In 1989, in a bit of a huff over what I perceived as betrayal and shortsightedness on behalf of the City of Albuquerque, I quit my nice job, withdrew my 10-years worth of retirement pay and set off to explore. Perhaps, you say, this was not a wise financial move. Who’s to judge? I can still retire when I’m 81 and having to get up and go to work gives me something to look forward to….
I managed to stay out of the country for three months that time, traveling to several European cities and countries—starting in Paris; winding up (I think) in Cairo. In between, there were Douala, Kinshasa and Manila and maybe some places else.
I met up with arts colleagues in Europe and Kinshasa and family in Manila. Otherwise I was just rambling about on my own. I got my visa for Cameroon at The Hague (regarded with great suspicion by immigration officials when I landed at a dark and deserted airport in Douala quite late at night). I tried to get a visa for Vietnam while stranded in Manila for a couple of weeks but it was too soon. Americans were not being admitted with wounds still festering and my status as a student anti-war marcher didn’t play anywhere in that scenario. I still haven’t been to Vietnam…maybe next year.
I think that scenario gives me bragging rights as someone who has at least attempted to be a bona fide world traveler—if not yet quite reaching that elevated status for which I so long.
That 1989 Big Trip will be a chapter or more in Window Seat, at which time the burning question of whether I’ve already been around the world will be answered, but that’s in the future—I’ve only written through 1963 and the first Philippines trip so far. The puzzle for this post is have I been around the world before. In 1989 did I fly to Europe from the U.S. and fly out of Asia to return? If I headed home out of Cairo, which I think is the case, then probably not, I would have returned across the Atlantic. But in the back of my mind I’m wondering if Cairo came before Manila and I flew back over the Pacific? In which case this year will be my second jaunt all the way around.
I have, tucked about my main writing desk, notebooks and a few stories and the miscellaneous flotsam of a time when all itineraries and tickets and receipts were paper things. So with not too much digging I will find the answer to my question. But for now I don’t want to know. I like both ideas.
In three weeks I am embarking on my first trip around the world.
In three weeks I am embarking on my second trip around the world.
The truth of either is magical to me.