a year-long vacation traveling around the world is an
impossible dream for most families, but Mark and Monica Hughes, who
definitely weren’t millionaires, took their children and did
they married, Mark and Monica had both been Peace Corps
volunteers teaching in nearby small West African villages where they
met and fell in love. After fulfilling
to the Peace Corps, they traveled throughout Europe for three month
before returning home to the United States. It was a trip
would never forget. Later, married with children, they
of taking another trip they would never forget, this time traveling
around the world as a family.
they afford to take a year out of their lives? How
would they pay for it? What about their jobs? What
the kids’ education? These seemingly unanswerable
questions were answered with the merger of Mark’s law firm,
Earth Law, dedicated to preserving the environment, with Earth
Justice a similar firm. Once the financial settlement had
made, while Mark considered his next professional venture, there
would be enough money and time for the family to live their dream.
began. First, where did
they want to go? The children: Duncan 13, Elliot (called
11, and Maggie 8, were each asked to present their cases for three
places they wanted to go. (Remember, dad’s a
From their presentations and mom and dad’s list, the family
whittled out an itinerary around the kitchen table. They
a renter for their house, got passports, vaccinations, packed boxes
of things to be stored in the basement, and finally found a year-long
home for their goldfish.
Monica got together all the
materials they would need to home school the children as they
traveled. They left their Colorado home to begin their
adventure in August of 2000. Their itinerary was
extensive—The British Isles, France, Spain, Morocco, Italy,
Greece, Egypt, India, Nepal, Tibet, China, Malaysia and finally back
to the U.S. in August 2001. With a trip budget of only $110 a
day, they stayed mainly at hostels or small hotels. Besides
flying, they traveled by bus, train, or they walked. They
rarely took taxis and only rented a car once. Also, they
traveled light—besides a lap top computer, digital camera,
personal care items, and a first-aid kit, everyone carried a backpack
and a daypack containing a restricted amount of clothes, shoes, and
three books of their choice.
about the trip and journal entries are definitely not typical tourist
was charming and
medieval. When a cabby refused their tip saying,
need it; this is a very expensive city,” they discovered he
are no restaurants with a truly
Scottish atmosphere in Glasgow. Two Scottish policemen Mark
asked couldn’t think of any. “We could
breakfast at Starbucks, lunched at MacDonald’s and dined at
Pizza Hut,” Mark chuckles.
they traveled, they visited museums, historical sites,
castles, churches, local libraries, and marketplaces. The
children’s observations were to be incorporated into their
journaling assignment.” Monica admits,
getting the journaling done took a lot of prodding but some of things
the kids wrote are truly priceless.”
After visiting: Lloyd’s of London, St. Paul’s, the
of England, The Tower of London, and other attractions,
journal entry was, “I played a game with coins, cream
containers, coffee sticks, and tea bags on Duncan’s
Duncan liked the restaurant where all the kids had wine.
three weeks in Paris, Monica could actually go a whole day without
commenting about dog poop on the sidewalks.”
cheated while traveling was Mark’s great fear. When
he discovered that a Paris bookstore employee had charged him $271
for two books that should have cost $30, he immediately went back to
the store. The manager checked his receipts; then in English,
she apologized, explaining that they had caught the error, called the
bank, and had the charge corrected. The bank had refused to
give them Mark’s phone number so they could call and explain
what happened to him. Mark left the bookstore smiling.
view, “England had accents and royalty. France is
center and rich, but both seemed normal, but here the Islamic
religion is very strange to us. People are called to prayer
often. In the market there’s trash and wasted food
It’s hard to miss the illegal drugs here, according to
While he was waiting for a coffee, the man next to him in line added
hashish to his cigarette. Another man tells him in sign
language that his business is hashish.”
Market. Tote saw deer
heads with fur and horns still on
them lying on the ground, and a butcher cutting a horse’s
in half. “I was an inch away. The insides
with blood all over them. The Moroccans just walked past
with the couches instead of chairs in a “cool”
Mark is sure most tourists walking through the narrow mazes of
oldest section feel fearful. Guides swarm around, proclaiming
the old city is very dangerous, and tourists are certain to get lost
without a guide. Refusing their services often brings on
of obscenities in whatever language they think the tourist speaks.
The youth hostel the family stayed in was built in 1513. For
centuries it had been a convent, and then a prison. The
Hughes’s were five of the eight guests in a building that
accommodate 120. Smiling, Monica says, “It was
The children played soccer in the courtyard. Mark worked at a
desk in a nook, and I did schoolwork with the children on the
often meant living in the streets. Monica explains,
aren’t great places for the kids to play games or do school
work. Hotels don’t tolerate running, yelling or
very well. Most of the hotels we could afford
lobbies and the rooms were just large enough for
Monica bought a Spanish ham for their Christmas meal with
uncle who lives in Monaco. Spanish hams are a whole leg with
the hoof. She says, “I carried it around town all
and on the train to France the next day. These hams hang
the bar in nearly every bodega where they are sliced for tapas.
Maggie was glad there weren’t any roads. You
to get whacked by a car. If you’re swimming you
whacked by a boat though, she thinks.
you can get sick if the floodwater gets on you. The deepest
water got was two and a half feet. (She measured it as part
her math lesson.)
From Mark’s journal, “I received the wrong change
today. This is the forth time on this trip. Each
it’s been in our favor.”
Michelangelo’s David. “It was
First, David would be wearing clothes. It seemed like the log
was growing around his leg. His hand holding the pebbles was
a bad pose. His finger joints wouldn’t be straight
were holding pebbles. “I can’t make my
into that pose, and his head and hair were ugly.
hit of that day for the kids wasn’t at any museum.
the discovery that “The Return of the Jedi” was
shown at the hostel that night.
Marks feelings about Greece. “When I convert our
bill into dollars, I cringed. When our hotel turned out to be
in the middle of a construction zone, I despaired. When a man
in a sandwich shop tentatively spoke English, I was happy.
owner: How are you”
Well, thank you.
How did you sleep?
Do they work all night
across the street?
Yes, they say they are in
a hurry to finish, after three years.
The room is okay but you
should have mentioned the construction when I called.
But if I mentioned it, you
wouldn’t have come here.
do not believe it is possible for a Greek to cook a bad meal.”
Mark loves it here,
“People were extremely friendly.
If we needed directions they’d either tell us (several people
have walked a block or two, leaving businesses unattended, to be sure
we find our way), or they’d search for someone who spoke
English and could translate. One day, at the Bank of Cairo,
tied up half the counter personnel for ten minutes while we were
being directed to an address we were looking for.
pyramids but couldn’t figure out why the Queen’s
is called that, when queens are never buried in them. Monica
was surprised at how the city crowded right up to the plateau on
which the pyramid is located. Mark wondered why the best view
of the pyramids is from the windows of a Pizza Hut.
While Mark and children went hotel hunting, Monica waited in the
train station with their bags. A machinegun toting guard
Mahmoud sat next to her. Monica laughs, “We
until he exhausted his English. Finally, out of desperation
speak English, he sang, “Happy Birthday” to me.
Going on a guided jungle trek, the family saw lots of
a group of boars, and fresh elephant prints. Then they met
leeches. Everyone spent of the rest of trip putting on
powder on their shoes, smashing leeches with their shoes, or whacking
leeches off their shoes with sticks. Monica was bitten three
times, Duncan once. Tote came home with two leeches in his
but no bites. Even the guide was bitten!
At the Sri Meenakshi Temple, the family was amazed to see a live
elephant in front of a shrine. When you held out a coin; the
elephant took it with his trunk; blessed your head with his trunk and
gave the coin to his owner.
the temple, the family went to a restaurant that served their
lunches on banana leaves instead of plates. They had to eat
with their hands.
The family stayed at a nice hotel. Mark admits a clean,
air conditioned room is a treat after their day walking in
furnace-hot, polluted air, but he comments, “We were in this
most amazing country, yet when we entered this hotel, we also entered
a standardized world lacking any aspects that make India
Also, the hotel costs for eating, laundry, phone calls and
transportation were astronomical.”
Hughes discovered that New Delhi had a large middle class owning
cars, houses, and computers. They could compare beer brands
ISPs. They idolize movie stars.
thought New Delhi was like Cairo—dusty, dry, polluted
and hot. He says. “The sky was always
sometimes had a brownish hue.”
and Maggie began running high fevers, a new Indian friend recommended
a doctor. There was no waiting in his office. Mark
the doctor was extremely efficient. “He told us to
him at home that night to get the results of the blood tests he
took. With the tests, the visit cost $9.60. Mark
“An earlier emergency room visit in Kodai, had cost $7.70
complete with medicine.
City. The Taj Mahal
surpassed all Mark’s
expectations--it looked just like the pictures.
When a tourist asked Maggie “I’ll bet you miss
don’t you?” She answered after
a long pause,
“No, I miss Greece.”
bus ride from Pokhara to Galeswor was scary and interesting,
according to Maggie. “The scary part was being so
to the edge of cliffs. The interesting part was having a goat
on the bus.”
Tour guides making all the decisions were an adjustment for the
Hughes, as were the members of their group. One Belgian,
terrified by the group’s cliffside trip, crouched in the bed
the wildly pitching truck taking sips of whiskey from a hip flask and
chain-smoking cigarettes, while a Dutch girl made constant
high-pitched squeals of fear, and an angry Australian woman
continually shouted at the guide because her hotel room
have bath and shower.
Mark was amazed when he had heard “La Macarena” in
Chinese coming from a kitchen of the Drepung Monastery. He
grins, “I like to think there were four or five red-robed
doing the La Macarena in unison in there.
Tote has come full circle.
What do you mean?
He just ate a fish eye.
When we were in France he ate blue cheese and cried.
Is there another one?
I just swallowed the first one. I didn’t get a
seen in Chengdu
“Cities should be clean like the souls should be pure.
Shan. From Maggie’s
journal. “ Elephant Pool Monastery has very dim
and a lot of monkeys. You have to keep stuff close to you so
the monkeys don’t grab any of it.”
seen by the Hughes
don’t take food and drink
to the frolic hall, cooperation amerce violator for 50 yan.
point out money or tickets to
occupying while stabling.
flush the closet pot
Tote’s view of the opera there. “At first
like lady singer was making fun of a bad singer. Then it
sounded like she was practicing karate. I thought it was
that we paid to see this, but after a thief started trying to steal
something from the main character and doing flips and somersaults,
and the lady tried to stab him with her sword that he kept dodging, I
thought it was very good.”
the Great Wall: There were plenty of spots where a slip
could prove fatal. Sections of the Wall the family was hiking
ran along ridge tops, but occasionally plunged into a valley before
soaring up to the next ridge. Because of the sheer drops and
stretches with steep, uncertain footing, Mark admits, “It was
one of the most frightening hikes I’ve ever
On the way home, the mini-bus the driver asked him for more money
than the agreed price. “I didn’t argue; I
and gave it to him,” says Mark. “I was
just glad to
Duncan thought Malaysia Airlines the best! Nintendo in
class, free unlimited drinks, and delicious food. Maggie even
got a huge bag filled with treats from the pilot.
had had this incredible,
never-to-be-forgotten trip together.”
in the U.S.,
after a year of checking foreign restaurant tabs and rarely finding
even a small error, Mark was surprised when the friendly folks in
Amana, Iowa overcharged him $10.
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