Airborne! The loving couple finally goes away.

It’s wheels-up day.

We’ve been yacking about this trip for almost a year, and today’s the day that we lift off for real.

We’ve done a silly amount of planning and testing. We’ve experimented with different kinds of luggage, quick-dry underwear, and various technical paraphernalia. We’ve sold clothes, furniture, a couple of cars, and a house. We’ve quit our jobs and moved to the city, and then promptly moved out. We begged and cajoled our friends and loved ones to take our pets for almost a year. We found highly upstanding people to live in our new place while we’re gone. We even found someone to lease our car from us. I started a consulting business, did a number of projects, and then put the whole operation on ice. We’ve reduced our household size by 33 percent (well, that was unavoidable). We’ve consulted with tax planners, financial advisors, family members, and the crazy tarot lady down the street (okay, not her). I even managed to find a company that would scan my mail and email it to me.

We used Los Angeles, the Lower East Side, Brooklyn, the Finger Lakes, Philadelphia, and DC as a halfway house for the past 53 days, testing the proposition of homeless wandering. I must say, for those of you with a prurient interest in the marital discord promised in the title of this blog, I’m sorry to disappoint you. We’ve been having fun.

We’ve been planning this trip in our heads for much longer than the past year – maybe for as long as we’ve been together. From our early days together we’ve been adventurous. One day almost a quarter century ago we packed up our stuff and quit Los Angeles, moving to Monterey, California with no money, no jobs, no education, and we started over. (At this point, my mother would remind me to mention that Janine and I did go on to college. Now she’s happy.) When we graduated from college, we sold Janine’s car to spend a month in Europe before we moved to Japan, where we had a baby. In fact, many of our decisions were what happens when you put equal parts pragmatism and insanity in an atom smasher and press the red button. We had our daughter when we did because it was the first time in our lives that we had paid vacation or maternity leave. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.

It still does.

And thus we find ourselves on our way to Sicily today. (Don’t worry – if in fact you were worrying – I promise to go back and write about the Jeff Koons exhibit at the Whitney, James Earl Jones in You Can’t Take it With You, the matzo ball wrapped in bacon at Gorbal’s in Williamsburg, and other feats of culinary and cultural derring-do and -don’t).

Going on this trip just seems like the thing to do. You may ask where we’re planning to go over the next seven months. Well, we’re going to do a little like Mary Poppins and go where the wind take us, but we have no shortage of places on the list, so I hope it’s pretty breezy. I really want to see Istanbul, go on a safari in Africa, and play St. Andrews. Janine wants to see Buenos Aires and Budapest. Other candidates include, in no particular order, Burma, New Zealand, Japan, and China. We’ll see.

And thus I shall turn it to you, my eleven dear readers. Where should we go? What shouldn’t we miss? What’s the best place you’ve ever been? Best meal? Best travel story? We’re all ears.

See you in Sicily!

26 thoughts on “Airborne! The loving couple finally goes away.

  1. Barcelona. All the Gaudi projects. For lunch, go to La Bouqueria, turn right as you go in, go to the second aisle and you’ll see a lunch counter called Bar Pinnocio, owned by a 75+ man in a black vest who is considered to be the best Catalonian chef in the world. Wait for as long as it takes for two seats. He will ask if you want meat or fish. Get one of each. Then keep pointing to what other people are eating until you can eat no more. Get the chickpea dish. Warning, he only takes cash, but there is an ATM around the block. Then see the market. The next night, go to Bar Mut near Avenida Diagonal in the Gracia district. Make a reservation in advance. Tell them you are hungry and they should feed you multiple courses. Worth the trip. Also, look up Armando, my employee and friend in Argentina. I’ll tell him to treat you well.

  2. Good luck fellow travelers! Your story sounds rather exciting as life should be. 7 months on the road with a wide range of places to visit! Excellent! Istanbul is amazing, for a real culture shock Japan is a must and there is so much to see and do in Italy (and all of Europe for that matter). I look forward to reading your story and watch in unfold.
    Best wishes from the jungle,
    Jen, JJ & L.B.

  3. Visit South Africa! We went a couple of years ago and it was the trip of a lifetime (that’s what my 10 year old daughter said). Going on safari is so awesome!

  4. Le Sirenuse in Positano is an amazing hotel. Ristorante Don Alfonso, right near the Hotel may be the best restaurant I have ever been to. The Gritti Palace in Venice is great. La Mamounia in Marrakesh is an experience, in and of itself, as is the City. The King David in Jerusalem is fascinating.

  5. Wishing you both a wonderful adventure! So happy we got to wish you bon voyage as you headed out today. If you’re inclined to head north in Italy, I’d recommend a stop in Siena. Lots of love, N.
    P.S. Eric- In reading past entries I’m beginning to form a theory about the stomach upset. Hope all’s well in the end!

  6. Go to Myanmar/Burma! The country is emerging rapidly out of isolation, and people are not (yet) jaded by tourism — talk to them! (You may never have this opportunity again.) I highly recommend renting a bike in Bagan and exploring the ancient Buddhist temples — there are over 10,000 of them. Inle Lake and Yangon are great to explore too.

    Second recommendation is Peru. Not just walking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, which is amazing (and touristy), but also hiking some of the lesser known trails, canoeing in the Amazon, and doing a home stay with family on Lake Titicaca.

    Safari in Tanzania combined with beach time in Zanzibar is pretty epic too.

    So jealous. Have fun and post pictures!

  7. Africa: If you have time to do both, fly into Johannesburg and go north to spend a couple of nights in Kruger National Park. Game viewing and photo safaris are available out of any of the authentic bush camps in the park. Continue north into Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, a World Heritage site that is truly spectacular. I recommend the historic Victoria Falls hotel over any of the newer resort hotels near the Falls. Here, wildlife roams the well manicured grounds, and if the wind is just right, you can feel the mist from the falls. After a day of hiking the Falls, a cocktail in the hotel’s Mr. Stanley’s bar (as in Stanley and Livingston) is a perfect way to end the day. The friendly bar keep will even let you try on Mr. Stanley’s hat.

  8. Cape Town is like SF with a second ocean and a mountain. Yes, it has wine country just like NorCal. Stand on the southern tip of Africa and see the Indian and Atlantic Oceans come together. Where else do baboons and penguins live a kilometer apart?

  9. Using your list as a guide, I’ve only been to New Zealand and Scotland. Not very adventurous, but incredible trips. We spent most of our time in New Zealand on the South Island. It’s less populated than the North. We drove for miles (or kilometers, as the locals say) and all we would see are beautiful, purple-flowered hills filled with sheep and dead rabbits all over the road plus the occasional crazy couple on a tandem bike. You must have lamb while there. I think it’s a law. We splurged and flew in a tiny, tiny plane up to the glacier on Mt. Cook. If it’s still there, it was quite a sight and flight. We also did lots of adventure activities in Queenstown. Don’t miss taking the S.S. Earnslaw across the lake. The tea and scones were marvelous.

    On our way south to Dunedin (to see the albatross colony), we noticed a small sign on the side of the road for these very cool rock “bubbles.” I hope they have not been eroded by the sea. Do not miss taking a cruise of Milford Sound, a fjord.

    As for Scotland, we ate lots of scones there too, and also saw lots of sheep. The Scottish burr is a bit more difficult to understand than the elegant, refined New Zealand accent. It also rains in both places, lots in Scotland so wear your Macs and wellies. Enjoy!

  10. Burma! Dillon is in Bagan all of this week, so he’ll be your local expert. 25% of our household size has been reduced, so we have a spare bedroom. And SIM cards are now only $1.50, down from $2000.00. Seriously. Now is the time to come.

  11. I am sure you will love every place in Italy. This Country is just made for “eat, picker, love”. And now is a good time to travel it.

    And if you need some days of rest, please drop by in Austria.

  12. Hi Eric…..It is your Aunt Emeritus Valerie here wishing you and Janine all the best as you continue on your AWESOME adventure !….First let me say that I am loving your blog !!! Keep it coming …Secondly I can’t imagine what could possibly top harvesting 65 pounds of “free clams” from the waters of Nantucket or meeting “Tom the Nantucket Falconer” with his extra helping of political commentary….However that being said, I do think a stop in Venice while you are Italy is a must…It was one of my and your Uncle Joel’s favorite places… although he also always said whenever asked…”my favorite place is wherever I am right now”… so in that spirit I would say, enjoy every moment of wherever the wind blows you, travel safely and know that your Uncle Joel and I are cheering you on every step of the way…!
    Love you both..
    PS…Perhaps you can stop in Nantucket for Daffodil (AKA “Daffy”) weekend in the spring when you set foot on US soil again 🙂

  13. First, Sicily. Stay in Scopello on the coast near Palermo. From here, hike the Zingaro Nature Reserve. The island of Marettimo (Egadi Islands) is glorious — wonderful hiking trail. The Aeolian Islands are not to be missed. La Tenuta di Castellaro vineyards on Lipari are stunning, they are off the grid and biodynamic. Catania is a fascinating city and the Baroque towns of Ragusa, Noto, Siracusa, etc. are stupendous. I loved Sagesta more than Agrigento. Selinunte is beautiful (Greek ruins on the sea, a little like Tulum’s position). Pantelleria is really off the beaten track (fly from Trapani). Truthfully, you could spend months here and never get bored. If you have ANY questions at all about Sicily, you can email me at thompson.patricia@gmail.com. If I can’t answer it, one of my Sicilian friends can! Remember this one word (it was all the rage when I was there this August: Alucinante (“amazing/fascinating”).

    Kris Thompson’s Sister.

    • Forza d’agro! What an inspired choice — I was there maybe 10 years ago — seriously off the beaten track — at least at the time — complimenti! Yes, Scopello and the Zingaro Nature Reserve are really worthwhile.

  14. My favorite places in Sicily are:
    Piazza Armerina — acres of mosaics of real and fanciful animals, beautifully preserved; the owner of the villa made his fortune importing exotic animals for the Roman circus. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/832
    Erice — a beautiful Medieval town on the top of the mountain over Trapani. Fabulous pastries, esp. the ones with sheep’s milk ricotta.
    Didn’t generally love food — I’m fond of pasta alla Norma but otherwise found most things overcooked for my taste. But the pastries and the wine were consistently wonderful. Have fun!

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