Every Journey Begins with a Goodbye
29.04.2007 20 °C
Our Philadelphia apartment has the looks of people about to uproot. Our items of furniture have dwindled down to an old mattress beaten to death by an inadequate boxspring, a table filled with a pile of loose change (mostly pennies) and an assortment of other items that are remnants of our past life and upcoming journey.
We are drinking out of canning jars and cooking on the gas stove from an old bread baking pan we no longer want.
Food consists of canned beans, only opening the cans has become a lesson in patience since the can opener disappeared with the rest of our stuff to a storage unit in North Carolina.
This is what the end looks like in physical form. Socially, it is a time of hearty good-byes and final words, and feelings that maybe we should have delayed the trip one week longer to visit family and friends one last time.
We are ending our five-year life here in Philadelphia, trying in our wistfulness not to think too much about how wonderfully intimate are the web of tiny cobblestone streets in Old City and how hard it will be to find another city park in the world as lovely as Rittenhouse Square.
We are leaving May 4 on a three month journey overland from Beijing to Berlin, at minimum 4,600-miles (as the crow flies), or about one-sixth the circumference of the globe.
Our rough travel route is: China -> Kazakhstan -> Russia -> Ukraine -> Slovakia -> Czech Republic-> Germany.
As you can see, these are not as many countries as one might think, mainly because we are spanning among the largest nations in the world.
The cast of characters includes three (and later a fourth) college friends in our early 30's whose wanderlust is still going strong even as many people we know our age are settling into careers and homes and families.
We have planned many trips together over drinks at sidewalk cafes, many of which have not panned out. But this one miraculously has, mainly because we all found ourselves at breaking points in our lives.
Why Beijing to Berlin? The idea for this trip began with a desire to experience China, which is rapidly changing for many reasons, among them the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
This emerging superpower is becoming an increasingly dominant force in the world's economy and in international politics. We wanted to develop an impression of this force, good and bad.
When we learned that we (Tony and Alison) would be moving to Bonn, Germany in the fall, it hit us that a pan-Eurasia journey would be a fascinating way to see how the continent drastically changes in culture and geography even as it shares a traversable land mass.
We will be following portions of the paths of Ghengis Khan and the ancient Silk Route, though we, of course, will be forging our own way by rail and bus to some of the farthest outposts in Asia as well as some of the most densely populated cities on Earth.