The following info was written in 2004 before we started our traveling

 

 

 

Why drag your kids all over the world?

Steve = Firefighter, age 40 "ish"

Hobbies = Hockey, lacrosse, Snowboarding, playing with the kids and watching the Canucks

Favorite music = Sarah Machlan, Green Day, BNL, Brian Adams, Black Eyed Peas, The Who, Dixie Chicks, James Blunt

Helen = Nurse, age 30 "ish, ish"

Hobbies = Working out, Volleyball and watching the Canucks

Favoritemusic = Elton John, Sarah Machlan, Green Day,Brian Adams, Rod Stewart, Queen, BNL

Nikolas = Struggling Student, age 9

Hobbies = Hockey, lacrosse, Snowboarding, Art, Game Cube, and making comics

Favorite music = Green Day, Nickleback,Linkin Park, Good Charlotte, Black Eyed Peas, Sum41, BNL

Danika = age 4

, Hobbies = Ballet, Babies, Drawing, watching Scooby Doo & Sponge Bob, also causing as much trouble as possible

Favorite music = Shania Twain, Hillary Duff, Green Day, BNL,

 

We used to live in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada

                            

          This Picture was taken under the Lions Gate bridge in Vancouver, B.C. Canada

 

 

The following information was written before we left on our around the world adventure

 

Steve's Story: (written Jan 2004)

I have traveled to many parts of the world and like many people have found that I just can't get enough. Helen and myself have both been to Europe, and when you travel for more than a couple months at a time, you will get the Travel Bug. One thing about traveling alone is you meet so many people. I have one word of advice for kids coming out of high school that don't know what they want to do: Get a backpack and hit the road! They will mature more on the road than they ever would in that first year of College, That's only if they don't know what they want to do. (That's just my opinion) I am not talking about heading to Hawaii or Florida with your buds for a couple of months. I am talking Europe, Australia, South America or Africa, and the smaller your group the better. I am fortunate that my wife loves to travel too, only she is terrified of flying, can't stomach ships or boating and gets car sick very easily. I know what your thinking, how is she going to make it through the next year without asking the Gravol Corporation for sponsorship?  I think the screaming children, and non-stop travel will hopefully get her through those first few weeks, and we will never look back. If not, we are in big trouble! 

Planning this trip? 

This trip has been planned since 2000 when I applied for a 1 year pre- paid leave from The Surrey Fire Dept. after being there for 10 years. In Nursing and Firefighting we get to see a completely different side of life. It can be very wonderful and rewarding, or it can leave you a little depressed.  For me, being a Firefighter is a childhood dream come true, and I somehow managed to get hired by a  fantastic Department and got to do a job that makes a difference. Planning a trip like this is tough when you have two children, a house, cars and aging parents. Our first task was to try and raise some cash to pay for the trip, and we guessed it would cost between $75,000 and $100,000 for the four of us for 12 months on the road. The real estate market had been poor for the last few years. We thought we would buy a house and fix it up and make some of the cash if the market turned. So we purchased a home, a real handy-mans special, and we planned to fix it up over 3 years and sell it in hopefully a hot real estate market. 

The number one question we get asked is "What made you decide to take a trip like this". Hopefully the next few lines will give some kind of answer.

 My wife and myself have been together for over 20 years, and are best of friends.  Like every couple, we've had  our ups and downs. Although our Marriage has always been on solid ground, it never hurts  to try and improve on what you have. I hope this trip will make us stronger. I always ask people who have been married for 50 years, what there secret is. And what's funny is, you would think communication would be #1, but respect and the joy of doing things as a family appears to be the most important. We came to realize how important traveling was before we had kids, and how difficult, or should I say different it became with kids. We thought we would wait till our kids got a little older before we did  any big trips, but some events happened in our lives that made us realize we should get on it now. From high school to the Fire Department I have always had a kind of care free life. I never took life too seriously, always playing jokes and having a ton of fun.  I still enjoy everyday, but life for us now has much more of a serious side and we try to cherish everyday now, because tomorrow may be so different. You see, we had not been to many funerals or had to deal with any sick relatives or family, so we were a tad immature and just took that part of life for granted. Then our perfect little world seemed to change in a hurry, and in a matter of two years, we started losing family and loved ones to cancer, mental illness and addiction. Those happy-go-lucky smirks we had on our faces were quickly erased and we found ourselves dealing with some very dark aspects of life. Having someone you care about get taken away from you can be a very difficult thing. I cannot speak for my wife, but there is one, or should I say, a series of other events that followed the ones I just spoke of, that changed the way I feel about life.

People, who find out that we are going on this trip, always ask the same one question: "What made you decide to take your kids out of school and go away for a whole year". I always give them a short reply without getting too personal, but I have no problem telling it now.  The next paragraph may seem like baggage, but it the most important lesson about life I was fortunate enough to learn. 

CARPE DIEM

 The one major event in my life that made me think about doing this trip, was when I lost my older brother.  He lost his battle with addiction and mental illness at the young age of 46. My family having to make the decision to disconnect my brother from life support, and then stay at his side while he left us, was a real wake up call for me. My family tried for two years to get my brother clean and back on track, but we failed and it was very overwhelming for everyone. Within a few months my wife gave birth to the most beautiful little girl you have ever seen! I know that's what all the dad's say, but this kid was a beauty, I'm telling ya! I had all but forgotten about the last few months and losing my brother, and was totally consumed with this new bundle of joy in my life. It was very brief though because our daughter became very ill and contracted a potentially deadly virus at 4 weeks of age and came very close to dying. She was admitted to our city's Children's Hospital.  I found spending time in that Hospital to be very emotional, and my heart goes out to anyone who has to go through it. We were trying to prepare ourselves that we might lose her, and I can honestly tell you that you can't prepare for that. We saw many sick children, many that never came home from the hospital and that was a very humbling experience. I felt weak and vulnerable, like I was losing control of everything that was important to me. I was having a very difficult time staying in Isolation with my wife and little girl, so I decided to go back home to be with our son and to go to work for a bit of a break and distraction. That proved to be a Big Mistake!  My first call after being on shift for only 3 minutes was a non-breathing 3 month old boy, who was dead when we arrived, but we spent half an hour trying to revive the little guy. That week of work was one of the most draining weeks of my career I can ever remember. In those first 7 days I returned to work, it was very busy, and three of our many calls involved children 2 months, 3 months and 11 years of age, and all had died or been killed. All of those events happened because of someone else's wrong doing and not the child's, and it made me feel really angry.

Our daughter was brought home to recover in the same week. Just so you know, our little princess recovered nicely. The Department I work for is made up of the greatest people you'll ever meet.  It's an organization that I feel very proud to belong to but, unfortunately, it was going through a tough time. Letís just say some restructuring was being done and we had a new boss, the moral was at an all time low. I felt very tired and did not want to return to work.  With moral the way it was, I had been questioning myself about my career choice. It was in that time that I became the person I am now, and I can assure you I am very different from who I used to be.  I had two healthy kids and a great marriage, and my wife made me realize that all that started when we were able to bring our little girl home from the hospital.  I still found myself wanting a change though, so we started to examine our options. We started by looking into exchange and sabbatical programs, we chose a sabbatical. Of course my wife was supportive as always, and we started focusing toward this goal, well at least I did.

 And so that's it, that's how we decided to try and take this journey, it was our wake up call. We have an opportunity to try this adventure at a time when we can afford to, and at a time when we all have our health, which is the most important thing.

 In 2000 I applied for a  Sabbatical that took five years of payroll contributions which ,in turn, allowed you to take 12 months off with pay. So here we are only a couple of months from lift off. We are very excited about this adventure and hope that we can endure the pressures a trip like this can put on a couple, never mind a whole family. My father is quite angry and he keeps telling me how crazy we are to be traveling, especially now with all the problems in the world.

We had this great plan to sell our home (the fixer upper we had purchased) and use the profit we had made for our travel, even though our family and some of our friends thought we were nuts. Even our own parents thought it was a total waste of money and laid on the guilt by saying, "how dare you take the grandkids away from us for a year". My wife is very nervous about taking this adventure, and if I said lets cancel it, she would be O.K. with that. Our two kids have also let us know they are not happy about this silly plan, and they don't want to leave their friends. Our plan changed a bit in Feb, 2002, when a very magical financial event happened and we no longer needed to sell our home, and it made it possible to upgrade the way we see the world.

 

Helen's Story: (Written June 2004)

When I met Steve, my husband, just about 20 years ago, one of the things that attracted me to him was his sense of adventure.  We have a lot in common but one thing that is very different about us is that I am the biggest chicken in the world and he thrives on taking chances.  I was brought up in a very strict European household with a mother, who was absolutely wonderful, but worried about everything.  And well, yes, aren't we all products of our parents.  My mother has this amazing ability to call me the day before any trip we go on and come up with at least a hundred things that could go wrong.  Then she adds the guilt trip and questions why I would put my children at risk for nothing.  These calls come even if we are headed up to the local ski mountain for the day.  I resent these calls even more so because they always have the same effect no matter what; I always end up worrying about everything she cautions me about.  So when Steve asked me how I felt about this trip 5 and half years ago, I said 'sure' thinking it was a lifetime away.  Now that it's right around the corner, I'm starting to get cold feet.  There is no way that I will not go because I know this will be an experience of a lifetime but I have to be honest and say that I am scared to death.  But I also know that this is exactly what I need.  I just have to let loose and trust the fact that things will go wrong and we will deal with them as best as we can.  There have been many trips that I have been less than enthusiastic about but I have forced myself to go and without a single doubt I have never regretted the decision.  In fact on a number of occasions I have found myself thinking how sad it would have been if I had not gone and was not standing in the middle of a spectacular location having the time of my life.   I must go.

I have been a registered nurse for six years.  I have been fortunate in that I don't have to work very much and can spend a lot of time with my young children.  When I do work, it is a job that isn't always that pleasant but  is very gratifying.  When I worked on a Medical floor, I remember talking to many elderly patients that were in the last stages of their lives.  I would love to ask them questions about their lives and watch their faces light up as they told some incredible stories.  I would ask them their advice on life and their wisdom was very educational.  Most said that, of course, family was most important and many stated that if they had to do anything over again they would live life less seriously and travel much more before retirement.  Most had incredible stories of the many places they went and it made me want to do so much more so that when I am 90 years old I, too, will have wonderful, exciting stories to tell.

 

LIFE IS FUNNY

 

Written on Dec. 28 2004 at the airport hotel in Vancouver (day of departure)

Well, I just watched a 747 take off from our room at the airport and the more planes I see take off, the more excited I become.Still quite nervous about flying and I keep telling Steve that the party will begin when we land safely in New York.It has been a long and interesting journey to this point and I think we are both to the point where we just want to go already.†† Enough talking, enough planning, enough worrying, letís just go!!!

We had a really nice, quiet Christmas in our cozy little B&B with our tiny little Charlie Brown Christmas tree.We made homemade paper decorations and threaded popcorn on some string, it was really fun and the kids loved it.It was a little hard for us to totally relax though, because we were thinking of all the things we had to do in the following days.The 26th and the 27th were spent packing; both our luggage and the Ďstuffí that had to be stored in our storage locker. As usual we were astonished to see how much stuff we had to put in storage and it took us two whole days to do it.Steveís idea of spending two days at the hotel at the airport has turned out to be brilliant so far.We are able to relax and get in the traveling mode.We are, of course, living out of suitcases and it gives us a chance to figure out what we need and what isnít working.Steve had to buy one more suitcase, two extra wardrobe cases and he had to bring out a duffel bag from storage just to carry our shoes and winter stuff for New York.I know that he wasnít too impressed with this but has been quite wonderful about it all!!His threat to me is only that I have to be prepared to carry four bags by myself.Weíll figure it out when the time comes.

Itís hard to believe that TOMORROW our journey really begins.Wow, amazing.All the thoughts going through my mind are making it a little hard to sleep, along with Danika coughing up a storm.She caught the cold from me and I caught it from Steve.It was pretty nasty and I guess you could say better now then when we leave, but we still donít feel a hundred percent.Itís funny because all these little things that have happened have taken my mind off the nerves.Now as I sit here and wait Iím starting to get nervous.But enough already, the count down is officially on, in just hours (well 31 actually) we will be on our way!UP UP AND AWAY!!!!

 

 

 

A pre-trip hiccup

(Written by Steve on Dec 5, 2004, 3 weeks prior to departure)

Well, we have almost everything in place for our trip, we just have a few loose ends left. I had decided to go for a few tests before we go because of a few dizzy spells I have been having over the last few months. I have also been having some chest discomfort along with the lightheadedness, so my Doctor decided to send me for a stress test. I was not worried because my week consists of playing hockey two to four times, lacrosse twice and I jog on the days I donít have any sports planned. Aside from feeling like I am going pass out every once and a while, I am in the best shape of my life. The morning of the test was a very busy day, so I headed down to the hospital on Nov 30 at 6am. When I got to the testing room they hooked me up to all these electrodes and had me run on this tread mill. I was running on this tread mill when all of a sudden I got hit with one of those spells, and the doctor asked if I was O.K. I told her that I felt dizzy, and at that same moment her computer started telling her my heart was not getting enough oxygen. They laid me down and told me that this type of result is usually from a blocked artery. The cardio Doc referred me to the VGH Emergency dept. (large downtown hospital) to get scheduled for an angiogram, But I had to go to this really important meeting at noon. I know you think I must have be crazy, but I felt fine and in the best shape of my life, so I thought I would put off that emergency thing for a just a little bit. I did not believe what she was telling me, the computer must have been wrong. So like I said, I had a busy day ahead of me and thought I would just put it out of mind and head downtown to Vancouver for my meeting.My mind was racing all over the place as I drove. What just happened I thought?†† What am I going to tell my wife?We are supposed to be leaving the country in only a few short weeks and I have no idea what all of this means. I would wait till 9:40am, because she would have had the kids at school and I would just leave a message, but she answered the phone and I got all choked up, and told her all went well and I would have to call her back when I got into the city. I arrived downtown feeling very sorry for myself and thought maybe I would walk the streets a bit and get my head together before giving my wife a call again. As I was dragging my sorry butt down the streets, I spotted this homeless gent I knew. I have run into this guy several times over the years and have several conversations with him. I walked over to a coffee shop and grabbed some soup and a cup of java and walked back to the homeless person. There he was sitting on the ground on the coldest day this year, with his Jesus loves you sign and his money collection can. I said ďHey Mel, howís it going, arenít you freezing youíre a$$ off?Ē He replied that he was, as I gave him the food. We talked like we usually do and I asked about his girlfriend and some other things going on his life. Mel told me that his old lady had just got off the heroin and was trying to get into a methadone program. He also told me the cops had been chasing her when she got hit buy a car and she was suing for one hundred thousand. I told him I was glad to hear she was off the heroin, but it was very important she got clean before she gets any large sums of money. Mel put his coffee down and looked me straight in the eye when he said ďListen to me, you can have all the money in the world, but youíre nothing if you donít have your healthĒ. I laughed and said thanks, shook his hand and headed off. I just got a lesson in life from a homeless gentleman and was no longer feeling sorry for myself, just terrified. I was in a meeting all that afternoon and when I came out I noticed a ton of messages on my cell phone. The 3rd message was from the intern who did the stress test.She told me she had sent the results to a cardiac specialist at Vancouverís biggest cardiac hospital. The message said under no circumstance could I drive, go to work and I should try to stay away from any stressful situations. I am in the middle of the city at 4:30pm and itís the peak of rush hour, so I did what any guy would do, drove home. I was told to go to emergency with my test results and they would give me an angiogram within a couple of days. I went to the Emergency of Vancouver best cardiac Hospital and they told me it must be a false positive because I was in great shape. I was booked me for an angiogram in Feb 2005 (4 months away) and I will most likely be bumped as the date gets closer because I am 40 and in good shape. I really want to go on this trip but our insurance will not cover me now with this possible blocked artery, so I canít chance it if I am a walking time bomb. The best case scenario is that I have a small blockage and they can fix it, or I just have an arrhythmia. Then I think we can still pull this thing off, I hope. As of right now, we are going to keep the plan the same and I will pay for the test myself, and we will decide then. I am heading down to the U.S. where I can pay cash and get that same test in less than seven days. I am quite angry I have to wait 4 months here in Canada and wish I never took that darn stress test, because when or if the results are negative all this anxiety could have been avoided.

(Our Problem) We have sold our home and are renting a suite that we must vacate before the end of the month. We have sold both of our cars and are renting a car till the end of the month (Dec 04). We have every single thing we own except for the clothes we are bringing on our trip in a storage unit. We are within the last couple of weeks before we leave and the cancellation insurance company has said we can not get a refund of any kind because we are to close to the departure date. The (Cardio) Internist that I am seeing has told me we can not go on this trip. I am totally stressing out, because it is going to be way more stressful if we can not go. I guess the main thing is here, is to find out I am healthy. I guess?

(Written Dec 18, 2004) I just got back from the U.S. after 2 days in the hospital. I just had an angiogram and I donít have a blockage, it may be an electrical issue. Geeez, the last few days sure scared the hell out of me.††††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

†Right now, I am happy, really happy! I had to spend the last 2 nights in the U.S. and the night before my Angio all by myself because Helen had to go back to Canada and take care of the kids, and I will tell you that I was terrified.I am sooooo thankful the test was negative. Less than 10 days now before we leave and I am still not sure if we can go because we still donít know why my heart is not getting the oxygen it needs when it is under load. The American Cardiologist thinks is confident it is an arrhythmia of some kind and for some reason my Bp is now 90/60. I may have to stay for more testing so now I am really stressing out!

(Written Dec 22, 2004) We are back from the specialist and have just decided to continue with our plans.One of the Specialists told us we can't go under any circumstances until we figure out what is going on, but our family doctor told to give it a try. So thatís what we are going to do, give it a try and if things start to happen we will just deal with it as it comes. Our doctor told us that we can always come home if we have problems and he thinks that going on the trip might just settle down this whole arrhythmia thing. The last 3 weeks have been very stressful, we have seen a ton of doctors and we are both very tired of hospitals and clinics. Getting on with this trip will hopefully be the best medicine a doctor could prescribe. So if we have to come home and continue the testing, then we will, but right now we are getting on a plane for New York in one week We donít have a lot of answers, but the Echo and the Angiogram were normal, so the walking time bomb theory is out. Yehaaaaaaa!

(Written Dec 28, 2000: 2 hours before departure) We are in the Vancouver Airport and I am writing this last little bit before we leave for New York. We have planned this trip for the last 5 years and everything almost came to an end just days before takeoff. I am so ready to just get the heck out of dodge and get this trip underway. For the first time I am starting to get a little nervous, cold feet I guess they call it. Weíll I have them!

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† So having said all that! We both still have fears about getting sick or injured, or something happening that we can't control, but we can only hope that it will be a positively wonderful experience.  I do understand why some might not think this is such a great idea, and how we may be putting our kids at risk, but I think it will enrich our children's lives, and I hope that they will be better for it. What is important is that we are trying to live life to the fullest and we'll have fun wherever this journey takes us, I hope.

I think you need four things to travel around the world, the time off, the money to do, your health, and the will power to pull it off. We are very fortunate that we have the first three things, itís that ďwill power thingĒ that will be interesting. How do you know if you can get along, or survive the tests of traveling as a family, I guess we find out soon enough, wish us luck.

 

 

 Special thanks to: Dr. Natha, Dr. Jaffer and Debbie, Dr. Warner, Dr. Kennedy and my buddy Jack at St. Pauls Hospital, and all of our family and friends who have supported us. This trip would not be happening without you guys,

Thank you.

 

We traveled across the West Coast of Canada and the Mid Western United States by car in 2003. We hit the East Coast of Canada in the summer of 2004.

Our World Trip starts on Dec 30, 2004 in New York,

Our tour will be 1/3 by Boat, 1/3 by Air and the rest by land.

Then as follows : Ft. Lauderdale, Willemstad  Curacao, Fuerte Amador Panama, Acapulco Mexico, Los Angeles California, Honolulu Hawaii, Kailua Kona Hawaii, Papeete Tahiti, Moorea Tahiti, Auckland New Zealand, Lyttelton New Zealand, Sydney Australia, Melbourne Australia, Adelaide Australia, Fremantle Australia, Padang Bay Bali Indonesia, Manilla Philippines, Nagasaki Japan, Osaka Japan, Keelung Taipei, Hong Kong China, Laem Chabang Thailand, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Colombo Sri Lanka, Mumbai India, Dubai UAE, Muscat Oman, Salalah Oman, Aqaba Jordon, Marmaris Turkey, Naples Italy, Barcelona Spain, Malaga Spain.

We will most likely head down to Spain, Portugal and maybe the tip of Africa. Then work our way back up through Europe by land, and then hopefully fly to South Africa, finish in Australia. The last part of the trip will be by the seat of our pants, so we don't really know.

 

Take care and we will see you all in 2006,

 

Steve, Helen, Nikolas, and Danika

ďFind a job you love and you will never work a day in your lifeĒ

LADDER 51

(BEST MEMORIES AS A FIREFIGHTER WERE ON THIS TRUCK)

You canít see Danika because she is sleeping in the truck!