How to describe the feeling of beginning a full year of travel? The only word I can think of is surreal. We can’t be really leaving for a year. Surely this is just the beginning of a long vacation, and when we come back in a couple weeks, our apartment and jobs and a big stack of mail will be waiting for us. And then I remember—we quit our jobs, gave up our apartment and put everything we own in storage. Or at least everything we own minus what is crammed into the pack on my back. The same pack which I will be carrying with me for the next 52-plus weeks. I’d be lying if I said we were not nervous as we entered the international terminal of DFW to begin this adventure. No matter how many late nights we packed into the last few weeks, there is no way we are prepared for everything that will take place over the next year. Do we have the right clothes? Do we have the right medicine? Did we get the correct immunizations? Do we have the correct visa information for all the countries on our itinerary? Will we survive the various stomach bugs that are in our future? These questions raced through my head on a continuous loop.
We experienced our first “uh oh!” moment as we checked in at the American Airlines counter. The agent politely asked to see proof of our return ticket. After a brief moment of panic (keep in mind we just booked our room in Paris last night, so in no way do we have our return ticket to the US booked for this time next year), we quickly explained that we would not be returning to the U.S. for over a year and therefore had not yet purchased that ticket. “No problem”, she replied “I’ll just need to see proof of your onward journey out of France”. Apparently the French do not want vagabond Americans cluttering up their country for undetermined amounts of time. But ticket out of France we had. Whew! With that settled we made our way through security to the bar for one last beer on American soil. And the adventure begins.