Nobody believes me when I say that the 80 days thing is a coincidence. But it is.
We leave the day after Isabel's last exam and return the day before the first full day of school. 80 days.
Actually from take off to touch down at Winnipeg International is 79 days and 20 hours, but door to door from our house... precisely 80 days.

And a bit about the backstory. In 1993 after three years in veterinary practice Lorraine and I quit our jobs and backpacked around the world for eight months, doing everything from living in a cave in Greece (a very nice cave mind you) to camel trekking across the Rajastani desert to celebrating Christmas in Hong Kong to island hopping in Thailand to volcano climbing in Indonesia to living with a family in Samoa to... well, the list does go on and on. Everyone said, "Wow, that was the trip of a lifetime!" To which we responded, "Nooo! It can't be the only time we do that! It just can't be." We swore we would do something similar again when we had kids. It's 22 years later. Isabel is 13. Alexander is 10.
It's time.

Monday, July 11, 2016

In Print

This blog's long silence has ended. but only long enough to announce the publication of a book based on it! 
I filled in a number of gaps so it has about 25% "new material" and the printing process only permits black & white so I used a different selection.
It's on the shelf at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg in their "armchair travel" section:

It's also available online at:

The meager profits will be donated to the Wild Foundation (, an organisation founded in Africa which runs conservation projects that also address the needs of local communities. Wild Foundation has a top Charity Navigator rating.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Dim The Lights

It's time for a slideshow. Make some popcorn, pour yourself a drink and dim the lights. If you're the type who likes to fall asleep during slideshows, then move to the end of the couch and curl up with an afghan (I mean the crocheted blanket, but if you prefer the hound or the person, be my guest).
These are our favorite pictures, many of which have appeared in the blog, but some of which have not. The music is Philip Glass. Don't let that frighten you, he was in an unusually melodic mood.

Around The World:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Carbon

We've been back almost three months and the blog has been... um... resting. No no, not dead, just... resting. I have shaken it awake today to tell you about carbon. Back in the spring Isabel did her science fair project on the carbon emissions traveling around the world would generate. She looked at the differences between the modes of transportation we used and at the most reliable and cost effective way to offset those emissions.

Today we finally got around to purchasing the offset. Isabel's research showed that Britain's "Cool Earth" ( was one of the best reputed organisations in this field. Their strategy of involving local communities in the Amazon in the preservation of otherwise soon to be logged rain-forest was far more effective than planting trees (too may die). Our 60 tonnes of emissions could be effectively offset by paying to preserve a quarter acre. To be safe we preserved a half acre.  

I imagine that my more cynical friends will be groaning at the political correctness of it all, but I hasten to remind them that the term "politically correct" contains the word "correct". I don't care about the political, but I do care about the correct. So there.

(Incidentally, I now also have a less politically correct blog at

Thursday, September 10, 2015


I heard the first shrieks from just inside our front door while I was carrying the bags up the driveway from the taxi (79 days and 23 hours after leaving...). The kids had raced ahead and had found the dog. Accounts vary, but the gist appears to be that Orbit was confused and perhaps alarmed at first, but Lorraine was right behind them and once he sniffed her hand he instantly switched to overjoy mode. Now there was barking mixed with the shrieking. A small melee of hugs and fur and limbs ensued.

We missed Orbit and we missed our cats and our family and our friends (this list is given in no particular order, really). And sure, we missed the house and Winnipeg and Canada and all that a bit too, but honestly... only a bit. And our stuff? I didn't miss it at all. I had cleared out my closet and dresser for the house-sitter, so last night I began taking my clothes back out of the storage bins and experienced something close to revulsion at the amount. Probably around 40 t-shirts, of which only a fraction get worn regularly. And that's only the t-shirts. I just finished traveling around the world for almost three months with four shirts and two pairs of pants. And not one time did I wish I had packed more. Not one single time. The same principle applies to every other type of possession. One small bag is really all you need. But that's not a very original thought. Nobody's out there saying, "pack heavy you fool!" The metaphorical implications for one's overall life are obvious. Mentioning that is not very original either, but long journeys do help transform "declutter your life" from a slogan to a deeply felt imperative.

Normally I unpack pretty much immediately upon arrival home, but for some reason as I type this a day later, I still haven't.

Appendix - By The Numbers
45000 km by air
8000 km by land 
5500 km by sea
14 airports
11 countries
5699 photographs
38 nights in rented houses or apartments (mostly AirBnB)
14 nights in a tent
10 nights in an RV
8 nights at sea
6 nights in various cottages & hotels (all in Africa, before and after the camping and twice during)
3 nights in the air
63 new (to us) species of animals seen (Isabel had me keep a list)

And the cost...? Let's say all in it cost the equivalent of "a nice new car". Our two old cars can chug along a little while longer.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Day 80 And In The End

I am writing this on the westbound flight to Winnipeg, with perhaps a thousand kilometers left to complete the circle. The test has been successful. If you head west and keep going long enough you will eventually return to where you started from. Take that flatearthers. That said, at the gut level the concept still feels abstract as our original departure is now such an ancient and remote memory. This is the thing about such a long journey, the thing that has made the biggest impression on me: time is elastic. It's as if I've grabbed hold of time with mid June in my left hand and early September in my right and then I've pulled it and stretched it, like taffy. A lifetime opened up in that space. Seek ye not the fountain of youth, rather seek ye ever new horizons.

What else can I tell you? I can tell you that it is not a small world after all; it is vast, incomprehensibly vast (although wacky coincidences might blind you to that). And that the world is beautiful, heartbreakingly beautiful. And that it is safe, heartwarmingly safe. The news tells you as much about the world as the cut on your finger does about you. And that people everywhere are welcoming and friendly and fantastically interesting. The world is a freakshow, but the freaks are alright.

Anything else? That dragging your children through the African bush and Istanbul bazaars and Indonesian villages and over three oceans and five continents and on flights of 12, 14 and 16 hours duration is not an elaborate form of madness. (Sotto voce: although there may have been a moment or two where Lorraine and I whispered to each other, "next time, no kids". There may have been.) Even when one of the children has ADHD and flings himself on the ground in Times Square because he is overwhelmed or flips out at a Botswanan border post because he can't take standing in line again or screams every time a fly comes near him. Even then it is not madness, but simply part of the cost, calculated in advance. Perhaps even an investment.

Perhaps. What have they gotten out of all of this? Certainly a packet of unique memories - I saw a platypus and it was cool, I was on a really really big boat and it was cool, I climbed a humongous sand dune and it was cool, and so forth - but I hope some seeds have been planted too. Who knows what seeds and how or when they will germinate and what they will ultimately grow into? It cannot be predicted, but I am an optimist.

And me? And in the end what has it done for me? I have not yet begun to process the experience, but I do know that the inside of my head is a madly spinning kaleidoscope of numberless sights and sounds and experiences, and, if I may be permitted a saccharine moment, that I weep for the beauty of the world.

Now it's back to castrating Chihuahuas.

I know that misadventure and colourful failure is far more entertaining (to a point), so I do apologize for ending on a positive note.

An epilogue will follow.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Day 79 A New York Minute

Central Park on Labor Day Monday. Mad beating sun. Brazilians and Chinese crowd the Imagine mosaic and purveyors of crap sketches of John Lennon and crystals and tie dye bandanas ring it. Down the hill a bicycle goes by, ridden by a tall thin black man dressed all in white and with long corn row hair. He has an enormous old boom box strapped to his bike with bungee cords. He is playing Edith Piaf. Loudly. And he is grinning like Christmas morning.
"Non, rien de rien,
Non, je ne regrette rien."

Day 78 Taking The A Train

As is relentlessly proclaimed on fridge magnets, tea towels and dog sweaters, I Heart New York. I really do heart it. So keep that in mind when you read the following.

The A Train (subway, but everyone calls them trains) runs directly beneath our bed. Several floors directly beneath it, but straight down there and we feel it and hear it every time one rattles through. This is mildly irritating, but only mildly and greatly outweighed by the cool factor and the convenience. Nostrand Station is only a block and a half away. My previous experience with NY subways was entirely in Manhattan and we had just come from London, so to say that Nostrand was a... letdown would be an understatement. This is a New York subway station like the kind in movies from the 70s. Dingy, dirty, dangerous feeling, unbelievably hot and humid - so hot and humid in fact that the air down there is actually hazy - and rat  infested! OK, I'll concede that "infested" is an overstatement, but the kids did see several rats. I'm sure they're in Manhattan's stations too, but just not as brazen anymore. Incidentally, the subway in Istanbul is gleaming and modern and clean and beautiful. Istanbul. That's in Turkey.

But the A Train is an express and takes you quickly to Manhattan and Manhattan stations are mostly (although not universally) far nicer. And Manhattan itself is of course billionaire disneyland and consequently brimfull with eye candy of every description. Funny how quickly Nostrand Station and Bed-Stuy began to feel like "home".