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"It was a dark and stormy night . . ."


And so, like that Great American Novel written many years ago by my old friend, Snoopy, it begins. 


Welcome to DelsJourney, my very first website.  Over the next many months as I travel around the world, I plan to post stories here to keep my friends and family updated on my latest whereabouts and keep them amused with my latest foul-ups, of which I'm sure there will be many! 


Above:  Snoopy writing the Great American Novel.  We're both very focused (and have large noses).

I recently bought a thick book on Microsoft FrontPage, the HTML programming software I'm using to create this website, and I'll be teaching myself website programming as I go.  I hope to become a HTML guru (or maybe even just a semi-guru) by the time I've finished my journey.  Exactly when that will be I cannot tell you.

A Brief Intro

First, let me introduce myself and tell you why I created this website.  My name is Del Leu and I'm 40 years old.  I'm fairly quiet and solitary, but I'm also pretty adventurous, I'd like to think.  I've spent the past 10 years working for an engineering consulting firm in Portland, Oregon (with a six-month break in 1995 to travel) doing transportation planning and computer mapping work. 


Others might disagree but I don't think anyone should work at the same job for more than 10 years.  Therefore, I quit my job a few weeks ago precisely on my 10-year anniversary so I can travel around the world a bit.  My current plan is to take an 18-month trip around America, New Zealand and Australia, but we'll see what happens.  After that, I'll likely move back to Portland -- but again, we'll see what happens!


Some (many?) of my friends thought I was crazy to quit a steady job, but I think it's too easy to become complacent about life, so I like to shake things up and do something new once in a while.  And in case you were wondering, I'm single and have never been married.  Anyone who'd want to marry me must be crazy, I figure, and I don't want to marry someone who's crazy.  And by the way, my last name is pronounced "Loo."  Leu is a Swiss word that means "lion" and I'm not lying!



I'm going to post selected music in boxes like this throughout my website.  Here's Sheryl Crow with A Change Would Do You Good.  That's good advice -- and the theme song of this website.


So here's my advice on life, for what it's worth:  Don't settle.  Break out of your comfort zone once in a while.  Don't be complacent, and always aspire for something better because, as Sheryl Crow once said, a change would do you good.  I've "shaken things up" several times throughout my life and never once have I regretted it.


I'm planning to spend several months traveling around the U.S. this spring and summer partly to research my family's history, then I'm going to take my first trip overseas.  I'm planning to travel around New Zealand because I've heard that it's a beautiful country, then I plan to visit Australia for a few months, a country that I've wanted to see ever since I learned the song, "Waltzing Matilda" in Third Grade.  Who's Matilda, I wondered, and why was she waltzing?  From that song, Australia sounded like a fascinating country, given all the billabongs and coolibah trees (whatever they were) so I was determined to go down there someday and see it for myself.


Above:  My parents, Don and Anne Leu, in Las Vegas in 1999.  This was the last photo taken of my parents, who were married for 55 years.  I'm sorry to say that my mom passed away a few weeks after this was taken.

I started planning this trip shortly after my mother passed away in 1999.  I was close to my mother (as I am to my father) and had a hard time adjusting to life without her.  As much as anything, after my mother's passing I just wanted to learn more about her, perhaps as a way of dealing with her death.  My mother never told me much about her childhood, so I wanted to drive back to the Midwest to learn more about where she and her ancestors came from.  I also wanted to learn more about my family's history, in general, so I decided to take a long road trip around America to do just that.  Then I decided to tack on the trips to New Zealand and Australia, two countries that I've always wanted to visit. 


I figured this trip would be a great opportunity to learn how to build a website, so I could update it and amuse my friends with my recent adventures (and misadventures).  And what better way to put my transportation planning and computer mapping skills to use than travel around the world, write about my journey, and draw lots of maps showing where I've been?  So here it is:  By the way, I hope you like the green "road sign" menu buttons on the left side.  It's just like driving down the highway! 


Along with keeping my friends apprised, I'm hoping that my website will inspire others to break out of their own comfort zones and perhaps embark on a similar challenge maybe not traveling around the world, necessarily, but perhaps just something simple, like trying out a new restaurant or taking a different route to work.  Remember what Sheryl said.


Above:  Last month I created this nifty travel card, which I plan to give to people who I meet during my trip so they can keep in touch.  Someday these cards will be worth a lot of money.  Or maybe not.

Oh, you may be wondering how I can afford to take 18 months off from work to travel around the world.  First of all, I'm not married and don't have kids, so that helps a lot.  See, there are advantages of being a cranky, old hermit that no one wants to be with!  (I have a sarcastic sense of humor, so beware). 


Also, and in all seriousness, I prefer to live frugally.  Yep, I'm a real cheapskate.  For the past 10 years, for example, I've watched my colleagues leave the office every day at noon to eat lunch at fancy restaurants while I stayed at my desk and had an apple and a bagel.  I figure that eating a simple lunch every day has saved me over $20,000 during the past decade.  Here's another example:  instead of buying a new car every few years, like some of my friends, I've driven my beloved-but-bare-bones 1985 Toyota pickup truck with a stick shift, of course, and no air conditioning (to save money) for the past 16 years.  I do all the maintenance work on it myself, too.  Those are just a few examples but I could list a dozen more.  Like I say, I just prefer living a simple life.


But on the other hand, I figure what's the point of saving money if you can't spend it by doing things you enjoy?  So a few years ago after my mother passed away, rather than buy a house and settle down in Portland like I'm "supposed" to do, I decided to take a break from work and spend 18 months traveling around to see places that I've always wanted to visit.


I was planning to leave Portland on my four-month trip around the U.S. on April 1 but I'm still in my apartment in Portland.  However, I did resign from my job at the engineering consulting firm, Parsons Brinckerhoff, on my 10-year anniversary on March 19, as planned, and said goodbye to my colleagues (and those reassuring paychecks).  Since leaving my job, I've been busy getting ready for my big trip but, as I'm realizing, embarking on an 18-month journey takes a lot of planning and preparation. 


Therefore I probably won't leave Portland for my U.S. trip until at least mid-May, which will push my planned visits to New Zealand and Australia back a little.  That's fine, though, because I'm not on a schedule anymore.  After meeting pressing deadlines for the past 10 years at the office, I now laugh in the face of slipping schedules!

News from the Photo Department

I'm something of a photo buff and have shot more than 25,000 film slides over the past 20 years.  But last week I went completely digital and bought a high-resolution digital camera for this trip.  It's a Canon D-30, the first digital SLR (DSLR) camera made for the consumer market.  Professionals have been using DSLR cameras for a while but this is the first DSLR camera available to consumers (i.e., people like you and me).  And yes, consumer-oriented digital cameras of the "point-and-shoot" type, not the SLR type have been around for a few years now, but as you probably know, the quality of their pictures is not very good.  That's partly because most digital cameras have fixed lenses that are built into the camera, instead of using interchangeable lenses.


That's all changed, however, with Canon's new D-30.  Since it's an SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, I can use any of my current Canon lenses with it.  Being able to use interchangeable lenses makes a huge difference and the quality of these Canon pictures is impressive, almost as good as film.  Each photo is three megapixels (2160 x 1440 pixels), larger than just about any digital camera, professional or consumer, currently on the market.  This camera will let me instantly post photos onto my website, which makes creating a travel website like possible.  And even better, I won't ever have to pay for film or processing again, which would cost me over $5,000 for this trip alone.  And of course, I won't have to carry 500 rolls of film with me overseas (and look like a dork doing it).


The images from this camera are great, I think, so I plan to shoot LOTS of pictures with it over the next 18 months and will post some of them on this website.  I bet you can't wait.  Neither can I.



Above left:  Here's my new Canon D-30 camera, one of the first digital SLR cameras ever made.  "SLR" (single-lens reflex) means it accepts interchangeable lenses, like a zoom or wide angle.  Because of that, the quality of the pictures is much better than any other digital camera currently on the market.

Above right:  Here's the back of my D-30 camera.  It'll take me a while to adjust to shooting digital, after shooting over 25,000 slides these past 20 years.  But I'm looking forward to this new realm of digital photography.  Like Sheryl says, a change would do you good.



Above left:  These are the first pictures I shot with my Canon D-30.  I took this picture from my apartment balcony in Hillsboro moments after I opened the box.

Above right:  That evening in my apartment, I tested out my new camera's flash.  Switching from film to digital was a huge decision, but I think the right one.

A Weekend in Bellingham

Above:  My dad last night with Doti's cat, Lila.  They're great friends.

This weekend I drove up to my dad's house in Bellingham, Washington, which is about a five-hour drive north of Portland, and am currently visiting with him and Doti, my sister.  Doti moved up here from the Oregon coast after my mom died a couple years ago so she could help take care of my dad.  They're both grateful for each other's company and make a good team. 


My dad is a retired educator, having taught at Michigan State, San Jose State and Portland State before he and my mom moved to Bellingham about 10 years ago.  He's also an avid sailor who sailed his 40-foot sailboat to Alaska, alone, a few years ago, as well as a Navy veteran of World War II.  And he's very modest, so he'll never brag about those accomplishments.


I drive up to Bellingham every few months to see my dad and Doti and often play a round of golf with him, though it's still a bit early in the season for that.  My dad, by the way, scored a hole-in-one during the second time he played golf, back in 1943 when he was in college (here in Bellingham).  As he jokes, "I haven't been close to the hole since." 


Earlier this week and before I drove up here, I took my Toyota truck into the shop in Portland because I've been having some problems with the stick shift.  They told me that I'll need a new transmission before I take off on my trip around the U.S., which will cost $1,200 (yikes!)  But looking on the positive side, this will be the first major work ever done on my 16-year old truck, so I'm guess I'm lucky.  Toyota trucks are tops and I wouldn't trade mine for anything in the world.


Here are a few shots from my dad's house this weekend.  I'm still new at this "website" thing, but I recently learned how to create photo thumbnails.  All the photos in this website will be thumbnails, so you can click on them if you want to see a larger version.



Above left:  The living room in my dad's house with a wood stove that keeps the house warm on frosty winter nights.

Above right:  The hills above Lake Whatcom this morning.  Hey, what's with the snow?  This is April!



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