In early 2009, Morgan and I made the life-changing decision to suspend our regular lives and travel with the kids around the world.
We were pretty clueless at the time. We became convinced that a year away was the right thing to do and the right time in our lives to do it—but we didn’t really know how to make it happen.
Looking back on the blur of those months—when he upended his law firm partnership, I emptied our house so we could rent it out, and we cobbled together an itinerary and an independent study plan to teach our kids 6th and 3rd grade on the road—I marvel that he and I got through the planning phase of our journey in a blind-leading-the-blind kind of way.
In hindsight, it would have helped emotionally and logistically to plug into a support network of like-minded long-term travelers. But none existed that we knew of, beyond a loose-knit bunch of family-travel bloggers we found and followed online.
Now, one does exist, and I’m writing to announce that I’m taking on an exciting role in this network to share what Morgan and I learned, and to help others realize their career-break, sabbatical or gap-year travel dreams.
The group is called Briefcase to Backpack (you might have seen the positive profile on the organization in the New York Times last year), and its founders created a nationwide event called Meet, Plan, Go! dedicated to helping people plan and execute extended travel to fulfill their aspirations and reconsider their careers.
On one night this fall—Tuesday, October 18—the Briefcase to Backpack network will host a conference in 17 cities nationwide. The event will feature panel discussions, Q&As and a chance for mingling, all for the sake of imparting information and inspiration to anyone considering extended travel. At every event will be individuals who have fulfilled their own dreams of traveling around the world, or are currently in the planning stages.
Who’s hosting the San Francisco event? Me! With lots of help from Morgan, of course. (Enhanced teamwork tends to be a byproduct of spending 24/7 with your partner on a months- or year-long trip.)
Briefcase to Backpack organized its first-ever Meet, Plan, Go! nationwide event in 13 locations last fall, and it was a big success that attracted over 1500 people. I’m in the process of securing a venue, panelists and sponsors. If you want to stay informed about it, or if you live outside the Bay Area and want to find out about a Meet, Plan, Go meeting closer to you, please do the following:
– follow the Meet, Plan, Go! developments by joining its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/meetplango
– subscribe to Briefcase to Backpack’s Career Break newsletter at http://b2b.meetplango.com/community/connect/
– contact me if you’d like to attend this event and have any ideas about what topics or questions you hope the evening will address
– buy a ticket to the event. Early bird tickets at a discounted price go on sale in May, and regular tickets will go on sale in late summer. If you try to purchase one when the early bird tickets are sold out, your name and email will go on a list to be notified when the regular ones go on sale.
I’m looking forward to connecting with others through Meet, Plan, Go to talk travel, not only because of the fascinating people the event brings together. I’m also eager to host it because I expect the event will help me and others nurture the values of a traveling lifestyle even while here at home, by which I mean an ethos of greater open-mindedness, adventure, flexibility and frugality.
For us, the 10-month journey—during which we slept in over 80 different places on five continents—fundamentally strengthened our family and marriage while expanding our minds about the world. The process of leaving everything familiar behind and stripping down our belongings to the bare essentials helped us change our “regular” lives when we re-entered home. Starting Morgan’s new business is the biggest example of that change. Other, less obvious examples of positive change include the kids’ stronger sibling bond, their enhanced self-reliance, and the greater appreciation we all have for each other, our stuff and the world around us.
If you’re like we were in 2008 and early ’09, toying with what seems like a highly impractical and expensive idea, then you probably have a substantial list of reasons not to do it. Our list of reasons not to go included: the professional and financial risk; the challenge of taking our kids out of school and placing their education in our hands for the year; the worry over putting our house and dog in the care of others; the concern that we’d jeopardize friendships; the daunting amount of time and effort it would take to pull the whole thing off; and above all else, the fear of homesickness and regret, which boiled down to the fear of change.
What, then, reassured us and kept us motivated to go for it? Most often, it was the same phrase we kept hearing from everyone we met who had done some form of extended travel, even if—or especially if—it threw their career off track. They all said the same thing: “It’s the best thing we ever did.”
So that’s what I’ll sign off telling you: It’s the best thing we ever did.