Q and A with Reymond Pagé

 
 

How did The Great Year come about?

 
  The journey was originally chronicled in a blog for family and friends, with postings of the day's events in both words and pictures. After the return home, I created more than 50 pieces of original art, collections of images of doors, windows, stairs, and a number of photographs that brought everyday life of each country into perspective, showcasing that work in a very successful show at the MHC Gallery in Winnipeg, Canada.  
     
 

After a few years, there was a voice in the back of my head wondering, often aloud, whether a trip like this deserved such chronic maltreatment, collecting digital dust on a dangerously fragmented hard drive. We met several young backpackers who told us that they thought it was cool to see a family travelling as we were, and I started to think that maybe, just maybe, there were others out there who wondered about the possibility of travelling with children, whether it was worth the effort, worth the expense. Knowing that the answers to both of those thoughts was a resounding, "Absolutely!" I immediately set to work designing the book and re-writing my often hilariously inneffectual and laboriously dense original posts.

After several false starts (it costs how much to make a five hundred page full colour book??), I decided to break the story into three parts, of which the India Edition is part two. Why did I start with part two, you ask? I'm not entirely sure about that, but I do know is that books one and three are already in the works and will be available in December 2015 and May 2016.

 
  That's all well and good, but how did the trip itself happen?  
 

That's a much longer story and will be fully revealed in book one, but the basic story is as follows. Laura had been working as a teacher for a dozen years or so, and after all that marking and prepping and teaching and marking, she was looking for a bit of a break, some extended time away. She convinced me that this was important enough and we began planning for a year off, which might (emphasis on 'might' I will remind you) result in a few months of travel. At the time our children were quite young, but the year off would find them in grades five and seven. With hindsight, I will say that this was the ideal age (although maybe a year earlier or later would have worked well also) for children to do an extended trip. At the time however, it was just a guess.

As time went on, someone's idea of what a year off meant began to mutate into a plan for a nine month around the world trip. As well, I was beginning to find myself in an artistic rut, and though there was a great deal of trepidation on my part about being away from my sanctuary-like studio for such a long time, I began to recognize the value in the potential of the experience. Such a unique library of photographic work would no doubt result in some fun experimental opportunity.

Plans were in motion, a travel agent consulted, some accommodations booked, and lots (we mean lots!) of reading and researching was done. A route was decided upon, a house was rented, and an airplane flew across the ocean to Rome, Italy. Day one of two hundred and seventy-five.

This is all a bit glib but not far from the truth. A ton of research went into figuring out where to go, and what would be on the agenda of 'must see' places and 'must do' doings.

 
  Right, nine months in total. Where did you go for the rest of the time?  
 

We started in Rome which of course was super fun. It was warm and touristy and all that comes with travelling Italy in the summer, but we spent a fair bit of time in south Italy which is not nearly as crowded as say Florence. For instance, did you know that if you show up in Lesina at noon in August looking for a place to eat, you will actually see tumbleweeds rolling down the main drag? I fully expected Clint Eastwood in a poncho to step out...see here we go, now I'm rambling on like a blogger with several hours to kill on a weeknight in Sulmona.

Okay, so Italy for a month, Greece for five weeks (I averaged a gyro a day), Turkey from early October to November, and then Syria, Jordan, and Egypt for six weeks. After our time in India, we flew to Bangkok and then spent the last eight weeks or our trip in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.

                                  

 
  Wait, you went to Syria?  
  Yes, for two fabulous weeks, but keep in mind this was back in 2007. It's absolutely heartbreaking to read about what's happened there over the last few years. We met several travellers during our time in the Middle East, some we just kept bumping into over the course of those six weeks, and most of them in the middle of there own extended travels. I think we might all agree that Syria was one of the friendliest countries around. People were always saying, Welcome to Syria! with big smiles and friendly handshakes, asking where we were from (Ah, Canada Dry!) and how we liked Syria. It was a remarkable example of hospitality. I spend a lot of days remembering some of those wonderful people, individuals that we met. It's one thing to hear about the atrocities in another country, but I think entirely another to have vivid memories of faces and conversations in specific places and wonder, how are you doing today?  
  Why did you go to India?  

 

 

Initially I think it was Laura, my wife, who wanted to go because of her interest in world religions. She taught a world religions class as well, so it seemed like a great place to have that first hand experience in a country that is something like eighty per cent Hindu. I am a failed engineer turned artist. I think had destiny been speaking English instead of Symbolism when I was eighteen I would have ended up being an architect. I am fascinated by all things architectural and India's architectural history is simply amazing. From thousand year old rock cut temples to spectacular forts and palaces, there's lots to see in so many cities. As well, India for us began at the midway point of our trip and we were looking for a place to have a bit of a holiday, slow down and relax for a bit. India is home to some of the world's great beaches, and we happened to find one that, while maybe not on anyone's 'best beach' list, was an absolute gem for us. The town, the beach, the people - just a wonderful two weeks.

India I think is one of those dream destinations for some people. It seems pretty exotic, the pictures are all so colourful, and there appears to be a lot going on there. Then you get there and it's like that times infinity. It can get under your skin pretty quickly so you have to learn to let some things go. I am not such a fast learner, but I will say this: If I could go back to only one country of the eleven we visited, India would be that one. So whatever you read in this book, don't believe it! Just go, it will be incredible.

 
  What was it like to travel with your children, and how old were they?                               
 

Our kids were ten and twelve, well, nine and twelve I guess, but Matthew turned ten a month after we left. Jonas turned thirteen in India.

I don't know if that's a question I can really answer because I'd never done anything like this before, so there's no 'control holiday' to compare too. It was a great experience though, and we now have these shared experiences and memories as a family that are just so special. Out of those nine months, almost all of it we were within arm's length, and rarely more than a stone's throw away from one another. It's a fun thing to be able to look at one of your teenage kids and say, "Remember the rickshaw guy in Kolkata, how he let us try it out to see how easy it was to pull people around?"

Over all, it was a truly unforgettable experience and I would recommend it to anyone who would listen. That really is a big reason for writing this book, for putting this book together. I want people to know that it is possible, it is exciting, and it will open your eyes in a way that is very different than if you were to stay home. I want people who are maybe on the fence about family travel, or even those who haven't thought of it, to read this book and be convinced of the value of doing this as a family. There's all these books about the thousands of places to see before you die but how many of them talk about travelling as a family? How many times has someone said to you, "I saw this amazing sunset last night, I wish you were there to see it with me?" The four of us watched the sun set, several times actually, over the Arabian Sea, watched the sun rise over the South China Sea, and every day I think to myself, I'm so glad we were all there to see it together.

 
 

Speaking of value, how much did the whole trip cost?

 
 

Well, there are several ways to answer that question. I could just give you a dollar figure and you might say, Holey cow, that's a lot of money! Or, I could say it only cost us twice as much to travel as it would have cost us to live here for nine months, and you might say, What? That's it?

But I think I'd rather answer that question by really talking about value, and asking, what's the value of not doing something that you dream about? What's the value of waiting until retirement to do the kind of travelling that we won't be able to do in twenty years? What's the value of having this kind of shared experience with our children? This trip will continue to return value until well after we are gone, until our children's children stop talking about what we did together. This trip was truly invaluable.

 

 
     
  If you have any questions about the book, contact Reymond directly.  
     
     
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