Monday, August 27, 2012
One Year Off by David Elliot Cohen
One Year Off by David Elliot Cohen tells the story of a family that left everything behind in San Francisco and traveled around the world for a year. He details their adventures in a format that lets the reader feel as if he is along for the ride. They travel to 40 locations, some very exotic, and 5 continents. Along the way, their family learns not only geography and history, but gains a sense of what is important and what matters.
The journey began by selling their house and possessions and spending 6 months planning for such an adventurous trip. The first leg took them to Costa Rica. Their children had a hard time adjusting to the new non-schedule and familiarity and the first three weeks were pretty tough. But once they settled in to the nomadic lifestyle, they developed a rhythm.
Next, they headed to Europe and the city of Lights. After begging the children, ages 9,7, and 3, to attend museum after museum and church after church, they journeyed to Greece to visit family. The welcome, food, and sights of Sardinia tempted them to just stay and call it home, but they had more destinations to conquer. Istanbul presented a magical scene and renting a houseboat to cruise around the Burgandy canals of France gave them a much needed time of relaxation. The classical ruins of Ephesus taught ancient history in a way no textbook could match.
Africa called next. After the endless cultural expeditions of Europe, the kids thrilled to the opportunities presented by a continent in which any type of animal may turn up around the next corner. They saw 30,000 elephants in Botswana, rafted the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, and came closer to the wildlife than they cared to while camping in the Hwange National Park.
The next major leg took them to India and more family connections. The kids lit up to see thousands of camels at the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan, India. And although it’s a typical tourist destination, the Taj Mahal enchanted just the same. Here the children were able to experience some of their Jain religious heritage at an ancient temple.
Wanting to get off the beaten path, they traveled next to the west side of Australia where no one goes! Although they found it enchanting, spending 3 weeks over Christmas and New Years with good friends, they pressed onto the drive through the Nullarbor to Sydney. The long hypnotic drive through no where, with nothing to look at felt perilously close to danger and they imagined breaking down in the middle of the desert. Finally settling in Sydney for an extended period to put the kids in school for a few months, they experienced one of the the most harrowing adventures. While taking his daughter out to boogie board at the deserted Surfers Point, David caught a wave without realizing his daughter was not behind him. When he glanced back at her, he discovered she had been caught in a current and was being whisked away from him at a dizzying speed. Using every swimmers’ skill he possessed, he caught up to her and brought her safely in.
After a good long time of living a civilized life, the next stop took them to a most dangerous part of the world, Indochina. Desperately wanting to see the Angkor ruins in Cambodia, they planned a trip to land of “stifling heat, bad accommodations, and the imminent threat of land mines, revolution, and bandits.” Not recognizing exactly the danger they were in, they were stunned to see news of a coup merely a week after leaving. Laos and its remaining charm and mystery of the old world enticed them as well.
Finally they experienced the British handover of Hong Kong, headed to Hawaii, then home.
In a “Was it worth it?” epilogue Cohen believes it was in fact worth it. He would have changed some things (reconsider bringing a 3-year-old), not sell the house, and avoid really dangerous countries. But for the new perspective and opportunity to discover more about life, he believes it was absolutely worth it.