And We’re Off

Tomorrow morning we leave. We begin what will be a one year adventure around the world. We’ve thought about, talked about, and dreamed about this moment for years. Now that it’s here, how do we feel? Um, well, right now, we feel just about the same as we do every day. Even though we leave in less than 12 hours, it hasn’t hit us yet. I feel a little bit stressed about making sure we get everything in the bags as we want it to be. I feel a little annoyed that I have to get up so freaking early tomorrow because of the damn ferry. I feel a bit tired (though I’m sure I’ll hardly be able to sleep tonight). But for the most part, I feel just plain normal. Maybe it will hit me when I step onto the plane tomorrow. But I’m not even sure of that. We fly all the time. Being on a plane is not a new or unusual feeling. No, I don’t think it will hit until we step off the plane in Managua, when Spanish suddenly becomes the language of choice, when hot water is a luxury, when Internet connections aren’t available around the clock, when we don’t exactly know what we’re doing or where we’re going. Then I think we’ll realize that this is it, that we’re on what will be the adventure of a lifetime. I can only imagine now how that will feel. Next time I check in here, I’ll know, and I’ll be sure to let you know too.

Though we hope to continue posting regularly, please be patient with us over the next few days and weeks as we get into the groove of things and figure out how this all will work. Check back and I promise you will find good things…I’m just not sure yet when that will be.

(And in case you’re curious about where we are or will be check out the “Where Are We Now” section, as I’ve updated it with the latest information, including our now confirmed flights.)

Hasta luego mi amigos!

The Final Week

So forgive us for not posting at our regularly scheduled time, but things have gotten a little crazy here this past week, our final in the States. In the past week, we have:

  • Spent countless hours on the phone with Continental getting our flights arranged. We now have an itinerary that we think looks good, and we’re simply waiting for them to charge us for the taxes and fees (which they better do soon, since we leave on Monday!)
  • Booked spots on an Inca Trail hike in January
  • Purchased insurance for the trip and changed all our at-home insurance to policies better suited to our needs
  • Decided what credit cards/ATM cards we’re taking with and notified all the necessary institutions of our travel plans
  • Purchased a few last minute items
  • Signed papers granting financial power of attorney to Jeff’s mom
  • Voted for the next president of the United States
  • Got our computer set up and ready to go
  • Had my awesome mother sew secret pockets in all our pants and add velcro closures to all our outside pockets
  • Gone through all the mail that managed to accumulate in just one month
  • Sorted through all our stuff, debated over the merits of many items, and finally just packed the bags
  • Said goodbye to our family and friends in Louisville (sniff)
  • Flew across the U.S. to Seattle

I’m sure I’m leaving out some things, but suffice it to say, we’ve been busy. It seems that no matter how well you plan, there is a lot to be done in the last minutes. And I have to say that it just might be easier to get up and go from your place of residence rather than A) pack and move all your stuff 600 miles across the country 1.5 months before your departure date, B) spend a month in a foreign country, C) return to original domicile to stay in a borrowed apartment, gather your last belongings, and then repeat 600 mile drive, and D) spend 5 days in one U.S. locale, then fly across the country and spend another 4 days in another U.S. locale before finally, finally, finally departing. But hey easy just isn’t our game.

I’d write more but I have to run. There are still things to be done! Check back on Sunday for our last post from U.S. soil, and then get ready, because the good stuff will be coming soon. I’m certain of it.

A Farewell in Photos to D.C.

Farewell to the Metro, my connection to the city.

Farewell to my favorite weekend destination, Eastern Market

Farewell to all my former places of employment, the Holocaust Museum, The Children’s Partnership, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Farewell to Dupont Circle, site of many interesting lunches, where I met “the Lord,” learned the sandwich song from Raccoon, and made the acquaintance of the only black Grand Master in chess.

Farewell to the monuments, emblematic of the city.

Farewell to all the other sights and sounds, both grand and mundane.

Farewell, D.C. I’m sure we’ll meet again one day.

The final decisions

We were going through our things tonight. We have a large maybe pile of things we may want to take with us (in addition to a much larger pile of things we are definitely not taking with us). This pile is the culmination of all of our planning and packing and putting aside anything we think might be useful on the trip. Now the job is to make those final decision about what is going with us and what is not.

So what is it about us that makes these decisions so difficult? Both Theresa and I have spent much of the day sitting in the basement with this pile completely immobilized by the whole process. There’s so much to consider, so many scenarios to envision. How many sets of clothes to take, which shirts balance which pants in the best combinations. How many possible layers to take. Whether to take waterproof pants. What electronics to take, and what plugs and adapters to take to make sure they can get power, including redundancies. What to include in our first aid kit, and what container to put all of these components in. What toiletries are really necessary and which are luxuries we can do without. What types of entertainment to take, and how much. Each decision has two important aspects to balance: how much they will improve our experience, and how much it will weigh us down to to carry it around.

We’ll eventually make all of these decisions, for better or for worse, and we will learn whether we chose right when the time comes. And fortunately, Theresa has already put a general packing list online to work from (unfortunately, I am a procrastinator and have done no such thing myself). But its one thing to make a list and its another to actually pull out those items and leave everything else behind. The questioning comes … the what ifs flow. Every possible permutation comes to mind. What is it about us that can’t just let go, throw what’s on our list in a bag and call it settled? After all, nearly everything we’ll need we’ll be able to buy almost anywhere we end up, almost certainly at a cheaper price.

I think it has to do with the principle of the thing. Of not wanting to be wrong. Of being comprehensively prepared. Being in control of the situation … oh, I have anticipated this problem have the answer for that right here. And the finality of the decisions is always harder than a decision you can easily fix. While I may be able to get a shirt in Argentina, I certainly won’t be able to grab my favorite lightweight polo that just got the ax. What about you? Do you find packing easy or hard? Does it bother you to think you may be missing something you might need down the road, or do you have the faith that you’ll come up with something (or the knowledge to know you couldn’t possibly be missing anything)? Fortunately, we’ve got three more days to finish this project!

Adios Amigos

Last night we said goodbye to DC with a party, where we were able to gather many of our friends together for a final farewell. Though I was initially resistant to the idea of moving to DC, over the years we lived there, it became home. And last night, as we closed the door behind the last of our departing guests, I think we both felt a touch of sadness.

Though there are things we’ll miss about the place, what we’ll miss most is the people…the once strangers who became friends and then grew dear to us, who left us with hugs and good wishes and funny pictures and nice cards and even a few tears, who made us promise to keep in touch and lamented the fact that it would be an entire year until they saw us again, who were integral parts of our daily lives for the past years. I think we’re both certain that we’ll keep in touch with many of them and that we’ll gather together on occasion, so we are not sad in the sense that we’re losing these people. We’re not. We’re sad, however, that never again will things be the same. We won’t be moving back to DC when we return, and during the year we’re away many of our friends will also be scattering. All of our lives will continue to evolve as they have over the past five years, but this time they’ll be going in so many different directions. Although we can always go back to DC, it won’t ever again be the same DC we left.

And so while we are looking forward to the future and the start of our trip, we are also taking a moment to look back. A tinge of sadness marks our excitement. But mainly, we just feel lucky. Lucky for the opportunity we have ahead of us. And oh so lucky for the experience we have had in DC and for the friends who have made that part of our journey one we will always look back on fondly. So, if you’re reading, thank you…thank you for everything.

Back in the U.S. of A.

We touched down in D.C. this afternoon and are approaching hour 24 of being awake. I’m hoping to end that streak soon by sinking into bed, so I’m sorry but you won’t be getting much of a coherent post out of us tonight. But as I made the trip back across the pond, I was contemplating the difficulties of traveling across multiple time differences and debating which is worse: traveling east or traveling west.

I decided that for me it’s definitely traveling east. I hate losing my night. I detest red-eyes. I can’t sleep on airplanes, but I’m tired while flying because I’ve usually been up for a full day before boarding the plane, so I’m just pretty much miserable. Then when you land you still have a full day ahead of you, which you have to try to stay awake through if you have any hope of adjusting.

Flying west makes for a long day, but I don’t lose my night…it just gets pushed back. Plus I take off in the morning and so I’m not tired on the plane. I don’t have to try to make myself sleep; I can just pass the time reading, watching movies, etc. And with an afternoon landing, it’s not that many hours until I can hop in bed. Like I said before, I’m a girl who likes her sleep, so that, in the end, is the deciding factor for me.

But I know there are people who disagree with me. So I’m just wondering what you think: is it easier to fly east or west?

Russia in Review

UPDATE: You can now link to our photos from the Russia page. Check them out!

If you take a look at the navigation bar at the top of the page, you’ll see we’ve added a new section: Country Summaries. We’ll be creating a page in this section for every country we visit. You’ll get a quick link to our posts and photos related to that country, along with a summary of our experience in that country. I’ve got the Russia summary up and ready so please go check it out.

But before you get too excited, let me disappoint you and say that I don’t have photos up yet. I really, really wanted to get that done tonight, but remember that part about me not being a night person? Yeah, still true, and as it’s now less than an hour until midnight, it just isn’t going to happen. I hope to get to it tomorrow, and I will update this post to let you know when I do. But please don’t hold your breath—tomorrow is our last day in Stockholm (can you believe it?) and I have a ton to do.

Also, we’re still uncertain about where/how we want to host our photos. Is Flikr the best option? If you have any insight into this, please comment and let us know. And please go ahead and check out the written part of the Country Summary and let us know what you think. All comments and suggestions are welcome!

You Can Call Him Doctor

Great success!

Jeff successfully presented his Ph.D. dissertation research, smoothly answered all his opponent’s questions (or nicely evaded them), wowed his committee, and was, as a result, awarded his Ph.D. yesterday.

This was the capstone of our pre-trip preparation, so now it’s just a matter of tying up a few loose ends. Then it’s infinity and beyond…or South America and beyond.

Dr. Jeff with his mentor, opponent, and three committee members.

Dr. Jeff with his mentor, opponent, and three committee members.