This is the beginnings of what was to be a book celebrating our family’s big trip in 2000 – 2001. We put this together to attract a publisher – which we didn’t manage to do.
A family finds itself on the road.
Crazy Eh? is a collection of finely woven stories about six brave souls traveling around North and Central America through 48,000 kilometers / 30,000 miles of adventure and eleven months of gathering affection.
David M Neufeld
A family finds itself on the road.
Somewhere in Mexico our 10 year old son Jonah asked “What are we – tourists or travelers?” It was one of those times when we were all in the cab of the truck and every one of us wanted to have a say. The difference between the two, we agreed, is that Travelers take time to explore and to be surprised by what they find while Tourists see and do about as much as they expect to. Tourists, we had learned, think it’s about themselves while Travelers know it’s more about the places and people they visit.
Everywhere we went people admired our spunk, that we would actually pack up and travel for a year as a family of six. Many of us, it seems, dream of escaping from a life that has closed in on us a bit too tightly. Few of us, though, actually break out of our routines to deliberately search out new ways of seeing, feeling, tasting, smelling and being with the great and struggling world around us. For the latent explorers among us, because they’re caught in a situation they can’t get out of for the time being, the solution is to settle in and find joy in the familiar. Others of us know we can adjust our priorities and consider something radically different. We were fortunate to be able to do both. We could explore a fascinating continent of scenery and culture and we could settle in to the familiar by being family in an intensely intimate way. For some that might be too crazy and for others it may be the inspiration they need to do their own bit of craziness.
According to international ratings we, Canadians, are one of the most successful and ‘developed’ societies on the planet. Yet many of us are looking for more. Those of us who are employed are working longer hours than we ever have. Yet too many of us aren’t happy. We’re looking for deeper understanding and meaning. Nagging questions lurk in the shadows of our to-do lists. Why do we get ourselves into hectic, predictable lives? Why are we so easily controlled by the creation of needs? How would we reorganize our family and our world if we had the power to do so?
We were becoming increasingly successful as well, but I didn’t like the way I was pushing the kids along that road. I was quite heavy on the ‘grow up and become responsible, contributing adults’ line. I wasn’t often enough finding joy in parenting. Like many of our friends and neighbours we didn’t like the ruts we were getting ourselves into. Responsibilities and expectations had us fenced in and we weren’t becoming a more loving family along the way. We created an opportunity to bust out of our nose-to-the-grindstone life and came up for a much needed breath of fresh air. This book is about the process of freeing ourselves and then exploring the joys and reworked responsibilities of our freedom. In some measure this book is also an account of the journey from being a family manager to becoming a fun, loving father and husband. We hope both the struggles and feelings of joy come through in the writing.
Because Maggie and I have lived, worked and traveled extensively in Africa our response to the predictability of our lives was to go traveling. We didn’t have the money to fly and we weren’t very interested in tourist resorts. We wanted to see the underbelly of this beast – North America/Turtle Island – and step into the homes of ordinary people. It might seem, at first, counterproductive to travel to poorer areas of the continent if what we’re looking for are new perspectives on our own drudgery and monotony. But we knew that no matter how depressing the situation may look at first, people always love and laugh. No matter how little it seems we have to share, we always can and, if approached in a personable way, we usually give the best that we have. Travelling, for us, is about exploring, being in the moment, so as to recognize rich opportunities when they present themselves. It’s also about learning how others live so that we are more likely to contribute to a peaceful, just, joyful, sustaining world. We feel we are on the forward edge of an increasingly popular way of traveling. We call it ‘Solidarity Travel’. This book shows how we did it our way: the preparations, the spontaneous groove of the road and the resettling back home.
Now and again we wax philosophical – but mostly this book is a path of stories. By inviting the reader to ride along with us, to see us up close and personal, in all our ragged splendor, we avoid the need to give speeches. Would you travel for a year with your family in a truck and ten foot camper? Come on along and we’ll give you a taste of what it’s like.
About two thirds of the writing and the tying together of the stories is from my, David (the Dad’s), perspective. 22 of the stories are travel reports that were written and spoken on air by David for Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC Radio) along the way. Teyana (13 years old) does most of the rest of the writing in her irrepressible way. Maggie and Kholi have also contributed a few stories. The book will feature about 50 full colour photos taken by Maggie (the Mom).
Possible Book Titles and Subtitles.
Crazy Eh? – a family finds adventure and affection on the road.
We Sold our Corvette for This – Bustin’ Out and Hittin’ the Road.
Hold On There – a family of six finds itself on a spirited, intimate trip around North and Central America.
Slow Affection – a Crazy, Loving trip around North and Central America.
Joy-Riding the Continent – intimate adventures of a family on the road.
Possible liner note.
This book of real life stories will inspire you – whether you’re needing to bust out and discover the world beyond your horizon or you’re needing to explore the world of your most intimate relationships. Maggie and David and their four adolescent children will take you along on a journey that has you sitting around a fire with First Nation’s Warriors in Eastern Canada, struggling for air as you duck behind a thundering waterfall in Honduras, grabbing your seat as the brakes fail going down a mountainside in Mexico, clambering up and down a steaming volcano in El Salvador and breaking the law with thousands of peace activists on a U.S. military training facility. They will always bring you home, though, to their truck and camper to wrap you in the warm glow of their laughter, good food and hospitality. It will add spirit and sparkle to your world as you contemplate your own bit of craziness.
Following the preliminaries Crazy Eh? is divided into seven chapters that correspond with the major national/regional areas we traveled through. We were on the road for 330 days. But this is not a diary of our trip. We’ve chosen 90 of the most flavorful days, each featured in a story telling style that will draw you along, to give you a great taste summary of how we traveled and what we experienced. On average, each chapter will have 13 days represented in story form along with about 10 photos. On average the chapters will also have 8 or so box insets highlighting, in a succinct way, practical aspects of our being a family on the road. I will be the ‘tour guide’ by tying these pieces together in an entertaining, concise manner.
We estimate the book will be 150 to 200 pages long – depending on negotiations with the publsisher.
Table of Contents. Front Cover Silk Screen of the family behind Bruce with a message on the chalk board that reads ‘We sold the Corvette for this’. Artwork by Richard Taylor.
Foreword Possibly Michael Ableman – Acclaimed Author, Farmer and Friend made along the way.
Preface David Neufeld – on how we created the finances and freedom to go.
Introduction Possibly Susan Grimble – Friend made along the way and keen observer of human nature.
North America Map The trip at a glance.
Vulcan Izalco The story of a particularly exhilarating day – to whet the appetite. See ‘Sample Writing’ below.
Six Family Photos A collection of family photos taken at various places along the way to help readers get to know us and see some of how we changed.
1. Canada East Starting our storytelling from the day before we leave our Turtle Mountain home in Manitoba (Central Canada) up until Day 89 when we enter Northeast USA from New Brunswick. See ‘Canada East in more detail’ below for an example of how we hope to set up a chapter.
2. USA East Starting on Day 90 and ending with Day 129 when we enter Mexico from southern Texas. Again a mixture of similarly proportioned voices and images relating stories of adventure and intimacy.
3. Mexico I Stories of our southward pass through Mexico from Day 129 to 196 when we enter Guatemala from Chiapas.
4. Central America Stories from our travels through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Belize – from Day 196 to 234 when we enter Mexico again from Belize.
5. Mexico II Day 234 to 282 covering our northward trek through Mexico.
6. USA West Day 282 to 301 along the west coast.
7. Canada West Stories and images (Day 301 to 332) of the home stretch from Vancouver Island to our Turtle Mountain reunion with dogs, cats, neighbours and trees.
Appendices Accounts of certain practical matters (like what we packed, suggested readings, etc.) that are too long to be included in a box inset.
Canada East in more detail – stories, radio reports, insets, photos, etc.
Note: The word ‘journal’ would not be used in the book. We would begin a new story by identifying which day it is along the trip, who the writer is and where we are geographically. We may not even use story titles. If we feel a transition comment needs to be made between two stories, I will be inserting an orienting line or two.
Teyana’s Journal Day Minus 1 – Saying Good-bye – by Teyana. We’re taken on a sentimental walk to the swimming pond while she says good-bye to her favorite spots and to her best friend. Photo of kids swimming in the pond on our property.
CBC Radio # 1 Day 1 – Why This Trip? – by David. I explain to my friends and neighbours via the radio waves how we came to plan for and embark on this trip. I introduce the theme I’ll be reporting on along the way. Photo ?.
Maggie’s Journal Day 2 – Finally On The Road – Maggie introduces us to the family – their individual motivations, hopes and fears for the trip.
Map of Bruce Bruce is the name of our truck and camper – our home for the duration of the trip. Here is a drawing of how the spaces are organized to give us at least the illusion of order.
CBC Radio # 2 Day 7 – Not an Easy Row to Hoe – by David. From the wilds of Northern Ontario I reflect on two farms we’ve just visited in Eastern Manitoba and on my own farm up-bringing. Photo of Gerry (farmer in the story) with his draft horses.
Box Inset Bruce’s first break down – by David. The process of slowing down, reducing external expectations and doing what has to be done every day.
Teyana’s Journal Day 13 – Pukaskwa – by Teyana – Reflections of a family hike to a breathtaking swinging bridge over a thundering gorge along the coast of Lake Superior. Photo of Teyana and David – ‘the perseverers’.
David’s Journal Day 16 – Niagara Falls on $2 – An intimate look at our family enjoying the natural and simple things in life in a context of hype and dazzle.
Box Inset Green Dots. With six people all having opinions on where we should go and what we should do, we had to develop a process to help us make decisions.
CBC Radio # 3 Day 20 – The Cost of Living Space. From Toronto’s colorful and busy streets I reflect on three farms we’ve just visited and on the struggle, even as close as they are to so many people, to make a living by growing food. Photo of our family helping a farm friend in Ontario bring in the hay.
David’s Journal Day 23 – Ezra in the City. Our most reluctant traveler gets a day to choose his favourite places to visit in the biggest city he’s ever seen. We tour some hockey sites, go up the CN tower, talk with street folks and laugh at how silly Canadians can be with a live audience of The Red Green Show. Photo of Ezra with a Hockey-Moose statue.
Box Inset Barber #1 – by David. I left my razor at home so I’d have to visit small town barbers whenever I needed a beard trim and neck shave. While visiting friends in upstate New York near the Ontario border, I pop into a main street barber and get a glimpse of ‘support the troups’ America.
CBC Radio # 4 Day 37. Culinary Delights. From the home of friends in Quebec City I take a look at how differently we savour foods from one culture to another – and how that may affect our connections to the land. Photo of camping with friends.
David’s Journal Day 39. Kholi’s Space Bubble. I describe the family tensions as Kholi resists folding back into the family after spending 2 weeks without us. Photo of Kholi in historic Quebec City.
Box Inset Home Schooling starts. We find a way to fit it into a spontaneous lifestyle. Family budgeting and bookkeeping skills as math.
Teyana’s Journal Day 43. Forillon National Park. Teyana draws us into the experience of a footloose, exploring child as she and Jonah lose track of time on the Atlantic coast.
David’s Journal Day 46. Burnt Church. What are we doing in a warrior camp? I lead us into the conflict at Burnt Church between a First Nation’s lobster fishers’ community and the Canadian Government from within the Warrior/Peace Keeping alliance. Photo ?
Kholi’s Journal Day 48. Burnt Church Confrontation. Kholi expresses her dismay at how the Canadian government is feeding the violence.
This pattern (of sorts) goes on with more journal entries, box insets and photos. The
‘Canada East’ chapter carries on for a few more days. It will be one of the longer chapters
in the book due to both the time we spent there and the amount of orienting information
the reader needs at the beginning of the trip.
Samples of our writing.
Day 219 – Vulcan Izalco – by David
We had managed yesterday afternoon, through a break in the dense fog, to get a glimpse of the mountain. Our destination was clear to us now. We were going to climb a steaming, although sleeping, volcano. As we headed out on our adventure it was important to choose wisely the words we would use to describe the mountain. Maggie was worried we were walking to our deaths. We couldn’t call it an inactive volcano because we had seen it venting steam. Moreover, we had seen, on our way here, how the road was cracked right down the middle from a series of earthquakes a week or two earlier. Maggie was keen to join in on a vigorous walk, but she wasn’t so sure about going to the top of a mountain that happened to be the most recently active volcano on an active fault line. But it isn’t really an active volcano either I argued. There hasn’t been fresh lava for 35 years. We decided we would start walking and evaluate the situation as we went.
We’re in Cerro Verde, a National Park in western El Salvador just east of the Guatemala border. It’s a heavily treed and mountainous area surrounded by lakes and fertile valleys. From the picnic area on top of Cerro Verde Mountain (about 2000 meters above sea level) we could see down into the Vulcan Izalco crater (about 1900 meters). That crater is what the kids and I wanted to explore. It looked like a shallow bowl on top of a massive dark gray pimple. However, we had to climb down the mountain we were on before climbing Izalco. The trick I realized early on would be coaxing Maggie along.
The landslides we saw on the way down did nothing for our cause. Maggie pointed to them as evidence of the recent earthquakes and therefore the instability of the area. I pointed out that the trees in the slides had been dead much longer than a week or two, but the worry on her face wasn’t going to be easily erased. Fortunately, there was a path zigzagging down the side of the mountain. The steepest parts even had stairs and rough handrails. The kids kept up a brisk pace. The air was pleasantly cool. We were thankful for the cloud cover.
At the end of our descent, we walked out of the dense forest and onto a moonscape. The years since Izalco had last belched out its lava had not been enough for the insects and elements to generate much soil. Here and there a scrawny bit of shrubbery struggled for life amid the shale and boulders. Although at times difficult to follow, there was a path that beckoned us around and up the west side of the mountain. Ezra was out front like an eager engine and Maggie was the reluctant caboose.
About half way up, the path seemed to fade away under layers of loose shale. Some well-meaning soul had spray-painted white arrows on the larger rocks. But these marks were badly faded and spaced just far enough apart that we couldn’t rely on them alone for direction. Maggie called a halt to our procession. She was clear. She wouldn’t go any further and she felt the rest of us would be fools to go on. The last part of the mountain looked steeper and the shale looser. Regardless, the kids were keen to go all the way. And so was I. But if we were to go on without Maggie I would have to become the sober, cautious one in the crowd. I promised I wouldn’t let the kids out of my sight and that we would carefully assess the danger all along the way. Again, she didn’t look appeased but she didn’t put up too big of a fuss. By the time Maggie had passed the camera to me, the kids were nearly out of sight. Not the most effective way of reassuring their mother.
From here on the mist allowed us about 20 meters of visibility. And the path was nearly obliterated by loose shale. At one point we were sliding backwards almost as fast as we were advancing upwards. I called a huddle. Everybody was still keen. We decided the best strategy would be to stay closer together and to go up at a slight angle to lessen the chances of kicking rocks onto those of us coming up behind. This helped, but as we scrabbled from one tenuous handhold to another, I began having second thoughts. We couldn’t see down through the fog to the bottom of the mountain. Neither could we see the top to know how much farther we had to climb. At one point Ezra stopped. He was holding a stiletto style high-heeled shoe he had found wedged between two rocks. This gave us a moment to pull together to ponder how its owner had managed to get that far. We went on. Someone called out saying the rocks felt hot to the touch and seemed to be steaming. We knew then we must be close to the top. One more heady effort, and we were lined up on the rim looking down into the bowl of Vulcan Izalco.
I was impressed how like a well-grazed meadow it was. There were rocks strewn about on the scrubby grass. The mood was quiet and peaceful. I no longer felt any urgency to go anywhere, not even down into the bowl. I poked around on the lip keeping one eye on my frolicking children and another open for any sign that the fog might clear long enough to get a look at the countryside below. Kholi and Ezra raced around the rim – about a kilometer in circumference. Someone found a place out of which the steam was venting with gusto. The kids gathered around. They were repulsed by the smell of sulfur and fascinated by the moaning sound coming from the depths of our planet. I marveled at how profound a geology field trip this had become. As we were heading back to sooth Maggie’s fears, the clouds opened just long enough to give me the view I had hoped for: a 1500 meter high image of patchwork farmland along a valley carrying water from Izalco to the Pacific ocean. Exhilarating but too brief to even get the camera into position.
The slide-walk down was hard on our palms and butts. Ezra, in front again, faded in and out of sight. Kholi found a pair of orange plastic sunglasses. She put them on and decided to keep them as a souvenir. Teyana and Jonah were bantering back and forth. It made me shake my head in wonder that they were relaxed enough during the descent to intersperse their physical scrambling with literary unscrambling. By the time we were reunited with Maggie, they had composed a rather lengthy and involved poem about their experiences on the mountain. Maggie, we learned, had found a large rock on which to sit and contemplate. She remarked on how utterly quiet it had been. Just the wind accompanied her thoughts. She feels she was surrounded and touched by the power of the mountain we were all romancing that day.
We were a crabby bunch, though, on our way back to the campsite. Our food and water had run out and the length and steep incline of the return path nearly overwhelmed us. We were drag-ass tired by the time we got back to Bruce (our truck-camper). The kids dealt with the rigorous last half of the climb each in their own way. Kholi struck out ahead, kept a steady pace and never looked back. Jonah followed Kholi, keeping pace but looking back to make sure the rest of us were still coming. Ezra walked as quickly as he could and then sat down complaining bitterly until we came up to prod him forward again. Teyana, looking like a drooping flower, whined the whole way about how a real Dad would carry his youngest daughter up the mountain on his back. Funny girl. Fun day.
After the Vulcan story we plan to have two pages of family pictures(six in all) taken at various points along the trip. We want to introduce ourselves in this way and provide an easy place to refer back to in order to place faces with names.
The climb up Vulcan Izalco was on Day 219 of our trip. There were many days before and after that day with stories to be told. So we’ll start at the beginning or even a day or two before the beginning of our trip
Saying Goodbye – 28 July – by Teyana
I sometimes take myself back to that day – one day before we left for a year. It was a pleasantly warm day to my standards. For my brothers it was too hot – which is why we went swimming that day.
We usually go the long way to the pond – up a small hill, across the meadow and down to the pond. But I decided to go the shorter, less used way. I jumped off of our deck, went across our yard, around the trampoline, and then over the lane. On the far side of the lane there’s a huge oak tree that stands a little apart from the rest. It’s tall and elegant with branches that reach skywards with that kind of tree mightiness. I passed the tree and the Old House came into view. This was the house of the previous owners of our land. My brother, our friends and I had gone through it finding books, newspapers, and work scribblers from the 1950’s.
Beyond the Old House the path opens up into the meadow. There are suddenly fewer trees. It’s mostly long grasses, nettles, and bits of machinery left there by the past owners – although my Dad’s been known to leave a thing or two lying around as well. My path soon meets up with the one that is usually used. I follow it past the Zeb fort. This was the birthplace of one of our horses but was converted into a fort by my siblings, friends, and myself. It’s a magical grove of a few huge, bent and crooked maple trees that stretch along the ground before they spread into the air.
After the Zeb Fort I climbed a small rise and the objective of my walk was revealed to me. To me, the pond is the most beautiful and peaceful place on our whole property. I always have, and I always will love it! As I approached, the sun bounced off of the water with a watery brilliance, and for a moment, I forgot my purpose for being here. Then I walked down to the water’s edge and took the towel from about my shoulders and dropped it on the grass. The rest of my family was already in the water. They hadn’t taken as much time to enjoy the scenery.
I decided to go in by the rope swing instead of just wading in. I walked the short path, grabbed the rope and stepped up on the platform. I took a good grip and swung out. There was a small adrenaline rush, but I’ve done it so many times that it’s hardly scary anymore. When I splashed down in the water, the cold of it shocked me. I swam quickly to the floating dock and managed to climb onto it without Ezra or anybody else playfully shoving me off. When I looked down to the western end of the pond I was reminded of the time Adrielle, a special friend of mine, and I went down there and gathered “seaweed” for a make-believe salad. This memory was painful for me. You see, a couple of days earlier I had said good-bye to her. I wouldn’t see her for a whole year. One entire year. I had cried with her. And even an hour after I got home I was choked up about it. It was hard letting go of everything I love about being at home: from special people and places, to pets and small toys or luxuries I have here, but not on the road. Oh well, as a friend once told me, you have to say goodbye, before you can say hello again.
I was brought back to the present with a sharp shove and I fell sprawling into the water. When I surfaced, Ezra was staring back at me with a silly smile on his face. I stuck my tongue out at him and then laughed when he was pushed in by Jonah. A rare event, considering the size and strength difference between my two brothers. I climbed back on the dock and tried to wrestle Jonah into the water, when Ez came back on and pushed us both in. Eryn, a friend from Winnipeg visiting us at the time, joined in and the four of us pushed, shoved, and fell all over and off that dock. It was hard to stay on now, because the dock was so slippery.
Dad called from the water’s edge, where he had been watching. We stopped our scrambling and swam to where he stood. When the boys had left, I lingered for a moment. I stood looking over the water until I started to get teary-eyed. I whispered my goodbye, sighed, and headed back to the house.
I, David, reported with a spoken piece to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC Radio) every other Tuesday. I wrote the following piece in order to introduce my listeners to the trip.
CBC # 1 – Dear friend and neighbour,
It’s a rare day on the prairies – misty, warm and calm. The songbirds are chattering intimately under a blanket of fog, reassuring me of our eventual happy return.
You asked me a while back, where the idea for this trip came from. I remember the inspiration coming while I was at a friend’s business. The poster on her bathroom wall asked a familiar question, `What would you do differently if you had this life to live over again’? `Ahhh,’ I sighed, `I would be more – playful. I would enjoy my family more. Now, before they leave home to make their own ways in the world.’
A while later, we were sitting around our kitchen table talking about our friends who were vacationing in Mexico. `How far south could we drive if we wanted to?` one of the children asked. Well – we got out the atlas. We estimated the distance. And somebody said, `Let’s go!’ We laughed at the absurdity – that we might take a year off as a family and do some travelling – with four pubescent children no less. I remember Magdalene giving me that sideways look that means, `This is fine as a joke, but you’re sounding a bit too serious for my liking.` But, bless her soul, she loves an adventure too.
So here we are – a few years later. Our `83 three-quarter ton truck `Bruce` and the camper on the back are packed and ready to go. First we’ll head across to the Maritimes, then down the east coast of the continent all the way to the Panama Canal, before we have to turn back north because of the Darien Gap – then up the west coast – maybe all the way to the Yukon. Sound crazy? Maybe it is. We’ve lived with this dream, saved the cash and made preparations to leave our place in caring hands. It’s a good time – no, it’s the right time, for us as a family to do this. We’re calling it our sabbatical – a year off to live each day without a set plan. We love everything that ties us down – our quarter section of bush land, our animals, our community and friends. These are our roots. And we’ll come back to it all – maybe even with added enthusiasm. But for now, we’re on the road.
Like most farm boys, I’m a bit driven to keep myself occupied. So – I’m taking a sabbatical research project with me. The question I want to ask folks along the way is, `How are you preparing the way for the next generation of farmers?` We get a lot of young people through our place wanting to learn about organic greenhouse and gardening methods. A good number of them would love to grow and raise food for a living, but haven’t any idea how to finance land or compete with cheap food coming in from – God knows where. I look at the squeeze our community is in – how discouraged some of the established farmers are getting and how little ownership there is in the overdue assignment of raising the next generation of farmers. It seems we – all North Americans – are in denial. With the average age of farmers at nearly 60 years of age, the picture gets looking pretty bleak.
At the same time, I know that all is not lost. There are encouraging stories out there. I’m going to look for them. I want to talk with people who are finding joy and freedom in farming. Because, it seems to me, few young people will choose a profession that is depressing and restrictive. Some people I find will be taking the struggle on at an international level. Others will not even be worried about the whole global, corporate stew agriculture seems to be suspended in. We’ll see. That, in any case, is what I need to hear right now: encouraging stories.
I’ll write every two weeks. And, it would be good to hear from you; what’s happening with you, in the community, as the seasons turn? We’ll be at email@example.com.
Well, I’ve got to go. The kids are pestering me for pancakes. Love from all of us. David
Maggie started the trip with great intentions to keep a detailed journal. Here’s her take on those first days on the road.
Day 2 – Brandon Folk Festival – by Maggie
Well, our journey has begun. After a somewhat frantic morning doing final packing, we got away around noon yesterday. I’ve felt a bit frazzled. But the music is good and there are lots of friends here to link up with one more time. I think we may be on the road quite some time before we finally realize we’re actually gone. But the dogs (Chance and Tibi) know. They both lay under the truck while we packed. They looked a little sad. David almost reconsidered leaving Chance at home.
People keep asking me if we’re excited to be going. It’s been such a long process. I guess we each have our own feelings about it. Kholi has, in recent months, discovered that the world is full of fascinating people. She suggested we might not come home. We could just as easily find some other place to stay. “There are so many interesting people out there,” she said. So she is looking forward to the trip with some excitement. If Kholi (at 16 years of age) wasn’t keen to do this trip, it would be a lot harder to pull off.
Ezra has said he wouldn’t be going – right from the very start. He doesn’t want to miss a season of hockey. But he’s slowly warming up. He was the first one packed and the first one into the truck yesterday. He did win one victory on the way here though. He managed to trade his old Nintendo for a Game Boy when we stopped at his cousin’s house. We’ve somehow taught our children: ‘If you feel strongly about doing something and you know that if you ask for permission the answer is likely to be “No”. . . don’t ask. Just do it and face the consequences.’
Teyana and Jonah are OK with our plans. Teyana had some trouble saying farewell to her friend Adrielle. She’s been writing songs of farewell and has totally packed her personal cubby space with toys and stuffed animals. I think she’s ready to go. I don’t know how much Jonah had to do with the Game Boy escapade, but he’s sure happy to use it. He’s cool with doing whatever we’re doing. He’s taken very little stuff along. He’s just planning to occupy himself with whatever presents itself.
David has his farming project to occupy him on the way. We’ll be stopping at all kinds of farms and he’ll be reporting to CBC Radio. I’m very proud of him and I’m sure he’ll do a great job. I’m a little afraid he’ll want to spend more time on farms than the rest of the family. We’ll see how it goes.
My goals for the trip are to be with and enjoy family. I plan to focus on home schooling and hope to do a lot of drawing. I’d love for it to become second nature to me. And so I guess we really are off and away. Time to enjoy a relaxing day at the Folk Festival.
David – 2003 – Two stories published in Small Farmer’s Journal
2002 – Wrote/Edited a Guide to Organic Food in Manitoba
2000/1 – Wrote and Narrated 22 four minute pieces for CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) Radio on the topic ‘Who is preparing the next generation of farmers?’ from visits to people and places along our around-the-continent trip.
1999 – Nine poems and stories printed in ‘Borderlines – prose and poetry’.
1992 – Twelve part series entitled ‘Between You and Me and Africa’ – a critical study of our attempts at helping Africans help themselves – published in The Mennonite Reporter – a national periodical of the Mennonites in Canada.
Teyana is by far the best writer in her grade. She has written extensively for her school projects and always achieves top marks. She has not been published but she is ready for the challenge.
Maggie has been an amateur photographer for 30 years gaining her love for the art at her father’s part time professional studio. She contributed strongly to an educational show called ‘Phumalanga’ – a pictorial done in South Africa for Mennonite Central Committee on the effects of apartheid on rural agricultural communities.
We believe in our ability as a family; that the charm of our collective effort will shine through to convince our anticipated audiences to pick up, buy and enjoy this book. Being on the lower end of experience for this scale of a project, we recognize the value of having professional script and photo editors involved.
Thoughts on publishing.
The audience for this book is scattered throughout the industrialised world, wherever people are caught in lives that no longer make as much sense as they did when they were planned. It will appeal to adults of low, medium and high incomes who want to rekindle the joy in their family relationships and/or break out of their routines to do something fresh and perhaps even daring. Children will readily pick it up, see themselves in the stories and pictures and want to discuss possibilities of doing something ‘crazy’ with their own parents and siblings. It will also appeal to seasoned travellers who will relate to and revel in stories that come from a ‘looking under the rocks’ type of travel. Business leaders who wish to adapt their team building skills to their families will find inspiration in these pages as well. We can see this book in countless homes and being popular in most libraries (school, business and public) across North America and English speaking areas of the world. It could be translated and its popularity would be spread even further, particularly in Europe, Japan and other places where people have a love for family, travel and a just planet.
We have kept our eyes open for other Family Adventure Travel books. These are the ones we found in our circle of libraries and bookstores.
Adventuring with Children, by Nan Jeffrey, published by Foghorn Press/Avalon House Publishing in 1992, 328 pages, paperback, interspersed with black and white photos. As the front cover says, this is a “family pack-along guide to the outdoors and the world”. We would have appreciated this book when we were preparing to leave on our trip. It excels in helping travelling families work through the logistics of leaving home and then thriving on the road. Excellent as the book is at placing adventure travel within reach of most families, we find it does not tell enough stories for our liking or invite us into the inner workings of the writer’s family. Our book is less focused on the details of what to pack. We cover these aspects within the narrative as brief box insets in our book so as to maintain the ‘travel along with us’ flow. We also celebrate the child’s voice in the journey through Teyana’s endearing, perceptive writing style. Nan and family prefer to travel by foot, bike, sail and canoe arguing that a family that travels modestly gains the best reception from common folks along the way. We agree fully. But there is much in Adventuring with Children that is irrelevant for a family that wishes to travel by road as we did – in a car, truck or modest motor home. We focus less on the means of travel and more on getting off of the road and into people’s lives so we could more fully experience the culture, struggles and secret places of beauty along the way. Adventuring With Children compliments the book we are writing. We will promote it as a resource.
Paddle to the Amazon, by Don Starkell, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1987, 316 pages, hard cover, maps and several full page black and white photos. ‘The ultimate 12,000 mile canoe adventure’ by father and sons is written as a travel journal but reads like an adventure novel. This style of travel writing represents the narrative end of the logistics-storytelling spectrum. There is much that inspires and entertains in this book. We find it heavy on the testosterone driven type of travel – ‘getting to where we are headed come hell or high water’. Although that driveness does feature now and again in our book, we feel those who are looking to be motivated to do their own family travel are more likely to be inspired by a balance of hormonal expressions in the writing. Crazy Eh? is organized in a similar way as Paddle to the Amazon; painting colourful pictures of specific days that draw the reader in and along.
On Promoting the Book.
The popular media is presently interested in stories about work; how our industrial societies are organised to get more and more out of fewer employees and about how too many of us get pinned down by debt and career path obligations. They are also covering stories about the stresses on the nuclear family. Another media priority is covering popular concerns over the quality of our food and the resurgence to find connections with the land. Independent media is looking for stories of people responding with creativity to the corporatization of our world. Media, who are alert to changing tides, are paying attention to a growing global democracy movement. We find journalists are looking for heads-up citizens who can steer society away from a world dominated by the capitalist ethic of ‘get what you can for yourself while the guns are stacked in our favour’. They are particularly keen to find visionaries who can do this with a gently spoken, entertaining style. I have worked well with local and national media on a variety of issues and stories and feel we can get their attention when promoting this book.
We will make time to do book promotion tours.
1. A Map of North America with the Trip Route highlighted.
2. The Family at the beach in Yucatan Province, Mexico.
3. Taking the Train to Creel, Mexico.
4. Bruce and David at the Copper Canyon.