[Editor's Note: As one of the co-winners of our Puzzles for Postcards challenge, Aaron "Hadley" Hadley wrote this week's post.
Zhou and I would like to thank him for writing, and more generally, thank him for being a stand-up guy and a good friend of ours. We hope that you all (I’m trying to avoid saying y’all on the blog, but it’s tough) enjoy these stories from Hadley’s travels as much as we did. We’ll see you next Monday (note Monday, not Sunday due to our wedding) with our last post before leaving! You won’t want to miss it!
Also, Puzzles for Postcards will be on a hiatus until we leave and begin sending postcards.
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy our special guest… Hadley!]
Everyone does it, just some people get to do longer, crazier trips than others. To some extent I’m jealous, but part of me is glad I don’t have to go on an 11-month trip. That’s a lot of going from place to place, and while I enjoy travel, I can see myself getting sick of it. I’m not saying that’s what is going to happen to Kevin and Zhou, because it’s not, but that’s what’d happen to me. Because this is a blog about long travel, I figured I should talk about some of my old travel experiences.
My family did yearly trips from East Tennessee, where I grew up, to Kansas to visit my dad’s side of the family, most of whom live around there. For years it was a two day trip to do the 12 hours/700ish miles of driving five people in the Dodge Caravan. We would stop in Paducah, Kentucky, where my mom grew up, or St. Louis, where my aunt and uncle live. Finally one year my sisters were old enough to tolerate the entire drive and make it in one day. That’s when new varieties of travel began.
My family made a week long trip through the Northeast with the eventual goal being Niagara Falls and crossing to Canada when I was in 5th-ish grade. Looking back, that’s not that far of a trip, but it seemed like forever away.
In 8th grade my grandmother took me with her to visit my cousins who live in England. I got a week and a half there of drizzly weather and European good times. We saw the Tower of London, rode a double decker bus and even crossed the Channel to France for a couple hours.
In 10th-ish grade my family went on a 3 week/5,000 mile trip across the United States. From Knoxville we went to Kansas for a week, as usual, but then kept heading west. We went through Denver out to Salt Lake City, north past the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone, then back east past Mount Rushmore to Wisconsin for a family reunion. A week there then back south to Tennessee. All crammed in the family van. One of the things I remember is playing my Game Boy for the first chunk of the trip and my family getting mad at me for not looking out the window. I did look out the window when we actually got somewhere worth looking out the window, and my sisters at that point were done looking and were staring down at their books/Game Boy. For KC and ZhouZhou, it’s all about choices. If something is not that exciting for you, don’t burn yourself out on it. When you actually get somewhere good, you want to be able to enjoy it.
We made another New England trip five or six years ago, this time with the goal of hitting every single state so my sisters could mark them off their list. Spent some time in Philly, Beantown, Plymouth (where my ancestors landed with the Mayflower), and up to Maine. On the way down we spent a few days at a family reunion in Amish Country, Pennsylvania. We got to go to the Hershey chocolate factory, which was like being in a boring version of Willy Wonka’s factory (no Oompa Loompas). I also went to the Gettysburg battlefield, which is where I will be again on July 1-3, 2013, the 150th anniversary of the battle (and also Tom Cruise’s 51st birthday). If for some reason I disappear and lose contact with everyone, that’s where you’ll want to find me, as it is the only thing on my schedule past a couple months from now.
In 2005 I spent seven weeks in China, which is like a wussy version of the Brad Pitt movie Seven Years in Tibet. I was teaching English at Peking University, one of the top universities in China, even though I don’t know any Chinese. I saw the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Zhou, and even one time the sky! It was bad enough that when looking down a street you couldn’t see buildings 10 blocks down because of smog. Because of this trip and because I somehow accidentally ended up hanging out with Asians, Zhou, as president of the Asian-American Student Association, declared me honorarily half-Asian. I don’t think that holds up in court, though I don’t know why it would be important to a court case, unless I commit some sort of hate crime against an Asian.
Spring break senior year I made a road/cruise trip to the Caribbean, including a stop in Jamaica to go bobsledding. Ok, not bobsledding, but just good times in the sun.
Nowadays, all my travel is within the city of Cleveland or approximately eight hours away. Being up on the North Coast, every city I want to visit is not close. Nashville is eight hours, Knoxville is eight, New York is seven, Washington DC is six, Chicago is five. The next two weekends are eight hour trips for weddings to Jersey and Knoxville, so I’ll be traveling and enjoying our great country. On the way back from Jersey my lady and I are planning to go camping somewhere in Pennsylvania, not really sure where. As a grad student, that’s the most exciting travel I can do, no complaints though.
In regards to the 11 month trip, maybe I can join in over Christmas break. That’s the goal at least. I’m thinking Cambodia and Thailand could be fun. That’s on the burner. Kev and Zhou, and everyone else, love ya, stay awesome.