Christmas 2011 ~ We’re halfway around the world for Christmas this year, the first time we’ve ever spent the holidays away from home and family. On the surface, it appears that our year-long around-the-world journey is a grand lark taken by a couple seeking adventure, and perhaps going through a bit of a midlife crisis. It actually masks a sad reality that drove us to take this trip.

We’ve mentioned before that one of the driving forces for our journey has been that family life did not work out as we had hoped. After we were unable to have children we adopted a nine-year old girl from Russia. Life with her started out full of hope but eventually became mired down in a tragic and violent situation beyond our control. Despite all our efforts, by the time our daughter became an adult our relationship with her was broken, as were we. It is the great sadness of our lives that we were not able to remain as a family with her. We still hope that we will someday be together again.

The decision we made to take off for a year was not taken lightly. We sought advice from family, friends and professionals, both secular and religious. Traveling the world will not solve any of these problems but it was hoped that by being on the move we would no longer sit and dwell on how bad things had turned out. In our travels people often tell us that we are “living the dream.” But the reality is there is a continuing nightmare in the background that is never far from our thoughts.

Last week we visited Christchurch, New Zealand which earlier in the year suffered devastating loss of life and damage from a major earthquake. The picture above is of an angel, representing hope, that hovers from a construction crane over the city. We left Christchurch inspired by the spirit of the people to overcome adversity in their lives.

We wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas and a happy, and hopeful, New Year.


Larissa and Michael

When we were kids and dug around in our backyards our parents would ask if we were digging a hole to China, so we always assumed China was directly opposite our little patch of Earth. As we got older we finally realized that China and the US were both in the Northern Hemisphere, so how could they possibly be opposite each other?

But thanks to the Internet, and people who really have too much time on their hands, it is possible to go online and find what spot on the planet is directly opposite where you are currently sitting. Geographers even have a fancy name for it, the antipodal point or antipode. There is a web site that will find the antipodal point location for you.  If you start digging today you can look on the map to see where you will eventually emerge. (Be careful though, a lot of antipodal points end up in the ocean.)

Right now we’re in Perth on the West Coast of Australia. The reason we’re here is because it is often described as the most remote large city on Earth; that seemed as good a reason as any. But it is also the closest land mass to the antipodal point of our home city of Philadelphia. In other words, we’re about as far away from home as we can get and still be on dry land.

It’s a sort of benchmark on our journey. Even though we are not yet halfway through our trip chronologically, we are already halfway around the globe geographically. But it also means there is a lot left to explore. After Perth we will meander around Southeast Asia for a few months. We have a feeling that part of the world will seem farther away from home than English-speaking, easy to navigate Australia.

Perhaps there should be a new kind of antipodal point, defined as the place on Earth that is not necessarily the farthest away geographically, but the farthest away with respect to culture, customs and surroundings. The place that is the most unlike anything you have experienced at home.

Toto, we’re not in Philly anymore

In Sydney last night we had the opportunity to attend a worldwide movie phenomenon known as the “Happy movie”, directed by American filmmaker Roko Belic. He was previously nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary for the film, Genghis Blues.

Happiness researchers (yes, such a job exists) fanned out throughout the globe to research people in all walks of life to determine their levels of happiness. One of the people featured in the film is a poor rickshaw driver in Kolkata, India. He labors all day in a backbreaking job to return to his family in a home with clear plastic sheeting for walls. Yet despite what appears to be a tough life he says he’s happy. Interestingly, the researchers determined that he has the same level of happiness as the average American. Judging from what we’ve observed, that’s not hard to believe.

To make the Happy movie Belic visited the unhappiest country in the industrialized world, Japan. Japanese “salarymen” are notorious for sacrificing everything in their lives, family, home life, and eventually happiness, for the grind of their daily routine. The film highlights a rising phenomenon in Japan called Karoshi, or “death from overwork.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum is a Brazilian man in his 50’s who lives in a simple beach shack and seems to have an awful lot of time on his hands to go surfing. We’re not sure what he lives on but he sure seems happy.

One of the findings of the film is that increased earnings do not decide happiness. There is a big jump in happiness from those making $5,000 per year to those making $50,000, because at that level their basic needs are covered. But when the jump is made to annual earnings of $500,000 there is no corresponding rise in happiness levels.

The more you make, the more you perceive that you need even more. The pursuit of bigger, better, faster, more becomes what psychologists call a Hedonic Treadmill, a need to always have the latest and greatest homes, cars, gadgets or whatever floats your boat, maybe even a boat.

We can relate very much to this theme as we spent the past year giving up many of the possessions that we had spent a quarter of a century acquiring. As we were going through this process, our wise friend Jan told us that people spend the first half of their lives acquiring things and the second half getting rid of them. We once heard the quote, “By our possessions we are possessed.” How true that is.

Roco Belic happy movie director

Director Roko Belic with Little Rocky

After the film we had the opportunity for a chat with Roko. His film has spawned a whole Happy Movement around the globe as word of it leaks out through screenings and the movie’s web site. Filming about happiness helped Roko realize what makes him happy so he moved closer to his friends and to the beach. It turns out that he is also a huge Rocky fan and the film helped inspire him to get into filmmaking.

Researchers say that happiness is contagious. When you’re happy, you make those around you happy and that will spread to other people. We have experienced this firsthand with a friend named Maureen who works at our favorite sandwich shop, Feast & Fancy, in Spring House, Pennsylvania. She is a happy upbeat person. Whenever we have interacted with her we have walked away happier ourselves. It really is contagious.

If you get the chance, see the movie Happy.

We’re interested to learn about what works for you, what makes you happy?

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident. The amount of radiation has been reduced to somewhat manageable levels at the site—allowing intrepid visitors to make a strictly timed visit to the 30-km radiation zone that had been abandoned after the nuclear reactor’s explosion. From all reports I’ve read, visiting Chernobyl is a fascinating journey into an area that has been frozen in time. Visitors carry personal radiation monitors which are read after the tour to ensure they have not been exposed to dangerous levels of gamma rays. It all seems pretty well thought out to me.

Realizing that our 25th anniversary is also taking place this year, it occurred to me that this would make a most excellent anniversary trip. I pointed this out to my long-suffering spouse, Larissa, who shockingly disagrees. Sadly, any points that I scored by remembering the anniversary were not enough to overcome the deficit I created by my choice of destination.

We have faced this situation before.  To celebrate my 50th birthday last year I rented a Prius and took off on a four-week cross-country jaunt. Among the sites I visited along the way were the world’s tallest TV antenna in North Dakota (it used to be the second tallest until the record setter in Poland fell down—I kid you not), the Berkeley Pit—which is North America’s deepest toxic waste site, along with the world’s largest abandoned copper smelter. For some reason those weren’t enough of an incentive for Larissa to come along.

The Berkeley Pit - It's prettier in person

Apparently Mrs. Fancy Pants would rather visit someplace “romantic” like Paris or Rome to celebrate our big day. Now mind you, I have been pretty flexible all along in this whole process. I suffered silently when my original idea for the trip—Pyongyang—was shot down. Some nonsense about it potentially being a war zone caused it to be blackballed. (Although to be fair she was willing to visit it on a non-anniversary date and later did so.)

I pointed out, fruitlessly I must say, that a visit to Ukraine would allow Larissa to visit a new country while celebrating one-quarter of her heritage at the same time. It seemed like a slam-dunk. However, her father used to visit Kiev on business trips and glumly referred to it as the “asshole of Europe.” What a buzz kill. My generous offer to make up for Kiev’s shortfalls by adding Chernobyl to the trip apparently wasn’t enough to sweeten the pot.

I’m trying to be open-minded about all this but it’s not like I haven’t already made sacrifices for the sake of the marriage. For crying out loud, we even have matching sheets and pillowcases. Where does it end?

So I ask you dear readers for suggestions on where to celebrate our 25th anniversary, when one person wants to go someplace with indoor plumbing and non-measurable levels of airborne radiation while the other partner is somewhat less discerning.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives In North Korea by Barbara Demick is a valuable peek behind the curtain of North Korea, a gray land whose monochrome pallor is broken up only by the bright colors in propaganda posters lauding their Great and Dear Leaders.

It is notoriously difficult to report on North Korea. Access by outsiders is severely limited. When foreigners are permitted to enter the country their movement is constantly monitored by two minders (one of the minders is there to watch the other one). It’s as if the North Korean government used George Orwell’s 1984 as a blueprint for how to run a country. I experienced this treatment myself on a recent trip to Pyongyang and the DMZ.

While Demick has visited North Korea, the heavy-handed monitoring on these tours prevents any open interaction with ordinary North Koreans. Thus she provides most of the narrative from interviews with defectors who have safely made it to South Korea. Ordinarily I would be put off by reliance on such subjective sources whose commentary can not be independently verified. But Demick manages to verify what she can and weave together a story that sounds altogether plausible about what is taking place north of the DMZ.

In a word it is horrible. According to Demick almost an entire population has been reduced to scrambling for any sustenance they can find among the roots, bark and even dirt of already picked over forests. Children are starving by the thousands causing drastic reductions of the school age population. School itself is just another tool for furthering the regime’s propaganda. The book’s title comes from a song that school children recite which includes the line, “We have nothing to envy in the world.”

The big question with North Korea is: do the people truly believe this propaganda or can they see through it? This has vast foreign policy implications for America should there ever be the need for a military action against North Korea or a revolution from within. When the Berlin Wall came down it became obvious that Eastern Europeans knew their way of life was worse than in the West. They were already receiving glimpses of it through TV signals where they could watch Western programming.

North Koreans have no such view of the outside world. They don’t have the Internet or phones. Their TVs and radios are mechanically set to the approved government station. In fact, these days they rarely even have electricity. Would people who live such a primitive life even be able to adapt to the modern world?

Demick addresses these questions in her book. While many North Korean defectors do have problems relating to South Korean ways, most do manage to adapt. Interestingly, some of those who defected had been able to overcome the mechanical locks on their radios to change the station and receive South Korean broadcasts. In this way they were able to decide for themselves that they were being fed a pack of lies by their own government.    

Nothing To Envy is recommended reading about a country that truly is like no other place on Earth. Those who believe America is on a Marxist/Socialist/Leninist or Whateverist path should read this book to see what such a place is really like.

Bucher: My Story by Commander Lloyd M. Bucher USN, Captain USS Pueblo with Mark Rascovich

On January 23, 1968 the United States Navy ship Pueblo was attacked and captured by the North Korean navy for allegedly intruding into their territorial waters. During the capture an American sailor was killed. The remaining 82 sailors were held hostage by the totalitarian regime of Kim Il Sung. The “Pueblo Incident,” as it became known, was played out against a backdrop of rising Cold War tensions and the Tet Offensive which broke out a week later in Vietnam.

This book is the story of Lloyd Bucher, the commander of the Pueblo. It recounts his impressive rise from a resident of Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska to the captaincy of an American naval vessel. He covers the period when the Pueblo was being outfitted as a surveillance ship in great depth. During its retrofit he already had concerns about how the lightly armed vessel could respond to a possible enemy takeover. Unfortunately his concerns were to be founded as the ship was surrounded by five hostile North Korean gunboats as it cruised in international waters.

Much of the publicity surrounding the incident refers to the Pueblo as a spy ship, which it was not. It was an intelligence gathering ship operating in international waters. The key difference is that spying would be an illegal activity that would justify another country’s interference, while gathering electronic data in international waters was a permitted use of the high seas. It seems like a fine point to split but the difference is huge, basically the difference between being legitimately held by a foreign power, in this case North Korea, or being illegally held hostage.

Eventually Bucher issued a forced confession that the ship had intruded upon North Korea and had been operating illegally. This confession only came after brutal torture and threats made upon his men.

The crew of the Pueblo did their best to resist their captors. They were shown in North Korean propaganda photos giving the middle finger to the photographer. When asked what the gesture meant the sailors explained that it was a Hawaiian good-luck sign. The North Koreans did not realize what the salute meant until it was revealed in an American news magazine. After that point torture of the sailors increased.

During the course of the crew’s 11-month ordeal as the United States government was not 100% certain that the Pueblo had been operating in international waters at the time of its capture. In fact when the crew was finally released just before Christmas, Bucher was taken aside by a State Department employee to ask if the ship had been operating in international waters. Bucher verified that it had been. The United States then rescinded the apology that it had issued to gain the crew’s release.

One surprising aspect of the book is Bucher’s attitude toward Edward Murphy, his Executive Officer or XO. It is clear that he did not approve of Murphy’s performance throughout the mission even before the ship came under attack. Bucher is rather blunt in his assessment of his XO. I would have thought that the 11 months of shared brutal captivity would have softened some of his feelings regarding the XO’s pre-capture performance.

A year after the publication of this book, Murphy wrote his own version of the events, one in which he was critical of Bucher’s performance. It seems a jarring subtext in an otherwise fine story of men under pressure and their efforts to survive a brutal regime.

For more go to the official web site of USS Pueblo veterans.

Lost On Planet China: One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation

By J. Maartin Troost


Lost On Planet China by J. Maartin Troost is one Westerner’s take on the riddle of modern China. The country that Troost explores is not all that appealing. It is obviously crowded, 1.3 billion people have to go somewhere, but it is also incredibly polluted. Wherever Troost ventures he describes the air as some variation of “dismal haze”, “hideous pollution”, “vile” or this nugget, “wheezing as if I’d just chain smoked three packs of Marlboro Reds.” Not to mention the quaint Chinese custom of spitting everywhere in public.
I’ve read many travel memoirs. The first part of the book is usually devoted to witty observations about the differences between country X and the author’s native land. Then there is some transcendent moment where the author “gets it.” Maybe it’s a delicious meal or a wonderful interaction with the locals. All of a sudden they have a newfound love for the country they are visiting and all is right with the world.

I kept waiting for that moment to occur in Lost In Planet China. At page 100, I noticed I still hadn’t heard much that was positive. By page 200 I was becoming a bit alarmed that Troost just wasn’t going to like China, although I did appreciate his glaring honesty. He did like Hong Kong a little but mostly because it wasn’t like China. He also liked Tibet. But since Tibet has been under the authoritarian thumb of China for 50 years it’s sort of politically correct to like Tibet. To not like it would be like pointing out that Girl Scout cookies really aren’t that tasty.

By the end of the book I realized, “Holy cow, he really didn’t like this place.” Based on his descriptions I can’t really blame him. That said, the book is an entertaining read. Those who enjoy the travelogues of Bill Bryson will appreciate Troost’s wry look at the sights and events unfolding around him.

If the last century was the American Century it looks more and more like the next one will be the Chinese Century. They are already America’s largest lender and continue to build up their military and manned space program. As American consumers demand ever cheaper “Made in China” consumer goods at the likes of Walmart we are actually hastening our own demise. Sorry to be such a downer but it’s actually quite depressing.

Despite reading this book we’ve been planning to spend a month in China for our upcoming around-the-world trip. I’m hoping that maybe Troost was exaggerating just a bit. God I really hope so.

China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power

By Rob Gifford

Gifford is uniquely qualified to provide a Westerner’s view of the future of China. He traveled to China in 1987 as a language student, became fluent in Mandarin and has spent twenty years reporting on, and from, the country. For six of those years he was the Beijing correspondent for National Public Radio. His language skills have enabled him to break away from the bubble of Beijing and interview ordinary people in the heartland, far away from government eavesdroppers.

For China Road he traveled 3,000 miles from Shanghai to the far western border with Kazakhstan. He followed the mass exodus taking place along Route 312, the Chinese equivalent of America’s legendary Route 66.

Witnessing the largest migration in human history, as tens of millions of people leave their homes for opportunities in the cities and factory towns, Gifford was able to meet with everyday people. His goal was to determine if China is the next great superpower or a paper dragon, one that will inevitably be consumed by a system of government that does not allow full freedom for its people.

Gifford has a love/hate relationship with this complicated country. He loves many aspects of the people, but experiences frustration doing his job under a repressive regime where he needs to use unregistered phones in order to meet unimpeded with his interview subjects.

Before reading this book I thought the recent rise of China on the world stage was a new phenomenon. Not so. China was a technologically advanced world power during a time when Europeans were still living in caves. When you consider that one out of every five humans is Chinese, it seems that their eventual rise as a superpower, perhaps the only one, is inevitable.

But Gifford peeks behind the curtain of the “China miracle” and sees a few potential fissures. For a country to succeed in the global economy it must facilitate a free flow of information, both between its people and with the outside world. Yet the Communist party severely limits freedom of speech and blocks a free exchange of ideas.

As Gifford states, “The Party needs to promote knowledge in order to compete, but knowledge is dangerous. It needs empowered people in order to become strong, but it can’t let the people be too empowered.”

Even though this thinking limits technological and other beneficial breakthroughs, the government is  more concerned that people can organize to overthrow them. The 1989 uprisings in Tiananmen Square took place well before the advent of social media. Imagine what a few disgruntled Chinese could achieve now? Egypt provides just one such example.

What does this mean for the West? Some factions see China as a huge threat and from an economic basis they may be right; particularly when looking at the loss of manufacturing jobs to Chinese factories. But Gifford points out that if “the China threat” idea is pushed too far it could define our whole relationship with them.

The rise of the Chinese economy is also beneficial to the West. Chinese goods allow Western consumers to buy cheap products and help tamp down inflation. And the Chinese government’s investment in U.S. government debt has kept interest rates, and therefore mortgage rates, low. (Though I would argue that the availability of cheap mortgages got the US into the problems it is currently experiencing in the first place.)

Gifford concludes that while we must stand up to China in certain areas, we cannot demonize them so much that we end up hurting our own interests. We need to back off of thinking of China as “friend or foe” but as a combination of the two. The West needs a nuanced foreign policy that doesn’t descend into “emotional demagoguery.”

When Gifford finally left China he reflected that most of all he would miss the people. They have suffered for too long under Communist rule and are finally getting a taste of progress like those in the West. But if the system doesn’t change in the next ten years, he fears for the future of the people.

Related Posts: Stories from our trip to China

Related Post: Books about North Korea

As the most historic city in America, Philadelphia has nurtured accomplished citizens in all walks of life. But its most famous resident is a fictional movie character: boxer Rocky Balboa.

Rocky represents the city’s hardscrabble image. In the first Rocky movie, despite the backing of the lovely Adrian, he didn’t win. (Sorry if we ruined the ending for the three people who still haven’t seen it.) But he went the distance against a much stronger foe–for him that was a victory.

He has become an inspiration to millions of people around the globe who can identify with his underdog tale. The most famous scene in Rocky occurs after he has transformed himself from an out-of-shape pug to a lean mean fighting machine. Rocky runs through the streets of Philadelphia and eventually winds up at the base of the imposing steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Earlier in the film he could barely make it to the top. But now he goes bounding up the steps with the unbridled energy of a child tearing through presents on Christmas morning.  The Rocky Steps, as they are now known, have become a worldwide symbol of triumph over adversity.

A few years ago, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Michael Vitez and photographer Tom Gralish wrote a book titled Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps. They spent a year atop these steps, interviewing some of the people who ran up them in a virtual round-the-clock operation. He met people from cancer survivors to wedding parties to celebrities. They all wanted to come to Philadelphia to experience a bit of the Rocky magic.

Rocky steps PhiladelphiaThe entire world comes to the Rocky Steps. We are going to reverse that trend by starting this journey at the base of the steps and from there we will travel around the world for a year. There will be many obstacles in our path from language barriers, events out of our control and the occasional gastrointestinal hijinks.

Our goal isn’t to  win over every obstacle we face. Sometimes we will just have to grit our teeth and endure it. But like Rocky, we want to go the distance. We will travel an estimated 75,000 miles during the year and return to Philadelphia to run to the top of the steps.

Appropriately enough the music that is played while Rocky makes his triumphant sprint is “Gonna Fly Now.” We can’t think of a better song to be humming in our heads as we board the plane to Beijing.

As a source of inspiration for those times when we wonder what we were thinking by going on this journey, we’ve brought a bit of Philadelphia with us (no, not Cheese Whiz). We have a miniature Rocky statue that will motivate us along the way for when the going gets a little tougher than we had planned. We’ll document Little Rocky’s trip around the world as he spurs us on to ever greater heights.

Here’s a video of where Little Rocky had been to halfway through the trip:

To view a photo album of where Little Rocky has been, including meeting actor Danny DeVito in London  and former president Jimmy Carter check out Little Rocky’s photo album on Flickr.

We said we’d run up the Rocky Steps when we returned and we did. See A Sort of Homecoming.

Part of me feels fortunate to be taking a year off to travel around the world at this point in my life. The other part of me can’t believe it took me so long. I see all those twenty-something backpackers out there traveling long-term and wonder why I never did that.

After putting myself through college I worked for a financial services firm in New York. Whoop dee doo. I was more focused on paying off my education and climbing the corporate ladder. But was my life really enhanced by any of that? Of course it wasn’t. After a few years of the grind I did manage to backpack through Europe with my best friend but we could only go for a few weeks.  Had to get back to work after all.

They say the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago and the second best time is today. Barring the invention of a time machine, that analogy holds true for travel too. Go now. See the world. It will change who you are and it will change who you become–for the better.

I encourage anyone within the sound of my keyboard who wants to travel to drop what you are doing and go now. I mean it. Just go already.

Why are you still reading this? Go make those plane reservations. We’ll see you on the road.

When we tell people about our plans for a year-long trip one of the first questions we are asked is, “What are you going to do with all your stuff?”

It seems that there are two camps out there: “Pack Rats” and “Tossers.” To determine which camp you belong to ask yourself one simple question, “After you read a book do you get rid of it or put it on a shelf, to remain there in perpetuity?” (Probably right next to your high school chemistry textbook that you never opened then, so you’ll certainly never open it now.)

Since we get most of our books for free from the library we can’t hold onto them, nor do we want to. We are firmly in the Tosser camp so downsizing our home was a relatively painless experience.

Fortunately we knew for over a year that we would be taking this journey. In preparation for it we sold our suburban house and moved into a rental townhouse in Philadelphia that was less than half the size of our prior home. That forced us to make some of the tough decisions about which possessions really mattered to us. You know what? It turns out that most stuff is replaceable. We figured if it’s something we can get at Target we’re not going to pay to put it in storage.

Craigslist postings for free stuff proved highly effective for getting rid of things. Whatever we posted that day was usually gone by that night. It was a great year for twenty-somethings to know us as we got rid of much of our furniture and ended up furnishing a few dorm rooms and starter apartments.

The wide-screen TV went to a young physical trainer who did us a favor in return by taking some of the heavier pieces of furniture that we had no inclination to move. When the moving truck pulled up to our house they were surprised (and somewhat pleased) to see how little there was for them to haul.

This next move will involve even more culling through our stuff. At this point what’s left of what we own will fit into a 10′ by 10′ self-storage facility. Maybe at some point we’ll even ditch that and it will show up in a future episode of Storage Wars.

As comedian Steven Wright says, “You can’t have it all, where would you put it?”

Are you here or are you there?  The answer depends on if you are a traveler or not.

One of the interesting things about taking a year to travel is the response you get from the people you tell about your trip.  Reactions tend to fall into two different camps:  those who want to crawl into your suitcase and go with you and those who ask what you’re going to do with all your stuff at home.

If you are reading this post chances are pretty good you’re of the crawl-into-our-suitcase variety.  Mention of travel immediately has you thinking of faraway places, mentally locating your passport and itching to hit the road.   Even if you’re an armchair traveler, you’re doing the same thing.  You gobble up books (and blog posts) about strange and wonderful destinations, and the Amazing Race is your favorite TV shows (it is mine!)

The thought of how you are going to handle whatever exists of your life back home is merely a pesky detail.  The objective after all is the journey.  You are thinking about the there. The stuff you leave behind will get sorted out somehow. . .but enough about all that—you’ve got a plane to catch!

The flip side of this thinking is the folks who are focused on the here. For them, travel is something that takes them away from home, away from their routine, away from their stuff.  They are the ones who are not particularly interested in the journey, but are fascinated by the process of putting our life on hold just to take a trip.  They drill down to the mundane details of everyday life:  What will you do with your mail?  How about your house?  Aren’t you going to miss the Super Bowl/World Series, etc?  How long will you be away from home? (As opposed to “how long will you be traveling?”)  And they rarely ask “where are you going?”–a major differentiator if there ever was one.

It has been interesting to see these different perspectives emerge among our friends and colleagues.  Certainly a long journey such as this one requires a fair amount of planning, and there are also many home-based details to address.  We will discuss them at various points on this site since they are a necessary evil, and it’s important to help our fellow travelers get on the road as quickly as possible.

Because right now you might be living in the here, but we know you want to get to there. . .