Saturday, June 7, 2003

Signe, left, and Rich Danler pose in front of the map on which they have planned their eight-month around-the-world trip Friday afternoon in their Corvallis home.

Family straps on packs for world tour

Rich and Signe Danler decided earlier this year to change their lives and take the opportunity to see the world at their own pace.

The Corvallis couple sold their house and many of their belongings and they're ready to make a new start, wherever that might be.

So, on June 15, along with their children — 12-year-old Emily and 4-year-old Colin — the couple will begin the first leg of an eight-month tour that will take them to three different continents and the places they've always wanted to see.

First, they'll head by car to California to visit friends for a few weeks. On June 27, they'll fly to London, where they will spend three days; the following six weeks will be spent traveling in the United Kingdom, followed by two months in South Africa, two months in Australia, two months in New Zealand and an unknown amount of time on Fiji and several other islands.

They're avoiding the other continents only because of a lack of time and expense. At every stop they hope to find a hostel for lodging, or possibly a farm stay, where visitors work on a farm as payment to sleep there.

A sluggish economy that provided little work for Richard, a 55-year-old mechanical engineer who specializes in machinery design, helped make the decision a little easier. Another factor was their displeasure with the current school budget cuts in the state. The couple knew it would only be a matter of time before they would be looking for somewhere else to live.

Thus "Operation Lemonade:" Making lemonade out of lemons.

Nonetheless, leaving the place they've called home for most of the last 25 years isn't going to be easy. Rich plans to take time in each city the family travels to getting to know those who share his profession, hoping to spark some interest and possibly find a job. If that doesn't work, he'll be more than happy to come back to the United States to find work.

"Making the decision was very difficult because we've loved living here," Signe said. "We've prepared ourselves for anything, and it could be better."

Each of the four family members will carry only a backpack filled with everything they think they'll need. Colin's pack will be filled with toys, while other family members will carry necessities like medical and health supplies. They plan to keep in contact with friends and family by posting photos and stories on a Web site using the electronics (computer, digital camera, etc.) they are taking with them.

"We never felt we could just up and go to Europe for a couple weeks or go to New Zealand for a couple weeks," said Signe, 46, who until April designed the newsletter for the Corvallis Parks and Recreation Department. She was previously a technical illustrator.

Rather than schedule a tour that would restrict how much time they could spend at each locale, the family booked airplane tickets that offer discounts to travelers making their own arrangements.

Rich and Signe, married 23 years, don't know what to expect of their journey. But they know it will have a lasting effect on their children, particularly Emily.

"This is going to be a life-changing experience for her," Signe said. "This is really going to change the way she sees the world."

The couple plans to continue their daughter's education with the use of an online learning academy based in Seattle. Packed among the family's belongings will be a new laptop computer that will allow Emily to study along the way. Colin is in preschool.

"Emily is definitely worried about leaving her friends," said her dad, who added that he promised they would return to Corvallis when they were done with their trip so she could catch up with her pals.

If nothing else, the couple realizes it will be the trip of a lifetime.

"His dream is to find a tavern out in the middle of Australia and have a beer with the locals," Signe said.

Jesse Sowa covers public safety and general assignments for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at or 758-9521

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