Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Visa, MasterCard, and Diners Club apparently screwed their customers on foreign transaction fees between February 1, 1996 and November 8, 2006, and someone got mad enough (or greedy enough) to pursue a class action lawsuit against them. They settled, and sent all of their customers a letter telling us how to get a refund. There are three refund options- a quick $25 if you didn't leave the US much, a moderately painful estimation method for more frequent travels, and a laughably detailed method for the people who keep meticulous records of their expenses going back more than 10 years (i.e., companies). I looked at the forms and chose the middle option, which requires that I estimate the total number of days I spent outside of the US between the relevant dates and answer some questions about how often my travel was for business, leisure, or visiting friends/relatives (which is apparently not leisure).

I pulled out my passports (current and expired), and set about adding up the days. First, I made a list of all of the places I had been, listed here in the random order in which they appear in my passport:
  • Sweden (with a side jaunt to Copenhagen. I don't have a stamp from Denmark. I almost didn't get one in Sweden- I remember having to find a bemused looking customs official to stamp my passport.)
  • Ireland (multiple times, since I used to date an Irish guy)
  • England (multiple times, which would no doubt horrify the Irish ex)
  • New Zealand (multiple times, since I am married to a Kiwi)
  • Canada (only once, but maybe we can go back now that we have a kid. It was considered too domestic for our pre-child travels- my Hubby wanted to save domestic travel for post-child. Sorry Canadians, you can call my Hubby an Aussie in retaliation.)
  • Italy (Rome. And the Vatican City, of course.)
  • Germany (I always forget I've been to Germany, since I really only flew there to meet up with a friend and go on to...)
  • Spain (This trip began on 9/20/01. It was weird to fly then, but we had planned the trip months earlier. I was glad I went, because it really restored my perspective. Also, it is the only foreign trip I have ever taken where I didn't hear a single anti-American comment during the trip. )
  • Switzerland (Another country I hardly count, since we only stopped for a few hours on our way back from Spain)
  • The Cook Islands (One of my favorite places on earth- see the picture on the right for an idea of why. We liked it so much on our first trip that we decided to go back and get married there.)
I also visited Mexico briefly, for a conference in Cabo San Lucas. Amazingly, I haven't been back in many, many years, and Hubby has never been. This is a bit ridiculous given the fact that we live in San Diego. Maybe we should make a New Year's Resolution to rectify this.

And then there was the big trip, listed here in the order in which we visited:
  • Tahiti
  • Chile (Easter Island)
  • New Zealand (Christmas and New Years with the in-laws)
  • Australia (Melbourne-Canberra-Sydney-Brisbane)
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand (which is home to Hubby's new favorite place on Earth, Ko Ngai, pictured on the right)
  • Cambodia (Siam Reap only- I couldn't see getting so close to Angkor Wat and not visiting)
  • China (Beijing-Xian-Three Gorges-Shanghai-Macau-Hong Kong)
  • Japan (Tokyo for a couple of days, because Hubby couldn't see getting so close and not visiting)
Next I searched for all of the exit stamps and/or re-entry to the US stamps, and determined that I had spent 209 days outside of the US before our big trip. The big trip added another 118 days, giving a total of 327 days. That is just shy of 10% of the 3933 days between 2/1/96 and 11/8/06. I was surprised to see such a big number. I had never considered myself particularly well-traveled, probably because I hang out with too many New Zealanders. Kiwis don't just travel- they go live overseas for extended periods, and use that time to visit all of the countries within easy traveling distance (and Kiwis consider quite a lot "easy traveling distance", since their home country is so far from everywhere).

I enjoyed the trip through my memories. I doubt that the next 10 years will hold quite so much international travel. We are on a different sort of journey now! I am sure we will eventually take Pumpkin (and her future sibling, if one appears) out and about. Travel has been such a major part of our lives up to this point, that it would seem wrong to stop now. We feel we have learned a great deal from our travels, and we will certainly want Pumpkin to get a chance to learn her own travel lessons. But first, we have some domestic travel to do....


  1. You were surprised by how much you had travel? You with the blog name Wandering Scientist? ;-)

    I'm seriously jealous. It's been ten years since I went backpacking around Europe. Since that time, the only out-of-country traveling I've done was the honeymoon and a cruise, both to the Carribean. I have a dream to go to Italy this spring with the Pumpkin. Even though hubby has agreed, I don't think he thinks it'll really happen.

    Maybe I'll look into it tomorrow... Thanks for the inspiration.

    And Happy New Year!

  2. Hi Cara Mama, Oh, go to Italy and tell us how it goes! We're thinking something domestic this year, primarily because we're using so much of our comp time when Pumpkin's sick.

    We were impressed by the families we saw backpacking in Thailand. Mom would have baby on her back and a day pack on her front, and Dad would have a big backpack that presumably had everyone's gear and another day pack. We couldn't comprehend then how they packed so well (we each had a backpack and a day pack, and often also had a small "overflow" bag), and I REALLY can't understand it now. I need more stuff than that just to take Pumpkin to the park!


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.