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Laguna pair hits the road

Valerie Swift

To begin, this is not the story of a dot-com couple that cashes in

early to travel the world. It is quite the opposite. We are just two

“ordinary” people who understood that when an opportunity of a


lifetime presents itself, you have to take it.

It all started two months ago when, unfortunately (in retrospect:

fortunately), my husband Fletcher (a.k.a. Fletch) was laid-off from

his high-tech venture.


Like many high-tech junkies, we were searching for that

end-of-the-rainbow treasure that would yield our early retirement. A

high-tech veteran myself, we decided that maybe this was a sign

telling us it was time to try something different.

Like many, we have often fantasized about quitting our jobs and

traveling the world. And like many, we have always found numerous

excuses why we are unable to do it. Too much work, not enough money,

need to be responsible, should wait until we are actually retired;


the list goes on.

I did actually try to do this once before. Last year, when I quit

my own high-tech job, I planned a monthlong trip to Europe with two

girlfriends. Our flight was scheduled to leave Tuesday, Sept. 11,

2001. Needless to say, we never made that trip.

To five-year residents of Laguna Beach, the thought of packing up

our house and leaving a destination that most people would kill to

live in seemed almost ridiculous. However, when stacked against the


fact that one of us didn’t have a job, the other didn’t really like

her job, our frequent flier mileage from years of business travel

would pay for our flights, our house was easily rentable, and we

still didn’t have any kids (only an ornery cat) to worry about; it

seemed ridiculous not to go.

So we did what we hope any couple in our situation would do. We

packed up our house, sold both of our cars, shipped our cat to

Toronto (Fletch’s brother agreed to be our pet’s caretaker) and

finally headed out to see the world. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy,

but with the help of our family and friends, a great property

management company and the innovations of online banking and e-bills,

it didn’t take us long to get ready.

We thought it would be difficult to plan the ideal itinerary, but

we quickly selected a travel route that would allow us to see as much

of the world as possible in one year without skimping on living the

local customs.

Our first stop would include a short vacation with Fletch’s

parents in Canada to witness the changing of the seasons. Next, we

would stay in Taiwan with a 10-year resident and childhood friend of


Then, on to discover the Southeast Asian riches of Hong Kong,

Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. From there our travels would

land us in Europe to winter in Italy, enjoy spring in France and

spend the summer months meandering through Spain and Portugal, with

jaunts to nearby countries of interest.

Novice travelers in comparison to many, setting our expectations

ahead of time seems foolish. Our travel comparisons to Laguna Beach

will be difficult enough. So we leave with open minds and will defer

to the ways of the road.

Our notebooks are empty. We wait anxiously to fill them with new

stories of exciting adventures and many wonderful memories and hope

to return much richer than what any end of the rainbow treasure could


* VALERIE SWIFT is a Laguna Beach resident. This is the first of

four articles on her recent travels.