Our 2009 Summer Sabbatical

For the summer of 2009, we decided to embark on a three component trip: First, a cross country camping venture from Texas to California.  Second, a month and a half journey in Thailand and some surrounding countries.  Third,  trek back to Texas from California. This post is about how our trip began and how it’s going so far…

Considering we had no camping experience as a family (last time either of us camped was as children), it was quite overwhelming to plan all the logistics of what we needed.  Since we had a long summer ahead, we wanted to be very frugal as well.  One would think that camping would be an example of simple living, being with nature, etc., but you have to have many gadgets and tools to camp well.  We were also limited by our car’s space.  A Honda Fit isn’t exactly an SUV, but we were able to cram our gear (and luggage for Asia trip) into it without strapping anything, or our child, to the roof.  We are now Honda Element envy…

Just a fraction of our gearCheap but useful items:

We found a basic 3 person tent from Academy for roughly $26.

The insulated (collapsible) cooler w/wheels from Costco was under $40.

A Rayovac LED bulb camp light was $28 from Amazon.

We packed only 1 old sleeping bag (really should have brought three!) to use as a comforter, and a foam “egg crate” liner from our bed (took up too much space.. really should have bought something from REI…or Ebay to cushion the ground).

Instead of the usual propane grills, we brought a small (but ubiquitous in the Asian community) propane stove that’s smaller than a briefcase..  Refill propane cans look like Lysol cans, and can’t be found other than the Asian markets; so we brought 8 cans!

We were worried that the cans  might explode in the trunk due to the heat, but (knock on wood), no combustion has occurred.

Brought one small pot for cooking, silverware, a few reusable containers, zip lock bags, and a large bottle of organic all purpose soap from Whole Foods (still have 1/3 bottle of it here in Thailand).

We not only wanted to be thrifty, but ecologically responsible as well.  Instead of buying water bottles throughout our road trip, we brought our home’s Brita pitcher, and just refilled our stainless steel sport bottles at each camp site.

What we enjoyed about road trips is the ability to stop anywhere, at anytime, and we kept our itinerary flexible, so we didn’t feel like we were ‘behind’ any pre-existing schedule.  Here’s an example of something we would have never seen if not for driving cross-country:

Car Henge, near Amarillo, Tx“Car henge” is right outside of Amarillo, Tx and provided us with a fun, spontaneous diversion from the long drive.  Folks would stop and just start painting the cars… Is it art, or junk?  We’re not art critics, but let’s just say that we thought the cars were kind of cool…

We made it from Jack’s parents’ home in Arlington, Tx to Santa Fe, New Mexico in one day: May 25th.  It was quite a long drive, but each additional leg from point to point was much shorter.

We were so excited about our first night camping, in Santa Fe’s Rancheros campground.  We learned about campgrounds from scratch, and realized that many campsites had quite a few amenties, including showers, water, power outlets, playgrounds, and even WiFi (surfing the net in a tent seemed wrong at some level).

First time camping- ever - at Rancheros Campsite Santa Fe
First time camping- ever - at Rancheros Campsite Santa Fe

Well, that beautiful day in Santa Fe turned into quite a rain storm that night, raining on our inaugural night of camping.  In hindsight, it foreshadowed what we were to expect in Thailand’s rainy “monsoon” season..

Our six y.o. package is quite the city girl, and screamed each time she saw a stink bug on the hiking trails.  However, to her credit, she has adjusted quickly, and has numerous Junior Ranger Badges to her resume (vest, actually).

I  did most of the driving, mostly b/c I love driving, but partly b/c Aye gets bored easily on long road trips, and has a tendency to nod off while driving (exception: 2008 road trip to the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Roswell, we rented a car with XM radio-the Oprah station kept her awake).  Knowing this, I cannot really rest in the back while she’s driving, so I drove…I really didn’t mind at all.

Typical view of the backseat passengers
Typical view of the backseat passengers

Since we are into July now, it will take quite an effort to document every highlight of our camping trips.  We may just post photo albums of the beautiful and/or quirky places we’ve visited, and try our best to blog about our recent travels here in Thailand.  We MAY also share our past travels with our child since she was a 6 month-old and lessons learned on how to travel with a child from our perspective.

Aye and Emma are quite sound asleep as I write this entry, and I must say I’m proud of the three of us for having traveled so far this summer.  What a contrast it has been, to go from the dry climate of the American southwest, to the monsoon season in SE Asia.  We camped our way to Los Angeles, by way of national and state parks in NM, AZ, UT and NV.  We departed LAX on June 11th, and began our Asian leg of the journey on June 12th.  We return to LAX on July 29th and then continue on with our third part of our trip but back to Texas!

In the blogs to come, you should expect to read about stories about real people, not just the places we’ve encountered.  Here’s a list of probable stories we may cover (eventually!)-pardon the bullet points, as a professor, I know I overuse them:

  • Going from sleeping in a tent to the top floor hotel suite in Pallazo Casino, Las Vegas.
  • Our love for & fascination with Route 66.  But the classic hotel we stayed in was quite creepy.
  • Mesmerized by Monument Valley  (mother of all vortices) , & perfect camp site.  Awestruck by the sunrise.  Learned that the camera’s date stamp was ON.. Ugh.  Photoshop, anyone?
  • So Sedona, So Surreal!
  • Upper and Lower Antelope Slot Canyons
  • Hoodoos of Bryce Canyons!
  • How we hiked the Narrows in Mt. Zion National Park… Okay, not all the way.. but enough to justify a hat pin.
  • Bangkok Zoo – Best zoo we’ve seen?  Chiang Mai Zoo – the worst zoo? (Note, they did have pandas though!)
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia: To see Angkor sites, of course!
  • What we learned about life in Cambodia, from our daily TukTuk driver & Jack of all Trades.
  • Jack’s obsession with TukTuks!  Yes,  he took that photo in the banner!
  • Why Elephant rides in a monsoon should cost extra!
  • What we’ve learned about living in Thailand from our new Burmese friends (Aye is Burmese -speaking American-Huge plus!).  We’re now their neighbors in their apartment building!  Can’t beat 150 Thai Baht per night!
  • How to ride a motorbike in Thailand (think Xanax; say a prayer, and stay to the left). (DONE)
  • Cool Monk photo, videos and Monk Chats
  • Where is Jack practicing Tai Chi these days?
  • Aye’s obsession for food- especially spicy ones!  Life would be dull without lime, garlic and chili peppers! Jack would recommend STRONG breath mints!
  • Durian or Stinky Tofu?
  • Our 6 year old can make friends anywhere
  • Emma’s playgrounds around the world since six-months young
  • Disney World:  yes,  we went there too!
  • Funeral in Taiwan turned out to be a great family reunion!
  • Our family  travel traditions we’ve developed for our daughter!
  • What we consider a travel souvenir may surprise you!  What do you consider a souvenir?
  • Combining travel and service learning
  • Teaching our daughter  about giving, sharing, caring and having compassion and passion through our travels

Oh, man, we’ll never get to all those stories!  Now that we’re settled in for a couple of weeks in Chiang Mai, hopefully both of us will have more time to document these wonderful encounters.

Got Passport?
Got Passport?
Where to next?
Will Travel!

Lastly, we chose “GotPassort” as our Twitter and Blog usernames based on the famous “Got Milk?” campaign.

Got Passport, Will Travel!


-Jack (Aye and Emma too)


12 thoughts on “Our 2009 Summer Sabbatical

  1. Hi, just found out about your blog through Twitter. I am looking forward to all your adventures. Can’t wait to read upcoming posts, especially after having seen the list above!

  2. Hi Amy!
    Yes, we have been alive since early July, and we did post the blog link several times on Twitter, each time we posted a new story. Thanks for visiting our blog, and please offer any suggestions as we tweak and tweak and…

  3. Hey! Just realized that your blog is live! 🙂 You need to announce it on Twitter. 😉

    Anyway, I love bullet points and I can’t wait to read more about your adventures. You are such an inspiration. I didn’t know that that was your first family camping trip. I have been trying to talk my husband to go camping this Summer. We will see how that go.

    1. Hi Village F,
      Thanks for leaving a comment!! No, we didn’t see many other great sites in Utah due to time limitations. But, we do have time during our trek back to Texas, as our flight from BKK is into LAX. We haven’t mapped out our road trip back, but are considering the PCH drive to SF, and maybe all the way to Vancouver. It’s all flexible right now!
      J,A, & E

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