Let me go back to the beginning.

Technically, I suppose, the beginning started a long time ago, back when I was a kid and I heard the words Tierra del Fuego. I didn't know what the words meant. I didn't even know they weren't English. I only knew I was enchanted by the sound of them.

Would I have been as enraptured had Tierra del Fuego been, say, a city in Ohio rather than the place at the end of the world? Probably not. Intrigued, maybe. But likely not spellbound. Fortunately, then, Tierra del Fuego was where it was. At the very border of my imaginings. All of which is to say that I always wanted to visit Tierra del Fuego.

But the actual beginning may have been when I told Jessica and Sam that I was taking them somewhere and that it would remain a secret until we were on our way.

The three of us have traveled a lot together over the years. We are at our best on the road. We talk about things we otherwise avoid at home. We slip into an easy humor. We let the world and each other surprise us.

But Sam is only three years from college and, after that, his own life. Our trips together will be fewer. Although I hadn't planned it this way, a trip to the end of the world seemed somehow a bittersweet way to begin the end of our traveling life together.