The preparations took on a Christmas-like air. I told Jessica and Sam they couldn’t go into certain rooms at certain times because things were spread out that I didn’t want them to see. I put together packets for them that I would give them after we checked in at the airport and they knew where we were going. The folders were stuffed with fun stuff that tourists love, such as metric conversion charts and the makeup of the current government. Do I know how to plan a trip or what? I beamed, looking in admiration at my handiwork.

A few days before we left, while on the computer, Sam stumbled across where we were going. He came to me, stricken, as if he had just opened a box with forbidden treasure in it. “Dad,” he said. “I know where we’re going.”

“You like it?”

“I love it.”


“But,” he said, “I know.”

“But that’s all you know,” I said. “What you don’t know is everything we will do when we get there. And let me tell you, it is incredible.”

Meanwhile, I prepared an e-mail to send to friends the minute we left the house. On the way to the airport, Jessica,­ practically carbonated with excitement, made some final guesses, as a person does when shaking a present before opening it.

“Here’s a hint,” I said, as romantic as Cary Grant. “It’s not Kansas.”

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