A Narrow Piece of Geography

This is the 11th post in a series by the Cooney family about their world travels, made possible by the flexible learning offered at FLVS.

Cooney World Adventures Issue 11Our around the world trek was accomplished in two stages.

The first lasted four months and we backpacked through Central and South America. After returning home for a short visit, we resumed our trek, which lasted seven months. During our odyssey, we traveled to six continents, visited 22 countries and covered more than 61,000 miles. Although we did circumnavigate the globe, the fact is we only traveled a narrow piece of geography.

No matter how well-traveled someone is, they tend to stay within the lines – back roads, hiking trails, plane routes and highways. We were no different. Through Central and South America, we traveled almost entirely by bus – from “chicken buses” packed with 30 people when there should have only been 15, to a luxury motor coach that had its equivalent of a flight attendant onboard.

For the most part, we stayed within the lines. In Southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji we drove, while in Southeast Asia we traveled mainly by bus. No matter how far we traveled, our collective and individual experiences were confined to a narrow piece of geography.

In some parts of the world we saw the same geography multiple times due to backtracking, U-turns and missed exits. In Australia this occurred often, which is partly the reason why we drove more than 5,000 miles in 30 days. While heading to the East Coast from the Alice Springs, I ignored a suggestion to look at the map and double check our route. As a result, I missed a turn-off and added 1,000 miles to our drive. The rest of my tribe took the news in stride because long before then we had transitioned from tourists to travelers.

As a result of my major driving faux pas, our new route took us further north along the coast and we saw platypus in the wild. An elusive and interesting animal we would not have seen if I had checked the map.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Although it may have even challenged Ralph’s beliefs if he had been traveling with five people in a hippy van during the additional 1,000-mile ride – platypus or no platypus. For us, it only reinforced his claim.

Although our path was narrow, our lives were enriched beyond measure by the experiences and the people we met along the way. As a result, travel has become part of our collective and individual DNA. But most importantly, it validated our mantra that “Travel is the ultimate education.”

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Cooney World AdventuresThis post was written by Mike Cooney, father of three FLVS alumni, and is the eleventh in a year-long series by the Cooney family. His book, Cooney World Adventures: Backpacking with Teens Through Latin America, details the first leg of their trek and tells the stories of their adventures (and misadventures) while traveling through Central and South America almost entirely by bus. 

Learn more at www.cooneyworldadventures.com or by emailing mike@cooneyworldadventures.com.


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