Why Travel Long-Term? An Open Letter to Loved Ones

rtw-wednesday

Jenn Miller has been on the road with her husband and four children for over five years now and is well versed in all aspects of long-term travel. Each week Jenn will bring a unique insight into extended travel, touching on topics ranging from inspirational articles to practical trip planning to family travel to education on the road to interviews with interesting people she’s met along the way.


The most asked question.

The easiest to answer. The hardest to make other people understand the answer to.

Why?

Why would we, home owners, parents of four children, members of a solid community, in our mid thirties, with a six figure income, having worked “our whole lives” to get where we are, drop it like a hot rock?

Why would we sell our house in it’s idyllic wooded setting, sell our cars, and most of our worldly goods?

Why would we walk away from everything that makes so much sense to everyone we know into only God knows what, dragging our four precious children in tow?

Why would we put our children’s educations on hold?

Why would my husband give up his “good, solid, dependable job” in favor of homelessness and an uncertain career future?

Why would we walk away from everything that makes so much sense to everyone we know into only God knows what, dragging our four precious children in tow?

Why indeed.

Our easy answer

Family Travel - cycling trip

Because we have to. We’ve worked our “whole lives” to. It has been a slowly germinating seed of an idea in our souls from the day we took our first breaths. It is our destiny.

That makes perfect sense to us.

It is the next logical step in a long series of steps: meeting one another, joining our hearts and lives, building homes, selling homes, having babies, moving cross country, working up the career ladder, saving money, changing diapers, packing tiny babies on impossibly long trips by car, plane, boat, you name it.

Placing our fourth baby’s toes in the Atlantic, Pacific and the far side of the Hawaiian Pacific before his sixth month began. Climbing pyramids on short trips to condition the kids and build endurance. Doing tooth brush drills at the kitchen sink to train them out of the habit of using potentially contaminated water. All baby steps toward an end.

How to make people understand

Is family travel for your family

That’s the tough part. How to explain that nebulous sense of “right” that pervades our souls as we move away from all that makes sense. Where to start.

How about standing over Mim’s casket with a palpable sense of her presence, even though she is certainly not there. Nothing fits in that coffin but the dusty shell of her humanity. No house. No money. No cars. No fancy titles or prestige. Nothing that has any physical substance at all… except the pony of Kahlua I tucked in next to her… the only thing I know for sure that she’ll want on the other side, and I suspect, will be conspicuously lacking at the bar in heaven.

 Nothing fits in that coffin but the dusty shell of her humanity. No house. No money. No cars. No fancy titles or prestige. Nothing that has any physical substance at all.

No one knows what goes out with us, but at best, it’s who we are: our experiences, our relationships, our memories and the heart strings we’ve tied.

That’s it. Nothing else. Then why do most humans spend their short spin around the sun on the stuff that doesn’t fit in the box?

Note to self: Invest in the eternal

backpacking kid

What do I have right at this moment that is eternal? A beautiful husband and four fabulous kids. Start there.

We have a confession to make: We don’t want our kids to be normal.

That’s why we don’t send them to school. That’s why we travel them like crazy. That’s why we let them be who they are and live their lives with as much freedom as we can muster the nerve to give them. It actually makes me break out in a cold sweat to imagine that my kids would grow up with a white-middle-class-American mindset as the full scope of their experience. There is so much more to the world, and we Americans tend to be such a narrow-minded, short sighted bunch… just ask the rest of the world, they’ll tell you who we really are.

Our goal is to raise multi-lingual, culturally adaptable and adept children who step lightly on the planet and can see both sides of a social, political, religious or national issue.

As soon as it was practical, we had our kids alone in a swirling third world city, the only English speakers within miles, ordering their own subway tokens and beginning to feel “normal” in the real, sticky, dirty ‚”rest of world” experience. May they never feel a part of the “Wal-mart Generation.”

Our goal since we had one fluffy haired, pink faced baby girl and no concept of the wild storm that was blowing three boys our way was to touch her tiny feet to the six inhabitable continents before we emancipated her to her own path.

This trip is part of that long term plan.

Our goal is to raise multi-lingual, culturally adaptable and adept children who step lightly on the planet and can see both sides of a social, political, religious or national issue.

A tall order to be sure. It seems, to us, that one way to quietly accomplish that goal is to walk them across a few continents as students of the world. We’re not just doing it for the kids though. We’re also doing it for us.

We know so many people who are hanging their hearts and their hopes and their dreams on that nebulous phase of life referred to as “retirement.” People say it all the time: “When I retire I’m going to ….” fill in the blank.

How many people never make it to retirement?

Elderly couple

Many, it seems. We know people still working full time jobs at sixty-some years old. Folks who, on a Tuesday afternoon in their forties, wake up with a debilitating disease that shatters their dreams for this lifetime. Parents who turn around to find their sweet children grown and gone, having missed all of those opportunities to do fabulous things because they were “too busy.”

How sad.

We are tangibly aware that we only get this one tiny moment in history to walk this beautiful world. How could we spend our youngest, healthiest years, the years we get to share with four humans from the next generation who will live on into a future we’ll never see, serving money? Serving things? Serving someone else who benefits more from our labor than we do? We can’t.

How could we spend our youngest, healthiest years, the years we get to share with four humans from the next generation who will live on into a future we’ll never see, serving money?

How could we spend our whole marriage running different directions, subtracting years off our lives because of the hecticness and stress? On the flip side, how many years could we add to our lives by taking a year or two (or five!) in our thirties (now forties!) to step out of the rat race and push pedals up and down for thirty miles or so every day? (Of course that was just the beginning… the road kept going, and so did we.)

After only 13 years of marriage we were feeling the stress of life taking its toll and the weight accumulated by our comfortable American lifestyle was settling around our mid-sections. This was not good. A change was necessary for body and soul. We wanted to take a year and a half of honeymoon time in the middle of our marriage, lest we become those middle aged folks who look up from their newspapers and coffee one morning and stare across the table at someone they know longer know or love.

Our goal became to spend 24-7 for fifteen months or so living one life together… no his and hers… no running two different directions for the same goal… we wanted to show our kids what it means to live and love and learn together.

There are lots of details

Lots of, “What if’s.” Lots of, “Well, have you thought about this…” to wade through, to be sure.

We spent two years planning, making lists, researching, reading, training, dreaming, and ordering our lives to allow us to cut the bow line on and set ourselves adrift in the ocean of the whole world and see where the current would take us.

It might look like we’re just walking away from a life, but we’ve considered the consequences and counted the cost… of both going and staying home… and we have to go.

For those of you who love us enough to actually worry about such things, yes, we have written our wills. We have saved enough money to do this and are investing our house money so that we won’t end up homeless on your couch with our four kids. We’ve gotten all of our shots and are taking a water filter. We’ve thought about the schooling part and they won’t come back behind, we promise.

It might look like we’re just walking away from a life, but we’ve considered the consequences and counted the cost… of both going and staying home… and we have to go.

Let BootsnAll help plan your trip

If you’re new to BootsnAll, check out the resources we offer to help plan your trip!

For more on “your why” and telling family about round the world plans, check out the following:

manifesto - defining your values





Leave a Comment

  • Jeremy Philip Becker said at 2014-02-26T06:01:50+0000: Excellent thoughts and right on par with where we're at as a family. Great post.
  • Wynne Gavin said at 2013-06-07T03:00:02+0000: Yes, yes, yes! I read the first part of your post saying "Why NOT?" to each "Why?" Nodding my head when talking about "running in different directions" while trying to live the American Dream. Walking AWAY from a life? Hell no - more like walking TO a life. Brava, bravo, bravi. Well done.
  • Jeanne Dee said at 2013-06-07T07:20:56+0000: I couldn't agree more Jennifer! Beautiful! We have been traveling the world non-stop as a family for almost 8 years, to 46 countries on 5 continents, living large on $23/day per person and it's been the best possible education for our child who is a fluent-as-a-native trilingual/triliterate in Mandarin/Spanish/English ( despite having monolingual American parents). BEST possible education and we took the risk to sell it all and retired early , soon after her birth, so we can bond and enjoy the freedom of life together and not miss a second of these precious years together.We even travel with a piano and violin so she can continue with that passion as we roam and she has dear friends around the world and is a true world citizen. We mostly homeschool, but have also enjoyed dipping into local schools with our world school method ( in Spain, China and Malaysia) for language immersion which has also enriched us with local community connections, profound cultural immersion and deep literacy in Chinese and Spanish.She just won the Mandarin elocution contest at her Chinese high school in Asia at 12...first Caucasian to win it in 63 year history of this 1000 kid high school! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOUsbPWb7eMBEST decision we ever made and no plans to stop! Soon we are going back to Tahiti and Provence to add her 4th fluent language...French.
  • Witness Humanity said at 2013-06-06T01:03:29+0000: "It might look like we’re just walking away from a life, but we’ve considered the consequences and counted the cost… of both going and staying home… and we have to go." Yup. Exactly. Beautifully written, Jennifer Miller.
  • Marci Starkman said at 2013-06-19T21:54:39+0000: It's not a conscious decision. Needing, wanting, feeling that you "have to go" is part of who you are.
  • 12 Countries in 12 Months said at 2013-06-24T21:28:23+0000: Love it. This is a lot of our own reasons for traveling long-term with our family as well. It's pretty funny how convinced some people are about the "9-5, retire when I'm old" schedule being the ultimate in life choices.
  • Kevin Kato said at 2013-07-01T19:55:13+0000: This has been on my mind recently Jennifer - all of it, everything, including the bikes. So grateful to have run into you and your family's adventures. You expound in beautiful terms on this recent post: http://journeyamerica.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/guest-post-why-americans-dont-travel/.Continued blessings. Thanks for the inspiration.
  • Kat Bedick said at 2013-06-25T19:27:47+0000: As I read your article, I felt like I was letting out a breath I've been holding for at least 6 months. This article came into my life at precisely the moment I needed it most! 2 months and 4 days until I embark on my own multi year RTW lifestyle. So refreshing to hear that someone else "gets it". Thank you for this!
  • Build Your Tour said at 2013-06-19T14:46:24+0000: Yup, you have to go! I walked away from a conventional career 15 years ago and I have spent my time and money on creating experiences and relationships. It is a joyful way to live. I got shivers when I read your line "we have to go." May your family truly ENJOY your life together!
  • Pinch Me Living said at 2013-06-10T20:18:18+0000: Jenn, all I can say is LOVE LOVE LOVE this blog. Freaking inspiring. It instantly reminds me of 4 things: 1) seeing my sister lying in her coffin and having a sort of 'smack in the face' realisation that life was not what I thought it was, and that there was something greater, destiny and passion, for me to follow and live from. 2) my all time favourite quote, from Mark Twain... "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover" 3) A great comment I read another nomadic travel blog the other day - something along the lines of people thinking that those who head off to explore the world and live this way are 'running away' from life and from the 'real world', and his response was that he's not running away from life, instead he's running head on into life! I love that! 4) That inner knowing of 'right' that you wrote about in your blog and how to explain that to someone else - it made me think about my own path and the inner knowing I have. It seems that it might only ever make sense to me, and not to someone else, because it's my path, not theirs. It's a beautiful thing to grab your inner compass and answer your own call to adventure in life, it helps others to do the same, showing them it's okay to allow themselves to do so.You're courageous and to be applauded! And if anyone needed any other indication that what you're doing is amazing, just check out the 4 gigantic smiles on your children's faces in that photo above. Beautiful!My husband and I did a similar thing - selling our home, selling all our possessions, leaving our stable careers, supposedly 'giving up' everything, but we felt like we gave up nothing, we felt like we got given everything! It's all about what value is to you, what's important to you, and all the 'stuff', status and money doesn't mean anything if you're not fully being who you are and doing what you love. That's our party motto now: BE WHO YOU ARE and DO WHAT YOU LOVE!Look forward to reading more of your posts and connecting. Bernadette :-) http://www.PinchMeLiving.com
  • The Traveling Waitress said at 2013-06-06T13:34:59+0000: THANK YOU Jen! Thank you for writing such a beautifully articulated article on behalf on all of us "wonders with no future" who prefer to experience life instead of just existing in it. I am sending this to everyone I know. Your kids are very blessed to have such open minded parents. Lets hope you start a trend. Happy Travels
  • Jo Fitzsimons said at 2013-06-06T05:01:48+0000: Jenn, you have a true skill with words. I always enjoy your stories because they remind me that my decision to travel is the right one and inspire me to continue my journey on the road away from mainstream life and into the frightening and exciting unknown.
  • Portable Professionals said at 2013-06-06T13:16:25+0000: It's true that so many people live their lives postponing their dreams until retirement. And then they find once retirement comes that their opportunities have come and gone.
  • Adventures With Pedro said at 2013-06-05T22:29:13+0000: Experiences are the only things we buy that make us richer.Every post I read of your family inspires me further. I've no wife or children to speak of at the moment, but if that's in my future you can be sure you are my road map.Thank you!
  • Debbie Graham said at 2013-06-06T04:53:23+0000: Amazing