While it was wonderful to be home again, the initial adjustment proved more difficult than I had first imagined. First of all was the light disconnect from my previous friends. Among other travelers, people were keen to talk about their experiences and what they had seen. This is the glue that opens conversations and had been an integral part of my interpersonal interactions for more than three years. However, most people’s interest in what you had done at home faded away after a few minutes.
Yet in the end, it was probably the most formative experience in my life. It confirmed my love of travel, something which has continued, albeit more modestly, right till this day. I kept in contact with many of the people I met on the road for a few years, but a series of moves on my part, they gradually dwindled down.
Having lived an unstructured life, I did not want to come back to a nine-to-five job, but I also did not want to be unemployed. So I thought going back to academia would be the least difficult transition. In September 1980, I started a doctorate in Political Economy at the University of Toronto. That autumn, I wrote the foreign service exam. In the end, I was offered a position as a foreign service officer with the Department of External Affairs, and was there from early September 1981 until my retirement in the summer of 2011.
My first years were good ones. I got my dream posting to New Delhi, India from July 1983-September 1985. Returning to Canada, I switched over to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for a few years, working first on the China program, then was posted overseas to Zambia and Zimbabwe between 1988-1991. I then came back to CIDA headquarters in Gatineau, Quebec for one year before returning to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
While the Department offered me great opportunities to live overseas, I found certain aspects of working in a large bureaucracy rather suffocating and I was ready, after eleven years working full time, to once again to go on a sustained backpacking trip. I had signed up in the late 1980s for “Self-Funded Leave”, an option that allowed you to defer your salary and then take a period of unpaid leave and collect the deferred salary at that point. My last years at CIDA were not particularly happy, and I was delighted to be planning my time off and getting back “on the road” again. The leave period was one year, from July 1992 to July 1993.
The major trip was to travel again around the world, to go to places described below that I had not seen before. That trip lasted seven months, between July and the following February. In March I went to Brazil for a month. In May and June, I did a seven week driving trip through the USA, visiting all of the remaining states which I had not yet seen. I did shorter trips towards the end, to Newfoundland for a few days with my sister and then to Moosonee on James Bay in northern Ontario, while otherwise enjoying life in Ottawa in summer without having to go into work.
For a description of my seven month trip in 1992-1993, please continue to the icon “Around the World” on the front page of this website.