During a recent sermon, our pastor preached about not living a life of “accumulating regrets.” At that moment, my husband and I glanced at each and we both knew what the other was thinking…let’s do it. Two Southwest tickets and four weeks later, we were sitting in Bar Louie in Chicago for one of the nationwide Meet, Plan, Go! events.
We had just taken the first step in planning our RTW family gap year.
There’s just something about being in a room packed full of travel junkies that is intoxicating. When my husband and I left the Meet Plan Go meeting, we were high as planes mid-flight. Unlike most “conferences,” there were no awkward conversations with strangers. You see, each participant’s name tag announced two important items of interest: the last place visited and the next on the list. Conversations flowed loosely and easily between people who’d just met. The intoxicant: Travel Talk.
“Wow, we really should have done this 15 years ago,” was my initial reaction after spending four glorious hours with people who had really done it. By “it,” I mean extended ’round the world travel (RTW). 16 years ago my life was so simple. I was mid-20’s, freshly divorced with a job and an apartment. That was it. No husband, no kids, no pets, no mortgage. Unfortunately, I drank the corporate Kool-aid and decided it wasn’t the right time for such an adventure.
Fast forward to present.
We’re a typical suburban family leading a typical suburban life. I’m now early 40’s with a 50-ish husband, three businesses between us, two middle-schoolers, a dog, a cat, and a big house. I now understand that the time is never “right.” However, the desire to experience the world is one that comes from the core of your soul. It’s either there, or it’s not. And here’s the kicker…if it’s there, it never goes away. Ever. All the stock options and vacation time and fancy kitchens won’t scratch that itch. Trust me.
Since leaving the Meet Plan Go meeting in October, we have put the wheels in motion for our RTW family sabbatical. The first step was getting our daughters on board. It’s hard enough for two people to agree on the particulars, much less four people. Although my husband and I might do it differently if it was just the two of us, it’s not just the two of us. Everyone’s vote counts. We’ve currently negotiated to start our five month tour in October 2013. One daughter insists on visiting London (Harry Potter world, anyone?), the other is interested in French Polynesia, my husband wants to explore New Zealand, and I want to return to SE Asia. We know it’s a LOT to cover in five short months, and we’re prepared to let the final version unfold along the way. Based on the wise counsel of RTW veterans, we’re opting to buy point to point tickets rather than RTW tickets. Flexibility is key.
We’re now arranging the pieces of the RTW puzzle. Remember paragraph four? It’s overwhelming as a whole, so we’re breaking it into small pieces and finding solutions for each piece.
RTW planning so far:
- Thanks to eBay and CraigsList, we are purging our excess stuff and preparing to rent out our house.
- We’ve sold one business, and have interim solutions in the works for the other two.
- We are fortunate to live in a school district that values these types of experiences. Between homeschooling resources and the girls’ teachers, we will ensure they are prepared for re-entry in the spring.
- Did I mention that one daughter is in the middle of orthodontic treatment? We have a solution for that, too. Our top-notch, well-traveled orthodontist has world wide professional connections. We’ll visit orthodontists as necessary along the way.
- Finally, our beloved pets. This is the most difficult detail of all–logistically and emotionally. We will place them temporarily with loving foster families. We’re still working on this one… (Update, August 2013: thanks to the Flanagans and Morhards, we now have temporary homes for Molly and Jingles!)
The bottom line:
For every challenge there is a work-around. It’s just a matter of identifying it. We all have a million and one reasons why the time isn’t right for a family gap year. However, I am writing this from the aisle seat of a LAN flight from Cusco to Lima, Peru. There’s nothing like hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to remind you that so many of the world’s great experiences shouldn’t be postponed until your Golden Years.