What is it like, six months later?
It is hard to believe that it has been six months this week since we returned home from our 424-day global journey to raise geography awareness. When we are out presenting at schools or civic groups or talking with family and friends, we inevitably receive questions about what it is like to be home after being away for so long and whether we are just plain bored after all the excitement of our trip. In one sense the reverse culture shock of coming back home was easier than we thought but more difficult in other ways.
What things really struck you when you arrived home?
During the drive home from the San Pedro, California, cruise port where we disembarked from our final ship voyage, we immediately marveled at the well-maintained roads and infrastructure. After traveling thousands of miles in cars and buses on unimproved and dirt roads the smooth ride of the highways and streets in Southern California were not lost on us. In Argentina, for example, we spent two consecutive days traveling along Ruta 40 on buses for a total of 900 miles, more than 700 on those on unpaved roads. And to be able to travel at high speeds was amazing. In many countries that we visited, car and bus trips averaged 20 to 30 miles an hour. Going more than twice that speed felt like we were flying!
Our plan upon arriving home was to move right back into our house, which had been rented while we were gone. However, our renter needed more time to find another house. So we let him stay another month while we lived with my parents. This made our reentry a little less painful. During those first few weeks one thing that I couldn’t get used to was the speed and stability of the Internet. Finding Internet had been such a critical part of our expedition that I couldn’t believe that I could now sit at my computer for hours and get consistent access without slow speeds or loss of connectivity. In Nepal we stayed at a hotel that had set power outage times posted on the lobby wall. On Tuesdays the power was out from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm. We sat in the dark in our room that night and waited for the power to come on so we could finish editing video and writing a newsletter before we left for our journey to Tibet early the next morning.
Grocery shopping at home was a little overwhelming after being in many small towns and remote places while traveling. During our time in Khiva, Uzbekistan, there was a grocery store on every corner but they all carried the same small number of goods. At grocery stores at home, I found 25 different types of spaghetti sauce, an array of fruits and vegetables and a bewildering choice of toothpastes to meet every need. I found myself sometimes just stopping and staring at the choices on the shelves.
How have you changed as a result of the journey?
We noticed one big change in both of us when we finally moved back into our house at the beginning of May. Almost immediately we found our 1,900 square foot home to be impossibly large for just the two of us after staying in hotel rooms, small apartments and even yurts during our trip. In Stockholm, Sweden, for example, our hotel room was not much larger than a closet and in the basement to boot! We found that we were not motivated to do all the maintenance and cleaning that a house with a yard requires. We wanted to spend that time doing things that we found more worthwhile.
So we decided to downsize and buy a condo. We found one that fits our needs in the Palm Springs area and are in the process of moving there while our house is up for sale. The condo will be our new base of operations without the hassle of all the maintenance.
We find that we want to spread the word about the importance of geography and travel. Since we have been home we have spoken at schools, civic groups, senior centers, clubs and travel stores. We also held several webcasts with classrooms around the country. It is so energizing to share the highlights of our journey and the importance of geography with students as young as seven, all the way up to seniors. If you are interested in learning more about our free presentation, contact us.
Work is slowly progressing on a book about our journey, as well as a documentary video. In fact, NBC will be using some of our video footage from American Samoa in an upcoming documentary. Our expedition is even being featured in a project management book in terms of how we planned and budgeted for the trip!
But aren’t you bored?
It is surprising how many times we are asked this question. Even my doctor quizzed me about this during my recent yearly exam. I guess with the continual activity that we undertook while traveling around the world, it would seem like things might be standing still for us now. But we are still very busy and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. We have been working with several non-profit groups during the past few months but none that is more dear to us than the 100 Mile Club®.
One of our partners from the very beginnings of Trekking the Planet, the 100 Mile Club® is a physical fitness program based on the goal of running (or walking) 100 miles at school or work during a single school year. Their goal is to help runners experience fitness and TRUE personal success through attainable physical fitness goals. Students use and experience life skills based on The Pyramid of Success, designed by the legendary basketball coach, teacher, and mentor, Coach John Wooden. Currently, over 500 schools in all 50 states, as well as New Zealand and Japan, have 100 Mile Club® programs.
In order to further the work of this organization we are currently planning a race across the US which will start at the Pacific Ocean in California, travel through 13 states and the District of Columbia and end at the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Slated to begin in January 2015, Race Across USA will consist of a group running across the entire country, as well as runners completing individual states.
What about Trekking the Planet?
We continue our Trekking the Planet work and look for ways to bring geography to life. In just the past few weeks I have gotten itchy feet again and imagine being on the road for an extended period of time. We have discussed some future Trekking the Planet international adventures and are excited about the opportunities that we have to continue to use travel to educate and highlight the cultural and natural significance of the world.
We hope to share some of our ideas and plans very soon.