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Now that debts are paid off, plan to travel the world for a year, documenting things

Apr 1, 2014 • general

Note: This was an April Fool's Day post.

It's official. Starting May 1, 2014 until May 1, 2015, my wife and I are taking the year off to see the world. By see the world, I mean we will travel from country to country (from the U.S. to Europe, Africa, Asia, China, Alaska, and the Polynesian islands -- as we make our way around the earth).

The idea for the trip came about in part because we finally paid off all our debts -- student loans, cars, house, gambling (just kidding). So we felt a new-found freedom. But also, we want to see the world before we're old and retired. Now is as good a time as any. I'm not kidding at all -- we're actually going to be hiking around the world!!!

Traveling the world will fulfill one of my life-long dreams of seeing the world from different locations and perspectives. I've lived in several other countries before -- Venezuela, Japan, and Egypt. And I've lived in various places in the U.S. -- Washington, Utah, New York, Florida, and California. While I've interacted with a lot of people from other cultures at my jobs, I've not been to many faraway countries (for example, India).

Shannon (my wife) once backpacked through Europe during her sophomore year in college. Although it was just a two-month trip, it remains one of the most memorable of her life. She rode trains and visited Paris, London, Amsterdam, Italy, and a smattering of other cities. She shaved her head during the trip, got a small tattoo of a magical dragon on her right shoulder, and learned how to barter in 6 different languages.

Readers who know me probably are wondering what we will do with our four kids during our world traveling. Graciously, my wife's grandparents have volunteered to take them in. Ever since moving to California, our kids have been pining for Utah. They consider living in the grandparents' basement for a year to be similar to an exchange program, or a long vacation. They're already thinking of all the friends they left they can see again.

The grandparents are actually relieved to see their grandchildren. Empty nesters in a 4,700 square foot home has left them feeling lonely. The grandparents are also eager to give their children a spiritual foundation they both "deserve and need," as they said. My wife and I were like, okay, we'll let you take them to early morning seminary every day as long as you simply feed, clothe, and care for them for a year.

With severance money still left over from a prior layoff, we actually have enough to make it to Europe and possibly China for about two months. I'm kind of planning on being able to pick up some remote contracts doing technical writing to sustain us. Heck, we may even live in India or Jerusalem for a while working at IT companies in order to make enough money to keep going (as long as we can get work visas).

As part of the preparation for the trip, we have sold all of our possessions (not that we really have anything of value), but the Ikea furniture, the Dell PC, and the old suits have all been sold for meager profits, mostly to avoid having to put all of these items into storage. The rest we have donated to Goodwill for tax breaks.

I can tell you that while this idea sounds crazy, Shannon is more than excited. She has already purchased maps and extensive travel guides (PDFs) for seventeen different countries. I will be traveling with an iPad and live blogging the trip every single day.

A lot of people make round the world trips, but one thing I plan to do differently is to document things as I go. When I run into confusing train stations, unclear city layouts, bathrooms with poorly worded instructions on the walls, I want to capture and document these situations so as to improve the overall global experience of help. When I see instructional signs, posters, and other guide-like material that is wrong or in need of clarification, I'll work a little tech comm magic to improve it.

AWN Internship 2005 2

For example, this sign should probably use a hyphen in "sub-office" so as not to confuse it with submarine office.

I've been told this effort is as vain as throwing back a sand dollar into the ocean from a beach full of sand dollars. But that's not how I see it. I want to start a revolution, a worldwide momentum that will awaken people to bad help and encourage ether to do something about it.

Thanks for your upcoming support. Be sure to follow my progress, mishaps, and other adventures on my blog. And if you want to join us, let us know. We have room for one or two more.


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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.