One thing must be made absolutely clear; this is entirely my fault.
If you’ve had any conversations with me over the past several years, you might be forgiven for construing that through the good graces of my wife or the willing enthusiasm of our children, this escapade began as some organic aspiration that everyone got behind from day one.
Tenacity and the occasional dose of guile eventually brought this fantasy of mine to fruition. Constant conversation about possibilities, travel magazines left on the counter open to some stunning image from a far corner of the world, Netflix videos and travel shows were all employed in the battle of attrition in bringing the rest of my family around. I even gained some unexpected support as we learned of other families that have embarked on this kind of adventure. Jody’s interest was piqued and we suddenly had a savings plan and two self-funded leave of absence forms.
I don’t know how precisely it happened, but somehow, through the continued graces of Jody and the temperamental enthusiasm of Meghan and Avery, we find ourselves in the position we are today. Facing the prospect of seven months on the road. Just us – our backpacks and a healthy amount of curiosity to explore what the world has to offer.
As we get closer to our departure date, the anxiety is starting to rise and planning fatigue is setting in – I’ve found myself grumbling about all that we still have to do. However, inspiration comes when it’s needed most. I was recently asked where did this idea of taking your family around the world come from? Well, the ferry from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam, of course.
About 20 years ago I found myself travelling through Africa after playing a season of rugby in Australia. I had just spent the past several weeks traipsing overland from Cape Town up to Tanzania and took a couple of days to explore Zanzibar. It was an amazing experience but backpacking on my own was a bit lonely. Without a great deal of money I was a solid third-class passenger and often the only mzungu around (a Swahili term generally referring to ‘white person’ but is also directly translated as ‘aimless wanderer’ – suiting me perfectly).
It was an overnight ferry and, as I recall, took several hours. I had been warned to watch myself and was told a story of someone having their shoes stolen while they slept. Accommodation was non-existent, just cafeteria-type booths where I could lie down on the bench, spoon my backpack and use my boots as a pillow.
I didn’t have any issues that night but I barely slept. Maybe because those boots weren’t that comfortable, the fact I had one eye open or the absolutely horrible movie keeping me awake. Now this made-for-tv-movie wasn’t just bad it was simply awful. It was several years old by this point and starred a middle-aged William Shatner attempting to revive his career. This was Bill from the mid-80s; the hairpiece-and-girdle-wearing-TJ-Hooker-with-Heather-Locklear-for-eye-candy because he can’t act actor.
I don’t remember the premise but Will’s character was going through some kind of mid-life crisis and he had terrible relationships with his wife and kids. As I tried to ignore the over-acting by finding a more comfortable boot eyelet to rest my face on, a thought entered my head: gawd, I don’t want to end up like that guy.
But what would the future look like? There’s no introspection like travel introspection and I spent the remainder of my time on the ferry slipping between sleep and thinking about what would happen when I got home. It was perfectly clear: in the future my family (Jody was already on the scene by this point) would explore the world. I would share with them what I had seen and we’d make our own plans to go even further afield than what I had accomplished.
It was that simple. And it stuck.
20 years later, that sleep-deprived germination of an idea is about to become reality.
Stupid William Shatner.
We're the Danchuks - follow our explorations and family adventures in a wide world (2018).