The excerpts from our Around the World trip are fondly referred to as the “monster in the box” – an homage to Spalding Gray and the challenge he had working with a manuscript for a novel.
During our adventure in 2001, we journaled religiously – every day one of us put something to paper. We collected interesting tidbits along the way – brochures, postcards, factoids, news articles – with the intent of capturing the feel of the trip. We posted updates during the trip to a great website that had been set up for us. Reply cards pulled from magazines served as ad hoc notebooks to collect various scribbles. On past trips, we had managed to pull together some readable travelogues from our trips to Ethiopia, Southeast Asia, and the Balkans. But a compelling narrative that pulls our Around the World notes into something of interest to another reader remained elusive.
After a year, we had both transcribed our handwritten journals into a digital format. Some of our better pictures were scanned to make them internet-friendly. We even booked a weekend in a hotel with the express purpose of finding the story. Any plan we devised was elusive. There were hundreds of pages and no real narrative structure – a mere retelling of us going place to place and doing things – and it did not feel like there were any high stakes in the story since (spoiler alert) we made it in under eighty days. We didn’t really stay in any one place long enough for a deep dive travelogue. The closest I could hope for was something like Byron’s The Road to Oxiana.
There was also the feeling that the world had changed. Less than six months after we completed our journey, the attacks of September 11th occurred. The heady era that we traveled in – a time of countries excitedly opening to visitors after the lockdown of the Cold War – was now over. It didn’t seem worth writing about a trip that didn’t reflect the current world where the unfamiliar was meant to feel unwelcoming and there was a pervasive fear of the ‘other’.
And so it sat in the box for years. Well over a decade. I reformatted this website multiple times with the hope of finding the perfect media to tell the story. In the meantime, weeks became months which became years.
As the 15th anniversary of the trip neared in 2016, I took a run at the journals and tried to turn it into something that could be shared. The language was cleaned up a bit although nothing is perfect. The entries are at the link below. Should we make another attempt at codifying these journals, you will learn about it here.Around the World Journal