It is starting already. The travel bug is back again. It takes several months to forget the traumas of travel-all the hassles of making connections, spending endless hours in the sky, waiting in airports before you return to the sky, and contracting illnesses on the ground.
I have the most virulent strain of the travel bug. It incubates for about six months, and then it attacks in full force. The reoccurrence of this potent bug attacked again in less than the normal time having just returned from China and Tibet only last summer. I notified my wife that it was back, and she merely rolled her eyes and waited to hear what outlandish plans were beginning to hatch in my brain.
My daughter, Michelle, is to blame for this attack. (Well, that isn't altogether accurate; she originally got the travel bug from me.) In less than four months, she will be at Cato Ridge, a small village outside of Durban, South Africa. After getting her masters degree this year, she wanted to take some time out from her studies before getting her doctorate. Michelle decided on volunteering a year at an orphanage, God's Golden Acre, ( www.godsgoldenacre.org) that cares for children who have lost parents from HIV/AIDS. She had seen a program that Oprah did on this orphanage and decided that was where she would spend a year as a volunteer.
For nearly a year now, Michelle was been on a quest. She was accepted at the orphanage and she is now attempting to round up money and supplies for her year in South Africa. Acting as her OPA (official parental advisor), I have spent a lot of time shooting her emails containing ideas about dealing with the various obstacles facing her quest. Money is the main issue. We have talked about amassing the money needed to get there and back in addition to the cost of living while there. In a recent email, Michelle asked how to address former president Clinton in a letter. I told her and asked why she wanted to know. She replied that she wanted to ask for some of his extra frequent-flyer miles to offset the cost of tickets for her trip.
This exposure to Michelle's trip to South Africa forced my wife and me to move up our planned trip to Africa so that we could visit her while she was there. I have long wanted to visit sub-Saharan Africa to see it firsthand and to interview some of Africa's leaders. Years ago, I had written to Archbishop Desmond Tutu about some articles that I was writing for my newspaper column. The correspondence spread over several months during which he suggested that I would visit South Africa and see for myself. A decade later, my dream is coming true. I would love to interview him, Nelson Mandela, and others that guided South Africa's independence movement.
Now, I have a problem. I need to find my real parents-the really rich ones. Let me explain. When I was born back in 1943, someone inadvertently switched me with another baby. He went with my real family-the family with all the money. Unfortunately, I was mistakenly given to a middle-class family. Don't get me wrong, I loved the parents with whom I grew up, but deep inside, I knew that I was a child of a rich family. All my tastes and desires reflected the DNA of someone who was from old money. Had I been raised with my real family, I could foot the bill for Michelle's trip as well as ours. Alas, I am the victim of a mistake years ago in the hospital. I need to find my real parents and tap into my rightful inheritance. So, if you know of any really rich people who are looking for their real son, let me know.
In spite of the money problems, the travel bug has taken over my life and me. We are planning to spend Christmas of '06 in Africa. We were on Easter Island on Christmas in '02. Time will tell where Christmas '06 will be spent. It is difficult to express how planning for a road trip energizes me. It is like pumping amphetamines into my body without the use of the drug. If I load up on my various teaching schedules over the next year before the trip, I can make enough to cover the time when I won't be teaching. In addition, I can move my online classes to occur during the trip so that I can teach online like I did when in China.
Then there is the itinerary-what to see? Having been to North Africa, I want to spend most of my time south of the Sahara. Spending time with Michelle and seeing South Africa will take approximately half the time allotted. What about the rest of the time? When I was younger, I read about Victoria Falls and David Livingston. Wouldn't it be a hoot to travel down the entire Nile from the headwaters to Luxor and Cairo? Another place that holds much allure is Timbuktu. The list of stops whirls around my head like a Kansas tornado. Fortunately, I was wired for adventure.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 11/16/05.