MEDICINE HAT, ALBERTA, CANADA – Fifteen years ago, about the same time as I went to ride freight trains in America, a friend of mine from Charterhouse School – Christian Velten – went to Africa in search of adventure. His plan was to hike along the River Niger to its source.
A month after arriving in Africa, Chris’s letters and phone calls ended, and his family never heard from him again…
Greetings from the Canadian Prairies…
My family and I have completed our mission to travel around the world. We started in North America. We crossed the USA, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, China, and Japan, and now we’re back in North America.
We’re going to spend the next four weeks visiting our families (who we haven’t seen much in the last 18 months) and recuperating.
Volunteering in Rwanda
In Africa, we went to the small town of Muhanga, in southwestern Rwanda, where we took a little break from our travels, did some volunteer work at an elementary school, and lived on a farm.
The farm had rabbits, chickens, cows, bees, and a bunch of different vegetables, and we got to learn about them all. This really was the ultimate homeschool field trip.
Here’s Penny helping Moses milk a cow.
Penny and Moses milking the cow together
Five of the teachers who worked up at the school lived on the farm too. So it was sorta like “employee housing.” It was quite basic accommodation. We took cold showers, washed our clothes by hand, cooked at a propane tank, and woke up to the sound of mooing cows and crowing roosters. But we were very comfortable there.
We also enjoyed getting to know our new roommates. This is Prosper, the school French teacher. Here’s Penny helping him do his laundry on his day off…
Penny and Prosper, the French teacher, doing laundry on the farm
Hanging on to Hope
I read all the newspaper articles about Chris’ disappearance, and I’ve followed his family’s efforts to find him over the years. And I thought about him a lot on this trip… especially when we were in Africa.
Was he robbed and murdered and dumped somewhere? Or did he get into an accident or lose his mind?
(There have been many sightings of Chris over the years – some of them believable enough to trigger more newspaper articles and rekindle his family’s hope he’s alive.)
We didn’t do anything as adventurous as what Chris attempted. In fact, the only thing that’s unique or courageous about our trip is that we did it with kids.
And yet, there Chris was, every day, reminding me how very small one is on this planet. And to Chris’s family, I’m so sorry for all the pain you must’ve been through.
– Tom Dyson
P.S. We’ve homeschooled our kids for 10 years. So it was kinda funny that we went to Africa and ended up in a school.
Actually, it was a great situation because it offered everything we needed to homeschool our kids, including WiFi, a library, a playground, a soccer field, and lots of new friends to play with.
Here I am giving the first graders a little presentation on what it’s like to live in America. Penny was so excited to be in class, she kept raising her hand and asking me questions.
My daughter Penny was so excited to be in a classroom, she kept asking me questions
I could never be a teacher. Probably sounds weird coming from a father of three kids, but it’s only recently – on this trip, really – that I’ve started to enjoy the company of my own children.
And here I am, working at a school in Rwanda, feeling a bit uncomfortable, and doing it anyway.
I took a class of second graders out of the school and to the farm, and I showed them around. (Luckily, I had my family supporting me, or some of them might have perished, haha.)
Taking the second graders out to the farm. You can see Kate, Penny, Miles, and Dusty towards the back of the line
Reader comment: Your guardian angels have been very busy! Be sure to thank God our Father for His unending protection and love! God is so good!
Reader comment:Thanks for the postcard about ticks and your flawless trip. I’m so glad you’ve had a wonderful trip, and I hope it continues to be wonderful after you leave Japan. I feel privileged that I’ve met you all. Good luck with the rest of your trip. I always enjoy reading your postcards and seeing your photos.
Reader comment: I hope you’ll start writing your book soon, while your memories are still fresh. You have so much wonderful material… and writing a book is not so difficult, in my experience. Good luck.
Reader question: Kudos to you and your family. A gutsy trip, very hard for most of us to even contemplate, let alone achieve.
My question, though, is about gold. I have followed gold forever, I keep thinking I want it, and I like your premise to sell at a 5-to-1 ratio and buy top-line dividend reinvestment stocks. But why do I feel that if I were to not buy the gold, or maybe buy a smaller percentage – say 10 percent of my portfolio – and just buy and hold stocks on a dollar-cost average over the decade, that I can get the same result with dividend reinvesting?
We don’t have crystal balls, but one of the richest men in the world, Mr. Buffett, has proved that cash flow is the best road to travel. Reinvested dividends over two decades pay out pretty well. Why would you not take this approach? Also, I have followed you for many years, and your information has always been of solid value.
Tom’s response: Dividend reinvesting is the “royal road,” and there’s no other investment strategy I’d ever use. But not now. Now is the time to be waiting on the sidelines in gold.
Reader comment: Trip around the world! Just started reading your daily thoughts a few days ago! You are a delightful family, having made a lifetime of memories as you’ve traveled. Be safe.
Reader question: I enjoyed these letters so much. Thank you for having shared them. Would you be willing to put them into a video book of some sort, to be readable again and again? Please. Thank you to your family as well. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Reader comment: A bit more than 20 years ago, I was spending a year in Central Europe for school. Had a great time and never had any trouble with the places I went or the people I met. Except for the post office.
I brought too much with me and chose to mail some of it home, along with some things I had bought while there. Three boxes were mailed, but only two made it (the one with nice things and gifts was stolen). The post office said I could only trace it to the border of that country, and the post office in the U.S said it wasn’t its responsibility until it actually arrived in the U.S. In other words, “Too bad. Use UPS next time.” (The post office clerk actually said to use UPS).
Just before my flight home, I took a train to Kraków for the weekend and back to Budapest. On the ride back, my camera with all the last couple weeks’ photos (film) and my boots (took them off to sleep) were stolen. When I got to the station, another passenger opened his suitcase and gave me his shoes (four sizes too large, and I was really grateful!) so I could get to my hotel, grab my luggage (I only had the one set of shoes), and make my flight.
When I got back to the States, I found the exact same camera, a flash unit, and a camera bag all in new condition in an antique store for less than I had paid for the first camera. Never got the lost mail, the original camera, the photos, or the boots, but despite those setbacks, I came out better off than I had started. I really enjoy living your adventures vicariously and hope you continue to have them and tell us all about them in the months and years to come.
Tom’s response: Thanks for writing in! Kate and I find your notes very encouraging. Please keep writing us at [email protected].