The joy and splendor of travel lost on one man

Every Journey Begins with a Single Step, Sometimes Right Off a Cliff

For five months starting in January, my wife, daughter and I will be living in the cloud forests of Monteverde, Costa Rica.

My wife Pam and I will be taking Spanish classes at the local language school. She wants to become fluent in Spanish in order to better serve her social work clients back in Colorado. I want to become fluent so I can more effectively converse with the slave traders I’m convinced are going to kidnap us. I’ve read that in hostage situations it’s important to remind your captors that you are a human being with actual feelings and emotions. That’s hard to do through an interpreter.

Our daughter Rae will be attending classes at an environmentally focused school. Math class consists of calculating how many acres of land a group of eight-year-olds can reforest in one month if they really put their backs into it. English class revolves around writing scathing letters to British Petroleum executives.

This will not be my first time traveling outside the United States. I’ve shared an anti-freeze jug full of moonshine with four-foot-tall Hmong women in the mountains of northern Vietnam. I piloted (or at least attempted to pilot) a 45-foot-long houseboat down the rivers of southwestern France. Ten years ago in Ireland, I risked my life to rescue Pam from drowning in a frigid canal–a canal she walked directly into. (She’s not the best hiker.)

But those were technically just vacations.

No matter where I’ve traveled, the trips have always been short enough that I could at least mentally keep one foot in my living room. Granted, that may defeat the entire purpose of traveling–but it keeps me sane.

Once my eyesight returned after chugging rotgut with the Vietnamese women, I knew I only had one more week before I’d be back in the United States sipping an icy Manhattan. While side-swiping helpless French boaters, I remembered I only had a few more days of them shouting insults at me in their phlegm-gargling language before I’d be back home where people at least have the decency to insult me in English.

This trip poses a real challenge. Five months is a long time for me to be away from the comforts of home. Mocha Frappuccinos, Playstations and other staples of American living are going to be a long way off come January.

So I’m looking forward to the trip, but with some trepidation. Yes, it’s an adventure. Yes, I’ll cherish the memories. Yes, it’s an amazing opportunity.

But I’m sure every passenger thought the same thing when they boarded the “Titanic.”

When not crippled by dengue fever or being sold to the highest bidder, I will document our trip on this site at least once a week. Check in as often as you like.


12 Responses to “Every Journey Begins with a Single Step, Sometimes Right Off a Cliff”

  1. Nick

    Ashley, that sounds amazing. I hope it works out. Keep me posted.

    Lincoln, I’ve only been gone two days and already you’re rubbing Colorado Boy in my face?

  2. Lincoln

    “This Web site is suspicious. Leave now…”

    That’s the greeting I get with each visit to this blog. It gives me the feeling that I’m living part of the adventure – the jungle, shady people, bad food, lost passports. But wait, Colorado Boy opens in 5 minutes, so I’ll have to cut my adventuring short.

    Good luck.

  3. Ashley Bull

    Hey, just checking in and wanting to make sure I’m on your subscription list. Matt found out yesterday that he has clearance to take a sabbatical this summer where our plan is to take all 3 kids and live/work in an African orphanage. I think we’ve all been drugged by the same people, Nick.

  4. Gui

    Now I’m worried…… got Marlon Brando from Vietnam to pose for your blog?

  5. Nick

    Glynn, thanks.

    Maureen, in Spanish it’s also unnecessary to state to the obvious.

    Bill, typical English professor…

  6. Bill

    “It was the farthest point of navigation and the culminating point of my experience.”

  7. Maureen

    You’ll do fine. Just learn to say the following: “Lo siento, pero soy sólo un estúpido Estadounidense.”

  8. Glynn

    Magnificent! Be kind to the locals and don’t mention Sarah Palin.

  9. Kevin

    They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.

  10. Ashley

    Nick you and your bass-ackwards ways will not see U.S. soil again. I’m not worried about Pam or Rae. It’s been nice knowing you.


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