#36 (Zheger, Kosovo - Istanbul, Turkey)

We don't even want to go to Serbia. But here we are, enveloped by a dozen friendly Kosovars, deciding if the border officials over in Serbia will be kind enough to let us in.

We want to go to Macedonia. That is the plan. But this border, the one to Macedonia, the one right over this hill, is closed. The next best option, the way in via Serbia, is not closed. But it's closed to us because we entered Kosovo via Albania, and not via Serbia like the Serbian government insists. We are stuck in the thick agar of bureaucratic purgatory.

It is dark, and thus one thing is certain. Even if we can find a way out of eastern Kosovo, it will not be tonight.

#35 (Kotor, Montenegro - Zheger, Kosovo)

Nine months. The last time we'd seen Lauren's parents was nine months ago—ten, almost—at the departures terminal of LAX. After a tearful goodbye those last days of June, we'd taken a flight back to Washington, said our farewells to some more loved ones, and packed a few final things. And then we'd flown to Africa.

Summer became autumn and autumn became winter. Winter became spring. We kept in touch, of course. Traveling the world right now, in 2018, is in most ways easier than ever before. For all the ills of modern technology, it can do some incredible things. Phone calls, in real time, from a remote tent in the Tanzanian plains to Bob and V in the outskirts of Los Angeles. Video calls from a roadside wifi spot. Communication, cheaply and easily and rather intimately.

But pixels can only go so far. Nine months is a long time. And so weeks ago, back in Muggia actually, Lauren's parents had agreed to join us in Montenegro at the end of April. And now it is the end of April. And now they're here, looking lovely and three-dimensional and with far fewer beige pixelated boxes affixed to their faces than WhatsApp's low-res videochat display would have us believe.