These are postings we created prior to leaving on our adventure.

Another small Small World Story

 Posted by Amy:

One recurrent theme throughout our many blog posts are those small world, chance meeting stories.   We love them.  We love them when they happen, and we love to write about them later.   It really is amazing that halfway around the world we continue to realize how interconnected we all are.

So here is the latest installment in Six Degrees of Separation from the Goldmans.   In order to prepare for our travels in India, we thought we should spend our last few days in Vietnam simply relaxing.  We flew to the island of Phu Quoc at the bottom of Vietnam, in the Gulf of Thailand.  After weeks of cold and rainy weather in the northern and central parts of the country, we were ready for sun and warmth.    We stayed at a great place on the beach called Cassia Cottages and happily enjoyed the beach, the pool and the company of the other guests.

Phu Quock Island, Vietnam

These other guests included three American families who worked at the Shanghai American School visiting for their Christmas holidays.  Amanda DeCarey and her friends and family including her inlaws visiting from Portland, OR were great company for the rest of the week.

Amanda, Dan and Barb Torris

Way back when we had visited Shanghai ourselves last November, we had the privilege of having a great dinner with Craig Toefel , our cousin Deborah’s fifth grade teacher back in Deerfield, IL.  Craig has been working at the Shanghai American School for the last ten years.  Did Amanda know Craig?  Of course she did.  That one was easy.

As we talked and described our trip to Amanda, she looked at us and asked, “Were you in Sapa on this trip? “  Sapa is way up in Northern Vietnam, and yes, we were definitely in Sapa on this trip.

“Did you have a tour guide named Sue Mai?”

Well, yes we certainly did have a tour guide named Sue Mai.

Sue Mai was Amanda’s guide just the week before when her family visited Sapa.  Sue Mai had told Amanda about a family she had recently met who was travelling all over the world.   That was us!  We have arrived.  We are now totally famous.

Sue Mae (our guide in Sapa, Vietnam) and Amy

Furthermore,  Amanda used to teach eighth grade math and was very pleased to be able to give Maya an algebra pep talk in the way that only a math teacher could do.  “You’re solving linear systems using eliminations?  I LOVE eliminations!”  You will all be happy to know that after Amanda’s motivational speech, Maya took her quiz and received 100%.  Good job Maya and thank you Amanda.

Maya and Amanda (thanks for the help Amanda!)

Categories: Pre-Trip | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments


Posted by David:

My friend and former business partner, Scott Stern, has always joked that wherever I am in the world I find someone from Skokie, my hometown outside of Chicago. Once the self proclaimed Largest Village in the World, it had a peak population of close to 70,000 people during the 60’s and 70’s there was a very high concentration of secular Jewish families like mine. Scott does exaggerate and it may be true that I have more than my fair share of chance meetings with folks with Skokie roots, or people with Wisconsin roots (where all of my mom’s family comes from), or folks who summered in Union Pier, Michigan (where my dad spent all his summers and our extended family had a home dating back to 1931). I don’t think I have any more connections with people than the next guy, I just ask an annoying amount of questions that bring me closer to the connection I hope to make. It’s a sport of sorts. I always ask people where they are from. My family finds it incredibly annoying and I can’t blame them. I just find it interesting and it helps me understand people better and more quickly than hoping these things will come up naturally in conversation. There’s also the Jewish factor about connecting with others….There’s a borscht-belt joke about this that my brother once told me. It goes something like this, ”There are really only 200 Jews in the world; the rest is done with mirrors.” It’s true that Jews are inherently more connected with one another based on all the shared experiences, our tendency to live in Jewish enclaves and attend Jewish camps and schools. So it was no surprise when we found ourselves, the only non-Thai people at an Elephant Show in Chaing Mai, Thailand where the elephants do all sorts of cool tricks including shoot baskets and paint with watercolors (seriously), when in walked another gringo family with two cute little girls. They came and sat down next to Amy and our girls. I had been taking pictures of the elephants and when I got back to our seats I asked them where they were from, not knowing that they had just told Amy that they live in Brooklyn. “Chicago,” said Amy Abrams…a girl who looked so familiar that she should be a cousin. “Okay,” I said, “I’m from Chicago too, but where IN Chicago are you really from?” “Well, Ronen is from Skokie and I’m from Highland Park,” Amy said. So there we were, minding our own business in northwestern Thailand, high-up in the mountains, attending an elephant show and we meet some fellow Skokian. Turns out that Ronen grew up about three blocks from me. We had fun talking about Skokie and Highland Park. Ronen grew up across the street from several of my friends on Trip and Grove, and Amy was a classmate of Rachel Holtzman-Cohen, a cousin from Highland Park, and on and on and on. Ronen and Amy and their girls Ruby and Noah who were spending three weeks traveling throughout Thailand and Laos. They both travelled extensively before kids and were now having the chance to bring their kids along on a great adventure. So, the sport of making connections with people continues and brings the word closer with every meeting.

Categories: Pre-Trip | 6 Comments

Soccer Girls

Posted by RikkiImage

 In Xi’An China, we had a tour guide named Clarence.  We asked him about his kids.  He told us that his daughter goes to a boarding school near where we were staying.  So when we asked him to take us to his daughter’s school, he thought that would be a great idea.  It was a sports boarding school. We saw the school buildings; the sports facilities and we met some of the kids at this school. 


     The school was for all aged kids.  I even saw kids who were only four years old living at this school.  Clarence’s daughter wasn’t the best on her team, but the school was trying to influence girls to play soccer.  I guess not a lot of girls play soccer right now in China.  There were other sports for other kids who lived there too.  There was ping-pong, long jump, wrestling, swimming, diving, gymnastics and weight lifting.  All these kids are trying to be the best maybe even to go to the Olympics.

     The first area of the school we saw was the practice field.  I thought it looked very professional.  It had a painted field.  It had the biggest goals that looked really fancy.  But the school building where the kids had their classes looked very plain.  Inside the classroom, they had row-by-row desks and no computers.  They just had a chalkboard.  There was nothing on the walls.  Even the dorm rooms where they slept were very plain.  The rooms did not look like my camp cabin because there were no posters and no personal stuff in the rooms.  I don’t even know where they put their clothes. 

     Even though the room looked sad, the kids looked very happy.  They were having a lot of fun.  Kids were rushing down the hallway to meet us.  I was scared, but they were excited.  They wanted us to sing, so we sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  We couldn’t think of anything else to sing.  They sang us a Justin Bieber song.  They spoke a little bit of English.  The kids all wanted to touch Maya’s hair and she took her ponytail down to let them feel it.  Twenty kids squeezed into a tiny little dorm room to take a picture with us.  They were really excited to see us. Image

     Even though it was bad conditions in the dorms and the classrooms, the kids still liked their school.  I would not like to go to a school like that because

  1. I am not that good at sports


2.  I would be homesick.

I am very glad I got to meet these kids, and I am very glad I don’t go to their school.Image

Categories: Pre-Trip | 3 Comments

In the Dark?

Posted by Eva

Last night we ate dinner ate a wonderful restaurant in London. It was called Dan le Noir? , which in French means In the Dark?  The thing that makes this restaurant so wonderful is that you eat in complete and total darkness! By the way, all of the wait staff is blind.

How it Works:

  1. You walk in the restaurant and a seeing person tells you about the restaurant and the menu.
  2.  You order your food.
  3.  Choice between meat, fish, vegetarian, or surprise, you don’t get the details of what you ordered, just the general categories.  You can tell them if you have allergies or other food restrictions.
  4.  Next you walk through a hallway.
  5.  Then your waitress/waiter directs you to your table in the dark.
  6.  Now it’s completely dark, no light to be seen!


What We Ordered:






When you come out of the dark you get to see what you actually ate. We all apparently tried new foods. Amy and I tried duck.  Maya and Rikki tried quail eggs.

It was kind of unusual at first, but then I got used to it.  A little.  Sometimes it was so hard to get anything on the fork, so I just ate with my hands! We thought, oh it’s okay since nobody could see us but when we got out they told us that there’s CCTV! (security cameras) Oh well.

It was interesting listening to other people’s conversations because you didn’t know what they looked like or who they were.  Rikki thought the people next to us were on a “Blind Date”.  It was somebody’s birthday so the whole restaurant sang Happy Birthday at one point, but we had no idea who we were singing to.

If you are interested in this restaurant there will be a more conveniently located in New York. At least more convenient than London. (opens in December)

Categories: Pre-Trip | 10 Comments

It Started

Posted by Rikki

We are already on leaving some items in Chicago. Too much stuff!




At 6:30 a.m. Monga and Grandpa Nison took us to our travel of a life time.  We finally got in the car at 7:00a.m.  Mom and Dad had a lot of last minute running around still left to do.  Our train left the station at 7:48 from Ann Arbor.  We rode in the car for about 20 minutes.  Then, what do you know, we got LOST!  But don’t worry, in the next 10 minutes or so we found our way to the train station.

We said good bye to our grandparents.  We’re gonna miss them.  I hope they will be able to skype us everyday.  I know we’re going to have a great year.

P.S.  Uncle Brad, I hope you’re happy.  We are taking pictures of all the gross, interesting and weird toilets we find on our trip.  Here’s the first one from the Amtrak train from Ann Arbor to Chicago.  It was gross.  Smelly.

Amtrak toilet, Ann Arbor to Chicago - smelly!

Categories: Pre-Trip, The Trip Begins | 17 Comments

Worries and Wonderings

Posted by Maya

Well, it’s almost time.  In a little over a week, I will be picked up from my existence as a regular thirteen- year- old and dropped into a (literally) foreign lifestyle.  Am I excited? Of course! I mean, who else gets to travel the world at thirteen? This “trip” (can you even call it that?) will open so many doors for me. Plus, I am pretty confident I’ll have fun. But of course, I’m nervous. What if I loose touch with all of my friends and cousins? What if I come back next year and they’ve forgotten who I am?  What if (and this is one of my biggest fears) I have to MISS CAMP NEXT YEAR? Could it be that even though my stuff is all packed and ready, I’m not?

It’s really strange to me that by this time next year, I’ll have traveled the world. I really have no idea who I’ll be on July 26, 2012. This year will be such a life- changing experience, regardless of my fears and worries.  I’m sure everything will turn out okay.  So see you soon everybody! Ciao, bellas!

Categories: Pre-Trip | 22 Comments


The trip preparation item we have been putting off for the longest time has finally come and gone.   None of us were excited about getting our travel shots but certain members of our group were less enthusiastic than others.

I made the whole family an appointment at the travel clinic with our new friend, Nurse Pat.  She took very good care of us, went over our itinerary and gave us the lowdown on what would be needed.  The kids would all need Yellow Fever and Typhoid vaccines, David and I had already gotten those on our trip to Kenya a few years back.  But, David and I still needed a second dose of Hepatitis A.  No one was getting off without any pokes.

We also got plenty of health related information.  We learned the essential rule of eating in the developing world, “Cook it, peel it, or dump it.”  Drink a lot in hot weather, wear bug spray with deet, use sunscreen always. The usual.   We are filling prescriptions for Malarone, anti-malarial drug, and an antibiotic for travelers diarrhea.  We will be prepared.

I will let the pictures tell the story.  Let’s just say some of us were a little calmer than others.  But everyone survived, even Nurse Pat.



Categories: Pre-Trip | 14 Comments

Our Itinerary Taking Shape

Posted by Amy:

I thought it would be good to give a little planning update.  It is now mid –June.  We leave in just under two months.  The kids have two more weeks school and have camp still ahead of them.  David continues going to work.  I have camp packing and end of the school year craziness on my mind.   I think it is fair to say that the trip still seems a bit intangible to us.  I am not sure when it will fully hit us. When we get our shots? When we are on the plane?  When we say good-bye to the Katz’s and Aunt Susan who are traveling to Israel with us?  When we lose our credit card or passport in some remote location?

Our plane tickets are set.  We have purchased Round the World  (RTW) plane tickets from American Airlines.  They call them the OneWorld ticket.  These tickets have many rules and regulations that I was actually happy to hear about since they gave me some framework for planning, instead of simply being overwhelmed by options.  The fee is determined by how many continents you plan on traveling to.   That is five for us.

The rules are as follows:

1.  We get 16 flight segments.  Layovers and connecting flights count as their own segment.  Arriving in one city but flying out of another is considered a land connection and counts against us.  (The strategies begin to unfold, how to make the most of these 16 segments.)

2.  We must cross the Pacific and the Atlantic each once.

3.  We must go in one direction, either East- West or West-East.  This turns out to be a big round the world traveler’s dilemma.  But we chose East to West for the simple reason that we wanted to go from more familiar cultures to more unfamiliar cultures.

4.  Finally, within the continent, we can go any direction, but only 4 flights per continent.

5.  And also, we can change dates without penalty, but to change destinations incurs a fee.

So… here is what we came up with.

Beginning of August – Leave for Chicago, by car.

Aug – Fly to Tel Aviv, Israel, with a short layover in London

End of August– Fly to London, England (for some unknown reason, OneWorld considers Israel part of Europe and not Asia.  Don’t know why, but it works for our advantage here.)

End of Oct. – Fly to Hong Kong, China – Here we will add on plane or train to mainland China

Mid November – Fly to Bangkok, Thailand

End of Dec.  – Fly to Delhi, India

Mid Jan. – Fly to Sydney, Australia , with a layover in Hong Kong

Feb – Fly to Auckland, New Zealand

Mar  – Fly to Santiago, Chile

From here on the dates are not set because we can only book flights 330 days in advance

Fly to Lima, Peru

Fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina

Fly to Bogotá, Colombia

Fly to Detroit!!!

Categories: Pre-Trip | 12 Comments

The Jig is Up! – David

The shroud of secrecy (such as it was) is over! I officially let work know that I was not planning to renew my contract just a couple of weeks ago. This gave us the liberty to talk very openly about our plans for the trip. Everyone we talk to about our plans is excited and there are some very common things that people say….”Can I come with,” is probably the most common followed by, “Wow, that is so awesome!” We are in full planning mode which includes finalizing plans to purchase our Round the World Plane tix, booking accommodations in Israel and Europe, and generally getting our literal and proverbial homes in order.

We found a great couple to stay in our home while we are gone. They will keep an eye on everything house related and also take care of paying our utilities while we are gone. They have relocated from St. Louis for work and we know them through my work with the camp our kids attend. Next year they will have two kids at UW Madison and we are hoping that they tell the kids that they moved from St. Louis to Detroit so they don’t go to the wrong city on their first trip home for the year. We also found a great home for the dog. I think Amy wrote about that in another post so I wont go into the details other than to say that we are very fortunate to have such great friends who also happen to be dog lovers.

So, the order of countries is as follows: Israel, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, Columbia and Peru. There will inevitably be modifications along the way but that’s the general gist of where we are going and roughly the order. South America is quite undefined other than knowing that we want to stay in one place for a longer period of time so we can do a Spanish language immersion program before traveling around to the other countries.

We are in the process of collecting names of people we know and friends of friends in places we will be going. We have found that this is the best way to get the most out of places. Some of these folks are ex-pats and some are natives but hopefully most will be willing to meet a rag-tag family of Americans wanting to experience their corner of the world.  So far we have peeps in Israel, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Tanzania, China, and Colombia.  Feel free to add to our list of contacts we can call and say to hello to on our travels.

So we have a few very busy months ahead of us including Maya becoming a Bat Mitzvah on May 14th, the end of the school year, the kids going to camp and our anticipated departure date of August 5th! More to come!

Categories: Pre-Trip | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

The Family Dog

There are so many details to attend to in planning a year long, six continent, all family trip like this one.  Who will take care of our family dog is high up on the list of things to worry about.  Thanks to our great friends Judy, Brig, Graham and Sophie, it looks like Sylvia, our dog, will have a loving home during our time away.  Judy first made her generous offer to house our Sylvia last summer, right before her family went out and brought home a puppy of their own.  Six months later their golden retriever has settled enough for them to bring up the offer again, providing the dogs get along.  Well, we just got back from what I thought to be a very successful puppy playdate.  I told Sylvie in no uncertain terms that she was to be on her best behavior when meeting Maisy.  She needed to share and behave and be submissive if necessary, just like I tell the kids.  Despite Maisy peeing immediately upon meeting Sylvie, and Sylvie taking off to go on a short exploration of the neighborhood, I think the meeting went very well.  No growling, lots of tumbling, wrestling and sniffing.  My only concern now is that Sylvie isn’t going to want to come home when our trip is over.

Categories: Pre-Trip | 1 Comment

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