Novel Completion Queries, Day Eighteen

Is the novel finished: NO, but it’s pretty close now.

Today’s question: What’s the longest you’ve been away from home? For this exercise, we’re not counting military deployments, college stays, or things like LDS missionary work or the peace corps. We’re talking like “I’ve left the house and will have nothing resembling a permanent address until I get back.”

My answer: You would think it might be one of my book tours, but it actually was rather earlier than that. In the summer after my freshman year in high school, I went on a “peccary trip,” which was a fossil-hunting trip organized by my high school, across the US western states. It was four weeks long, and much of it was spent either in a van, driving from place to place, or out in a field or alluvial valley, searching for fossilized bone. It was actually pretty fun.


73 Comments on “Novel Completion Queries, Day Eighteen”

  1. I was the “kitchen boy” (that’s what we called the position back then) at a 4-H camp for the summer when I was 17. Gone from home June through most of August. The rest of the staff were all college girls. Best summer of my life. : )

  2. A bit over 2 weeks. I took the ferry from Bellingham, WA to the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and then drove back to Washington through Canada. It was a great trip and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

  3. A month in London which was great. Will be leaving in a few weeks for a month in Italy. Yes, I am enjoying my retirement.

  4. 10 weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland, the summer of 1974. Scotland thereafter became my spiritual home. I have been back twice since. Scatter my ashes in Scotland when the time comes.

  5. Not sure if it counts – 8 weeks of homelessness in high school. No permanent address, but no home to return to? I may be cheating.

  6. About three months living in a tent.

    It is weird returning home – having walls at right angles and running water readily available seems odd for couple of days.

  7. The summer after my second year of college, I decided to hitch across the country from Boston to California with my roommate’s boyfriend whom I had just met. I did not feel any obligation to notify my parents. The trip took over a week because of getting busted in Buffalo (for hitchhiking), a stop at his parents’ house in Denver for R&R, and getting stuck in Salt Lake City because we didn’t dare stick out our thumbs there and had to walk a good ways to get outside the city limits. When we got to Oakland CA at dawn one morning, the guy and I split ways. I was 19, on my own in a place where I knew no one, and all I had was the pack on my back. That was back in the day when a girl could do those kind of things. I stayed over two months in Berkeley the summer of 1968 before my parents tracked me down..

  8. Seven weeks in Europe in 1979 with my sister (graduation present to myself.) England, France, Italy, Greece Germany, Holland, and Belgium. We were much younger then.

  9. When I worked for an international company in Germany, I once spent a month traveling to the home office in Texas and then to various other places in the U.S. That was a strange thing, with “home” for several years being in a foreign country and “away” being back in the U.S., even if in hotel rooms.

  10. 3 months in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Supposed 1 month software development projet that turned into a bit longer. Also gave me a taste of a very restrictive society, not particularly fun. At least got some relatively good money out of it.

  11. Probably the longest I was away from home was a 6-week trip to Europe with a group from my high school in the summer of 1974, between my junior and senior years.

    I was flabbergasted when my parents said they had signed me up; I hadn’t even brought the paperwork about it home from school, assuming that it would be way outside the family budget. My parents must have heard about it independently, though, because they got me on the list, and off I went. I’ve always wondered if it was something in the nature of a guilt gift, as they were going through a divorce at the time and there was a fair amount of sturm und drang in my life in consequence.

    The trip was put on by an organization called “Scholastic International,” which apparently put together educational tours for middle and high school age kids nationwide. There were about a dozen of us from my high school in a group of a hundred or so students from all over the US, so there were plenty of opportunities to engage with people other than those I had grown up with. The focus of the trip was the art and architecture of the Renaissance, which meant that we spent a lot of time, about half the total trip, in Italy. The other half of the trip included Munich, Paris and London.

    It was a fabulous experience. For the first time in my life, I was with people who didn’t know me, didn’t have any expectations about me, and as a result, I could explore being different and independent with relative impunity. I went off exploring on my own, learned to navigate Italian buses and Parisian subways without speaking a word of either language, got drunk for the first time in my life, and generally had a fine old time shedding the shy, quiet bookworm persona that everyone at home was familiar with. And even though I reverted to the introverted personality when I got home, it was a revelation for me to discover that it was not only possible but even fun to explore being more outgoing and independent. It gave me a whole lot more confidence about heading off to college and life on my own a year later, too.

  12. I lived in a Costa Rica hotel for a month. I think that counts. The trip (business) was originally scheduled for three weeks, and was extended while I was there.

  13. Same as for the “furthest from home” question. We took 33 days to go round the world for the 2010 Australian Worldcon, starting and finishing in London and stopping off in San Francisco, Honolulu, Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne, Cairns, Perth and Singapore.

  14. Spent about a month hitch-hiking across Europe when I was 21. We ended the trip at Legoland, in Denmark. Slept in hostels and on trains. Met a lot of interesting people. Thought I was going to die…twice – once riding down the Autobahn in a car that was nowhere near road worthy, the other after I unintentionally angered a drunk local.

  15. The summer I turned 16, I spent three weeks (I think it was) in Europe with my German teacher, a couple of other adults, and six or seven other students. We’d planned the trip ourselves, raised money selling candy, and my parents threw in some cash too. I was surprised they (a) let me go and (b) had the money to spend on it.

    I felt very independent and grown up and had a wonderful time. I also woke up without an alarm every morning bright and early and in a good mood, which somewhat aggravated my traveling companions. I took a few rolls of photographs, but never had anyone take a picture with me in it.

  16. One may have been a day or so longer than the other, so there were two about-a-month trips. To Australia (with Aussiecon in the middle of it) in 1975, The other to the UK (with a Plotka Con in the middle of it) in 2000. The UK trip was intended to involve mostly experiencing Old Cathedrals — which it may well have done, though there’s some possibility that I spent a few more hours in (mostly not-quite-so-Old) Pubs. And there’s a certain …. Awesomeness in taking a brief stroll before your B&B’s “Full English Cooked Breakfast (awesome in itself) and discovering that JRRS Tolkien’s grave is just across the street.
    (Discovering that he’s buried on top of his mother was a Bonus Point.) And then thre’s the Feeling one gets (especially if one is an American) upon noticing there are some recent repairs to the Victorian wall beside the street… and then realizing that those long & thin bricks at the base are Roman.

    I happen to have a strong Sense of Place, & start to get antsy after being away for more than about a month, but I wish I’d done this much more than twice when I was young enough to enjoy it. “If you can’t afford a longish Overseas trip, take it anyhow. If you Really can’t afford it, take one in some distant part of the U.S.” As Andy Main put it “Have decided that it’s no worse to be broke in NYC than in Berkeley, so have gone to NYCon:”. I fullly encourage young people (especially) to make such trips to alien places as many times as possible.

  17. I went to Australia for 3 weeks last September – one week of it was for work (presenting at a conference), the other two weeks were vacation. I went hiking and got to swim in an extinct volcano in the Australian Tablelands near Cairns, which was awesome. I also discovered that if you sprain your ankle, the proper response is to rest a day, not take codeine and keep hiking on it – and wound up in a wheelchair for 3 months when I got back because powering through the pain led to me severely injuring the tendons in my knee.

    I went to several wildlife parks (being a biologist by trade, and someone who did research under a professor who did zoo enrichment), and I have to say, the Cairns Zoo is spectacular – small, but they know their stuff, and really care about the animals. Also they use wombats to “mow the lawn” by leading them around in dog harnesses and letting the wombats crop grass – sustainable landscaping! Taronga Zoo down in Sydney is also fantastic – the behind the scenes tour is worth the $100 if you can afford it (which I did thanks to an early birthday present from my partners). Again, excellent exhibits, excellent care of the animals. Featherdale was also good, but they really emphasized the ‘pet the koala’ aspect of their park and it made me a bit uncomfortable. But their bird enclosures were wonderful, and their echidna exhibit was spectacular (more zoos should have echidnas – they are relatively low-maintenance, don’t need much space, and are pretty fascinating)

  18. Just over four months went from australia to china and travelled the trans siberian railway stopping in Ulan-Bataar(Mongolia) Irkutsk (Russia) Moscow St Petersberg and then taking a train to Helsinki. Then flew to the UK and stayed with some friends in London and then had a week in Portugal which was amazing. Then back to the UK for a but before flying to Turkey and going on a small tour that covered Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco. Back to Australia and met up with friends and camped around Tasmania. Then back to work. I had such an amazing time it was hard to readjust when i got back.

  19. I’m a homebody. Being away from home for anything longer than a week drives me into conniptions (whatever those are). Does spending a year in Vietnam count as being away from home? It wasn’t like I was homeless or anything, but I could have thought of any number of other places to be.

  20. When I was 29(1994) I ran off to join a travelling carnival. I was with it for 18 months.
    No address, no phone, no computer. No contact with the outside World for weeks at a time.
    We travelled in the American southwest. Texas, Arizona, California.
    After an injury at the Costa Mesa fair, I settled down with a real address.

  21. I lived in Japan for fourteen months, but that probably does not count, as I had a job and a reasonably permanent residence. I took a two week trip to Thailand while I was there (No drugs or sex tours. Just laying on the beach). Other than that, a couple of vacations to Europe for about the same amount of time is it. One was a tour, a “nine countries is seven days” kind of thing. I was in my 20s and my parents were freaking out that I wanted to go to Europe alone, so I took a tour. It was off season, so it was a lot of fun and not too crowded. There was an unusual amount of singles on the tour, so we all hung out and had a great time. I’ve gone back to England twice since then, both times for about two weeks. I would travel more, but there’s that pesky work thing that always gets in the way.

  22. No fair to exclude military deployments. But since it wasn’t technically a military deployment, the longest for me was the seven weeks between clearing out of undergrad housing and reporting to my first duty station… stuck among a couple of different, umm, “housing situations” in bloody Houston (a city which I had visited for precisely three days previously). It was miserable — and, for two weeks, unairconditioned in late June.

  23. That depends: Ten weeks if we’re counting the summer I spent with my relatives in South Dakota and Minneapolis; or 35 years if we count when I went to New York City to help start up a wedding movie business for a few months – and decided to stay.

  24. In the mid-90s I did an 80-day cycling trip across western Europe (Flew in to Rome, north along the west coast of Italy, up through Monaco to southern France, through Paris, into Germany through the Belgium and Luxembourg up the North Sea coast of the Netherlands, back to Amsterdam, and then flew home from there.) Until I retire, I’m unlikely to come anywhere close to that.

  25. In the summer of 1994, I took a train trip across the US visiting friends and family in various places. I started in Washington DC (I was going to grad school in Maryland in the fall). From there I went to Atlanta, Chattanooga, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Denver, Kalamazoo, Detroit, and then back to DC. I was gone for seven weeks, and I had an absolute blast.

  26. The time I went to Chennai, India on a business trip for three weeks…but the hotel I was staying at might count as a permanent address? ;) Private bungalow twenty feet from a beach on the Indian Ocean. Life was rough (except that part where I was working a graveyard shift and couldn’t enjoy it during the day).

  27. Four weeks the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, at the Virginia Governor’s School for Math and Science. Played a LOT of Duke Nukem 3D. I may have missed the point of the whole thing, but I do still talk to my roomie, who has gone on to write a number of books about 3D modeling and animation.

  28. A few weeks, when I was six.

    Instead of going to visit relatives in England, we went sight seeing instead. I remember Stonehenge the clearest, followed by a huge painting of a snail on the side of a building. (I’m pretty sure the latter was not an official tourist attraction.)

    To the surprise of, probably, no one who’s dragged a small child on an extended sight seeing trip that involes lots of walking, I really didn’t fully appreciate the experience. I’d love to go back some day.

  29. Well, if Vietnam doesn’t count, then it has to be about 4 months in 1974. Hitched across the country from California to the east coast and back, and spent a bunch of time with friends in Manitou Springs, CO. Lots of fun.

  30. 3 weeks in Turkey in ’79 and 2 weeks in Panama in ’81 exploring and having lots of fun. There was a schedule but I didn’t follow it.

  31. When I was ten, I spent three weeks in TN with my grandparents and cousin. Upon my return, I found out part of the reason I’d managed to snag such a marvelous, long trip was that my dad was in the middle of being diagnosed with lung cancer and they wanted all the testing and panic to happen when I wasn’t around. So that was less fun to come home to.

  32. A six week study trip to Russia in college. At the end of the trip we traveled by train (and boat train) to England.

  33. Summer after my junior year of high school, 1987 (the Cold War days); I was invited to go with my German exchange student’s family as they toured part of the U.S. I was only able to learn exactly two words, and according to my friend’s sister, spoke them with a fine Russian accent. Was a mere two weeks away as I recall.

  34. Four weeks wandering around Britain and bits of Western Europe with the man I would later marry. It was our second, and longest such trip. We were completely out of touch with our normal lives, as this was before cell phones. Also, we never knew where we were going to spend the next night until we got there. We were young, and it was tons of fun, but I would never do anything like that again.

  35. I lived in Australia for six months. Since I had an address and a local bank account I’m not sure if that counts, although I did do a fair amount of travel, and my time there was always going to be six months. When I was 18 I went to Europe for three months, alone. Later I went to Africa for three months. Which of those trips was more days I couldn’t tell you. Other than that there have been quite a few trips in the 3-6 week range.

  36. Officially homeless for about six months beginning 2/16/12. Spent a week at a friend’s place while she was out of town, then from 2/22/12 through 2/29/12 at a local cold-weather shelter, three nights attempting to sleep in my car, another few days at my friend’s when she went out of town again. Spent a few weeks as an “overnighter” at a local homeless shelter (at least it was a nice shelter in a nice part of town) and was made an official resident there on 5/7 or 5/8, and stayed there until I finally got a job and was able to rent a room from a fellow employee starting 9/29/12.

    I NEVER want to do that again.

  37. I was very lucky to join a 6-week student tour of the country after 10th grade. 100 students, half a dozen teachers and two busses visiting colleges and historical sites moving counter-clockwise around the continental U.S. Learned a lot, got class credit and saw a lot of America and even some of Canada. And, Las Vegas. Twice.

  38. Living with my grandparents who were almost 10k miles away from my parents and siblings (except bro who was with me) doesn’t count I’m thinking, based on your criteria. Nor the fact we were both preteens either. That was a year too, but it was a damn good one to be honest.

    There was a two year span in Hawaii where I was actually completely out of touch with my family. As in, neither side knew where the other lived much less had a phone number. This was in my twenty-somethings and can be chalked up to pre-adult syndrome.

  39. I could cheat and say five years in Prague: because I sublet my place in Holland for that period and returned to it after those five years…

    … but let’s not count that. So, it’s either my very long holiday after (the Dutch equivalent of) high school: close to half a year in France, four months of which in a room in Bordeaux – or the close to six months in Belgium (Antwerp) in a room over a pub. I can’t remember exactly which of the two was the longest period but in both cases I had a student room in Holland to which I did return. (I’m obviously not claiming to be the most diligent student ever but in those days you had oceans of time to finish an academic study and I was not above taking advantage of that ‘system’, especially because I mostly paid my own way – slowly – through college.)

  40. As a pre-graduation trip, one of my roomies and I spent 2 months in Australia tootling around the eastern half of the country. We discovered: Australian ‘extra tasty’ cheese is as good as the best Vermont or Wisconsin Cheddar, Greyhound bus passes are an excellent way to get around the country, and ‘mince’ doesn’t sit well with me. We kept encountering the same half dozen small groups of tourists on approximately the same route, so we frequently said, “Hey, there’s Simon and Katrina!” or “I know those folks! Hi, Pippa!”

    If we had planned a bit better and left more time at the end of the trip, we would have loved to take the ‘Tea & Sugar’ overland to Perth, across the Nullarbor Plain. It was one of the experiences of a lifetime, and I’d love to go back.

  41. Seven months. I emptied my bank account and left home (southern California) in late May on a driving/hitchhiking tour of the US. Lots of stops with friends and family in Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Steamboat Springs, various small and large towns in Indiana, a couple of places in New Jersey, then Nashville, Washington DC, back to Indiana, Champaign IL, Ann Arbor, Las Vegas, and back home. Arrived just in time for Christmas with less than $5 and a quarter-tank of gas.

  42. Not quite two years, circumnavigating the globe without using planes. I know, I know, it can be done in 80 days… It was great, though I’ve still never been to South America or Africa ):

  43. When I was in high school. DCI summer tour. Leave the house the day after school let out, head to rehearsal, which was 150 miles away, sleep in gymnasiums, then get on a bus and tour about 15,000 miles. Get back in late August, just in time for school to start again.

  44. Farthest from home was a trip to meet distant cousins in Belgium when I was about 12. I had an aunt who was choosing to forgo a second round of chemo and knew you can’t take it with you. My mom was her favorite sibling and she took my family and her other widow sister.

    Longest was a 3 week debate camp at the University of Toledo prior to my junior year of high school (I lived in southern NM). I had never done an away camp before. The funny part of that story is that my folks were about to move into a new house. That deal fell through and they hastily made an offer on another one. My only phone access was a floor phone in the residence hall and a phone card to pay for it. Which meant that they literally moved without telling me, which was a little panic inducing for a bit.

  45. After I got out of the Army, I left my car at my parents house and took a trip to Thailand. Ended up getting a job teaching English and stayed there for two years, then a year in Japan, before returning home.

  46. Five months.

    I was sent to Australia for work for a month by my company at the beginning of November. I called the office and they started joking about being there for Christmas. I said I thought the trip was a month. They claimed they said two months. After that they extended it another month. We were approaching 4 months and my visa was going to run out so we filed an extension which was rejected. Everyone was surprised including the major company I was there to support. No one had ever been rejected before. We appealed which gave me an automatic extension but I had to give immigration my passport while they decided. The work finally concluded but I never heard back from them so I went back to the immigration office. I told the person that worked there I was ready to leave but as far as I knew they were still deciding if I could stay or not so could I have my passport back so I could leave. I think think the woman was trying to hide the fact that she was smiling at that. She went to investigate and came back saying my extension had been approved but apparently they forgot to let me know. She gave me back my passport and I was able to leave the country.

  47. In 1999, I took off alone and drove for almost three months from Seattle to Vermont to Florida, to California, where I rolled my car out in the middle of the Mojave Desert . Best time of my life, right up till the accident. I revisited places I hadn’t been to since I was a kid, visited a lot of places I’d always wanted to see, and got an idea that ended up as three novels and a short story (and wrote a book about the journey, too). I’m planning on making another, similar trip in a couple of years.

  48. 5 weeks in Scotland and southern England, including (in the middle) a week spent solely on the Isle of Skye. Magnificent. Trip was great. Sorry, Wales, we didn’t have enough time off for you. I checked my email (no cell phone) exactly once and phoned home so infrequently that there was still a couple quid on my calling card, which I gave to a FOAF.

  49. Not counting overseas college terms (two rotations at Duke): seven weeks. Back in 2001, I travelled around the world meeting up with Usenet friends – I went to Spain, the UK, across the USA, and Sydney. It was amazing, and everyone I’d met online was terrific in meatspace too.

  50. I spent three weeks with my Aunt in Miami when I was 11 (I’m from Ohio), so I could be flower girl in my cousin’s wedding. Her neighbor had an indoor pool which she let me use AND there was a TV in my bedroom (rare in 1969). I watched the Moon landing there. I did not want to go home.

  51. I’d wanted to go to Africa so just after I turned 60 I took 3 months off work and went to South Africa. Volunteered for a while at a Zulu tribal school and a transnational wildlife park then went totally around the coast of the country, sometimes by bus, sometimes driving and then went up to the northenmost area of the country before heading back to Jozie and home. Since then I’ve gone back every couple of years, sometimes to Kenya, sometimes to SA and have seen Lamu and Reunion Islands as well. Just love it there.

  52. Four months between Istanbul and Budapest. Originally planned to make it to Ireland within six months, but I wound up getting a job in Budapest and staying there for a bit more than a year.

    During those travels, I met a fair number of people out on what I came to call the Australian Plan. Typically, this was spend six months or so traveling from Oz to the UK, work anywhere from another six months to a year in Blighty, and then travel back at an equally leisurely pace. Total time away: two or three years.

  53. About six months trekking around the USA visiting internet friends. Gotta make it worth my while when I’m coming all the way from New Zealand!
    If paying rent for part of it doesn’t disqualify me, then there was that other time I was couchsurfing in Germany for a month after giving up my apartment but still had to finish out my work contract; then stayed in Dublin 4 months and Belfast 1 month, followed by 2 months through the USA again. Fun times!

  54. 66 days.

    In the summer of 1972 my wife and I took the entire summer off (she was teaching second grade) in Europe, first two weeks in London, then three weeks driving around Britain, ending with a week in Edinburgh. We then flew to Paris for another week, met friends and drove through France, Switzerland, Germany and up to Belgium and The Netherlands, ending up in Amsterdam.

    The whole trip including airfare and cars and hotels and food cost us $2300.

  55. One year, or thereabouts. I went overseas (for the first time) for a project that involved moving between Australia, Canada, the UK and the Netherlands, with no real home base. By the end of the year, I figured that I didn’t want to return “home” and so set about making it permanent. More international moves ensued, only now it was from one new “home” to another.

  56. Straight out of college I rode around the country on a Greyhound Ameripass. I think it was a one-price any Greyhound bus for 90 days deal, and you could also use their competitors’ buses for places Greyhound didn’t go. I was away from home about two months.
    I visited relatives in Nebraska and New Mexico, and friends in North Carolina and New York, but mostly I saw Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. I slept outdoors in Yosemite (where there was still snow on the ground) with nothing but a Space Blanket for bedding, and I walked across the Grand Canyon and back.
    Nowadays I’d rather stay home and take care of cats, ferrets, bees, and puppy, but everybody should do something like this when they’re young.

  57. Fresh out of college, I spent six months of 1992 doing a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, which was a lot less crowded then than it is now. Everything I needed had to be either worn or carried, and we hit towns about once a week to pick up resupply packages at rural post offices. A trip like that clearly generates a lot of stories, and my 2 hiking partners and I met far more people on our hike than we had ever thought we would.

    Our longest spans in one place on that trip were two stops of about 5 days each, both because either I or one of my hiking partners was ill or had minor injury. One was a hiker hostel (basically a cleaned-up barn) on the grounds of a church in Pearisburg, VA; the other was “Rusty’s Hard Time Hollow”, which was a privately-owned cabin on several acres right on the Blue Ridge Parkway, owned by a somewhat eccentric guy (and inventor) who just loved taking in thru-hikers. He lived there year-round, and the place had no electricity and no running water (there was a cistern-powered shower, but the cistern had to be hand-filled), but Rusty had built a wood-fired hot tub.

  58. This summer our family did a 32 day road trip through the northeast United States and Atlantic Provences. We spent a week at family reunion along the way. My wife wanted to go for longer, but we had to get back for the start of school.

  59. Eight weeks at a summer music camp between my junior and senior years in high school. Other than that, a 21-day vacation touring the west and visiting my son in law school in Oregon.

  60. Usually no more than a week and a half, always for road trips with the wife. I used to do a lot of driving back in the day when I was able to tolerate insane hours on the road.

  61. May 2009 I was laid off from my job at a biotech in Seattle. A week later I threw most everything I owned into storage and went to Europe for about 5 weeks, then spent another week in Manhattan couch surfing at a friend’s condo. It was fantastic, so much so that i am contemplating how to travel for a year.

  62. I did my mapping for my geology dissertation on the isle of Raasay in Scotland and i was in a hotel room for half of it and a b&b for the other half.

  63. Compared to some above, my travels seem puny – 24 days driving around western Turkey, from Istanbul to Goreme/Cappadocia to Antalya and back. Great trip.

  64. 3 weeks in England just this past Christmas. I visited my daughter studying at Oxford, spent Christmas week in London, then we hit York, Edinburgh, Chester, Conwy, and back to London. Best 3 weeks ever.

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