Jenss Family Travels: Living a Dream
Rainer Jenss, his wife Carol, and their sons Stefan and Tyler, are just back from having spent a year traveling around the world, and we were able to follow along as they blogged about their journey for Intelligent Travel and National Geographic Kids. Now that they’re back and adjusting to a static existence, we asked Rainer to reflect on his trip and share some of his favorite moments.
Wellfleet was abuzz with customary summertime activities just as it was a little over a year ago. We were last here at the very start of an around the world trip that would span exactly one year and cover 28 countries. Now we are back on Cape Cod as part of an annual family summertime ritual we’ve honored since the children were born.
Not much appears outwardly different. The bluffs of White Crest Beach have the usual stream of families and surfers tramping up and down its steep dunes. Swimmers bob in the Atlantic, which has warmed just enough to allow for some brief bursts of body surfing for those of us not in wetsuits. The local drive-in continues to feature the same intermission film clip; complete with dancing popcorn boxes and juggling soda cups, just as it did when it first opened in 1957.
Yet so much has changed since last July. The global economy and American leadership have radically altered and there seems to be a prevailing sentiment of unease about what the future holds. There’s also no doubt my eyes see things quite differently than they did twelve months ago. It was enlightening to learn how people from all corners of the globe are influenced and affected by what happens in America. With the possible exception of Bhutan, there seems to be an almost universal fascination with our politics (yes, the election of Obama greatly improved the perception of Americas almost overnight), celebrities, and general lifestyle. As such, I’ve found it hard not to walk around comparing life in the U.S. to the rest of the world, for better or worse.
It was also quite a shock to be hurled back into a more everyday state of being. For one, we are no longer living as visitors in a foreign land. As much as we treasured and now miss this existence, it’s nice to have a reprieve from the usual trappings that come with touring some of the world’s more popular destinations.
Souvenir hawkers, unappealing restaurants and crowds were a constant backdrop to our lives. And as much as I loved honing my skills as a photographer, my shoulders welcomed a rest from lugging around all the camera gear. Lying on the beach in Cape Cod, we are back to simply being on a vacation, not an adventure of a lifetime.
This all started back in January of 2004 after returning from a family trip to London for the holidays. Having witnessed how much the boys enjoyed the experience of being overseas, a light bulb seemed to go off in our heads simultaneously. Carol and I realized that our dream of packing our bags to travel around the world that we had shelved when the children were born was actually something we could reconsider doing with the kids. Not only would we fulfill a lifelong dream, we would provide the boys with a foundation that would serve them well long into their adult lives. Four-and-a-half years later, we deconstructed our lives, sloughing off a dozen monthly bills, corporate job responsibilities and home ownership. We put all of our possessions in storage and hit the road.
Since returning to the States, we’ve still been pretty much living out of suitcases and our traveling hasn’t ended. There was a trip to North Carolina to visit Carol’s mother, a few days at Lake Champlain to spend time with the family who joined us in Tanzania, and various other road trips visiting friends who were eager to hear about our adventures. Of course, everyone has asked us to show them some pictures, which we have, but the official photo album(s) and multimedia presentation won’t be ready for another couple of weeks. Our re-entry, after all, involves a lot more than just sifting through the thousands of photos that need further editing. I’m not complaining in the least since reviewing the images allows us to relive some of the incredible memories of a magical year.
There were certainly too many highlights to try to recount now. Anyone who’s followed my blog posts along the way will know what I mean. To answer a commonly asked question, however, here is a list of our top ten favorite places:
7D Ranch, Sunlight Basin, Wyoming
Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia
Machu Picchu, Peru
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Ultimately, the most poignant moment of the trip might have came not as a result of being in the midst of any magical location or adventurous activity; it was delivered in the form of compliments from fellow travelers we met along the way. Sitting with our Bhutanese tour group on the final night of our expedition last October, we were each asked to reflect on our overall experience and share impressions of the country with everyone. I was completely taken aback and never so proud as when I listened to all the comments about not only how well Tyler and Stefan had behaved, but what an inspiration they were to so many members of the group. It’s then that I realized how invaluable this experience really was and no matter what, it’s possible to live a dream.
As fate would have it, the second half of the double feature we watched at the Wellfleet Drive-In this weekend was Julie & Julia, the real-life story of a young New Yorker named Julie Powell who hit it big after blogging about her passion for food. The movie follows the story of how Julie and her husband lived through a year of self-discovery as a result of a personal challenge she undertook to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s first book. Like Julie, our family learned a lot about each other and had some unforgettable experiences during our own one-year journey. The end result of my year-long blogs may not land me any movie deals or book contracts, but that was never the intent. Revealing the wonders of the world through travel to me, my family and anyone who was interested was the ultimate objective, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
To read back through the Jenss’s Journey, check out the archives from their trip here.
Photos: Rainer Jenss