By Amanda Beck
Welcoming the New Year was a bit lonely for the Yorba Linda Fox family -- because they did it in New Zealand, about 21 hours ahead of the rest of us.
But they closed out 2004 with a few other big bangs: sky diving over New Zealand, swimming in Antarctica and drifting through a cave lighted by glowworms.
"This is so unbelievable. We have done four months, but we're not tired of traveling," Barbara Fox, 52, said in a phone interview from Melbourne, Australia.
With her husband, Roland, 56, and their son, Austin, 12, the Orange County family is in the midst of a yearlong jaunt that will take them to every continent around the globe.
Last fall, the trio packed their backpacks, sold the family cars and home and decided the time was "now" to see life without regret. Since then, they've seen one-quarter of the world.
The Foxes were careful to shower with their lips utterly sealed in South America -- where they were conscious of water-borne germs.
During their October and November stay, they also peeled their own fruit and washed salads in bottled water. But amid this inconvenience, the Foxes found the continent to be one of beautiful extremes: ancient ruins and jagged landscapes.
In particular, Barbara Fox was struck by the Incan people, who won't let poverty stand in the way of extravagant daily dress. Above shoeless feet, they wear smiles and clothes of a party, she said.
"What they wear is like a costume," Fox added. "Very colorful, big, huge, full skirts and gold beads. And they wear their costume every day."
Farther south, in Chile, the family hiked in a Patagonian forest where they felt all four seasons in one hour.
In a place called Torres del Paine, the mountains look like "spires" above mirror lakes, she said. "We had snow; we had rain. We had crystal-clear blue skies."
The end of the Earth. The place where the sun never sets. This is the place we call Antarctica and what Barbara Fox calls "out of this world."
In December, the Foxes spent about four days there -- but only after they spent three days on a boat crossing the Drake, a channel that separates Argentina from Antarctica.
Amid rough seas, they used their elbows to hold down the dinner silverware and listened to experts on the wildlife and geology of Antarctica.
"We saw 24-hour daylight," said the mom, recalling that the family was there near the summer solstice.
"You see the sunset and the sunrise practically in the blink of an eye. You stay up all night because you don't know when to go to bed."
On the boat, the passengers held a contest: Champagne for those who spotted the first iceberg. Afterward, everyone gazed at these floating monoliths, sculpted by wind, rain and the ocean for thousands of years.
"It's kind of like looking at clouds," Fox described the icebergs. "You picture different things."
New Zealand is the land of adventure, and the day after Christmas, Austin went skydiving with his older brother, Dallas, a UCLA student who joined the family while on break.
"It's really cold," Austin reported. "It feels like your hand's out the window, if you're going down the highway."
This is also where the family spent Christmas, exchanging "trinket gifts," such as stamps and slippers, which would weigh down their travels.
"Every thing is an ounce, and every ounce leads to pounds. And every pound leads to pain," Barbara Fox said.
Things the Foxes have already sent home include a set of solar panels, once thought necessary for powering the laptop for Austin's schooling.
Now the family is eyeing its water filter, so far unused, though it might stay onboard -- at least through India.
When asked if they're tired, Barbara's reply is whole-hearted: "One year is not going to be enough. ... We already feel as if we've missed so much."