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Initial Meditations on the Trip, 07/28/09

4:30 pm, local time

I’m currently writing this while in the car, finally full with all 4 of us and our possessions. We picked up Peretz Partensky (PP) in Vienna this morning, and are currently en route to Slovenia – had thought first about heading to Ljubljana (the capital), but now may divert to a national park instead. The car, a 1994 Opel Astra, is a blue station wagon, currently stuffed to the gills with tents, backpacks, carbs of various kinds, ice (and regular) tea, pillows, various electronics including PP’s mini laptop that I’m writing this on, the walkie-talkies that PP and Tristan Ursell (T$) are chattering on while in the car, many more items of various functions, and the 4 of us (PP, T$, me, and Amand Dunn, aD, who is driving). I’m sitting in the backseat, and am cramped but oddly satisfied. There’s something great about heading towards a country you’ve never visited before, could only vaguely pinpoint on a map, and *not* having a set plan. Why the trip? Where are we headed? Will the car break down? Will we be able to tolerate each other for the additional 5 weeks that I’m here?

Impossible to answer all these questions, at least right now, but I’ll take a stab at the first. This trip originated as a thought of T$s – he saw the Mongol Rally website (google it!) and we started discussing the idea, more as a joke than as a reality. At some point I looked seriously into the possibility of attending the ‘actual’ rally, and got an ‘official’ spot. Various friends seemed interested in attending the event at various points in the trip-planning, but several bailed when it came to committing to the event.Over the last year, the trip evolved into its current state – a trip as far east as we can make it (to Mongolia, or perhaps beyond) in our respective time-frames (6 weeks total for me, more for the others), but unofficially, not part of the Mongol Rally so the trip is cheaper and more flexible than allowed by the rules of that rally’m sure we all have different reasons for the trip, ranging from the mundane (a somewhat unconventional summer vacation in Eurasia) to the more complex (pushing personal boundaries and comfort zones, exploring those peoples, cultures, and countries that most of us couldn’t easily identify on a map). I’m still working out myself why I’m doing this – for now, it’s enough to say that I desperately need a break between my postdoctoral days and my new ‘adult’ life as a PI at the NIH. Despite my best intentions, I still find myself thinking about microscopy and research while on this trip, although the liberation and excitement of exploring the unknown (no fixed destination, minimal planning) are uplifting and invigorating.

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