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





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