The two of us were sitting in Pho Something or Other on Argyle Street when the idea popped into our heads. We’d been invited to Melbourne, Australia for Rhain’s wedding in a few months, and I wanted to go.
“Seems like an awful long way to go for just a wedding,” Sarah said.
“Come on. He’s my oldest friend.”
“Well, if we’re going all the way there, maybe we should turn it into a longer trip.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you take your paternity leave and we blow it out.” She smiled. “If you could go anywhere in the world…”
Hmm. Maybe it was the fact that I’d just read Alan Richman’s GQ story about how much he’d enjoyed exploring Saigon as a soldier. Maybe it was one too many Oliver Stone movies. Maybe it was the spring roll bursting with mint leaves in my hand. “I’ve always wanted to go to Vietnam,” I said.
Sarah smiled. “Me too. And Thailand.”
“Yeah. Thailand!” I knew nothing about Thailand beyond the fact that Thai food was pretty good. That was enough. It was just like in college, when I chose to study in Ireland for a semester because I was really into The Pogues.
“Let’s just empty our bank account and do it,” Sarah said.
“Yeah.” I was excited. “Let’s do it.”
“Oh, I’m so glad you agree.” She squeezed my hand. “The three of us are going to have such a good time.”
My heart dropped. Oh, yeah, we have a baby. I guess we’d have to bring her along.
Sarah read my mind, which is getting easier these days because there’s not much going on in there: I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m horny. Where the hell are the wipes? “Come on,” she said. “People travel with babies all the time,”
“Yeah. Hippies and Germans. And they all look miserable.”
‘We could make it work,” she said. “It would be fun.”
It would not. It would be a big mistake.
“Just leave it to me,” she said, and I knew better than to argue. She had made up her mind. Just like that, we decided to fly 10,000 miles with a baby, whether the kid liked it or not.
On the way home from Pho Whatever, we ran into our babysitter, who had been taking Hannah for a walk in the stroller while we ate. “Hey, we’re going to Vietnam and Thailand and Australia,” Sarah gushed. The babysitter just stared. She seemed reluctant to hand us back our child.
I should mention the methodical way this trip was planned. It went like this:
1. Sarah planned it.
2. I agreed not to complain about her choices.
I was handed a couple of guidebooks and told to put little stars next to the stuff that sounded interesting. (Our wedding plans happened exactly the same.) But it all sounded interesting, so I pretty much just left the trip to her. With a surgeon’s precision, she mapped out the whole trip: where we would stay, what we would do, what we would wear, where we would eat. It was like a military strike. With diapers.
Eventually, I was told our seven-week itinerary:
• 19 days in Australia
• 10 in Thailand
• 3 in Cambodia (Yes, she’d added Cambodia to our itinerary when I wasn’t looking.)
• 15 in Vietnam
I could have just as easily sat in the basement and played with the kid for 47 days—which seemed to be the preference of everyone else.
”As long as you’re going to Australia? That’s the worst rationale I’ve ever heard,” said Isaac, Sarah’s father. “Australia and Vietnam aren’t even in the same hemisphere!” He told us we were being irresponsible with his grandchild and that he did not approve: We were just starting to get the hang of this parenting thing, getting her on a regular sleep schedule, and now we were going to blow it all out of the water? Stupid. A concerned pediatric gastroenterologist gave us a list of pediatricians in Vietnam and Thailand. My folks, typically, offered silent approval, which meant they thought we were nuts, too.No matter; it was too late. While other new parents were deciding what kind of binky to buy, we were getting our kid malaria pills and a passport. Malaria pills, by the way, that cause hallucinations—the non-hallucinogenic ones haven’t been tested on babies. Sounds like Hannah’s going to have a trip in more ways than one. I’m thinking of popping a couple for the flight myself.