The Cini’s: hitching a ride around the world. All photos: Joe Cini

Happy to be back in The Toronto Star today with a story that has nothing to do with television.

My hockey playing pal Joe Cini is a teacher with the Dufferin Peel Catholic school board. Until, this season, he’s been the regular goalie on the Valley Hawks of the Brampton Teacher’s league.

Joe planned a “four-over-five” for 2019-2020; an option for teachers to spread their salary over five years while sitting one year out. Then he and his wife Charo, a Toronto nurse, embarked on the adventure of a lifetime: taking their three school-age children half way around the world on an ambitious, year-long backpacking trip.

The trip took them straight south through Mexico, Central America and South America and then on across the Pacific to New Zealand, Australia and up through southwest Asia. It was supposed to end in China with a visit to Shanghai Disneyland — a reward to the kids for being such terrific troopers.

By the time the clan got to Laos this March however, it was clear that the world was rapidly changing. Borders were shutting down due to COVID-19. The Cini’s had hours to spare just to scramble back to a safer retreat in Thailand.

The Cini’s have seen quite enough of the Monopoly board that came with the AirB&B they’ve been sequestered in since the end of March. “Dear God,” Joe told me, “If I play another game of Monopoly, I might go crazy!”

They lucked out, finding a two-bedroom, three bathroom AirB&B villa that even had its own private swimming pool. Still, it has literally been no day at the beach. “Right now, the island is totally locked down,” says Cini, noting that local officials mean business when it comes to enforcing orders for citizens to stay at home.


“Imagine guards patrolling check points along the border between Mississauga and Etobicoke,” he says. Masks are now mandatory out in public. Hand sanitizers and a temperature check are the rule before entering a drug or grocery store.

There are currently no flights in or out of the region. The lock down is currently being extended two weeks at time, with little talk of things returning to normal. “The government is determined to put the pedal down,” says Cini, who gets much of his local news from Thaiger, the local island newspaper.

Follow this link to the story on-line or check it out today in The Saturday Star. Want to continue following the Cini adventure? This link will take you to “Joe From TO, Cini’s blog about the trip, which comes with a full, interactive map detailing all their many stops along the way.

The Cini’s in Peru: now that’s a dune buggy

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