As two friends who love to travel, a trip around the world had been a long-time dream. Both of us had traveled before, but never for that far or for that long. A year-long journey is nothing to take lightly! We both had to leave good jobs, pack up our homes into storage, and say goodbye to all of our friends and family. Planning the trip wasn’t easy either–getting each other to agree on a list of countries that we both wanted to see was very difficult, and our first list included 45 countries! That was way too many to see in a year, and so we whittled it down to 26, and even then we only made it to 20.

We also wanted to make our trip accessible to anyone who wanted to follow us and get the inside traveler’s view of our adventures. That’s when we decided to invite Cook Children’s to be a part and surprised Safety Bear with an around-the-world ticket for his birthday. Thanks to the help of Child Life at Cook Children’s, kids have been able to follow and enjoy Safety’s travels through photos and postcards he’s sent home over the year. 

The world, we learned, is an enormous place, and even a lifetime of travel would barely allow you to scratch the surface of all that there is to see. In our pre-trip naivety, we thought that we could check each country off the “list.” But each country, it turns out, holds its own secrets, nooks, and crannies that beg to be explored, and even with a year there wasn’t enough time for everything. But of course there was so much that we were able to see: the lapping waters of Milford Sound, New Zealand; the tallest of the tall Himalayan Mountains in Nepal; and wondrous ways of life in the bush of Malawi. 

Most surprising from our travels, perhaps, was the lack of basic amenities (like clean water, nutritional food, electricity, and plumbing) that so much of the world must endure. Of course, that’s simultaneously what was most impressive–people are innovative, supportive, and enduring. In many places there is a co-dependency that we had never seen in the States. It was a spirit of community and working together that made life possible in some of the harshest environments imaginable.

“The Trip,” as we’ve started calling it, has left us thirsty and satisfied at the same time. We both agree that an eleven month trip is something we only want to do once. Living out of a bag for that long just takes a lot out of you! But we also agree that (and this includes Safety Bear) that travel doesn’t have to be a single event; it can also be a state of mind. Dreaming about, planning, and reflecting about your travel is a way to draw that much more enjoyment out of it, whenever your next trip may be.

 David Aycock and Toby Tull

Safety Bear went on quite the journey:

  • Safety Bear traveled with us more than 50,000 miles to 20 countries (not including the ones we just passed through quickly). Those countries were New Zealand, Australia, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom–in that order!
  • He made it from the lowest point on Earth at the Dead Sea (1,387 feet below sea level) to the foot of the highest mountain on the planet at Everest Base Camp (17,598 ft) to the summit of the world’s tallest freestanding mountain at Mt Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft.).
  • He skydived from 12,000 ft in Kaikoura, New Zealand and crossed the Equator 4 times
  • He flew on 27 planes and was photographed at famous landmarks around the world
  • Safety Bear met leaders of goverment (Minister of Health in Malawi), public servants (a policeman in Thailand), scores of children around the world
  • He visited the Pyramids at Giza (more than 4,500 years old), the temples at Angkor Wat, Cambodia (almost 1,000 years old) and the Great Wall of China (5,500 miles long)
  • He was nearly kidnapped by a troupe of monkeys in Cambodia!
  • He never complained, was very flexible, and never ate more than his share of the trail mix. He even served as a pillow on a couple of occasions
  • Kids and adults around the world were amazed at who Safety Bear represented and how far he had come to see them. He was hugged, squeezed, and photographed all around the world.