One thing about getting older: You’ve piled up a lot of friends, (and probably a few enemies) and, if you are frugal, a lot of frequent flier miles.
We had both: international students who had lived with us in the 1980s and ’90s, and just short of 600,000 Delta Sky Miles.
So we decided to put them together and do an “Around the World” trip to visit our “children abroad.” We even named the trip the “Around the World Kids Tour” – just as though we were rock stars instead of college professors. We will get T-shirts for all our kids, and our signature song is John Denver’s “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.”
This month, we hosted our Mississippi children and “grands” before we drove to St. Louis. There we spent two days with our son’s family and flew to Denver, where daughter No. 3 hosted us for two nights. After that, we begin with our “other children.”
Beginning in Los Angeles, we share another two nights with a 1999 graduate of Ole Miss. Then the BIG trip begins.
The schedule is to tour Malaysia, South Africa, Spain, Germany, Finland, Russia, Sweden and Ireland before returning exactly 80 days later. In all but one destination, we have an Ole Miss graduate or former professor to visit.
When the French writer Jules Verne published the book, “Around the World in Eighty Days” in 1872, circling the planet truly was an uncomfortable journey. He described trains, steamers, overland camel treks, and ocean liner trips before he returned to London. Today it is not so rare, in fact, Delta promotes such a trip with its Skymiles. One can redeem them for a six-stop-round-the-world trip. The conditions are quite doable: Make the reservations 11 months prior to the return date. Select the cities and fly both in and out of them (in other words, no side trips on the train and picking up a different departure location). And if you have a lot of miles, you can fly “up front” in comfort all the way. Then just plan the trip.
The main purpose of going is to catch up with “our kids.” They have lived in our homes, and all but two have hosted us on earlier trips. Family people all, their children are beginning to embark on their own young adult lives. Soon they will be choosing their universities, and we hope they, too, will come to America for part of their education as their parents did. It is time for the “American Grandma and Grandpa” to go to our “homes abroad.”
We have also included some sightseeing in South Africa, Spain and Sweden. These are places we have never been before and are eager to experience.
Unlike Verne’s hero, Phileas Fogg, who had fewer than six hours to plan his trip and begin, our next few weeks will be spent in getting the journey down to a schedule – where we will be on which day. In addition, there will be the decisions of what to take and what to leave at home. Outfitting oneself for a three-month journey away from home is something of a challenge, though each of our destinations is in an advanced nation with laundromats and email.
While it seemed to be a long way off when we first planned the trip last year, as we all know, as we get older, those days fly by so swiftly, and tomorrow is here before we are done with yesterday.
So as the journey unfurls, there will be “letters from afar” to share our experiences. We will include events and insights of what we see and do. Surely the hope for tomorrow in our troubled world is to understand each other, to personalize those nations whose challenges we hear about on the nightly news. And by being there, breathing their air, eating their food and sleeping in their beds, we will come to know their world.
And, maybe, just maybe, you might be moved to do the same thing … go around the world. Jules Verne would be proud if you did and so would we.