I quit my job and sold my house to travel around the world as a grandiose present to myself in honor of my 40th birthday. Best. Decision. Ever.
The journey included some thrilling experiences and dazzling locations (see photos below). There were also humbling unpredictable moments. (What do you mean we just landed at the wrong airport?) Each forced me to be more - more grateful, honest, real, inspired and courageous. I grew into a stronger, more confident person.
Everyone should take such a global trip but not everyone can ... so that's why I posted this Kickstarter project to publish my book, "If your dream doesn't scare you, it isn't big enough." For the cost of a pizza, backers can virtually travel around the world.
Check out the table of contents below to see where my travels took me.
Read the beginning of the book below to see how the adventure begins. A quick note about my storytelling style ... It's more about where I am and what is going on, like Ted Simon's "Jupiter's Travels: Four Years on a Triumph," and less internal exploration and drama, like Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, pray, love" or Cheryl Strayed's "Wild: Lost and found on the Pacific Crest Trail."
Thank you for checking out this project
Thank you in advance if you become a backer at any level - even $1 as a sign that this was a cool idea - because EVERY dollar counts! Unless this project reaches 100% funding, nobody is charged and my publishing hopes are dashed.
-- Kristine K. Stevens
Table of contents
- Chapter 1: I prey to thee (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
- Chapter 2: My tick with time: (Zanzibar, Tanzania)
- Chapter 3: Third time is the airport charm (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
- Chapter 4: The tongue of the camel marked like a leopard (Nairobi, Kenya)
- Chapter 5: Driving on half-baked brownies (Safari in Kenya)
- Chapter 6: Thirty-eight Snickers to a better attitude (Mumbai, India)
- Chapter 7: Yak cheese and humble pie (Trekking in Nepal)
- Chapter 8: Ghee, ghats and gompas (Kathmandu, Nepal)
- Chapter 9: Take us home, Khun Daeng (Bangkok, Thailand)
- Chapter 10: It’s not pronounced the way it looks (Phuket, Thailand)
- Chapter 11: Spreading farang cooties (Train from Thailand to Laos)
- Chapter 12: Stuck on sticky rice and bad habits (Vientiane, Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang, Laos)
- Chapter 13: Throne of the little green man (Bangkok, Thailand)
- Chapter 14: Nothing says thank you like Del Monte pears (Not going toward Nagoya, Japan)
- Chapter 15: Aloha, sticker shock (Oahu and the Big Island, Hawaii)
- Chapter 16: Bonding in an outdoor asylum (Seward, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska)
- Chapter 17: Dwarfed by a whale bone pile (Barrow, Alaska)
- Chapter 18: Bogs, bugs and beavers (Fairbanks, Alaska)
- Chapter 19: Southweast Alaska Rain Festival, Juneau and Douglas, Alaska)
- Chapter 20: Rush for gold and giant beavers (Yukon, Canada)
- Chapter 21: Blue tarps and duct tape won’t protect my savings (Juneau and Douglas, Alaska)
- Chapter 22: End of the road in so many ways (Key West, Florida)
- Chapter 23: Building baskets as a life raft (Charlotte, North Carolina)
- Chapter 24: One spark from burning down as I rebuild (Savannah, Georgia)
- Chapter 25: Hosting a shrimp boil in the desert (Black Rock City, Nevada)
- Chapter 26: Love ferments in the brewpub (Savannah, Georgia)
Chapter one: I prey to thee
(Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Waiting for my flight was worse than waiting for my last day of high school to end. It was the last of four flights in a row as I traveled from Charlotte to Detroit to Amsterdam to Nairobi to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In Dar es Salaam, I had no plans. No driver waiting to shuttle me to and from the airport. No knowledge of the city beyond the brief listings in my “Lonely Planet East Africa” guidebook to hint at what might lay ahead. After a heavily structured childhood, schooling and career path, the upcoming six months of travel around the world were deliciously unnerving.
What I did not know at the time was that I hoped to find an epiphany on my trip, a cause to devote my life to, a location I never wanted to leave, a man to love, something to give me direction, to give me more fulfillment than the meager amount I had been living on for years.
The airport waiting room was boringly practical with bare white walls, linoleum floors, hard plastic chairs, and a window into the security area that separated it from the terminal. Beyond the wall-long window facing an empty tarmac, nothing had moved since I arrived an hour ago at 5 a.m. I passed time by exploring the seams of my new forest green North Face jacket and found yet another clandestine pocket, a perfect home for my 26 plane tickets.
The packet was thick and formal and pungent with an inky smell. It bulged as if such freedom was hard to contain, just as it was hard to contain my travel plans when I sold my house in Charlotte, N.C., or hide my sweaty armpits when I gave my two-week notice at work. People dream. They talk about escaping from it all. Their friends and family diligently listen and politely ignore it when the ruminations fade into oblivion. So, quite a few eyebrows went up when I made this trip a reality.
Now I was 8,569 miles away, 37 butt-numbing hours of travel across seven time zones in the last two days, or was it three? Amelia Earhart, eat your heart out.
I crunched through a bag of Combos and pondered my trip preparations. Yellow Post-it Notes feathered my guidebook in vain attempts to make a to-do list. Vaccination marks perforated my arms: Hepatitis A and B, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, typhoid, polio and Yellow Fever. I squirreled away enough money to make my bank account balance a chubby five digits wide.
Trying to predict the cost of the trip was like trying to predict how long I was going to live. I could randomly guess $50 a day for a total of $9,000 for six months, but a day in Africa might cost $10 compared to a day in Hawaii that might cost more than $200. I finally decided to adopt guidelines rather than set a budget. If it could be done at home, skip it. If I had done it before, skip it. If the odds were that I would never have another chance to do it, do it. Scrimp on meals, transportation and accommodations.
By the time I finished off a York Peppermint Pattie, drama erupted in the security screening area. Two solidly built uniformed guards were detaining a young couple that looked innocent enough. The man had a blond buzz cut and was wearing a white T-shirt and jeans over his lanky build. His companion was a Bo Derek look-alike in a gauzy peasant shirt and skirt. The guards glared at them and pointed at the poster on the wall. Not good. It listed laws about endangered animals and illegal transportation of animal-related products.
The couple's expressions ranged from surprise to confusion to submission. Finally, the guards dismissed them into the waiting area. Once they settled into chairs and I heard them speak English, I approached them for details. They may know something that might help me later on.
"When I emptied out my pockets, there was a lion's tooth," Thomas explained after we introduced ourselves. No problem for me there. "I bought it from a Masai man I met on safari."
The guards had danced the fine line of intimidation, suggesting the couple may be facing large fines or possible prison time, though not out right demanding a bribe on the spot. "Bastards," said his girlfriend, Venke.
The Norwegian couple said they eventually wore the guards down with claims of ignorance and poverty.
OUR PLANE HEADED SOUTHEAST toward the coast of Tanzania. As it descended, a brilliant rainbow arched across the sky. I could not remember the last time I had seen one. By spending so much time indoors—working so many hours in offices and stores—I had unknowingly stripped them from my life.
The savanna below was unmanaged, lightly forested and marred by few roads. The cloudless blue sky seemed to go on forever. Tinsel bright sunlight baked the cool morning air into a sweltering soup. Along the landing strip, glistening, bare-chested black men cut down spring grass with rhythmic sweeps of their machetes.
Thomas and Venke were taking a taxi to the inexpensive YWCA in the central part of town, so I asked if I could join them. A swarm of taxi drivers jockeyed for our business. Thomas negotiated the deal because, as a man, he commanded more authority than Venke or me. It was annoying but not unexpected. I often ran into the same sexist attitude back home. Before Thomas agreed on a price within the guidebook-recommended range, he asked the driver to show us his car. Its cleanliness implied that it was fairly safe. So many tiny lessons for me to learn.
After we got settled in the car, the driver headed down the road. The asphalt was pockmarked with holes full of rust-colored water that disguised teeth-rattling dips and bone-jarring drops. The open landscape soon funneled into a corridor of one-story, cinderblock buildings with metal roofs and shacks cobbled together with scraps of wood and plastic sheeting. There were no sidewalks, just crusty red dirt. Bits of litter tumbled by in the breeze. Most cars and trucks looked “rode hard, put away wet,” while closer to town, some newer, cleaner cars joined the mix.
Where traffic stopped, men with trinkets—plastic toy trucks, neon-colored scrubby pads, boxes of cigarettes—dangling from strings tied to their arms wandered through sooty clouds of exhaust to find buyers. Their income came one hard-earned shilling at a time.
As we entered the heart of downtown, traffic backed up. Battered white minivans called “dallah-dallahs”—the local public transportation—joined the melee in the narrow streets. Buildings of all kinds crowded up against each other. In the dirt strip across the street from a polished granite high-rise building, men fried potato wedges and roasted ears of corn over charcoal fires. Down the block, men sold cucumbers, peanuts, bananas, pineapples and oranges from carts. Others sold miscellaneous things like leather belts, playing cards, lighters, hair clips, chewing gum and packets of cookies on battered metal TV trays.
Within this hodge-podge of urban life, black mold shadowed most of the walls, and many were crowned with broken bottles and swirls of barbed wire. Some business owners not only barred their windows, but also posted armed sentries at their front doors. I expected to see new things on my trip, but I did not expect these blatant displays of defense. When I saw uniformed men, each with a rifle slung casually over a shoulder, guarding an ATM machine, I questioned why I was here in the first place.
Want to read more? Become a project backer now!
How funds will be spent to publish this memoir
- Word document converted for all types of readers (Kindle, iPad, Nook, Sony Reader and more)
- Review by a professional editor
- Trade paper back copies (Quantity will be determined by backer rewards and how many copies my parents want)
- Professional cover design
- ISBN numbers for the digital and print versions
- Bar code for the printed book
Tentative production schedule
- August - send drafts of book to pre-readers for feedback. (The book is about 98 percent written.)
- Mid/late September - send final draft to professional editor for review
- Late October - send final file for digital book production
- December - digital book release and send files for print book production
- February/March 2013 - deliver trade paper books
M.F.A. writing thesis exhibition
To hone my storytelling skills, I worked for five years (one course at a time - proves my dedication, yes?) to earn an M.F.A. in contemporary writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design. The first portion of the book served as my thesis.
I also hosted SCAD’s first-ever M.F.A. writing thesis exhibition. It featured poignant wall-sized excerpts from my memoir that showed how words can convey innocence, perspective, nature, tension, culture, humor and sensation - all of which played a profound role in the journey.
Some of these artworks are available as backer rewards. See below.
Examples of Masai blankets
Artwork available for backer rewards
These images are details of the original artworks from my M.F.A. thesis exhibition. See caption text for final size of the original piece.
May this book inspire you to step off your map and into the world! -- Kristine K. Stevens
- (30 days)