Disillusioned with the corporate grind of life in Sydney, Australia, we (Greg and Mark) decided to throw in our careers as IT professionals (read "computer nerds"), and bought ourselves round-the-world airline tickets. Harbouring grandiose visions of Nepal and South America, we flew out of Sydney on November 20th, bound for Kathmandu.
The particular airline tickets we bought are most excellent. For the princely sum of A$3000, we are allowed unlimited travel for a year in a westbound direction, stopping wherever we please. Our initial itinerary, subject to change without notice, involved Kathmandu, Delhi, London, Washington, Mexico City, and Rio de Janeiro before returning to Sydney via Los Angeles. In the tradition of the TheatreSports courses we undertook in 1998, we decided to try to not control where we were going, but rather accept any ideas ("offers," in the TheatreSports jargon) we encounter along the way, and see where we end up.
Before we left Sydney, we invited our Dads along for the Nepal trekking leg. The idea of spending three or four tranquil weeks in the company of noone but our fathers appealed to us immensely. Gerry (Mark's dad) and Ross (Greg's dad) were a study in opposites when it came to Kathmandu and trekking in Nepal. Gerry, 65, had visited the Himalayas at least once a year for the last thirty years and seemed to know everyone in Nepal on a first-name basis, while Ross, 75 and a retired accountant, had never been, and was one of the last souls you'd expect to find traipsing the hills of the Himalayas. We were delighted and more than a little impressed when they both agreed to come. "The Lads and Dads" had a nice ring to it.
We both spent a hectic last few weeks in Sydney, shutting down our lives and preparing for a year abroad. A $4000 shopping orgy in the excellent Mountain Designs store in Kent St was one of the highlights. The night we left we threw ourselves a going-away party in the Edinburgh Castle pub in Bathurst St. Virtually everyone we love was in attendance, which made it extremely difficult to say goodbye when the time came to run off to the airport. But run off we did, and, like all fine holidays, we've since spent our time alternating between relishing the freedom of our extended travels, and missing our homes, our friends and our families.
After contemplating the idea for a few weeks, Greg finally took the plunge and bought himself a digital camera in Bangkok airport. We specifically chose a model by Sony, which had the indispensable feature of using standard floppy disks for film (20 shots to a disk). We knew that this would enable us to easily post all our photos onto our web site, so that anyone interested in what we were up to could find out at any time with the click of a mouse.
As planed, we posted the first set of photos, and were overwhelmed at the positive response. We were getting emails from people we'd never even heard of, and were tickled to learn that Mark's friend Hilda was using our web site as an example of what you can do with the Net in the Internet classes she was teaching in Melbourne.
Sometime during the creation of the second set, it suddenly occurred to us that we had all the tools at our disposal to construct a fully-fledged web site! Why hadn't we thought of that before? Rather than an assortment of photos and a hastily thrown together email loosely describing where we'd been, we could make a full-colour web page, complete with links to the photos that we wanted to describe! Inspired by the possibilities, we put a lot more effort into the next one, trying to make it into something that people would want to read, even if they didn't love us. We divided the photos into two groups - ones that people would hopefully be interested in viewing, and others we were keeping just to have a record of what we saw. Most people would find the second lot fairly boring, unless they real-l-ly loved us (mothers, wives, tax auditors, etc). The photos are just numbered - we didn't bother naming them. They mean something to us, but would not have too much meaning for anyone else. Check them out if you've got an hour to kill waiting for the next re-run of Seinfeld.
By the time it came to write episode three, we'd started getting comments that some people were finding it a bit daunting to read such a huge web page and look at so many photos. This gave us pause for thought. (Indulge me if I step into the first person for a moment) I (Mark) wondered if I wasn't getting a little carried away by the potentials of the technology, and whether I should keep the pages short and sweet. But I was truly enjoying the writing, and discovered that I didn't really mind if noone read the web pages at all. In fact, I began to realise that, first and foremost, I was writing the web site for us, as a kind of a journal/diary/trip log, but it was proving far more fun and requiring much less discipline than any journal I'd tried to write in the past. If anyone else bothered to read it, well, that would be a bonus.
To me, the writing was gradually becoming more significant than the photos. There was a reason behind this. For many years I've been harbouring secret fantasies of becoming a published author (of fiction, if you're interested). As the trip has progressed, I've been feeling more and more like it's time to bring those dreams to fruition. This trip seemed the perfect opportunity to find some time to finally write all those stories that I'd squirreled away in my notepads years ago. Even weeks after the web site concept developed, I still hadn't consciously realised that I was being presented with a golden opportunity to practice my writing in earnest. I thought I was just writing a diary of our travels, but it later dawned on me that I was indeed limbering up for more serious writing that I'd inevitably undertake somewhere down the line.
I've always admired Bill Bryson's style of travel writing, and I was getting a little tired of the "Boy's Own Adventure" feel of the episodes I'd already written, so by the time the fourth instalment came around, I decided to switch gears, and kicked into full author-mode. I committed myself to discovering whether I could do it anywhere near as well as the master himself. In the process, I've tried to make all the episodes interesting, fun and (thanks to your feedback) increasingly personal, without being self-indulgent or repetitive. You can be the judge of that, and you're allowed to let me know if it's not working. (End of first person interlude)