(Our friend Joe Marraccino emailed Dale a few questions allegedly ripped from the dialogues of Howard Stern -- we thought we'd respond online)
1) One of your goals was to read a lot. How is that coming along? Where do you get your books from?
We don't read as much as we would have liked -- the roads are just too bumpy and winding to get much reading done on long bus rides. That said, we try to read books about the country we are currently in, or written by local authors. In Africa, it was almost impossible to find decent books -- sometimes in travelers' areas there are book shops or swaps, but they are rare. Once we got to Asia, esp. Kathmandu and Bangkok, there were books everywhere. In Vietnam, there is a whole black market of professionally photocopied books and guidebooks for a few bucks each, complete with color covers and photo inserts.
Some of the best books so far: On Africa -- "King Leopold's Ghost" and "Journey to the Congo." On Asia: "When Heaven and Earth Changed Places" (on Vietnam), and Paul Theroux's "Great Railway Bazaar." The award for most over-hyped book goes to "The Snow Leopard," about a journey in Nepal.
2) Are you traveling with your laptop?
No, too big and too much of a pain. All our updates come from excrutiatingly slow connections at the copious Internet cafes found in all major cities. Usually they are filled with smoke and 100 deg. heat, and you share a single 33K connection among 30 people.
3) What have you missed most about the States?
The food, followed by, for Dale, reruns of The Simpsons. We have made countless lists of what we will eat when we return. Mostly, they are variations of Italian food, Mexican food, sushi, and burgers.
4) Will you ever go back to Africa? Any Yankee's fans there?
Definitely! The Congo is high on the list, but right now is struggling with civil war, Ebola, and volcano erruptions. We also would like to return to Madagascar and Uganda, and visit West Africa (eg Senegal, Mali, etc.) as well. Unbeknownst to our parents we've applied for a few jobs there as well, but we haven't heard back yet.
Oh and we didn't see many Yankee's fans, but there were a ton of Indians fans and also a good amount of Browns fans. Once I asked some local villagers if they were Yankee fans and they shouted, "Yankees suck!" followed by "Go Tribe!"
5) How do you get hair cuts?
Dale so far has gotten haircuts on the road, first in Botswana ($5), followed by Dar es Salaam, Tanzania ($3, including a too-close shave), Bhutan ($1), and Myanmar (50 cents). It is always an event with locals gathered around to gawk and laugh, while Dana snaps photos. Dana's only haircut to date has been in Bangkok ($3), by a bunch of thai women dressed in neon mini-skirts. The hair salon also offered "Special Special Massage" for $20, but we didn't try that.
6) What's left for you to experience in life after this trip?
Plenty. We still need to walk on the moon, watch all the movies we missed while we were away, and most importantly, hear all the stories about our friends' children as they grow up.
7) Is wanderlust out of your system?
No way. We are already planning future trips. The Trans-Mongolian express train is already booked.
8) Who's the most interesting person you've met and why?
I would have to say Nelson Mandela. He was drunk at the time, but still very interesting and an excellent snooker player. In second place would have to be our waiter, Pascal, at the Shooting Star restuarant in Zanzibar. No matter what you ask him, he answers, "Why Not?" It works -- try it some time. Last but not least, we would have to nominate the entire Hare Krishna contingent in Mayapur, India. For one thing, they have their own elephant.
9) How has you perspective on life changed?
Well, we now realize that the most important things in life are eggplant parmigana, air conditioning, and clean underwear.
10) How are you going to reflect this trip on your resume?
On Dale's resume it is listed as: "International Resource Management & Development." On Dana's it is: "Community-based Social Welfare Research."
11) Are you in better or worse shape than when you started the trip?
Far worse. When all you eat is maize mush and all your exercise is from negotiating with rickshaw drivers, you lose muscle mass fast.
12) What's surprised you most about the trip? yourself? Dana?
I'm mostly surprised about how much time we spend on the Internet. Had I known, I never would have built this stupid web site. The thing that surprises me most about Dana is how hungry she is all the time.
13) What annoys Dana most about you?
Without a doubt, it is the obsessive bargaining I undertake for every transaction. It's not that I'm in favor of niggling these poverty-stricken people for every last penny, but what I cannot stand is getting ripped off. Dana thinks it is ok to overpay sometimes for the sake of efficiency, but I just can't bring myself to do it. Mind you, I'm not rude about it or aggressive, but if one more Vietnamese person tries to charge me more than 1000 Dong for a french bread I'm going to shove a $#&! through their %$@# until they @%*$!!
14) Why don't you stop doing that?
Why don't I stop breathing?
15) How often do you and Dana... well you know...? What method of birth control do you use?
Good question, Joe. Actually, we've decided that in order to get the full "local experience" in our travels that we would have to be a little more "open" in our relationship. This has worked out far better for Dana than for Dale, as one might expect. As far as birth control goes, we also do as the locals do -- using the lunar calendar, in addition to various herbs and spices from the jungle.
16) Are you and Dana still talking? What do you talk about?
We do talk occasionally, mostly about whose turn it is to choose where to eat. Here are some other topics commonly discussed:
- Who would you rather sit next to on an airplane (eg Dick Van Patten or Dick Van Dyke?)
- What we are going to eat when you get back to the states.
- How often our friends... well you know....
- How Britney Spears should manage her career.
- How we will possibly afford to live once we get back to the US.
- Why none of our friends will visit us on our trip (and does this mean that they are not really our friends?)
17) Are you married yet? Kids on the way?
We are married now, but not to each other. The only kids on the way are a Cambodian Sun Bear, a Laotian Vervet Monkey, and a baby cow from India.
On Early Retirement
A few years ago, we were having dinner in a small village called Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, Indonesia.
As usual, having no clue what the various menu items were, we ordered about 5x the appropriate amount
of food (at about $1 per item), and sat facing an embarrassingly huge table full of nasi goreng, fried bananas
with chocolate, various curries and so on. A single woman traveler at a nearby table, apparently
eyeing our bounty, asked if she could join us. Although we are not particularly friendly people,
we agreed and listened to her tale. It turned out she was traveling for 6 months through Southeast Asia.
While of course we have met herds of long-term backpackers on previous trips, this woman
was not your typical 22 year-old, europass-using, guitar-carrying, hostel-visiting backpacker.
She was in her 30s, had had a career, was not independently wealthy, and so on. Well, needless to say, we became insanely jealous (we were only traveling for about 3 weeks)
and decided at that moment that we would do the same thing one day.
Fortunately, neither of us particularly enjoys work. So, when the Internet bubble burst and there
were no longer billions of dollars to be made overnight (having not been successful on a few
previous attempts by the way), we decided the timing was ripe.