Hello world, welcome to The Otherside.  As I write I’m rolling along the banks of the Hudson river on my way to New York City.  I will spend the night at my sister’s house in New Jersey and in the morning I my brother-in-law is driving me to the airport.  I fly to Seoul, South Korea, and then off to Beijing where I will spend three nights before meeting with a representative from Liaocheng University and traveling the three hours south Shandong Province.  Predictably, the past few days have been stress-filled and exciting.  Not one but two technological catastrophes have set back both my patience and my bank account.  Anticipation of the trip and the nagging thoughts of forgetting something has led to sleepless nights, overeating, and back pain.  In the past few weeks I’ve found myself on the verge of tears, arguing with my parents and snapping at my friends.  This is all perfectly normal, especially for me.  I always leave things for the last-minute, and when you’re leaving the country for up to six months, there is no shortage of things to forget to do.  Travel guides and program organizers love to talk about the importance of planning ahead, which is obviously good advice.  But I’ve never been a good planner, and after traveling to Europe, China, and across the US many times, I’ve embraced this aspect of my character, or perhaps just learned how to work with it.  I’ve found that it adds to the excitement and even the enjoyment of traveling.  There’s nothing like making a plane by two minutes, or booking the last room at a hostel, or even losing a bag to discover the joys of traveling light and abusing airline vouchers.  Often times the mishaps that occur while we travel are the things that we remember the most.  It provides opportunities for heroism and compassion.  It pushes us to our emotional limits, sometimes to the point where we don’t even know if we’ll make it out alive.  Of course we always do.  There’s always a helpful cabby, a later flight, another hotel in another part of town.  It’s good to have a backup plan, but even when that fails, all that’s required is a positive disposition, a healthy dose of perseverance, and a good puppy-dog face to pull you out of even the toughest jams.

Despite all the stress, I find myself barely able to contain my excitement.  It’s been three years since I left China and promised myself that I would return as soon as I could, and tomorrow it’s finally going to happen.  I want to close this first official post by thanking everyone that made this trip possible, including my parents, my grandfather, my Uncle Tad, my sisters, my friends, and my teachers, and everyone else that has seen me along this path.  I miss you all so much already, and I hope to hear from you all while I’m off checking out the world on the Otherside.