I started blogging about this trip a year ago when my bosses in DSI gave me the thumbs up to take 8 months unpaid leave. But this project has been gestating for years in the form of what-if conversations between Letizia and I. This is the effect that talking about something over and over can have. With every word, you breathe life into the project. The actions come almost as a natural consequence once the project is real enough in your mind. This is the power of words.
The dynamics of how this project came about, and even the reasons for it, are interesting enough in their own right. Letizia is, objectively speaking, nuts. When she gets it into her head that something is worth doing, she wants to drop everything and just do that thing. Luckily for me, the things that occur to her as 'good ideas' are reasonable enough to make me a willing accomplice. Luckily for her, I am stable/boring enough to insist that instead of just dropping everything else that's going on (you know, kids' education, earning a wage - that kind of mundane stuff), we try to at least put things down gently, one by one, in the hope of finding everything in one piece when we're done. I fear the day she decides that we need to go tomorrow-dammit-there-isn't-a-moment-to-spare, to the savannas of southern Africa to help save the white rhino. More that that, I fear the moment when I say why-wait-till-tomorrow! Anyway, this is the way our circus has lurched from town to town over the last 12 years, and strangely enough, it kinda works.
When we tell folks about our plans, we notice an interesting division of reaction. About half of the reactions are about how 'brave' we are, the other half is all about what a good idea it is. Interestingly, it is mostly our Italian friends and family that consider us brave, while the Irish simply approve. I'm assuming that 'brave' is a codeword for 'stupid' (a la Yes, Minister), and on many's the occasion I find myself agreeing with them. The fact is that I have very little idea why I want to do this. I have very little idea why I asked my first employer in Dublin to wait for a month before I started so I could interrail around Europe. I have very little idea why I desperately wanted to get sent to Germany by that same employer. I have very little idea why I packed in that job in '95, before I had another job to go to, in order to move to France (where by good fortune and no thanks to planning I found another job straight away).
The only little idea that I have is this: I am by my nature lazy, unimaginative and too easily lulled into a false sense of fulfillment by predictable routine. I have known this since my early twenties, and occasionally acted on it by self-administered kicks in the ass such as those mentioned above. Travel is a kick in the ass. It can be stressful - it certainly acts for me as a great way of getting uncomfortable, challenged and exposed to aspects of myself, good and bad, that I wasn't previously aware of. Some people can do this without leaving home, and I wish I had their imagination. Others can push themselves much further in their travels and I wish I had their courage. But you have to work with what you've got, and that, I suppose, is what I'm doing.