation, and our travels, I was silent. They didn't want to intrude with e-mails asking questions, so they just let me be. It was the first time during my travels that people really didn't know much more than where I was—least of all what I was doing, or how I was feeling.
I didn't care for the silent hole I dug myself into either, and have since adjusted/adapted my writing habits to accommodate traveling full-time with another person.
Much like the year prior, 2007 would have been a completely different experience if I didn't have the support of my father. He's always in my corner, willing to help or offer support with everything I've thrown at him—including the unexpected announcement of my fatherhood.
My dad is my biggest fan, my most avid reader, and everything I could want or need in a father at this point in my life.
Thank you, dad.
This question is always an entertaining one, and has been asked with increased frequency as the close of the year approaches. Am I going to open a hostel with Andy? Will it finally happen in Lima? Am I going to stay with Tatiana? Am I going to move back to the U.S. with my new family? Am I going to stop traveling?
I know that I have no intention of returning to live in the United States, a desire that Tatiana shares herself. I know that I have no desire to stop traveling. I know that I have increased responsibilities.
And keeping all these things in mind, I can answer these questions by saying that only two upcoming events are certain: The birth of my son, and a flight off the continent.