The tough questions that come with silence

The past month has been pretty transformative for me personally.  When we stopped in Burford, I found myself confronted with the first opportunity to take a deep breath in about five months, and maybe longer.  The three months leading up to the trip and the first seven weeks of the trip have been non-stop planning, doing and worrying.  After we settled into the house and found our groove I found myself extremely unsettled.  I wasn't depressed exactly, I just did not know what to do with my time, and it was disconcerting.  I was reading three books, I found myself watching the stock market intently, taking naps and counting down the hours until evening when I could have a glass a wine and hear about the garden Stacie visited that day.  I was not motivated to do much of anything, and nothing was really capturing my attention.  For the first time in a long time life was quiet, and it scared the shit out of me.  At the same time, Stacie was as content and happy as I have ever seen her.  She was eager for the day to start and could not tear herself away from reading about, planning for and attending gardens. 

After about a week or so of struggling to make it through the day I started cooking, and then I started taking some online photography classes and slowly but surely I started feeling better.  However, I was eager to explore why I was so unsettled, so I put some energy into reflecting on the past couple of weeks.  What I found was not really surprising, however it was personally challenging.  The source of my unease was the fact that I had nothing to distract me.  

For most of my adult life I have had my head down working to create something.  First, I was building a career, then a company, then a family and another company.  On any given day I had so many things competing for my attention I had no time to deal with the tough questions that lurk when we are alone with our thoughts.  Once I realized I was only feeling better because I had found interesting things to distract me I realized how much work I really have in front of me.  I don't want to come back from this trip having had a wonderful time but not having grown as a person.   I want to spend time in that quiet, dark, raw place that challenges you to figure out how you want to live life, what you believe in, and what passions you are going to follow.  At its heart that is what this trip is all about, stripping away the everyday distractions of life in order to get down to the bare essence of what is important.  I cannot know where this road will end, but now that I have experienced first hand the reason we are here, I can tell you my perspective is different and I welcome the silence and the chance to reflect.  

Technology Trials

It's been a couple of weeks since my last post, largely because writing has not been a major priority for me.  Since we left the US there has always been some challenge facing the family that required our attention.  To my surprise these challenges were not related to finding our way around, transportation, bad weather, or someone being sad due to homesickness, but rather technology.  We are relying on technology for quite a few things, from communication with each other (cell phones), people back home (Skype / computers), to finding our way (Google Maps), but most importantly the kids school is online (computers and phones), which requires a solid internet connection.

We left Camp, Ireland almost two weeks ago and since then we have had nothing but trouble with our internet connections and phones.  The first two weeks of the trip in Ireland the internet was pretty slow but consistent, but so far the internet and cell phones in the UK appear to be hell bent on breaking my spirit.  In Edinburgh we arrived in our flat around 1:00 in the afternoon following a moderate day of travel.  The flat was a ground floor unit - aka basement, but was clean and nice enough.  The kids wanted to start on a little work so they flipped open their laptops and then it came, the words I have come to dread, "hey dada I need help, I can't connect".  The following three hours were spent in head banging frustration with the landlady / owner Lucy, who was very kind, but of no technical assistance whatsoever.  We eventually found a solution which involved standing on one foot while perched in a corner of the flat with one eye closed and your head wrapped in tin foil, but only Peter was willing to do that.   In short we were without internet for a few days.  We thought, "hey, no big deal, we can make it work, we are on an adventure and need to roll with the punches".   Starbucks was right up the street with decent free wifi and over the next couple of days we consumed lattes and muffins every time we needed a wifi fix.  On to the next challenge - phones.

Prior to leaving I checked to make sure our Verizon Samsun Galaxy phones were unlocked and could be used with a foreign SIM card.  In Ireland, we went into a shop, bought a SIM, popped it into my phone and and sure enough I had a phone connection - but no data.  However, a quick internet search revealed I needed to create a new APN with the proper settings for my carrier.  Of course! How did I forget the APN, everyone knows about the APN.  Without too much hassle that crisis was averted and with a few magic swipes I had a VERY slow data connection.  So again Ireland was slow, but consistent.  On to the UK, the land of Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Tim Berners-Lee, the freaking inventor of the internet - surely things would be better there. Whatever....

Peter and I went to the O2 shop in Edinburgh to get a new SIM card for the UK.  I had O2 when we lived in London and did not remember it being particularly bad, so I went with what I knew. We got a new SIM, popped it in, configured our APN (we are fast learners) and whammo - we were live!  Or so we thought.  Everything looked right with the phone, except we could not make or receive calls consistently, we could not send or receive text's and we could not use the internet.  So, while all the right lights were flashing, we were left with mostly dead phones.  No problem, we will just pop back into the O2 shop and get some help tomorrow - whatever...

The next day I headed back over and watched as three O2 employees stood in complete amazement as my phone would not respond to their magic touch.  They would say things like "I have never seen anything like this before", which is something I am getting used to hearing. Then finally the O2 technology elder (who was like 19), played his trump card - "you need an O2 Guru" - OH HELL YES, I NEED A GURU!  That's exactly what I need, "where can I find this guru?".  Do I need to go on a quest deep through the ancient underground city of Edinburgh and fight dragons to find this technology wizard who bestow upon me with the three eternal gifts of phone, sms and internet?  "No, he is just up the road in our St. James shop, but there are no available openings until tomorrow at 10".  OK, I'll take it.  I could barely sleep that night, the chance to meet a real Guru was simply too exciting.  I arrived at the shop 5 minutes early, which if you know me well, is highly unusual and illustrative of my excitement.  Then I saw her, the guru - live and in person.  I was eager to meet her, so I walked right up and proudly said - "I have an appointment with you at 10".  "Yeah - I am still helping someone - take a seat" she said with an air of confidence only possessed by those who are truly enlightened.  20 minutes later after watching her work her magic she announced to the person she was helping "I have never seen anything like this before, I can't help you".  My spirit was crushed, the Guru could not solve all problems.  However, I held out hope that she could still solve my smartphone issues.  When it was my turn (25 minutes after my appointed time) I eagerly described my problems to the Guru and eagerly awaited her wise response.  Within 15 seconds she diagnosed my problem.  I needed a new phone - my Samsung Galaxy S4 did not have the right radio to work with the O2 network.  I was devastated, I had failed.  Head held low I sulked out of the shop defeated.  I have since come to learn that this Guru must still be searching for enlightenment because the phone is fine and compatible and works well with O2 in most areas, just not Edinburgh. Regardless I had now spent an inordinate amount of our time in Edinburgh on tech and was growing weary of my new role as IT Admin.  

Next we headed to Bowness on Windermere, which is a beautiful town in the Lake District of England.  The drive down took us three and a half hours and we arrived at our next rental around lunchtime again.  Once we entered the house, a sense of dread hit me, what if the internet connection here is no good?  I immediately opened my laptop to check the speed, searching... searching... searching... uh oh - no Wifi signal.  Hmm, the router must be off, because who would be stupid enough to book a week long rental on this trip that did not have an internet connection - um yeah, that would be me.  I could not believe I made this mistake, but sure enough when I went back and checked the listing, Internet was not included.  We all make mistakes, but this was a pretty big one, and after coming from the technology hell of Edinburgh, I have to admit it was a major kick in the gut.  

Fortunately, there was a Costa (English version of Starbucks) right down the road with free Wifi. Unfortunately the Wifi was highly inconsistent and very slow which made for a painful week of connecting, disconnecting, chatting with Apple support and drinking way too many lattes.  

I am currently sitting in the kitchen of the house we rented for a month in the Cotswolds.  We just arrived last night after a five day stay in London with no technology issues (other than an inexplicable lack of ability to send SMS).  When we rented this house we were told it did not have internet and so we requested that it be installed for our stay as a precondition.  They agreed, but told us it would probably be slow as "there is no fast internet up here".  So after the trials of the past few weeks I was dreading our month long stay with creeping internet. However, after arriving and getting settled, I opened my computer and was astonished to find the fastest and most reliable connection we have had to date.  I had no idea how much we take for granted back home and how exhausting it can be to fight with something that was once a given.  I am trying to learn to go with it more than fight against it, but that is not my nature, so it will take a lot of work.  For now I am thrilled to be in a place where technology is not fighting me, so I can take off my IT admin hat and go to the pub....




Updates Moving Forward

In developing this site the family has had a lot of conversations about how to structure it.  We wanted to make sure everyone had their own space, but also wanted to make it coherent for readers. 

Originally we each had our own blog and then we had some general areas like, the The Route, Our Story and Pictures.  It seemed to work, but was a little too static.  In addition, I found that I was blogging about what we were doing from day to day, and so were the other members of the family.  Not only was this a bit of overlap, it started to feel like work to me to detail every day, and that is not what we are looking for.  So we came up with the idea of a Checkpoints section with one page for each location we stop in.  In this section we will give a general overview of where we were, pictures we took, things we did, where we placed the sticker and any food we made or ate that was great.  We will also keep posting on our individual blogs, but that will be more for personal thoughts or experiences.  Let us know what you think or if you have any recommendations for additional sections on the checkpoints page.  


Days 4-10 - St. Louis and Chicago

Days 4 and 5 were spent in St. Louis, Mo.  This was a planned stop to see the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is one of the best in the world.  I was not personally excited for this stop, but Stacie was, and when we went there I was really blown away.  Check out Stacie’s post and pictures to see more.

We also made a late evening trip up into the Gateway Arch, which was also surprisingly awesome.   The trip to the top was interesting and the view amazing, especially because we could see right down into the Cardinals game, but it was even better because there were NO LINES!  Traveling in the off-season has some huge benefits. 

After St. Louis we boarded a train and headed for Chicago.  The train was supposed to be a fun, different way to travel and was WAY cheaper than a car, but the trip ended up being massively delayed and we did not get into Chicago until 11 at night, which was not ideal.

We were greeted into Chicago with massive thunderstorms, which were fun for the first day or so, but then got old.  They kept us inside most days and before we knew it we were on our last day in the area.  We spent Sunday at my cousin Chrissie’s house on a beautiful summer day.  We longed by the pool, ate and drank too much and caught up with the family, it was a fantastic way to wrap up our stay. 

Our flight to D.C. the next morning left O’Hare at 6 AM, so we had to get up around 3:30 to ensure we would arrive on time.  So we went to sleep as early as we could, happy to know we were heading out for our first real stop of our world tour.  

Beware of civil unrest – or not…

We left Springfield around 9:00 in the morning on Tuesday August 19th.  After a nice breakfast (thanks again Pam) we jumped in the car and high tailed it to the Sheraton Westport in St. Louis.  The city is ablaze in conversation surrounding the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, which is only 13 miles from our hotel, but there are no signs of unrest anywhere we have been. 

Stacie and I were talking with the kids on the way up about how we tend to fear things we don’t know.  We used this event as a good example.  If we had been watching the news coverage about this shooting and it was occurring in Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, we would have been terrified to be on our way to those cities, because we do not know and understand those cultures.  However, because this was all happening in a suburb of St. Louis, there was no fear and absolutely no talk of canceling our trip here.  I have traveled extensively through, high school (to communist Russia and beyond), in college (Europe) and throughout my career (globally) and I have never been fearful for my safety.  However, having the added responsibility of my family with me does make me more cautious and thoughtful about where we are and what is going on around us.  Despite that added caution, I am even more aware that most places in the world are safe; most people in the world are good.  I am hopeful at the end of this trip we will feel as comfortable in Siem Reap as we do in St. Louis, whether there is civil unrest or not.     

Days 1-4 Springfield Missouri

We knew when we started planning this trip that we would need to go visit some relatives on our way out of the country. As a result we started our trip in Springfield MO, where Stacie was born and raised, and her father still lives.

The trip from Boise to Springfield was uneventful, but fairly long for what should be a pretty simple jump. We departed the house at 5:30 AM MDT and arrived in Springfield around 7:00 CDT via Chicago and St. Louis plus a three-hour car ride. Springfield is a typical Midwestern town in southern Missouri where the people are super friendly, and the heat and humidity of summer means you better get out early.

We kicked off our three days in Springfield at Silver Dollar City, a theme park dedicated to the westward expansion. We did the typical theme park activities, such as eating funnel cakes, riding roller coasters and generally acting like kids. It’s amazing how fun roller coasters can be even at 42. I told myself I was going to try to embrace everything we did on this trip no matter what it was or how silly it might seem at the time. Normally I would have been half in half out while visiting Silver Dollar City (SDS). I would have had work on my mind and would have avoided most rides; however, this time I was up for anything and had a great time. My favorite was the Giant Barn Swing, which is exactly what it sounds like – a huge swing 30 feet across that makes you feel completely weightless at the apex of the swing – it’s awesome.

After SDS we headed back to Springfield and had a nice dinner and went to bed with the kind of exhaustion only a day at a theme park can bring.

The next couple of days were filled with outings to Bass Pro Shop’s world headquarters (and their relatively new Antique Gun collection, which was surprisingly awesome for someone who is not into guns), Glowgolf (putt, putt inside with backlight’s) and a trip to Wilson's Creek battleground, which was the site of the second major battle of the civil war.

The family is doing AMAZING. I was worried about how the trip would start out, but I have been thrilled with how everyone is embracing the trip and the opportunity we have to explore the world together. There have been a few moments of dread – “oh crap, what have we done?” - and a few moments of missing home, but thankfully they have all been short-lived and fully expected by everyone. The kids are loving their online school (The Florida Virtual School) and are working hard to stay on or ahead of pace. In fact, Peter has chosen an accelerated pace for Math and Science, which means he could be done with the entire year by the middle of December – crazy!

Overall, the trip could not have gotten off to a better start. It was wonderful to see Stacie’s Dad and his wife Pam, and experience a little Midwestern hospitality as the first stop on our adventure. We are off to St. Louis to visit the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of Stacie’s agenda items, before heading up to Chicago to visit my family.   

Day #1 - Sticker#1

It’s finally here, the first day of our trip.  I am still struggling to grasp the enormity of the flight I am on right now.  The past six weeks since I officially stopped working have been filled with one to-do list after another, which has left very little time for reflection.  In the past week, Stacie and I have said countless times, “I just want to go so I don’t have to look at another to-do list”.

The waiting is over. We are on United Flight 3704 headed to Chicago.  After a connecting flight to St. Louis we will pick up a rental car and drive 3+ hours to Springfield, Mo, where Stacie was born, to see her father. 

The day started at 4:30 AM with another short to-do list of final house preparations before a 5:30 departure for the airport.  We said tear filled goodbye’s to Wrigley (golden retriever), Stephano (Lea’s bunny) and most painfully, to Grandma Carrie (Stacie’s mom).   Pulling away from our house for the last time for 10 months, was a little surreal, but to be honest was not extremely emotional for me.  The best I can describe my emotions was relief, to finally be on the road. 

Once through security we had one final item on our to-do list, place our first sticker.  Our good friends Abby and Andrew came up with a great idea to give us a set of 75 stickers to take with us around the world.  When we felt particularly moved we would place a sticker as a “tag”.   Given that this was the first airport of many, we decided it would be the perfect place for sticker #1.  The challenge was finding a place where it would not be quickly removed by the airport cleaning crew. 

Peter and I went on a hunt for the perfect place, and we think we found a good one.  If you find yourself in the Boise Airport see if you can find it and if you do, take a picture and send it to us at

Here we go…..74 more stickers to place!

Free Fallin'

Attempting to quantify a set of goals for this adventure is nearly impossible, and in fact may be counterproductive, but I am going to attempt to do it anyway. 

When we first started discussing the possibility of setting off on an around the world trip we did not have any specific reason for wanting to go, it just sounded like an adventure that would be great for a family to take. The romantic notion of casting all of your responsibilities aside and wandering the world is most typically associated with a 20 something without many obligations, not a married couple with two kids, mortgages, jobs and heaps of responsibilities. The idea was more dream than reality and none of us ever really expected to be sitting on a plane on August 16th heading out for the real thing, yet that is where I sit right now writing this. 

Since the idea was more dream than reality, I can’t say I had any specific goals when we started talking about this trip, which was almost six years ago. However, as we have continued to pursue the dream, and it started to look more like reality we all had to ask ourselves “do I really want to do this?” If the answer was yes, which it typically was, then the follow-up question was “Why?” Over the past two years specifically, this question has become the central discussion point in our family and in self-conversation. 

My answer has become pretty clear and simple. The responsibilities and routines of everyday life had become so dominant in our family, that it was easy to go for weeks or months on end without ever appreciating the amazing individuals who make up our family. My hope is that in leaving everything behind with only a backpack and a passport we are able to boil off all of the excess of daily life and focus on the essence of being a family. Through all the highs and lows, struggles and triumphs, adventure and boredom, there will be one central truth, the four of us are in this together and must rely on one another to get through. There is no hiding behind work, chores, friends, obligations, etc. – its just us. 

There are many other secondary hopes I have for this trip: 

1. Exposing our children to the different cultures of the world in hopes that they will gain perspective on how other people live and how fortunate we are. 

2. Having real time for self-examination to determine how I can become a better person. 

3. To gain some personal perspective on what is really important. 

4. Having real time to determine what to do with the next chapter of our lives. 

5. To meet amazing people around the world who I hope to call friends. 

6. To see the amazing wonders of the world. 

In the end it all comes down to being together for a year. For better or worse, we have stepped off the cliff we never really believed would come into view, and in the words of the immortal Tom Petty are Free Fallin, but falling together.  

Two weeks until departure

We were at the cabin yesterday and Stacie looked at me and said “two weeks from today.”  It rattled me a little to hear that we are only two weeks away from this trip we have been dreaming about for years.  Sometimes hearing the words from someone else can be a slap in the face, it startled me.  

We are in great shape from a planning perspective.  We have some loose ends to tie up over the next couple of weeks, but the workload will not be terrible.  I think the biggest challenge we will face over the next 13 days will be our emotions.

For the most part we are all in a good place and excitement is our primary emotion.   However, leaving your home and all that you know for an extended time is a scary thing and we are all feeling it.  The busy work of the past 5 weeks has helped to keep those fears at bay, but now they are front and center and we will be dealing with them on a daily basis.  The closer it comes the more real it becomes and the fear of the unknown is becoming intense.

Fears of how we will all get along, if we have picked the right places, if we are traveling in the right way (fast vs slow), if we can educate the kids properly, if we spending too much money, if someone going to get badly hurt, if the world going to completely melt down, if we can live out of a backpack for a year, if we have packed everything I need, and a thousand more.

In the end we know we are jumping off a cliff and will just have to deal with these fears together as a family.  That is one of the primary reasons we are taking the trip, to come together as a family and rely on one another without the distractions of daily life.  I can’t wait. 

Picking Huckleberries


Yesterday we were at our Cabin up in Donnelly Idaho.  Stacie and I decided to go for a long hike instead of working out.  It is important to note that we have owned this property since 1998 and we built our cabin in 1999.  We have been spending weekends and vacations here for the past 15 years.  We were an hour or so into our hike when we noticed a minivan parked along the forest service road we were walking along.  As we approached the van we noticed a mother with two small children about 30 yards up the steep hill to our right.  Since stepping down from my role at Balihoo, I have made a commitment to be more outgoing and curious with the world around me.  Two months ago I would have avoided contact with the mother in order to maintain the solitude of our walk, but instead my curiosity got the better of me and I asked what they were doing.  The mother let me know they were picking Huckleberries.  

Now you have to understand that we have been exposed to Huckleberries in every form since buying our property 15 years ago.  Huckleberry ice cream, lemonade, lotion, lip balm, pie, you name it, people make it with Huckleberries up here.  Hell the town closest to the cabin, Donnelly Idaho, even has a Huckleberry festival every year (which we have never been to). 

We said good luck and kept walking, but about 50 feet later I turned to Stacie and asked, “can we go look, I have never seen a Huckleberry?”.  Given that Stacie is on her way to a Horticulture degree, this was a stupid question, of course we could go look.  So we walked back and scampered up the hill to where they were picking.  The mother, who was probably a little freaked out at this point, politely showed us the Huckleberry bushes and we sampled a few of the berries.  We said thanks and then kept on moving, however, all of a sudden we had a new purpose to our walk, now we were looking for our own patch to pick from.  We also noticed that there were a lot of people wandering around the mountain looking for these berries. 

About a quarter mile up the road we found a small trail leading straight up the mountain.  100 yards or so up this trail we found an immense patch of ripe berries just waiting for harvest.  We hustled back to the cabin and gathered some Ball jars to hold our bounty and headed back out to pick the berries.  We spent about 30 minutes picking and then headed back to the cabin with berry stained hands.

I am just about to make the kids their first ever batch of Huckleberry pancakes, and none of this would have happened if I kept my head down and kept to myself.

The past 5 weeks since I stepped down have been filled with to-do lists and busywork, but this small discovery has me thrilled and excited to see what else I have missed because my head has been down focused on work.  

Testing our Olympus OM-D vs Samsung Galaxy S4 Camera

This morning we had a beautiful sunrise up at the cabin in Donnelly, Idaho.  I have been thinking a lot about the technology we are going to bring with us on the road and have been wondering about pictures.  We did some investigation into cameras and decided we did not want to lug around our DSLR and as a result we decided to sell all of our Cannon gear including some really nice lenses and move to a mirror-less Micro 4/3 setup.  After some investigation we went with the Olympus OM-D.  It's an awesome camera, super light and full functioning with interchangeable lenses which are small and light.  However, one thing has been plaguing me, I really like the pictures I take with my Samsung Galaxy S4.  I am not a photographer, but I love great pictures and really want to be able to get great shots while we are on the road.  

So for the last few weeks I have been meaning to compare a shot from the OM-D with the S4 and today was the day.  

I took the shots within seconds of each other and then uploaded them to Google Photos where I did a little bit of post processing on each.  

Here is the OM-D

Here is the Samsung S4

I still have a lot to learn in using the OM-D, but I have to say, the S4 can certainly hold its own given that I can keep it in my pocket with ease.  For anything requiring a long range zoom, the OM-D will kill the S4, but for simple point and shoot I think the S4 will be my go to camera.