The hardest point in all these years was the moment of making the decision. And, looking back, that wasn't hard at all. Occasionally the waiting was been tough, but we managed. Like parents going through a pregnancy, you need time to prepare for this baby.
Someone might think that we are changing our lives dramatically and we are going on a once in a lifetime adventure. What if we don't make it? What if we fail?
How should we define failure? Asking ourselves one day at lunch, we got various answers. The children were very specific: if we don't go everywhere we want to, if we don't last as long as we plan, if we don't make it to Romania in December 2012 and so on. From a scientific point of view failure is as important as success. Maybe a first step in defining failure should be clarifying what is success. Let's do that. Again the kids gave their answers. Maria: "spanking a good college essay", the other kids said something funny too. I said: "To take off." My wife replied: "We left long ago, our minds are long gone!" We got stuck. How can you define success if you don't set a goal? We had a goal when we started to plan for this, I think we did, but it's not that clear anymore. We want to get out and experience the world. But the world is too big and at best we'll only get a glimpse of it. We don't have a theme. We talked over the last 30 months about various possible themes. We could have made a bucket list. We didn't do that. Then why do we go? "To see the world before they destroy all the trees!" Ileana, our future rockstar, quoted Bon Jovi: "Gonna live when I'm alive, I'll sleep when I'm dead." Personally, looking how we evolved since we started this, I am happy. If we wanted a trip like this to open our minds and get us ready for anything that'll come, we accomplished that. We wanted to get closer and stronger, we've done that too. We wanted a pet project, just for us? We have it. We wanted to help the children mature a bit and make them feel special? Let's not go there. In the end it's not about success or failure, it's just living our lives. And in that, we cannot fail, we've already succeeded. Talk about lack of pressure.
We started planning for this trip because we wanted to travel, we knew other people made it and - if they could - we surely can. We actually never met any family that traveled the world. In Galapagos we met a traveler that went around the world in 3 weeks, with 4 or 5 plane stops. "It was cheaper that way." We don't know anybody who met anybody that did a world tour like we plan. And still we started this knowing that others did it, we read their blogs, exchanged some emails. Everybody we talked with is very excited about what we'll do. But is there anything special after all?
I admire people who do things that I could never do. Like saving the vacation for a whole year and spending all those three weeks in pajamas watching all the recordings on the DVR. I could never do that, I need to go, and so it's the rest of my family.
One of the most enlightening experiences of my life happened a couple of weeks before turning forty. Talking with a friend about our upcoming vacation in Peru, I said very happy "We are going to be in Machu Picchu on Ileana's 40's birthday!" The answer blew me away: "What's Machu Picchu?" I always wanted to go there. I met my wife when we were 21 and I shared this dream with her. She also always wanted to go to Machu Picchu. We didn't talk much more about this. We knew we will make it one day, no question. Somehow over the years I ended up thinking that every person in this world wants to go to Machu Picchu. I am sure I knew that some people just struggle for water or food day by day, but the rest of the world wants to go to Machu Picchu. It turns out that I was wrong, some people didn't even know about it. Learning from this experience I wasn't as surprised when I learned that not everybody wants to go around the world. For me, it is another thing that has been there forever. But there are many other people who want this, some of them resigned to the fact that they will never make it. Some of them unsure that they have what it takes. Probably everybody overestimating the cost and the challenges of such enterprise. It's simple. And it's not as expensive as people think (come on, 1 million $?), a backpacker would do it for 6 to 12 thousands and a typical family for a little more.
Imagine a world in which it is normal to do a year long round the world trip. Professionals in any field, would take their children out of school and travel for a year. In the same way as they take their kids to ballet or scouts or summer camp. It is expected from normal parents and everybody does it. The only debate is how old should the kids be.
You give your employer two months notice that you will take your year off. No problem, your job will be there when you come back. They would love to give you part of your salary, but unfortunately they cannot afford right now. They will give you one month of free medical insurance, but because you don't need it, they'll convert it in a year of travel insurance (and they'll save some money!). You register at the post office and the important mail is send to your friend. The junk mail is returned marked "RTW" and the spammers respect that and give you a break. Your government sends you a special stamp for your passport that says you are doing your RTW. All countries would honor that and waive their visa requirements. Since you're on your RTW, you are not a terrorist and you are not looking for work. No visa needed period.
You let your children's schools know that your kids are taking their "round the world year." They send you the international student card and a link for discounts. They put your kids travel info on their internal website and alert you when another student is traveling in the same area. You call your phone company and they waive the roaming fees on your iPhone for a year and hold your home phone number until you return. You call your doctor and she knows what immunizations you need and will have them ready for you in a few days. You still have medical insurance and it pays for that. American Airlines competes with Delta for the best deals on RTW fares with special financing for 36 months, just like buying a big screen TV. Your credit cards waive foreign transaction fees and since you have a great credit score, they will have no minimum payments and no interest for your year. Of course, you exercise the clause in your mortgage contract that allows you to suspend payments for the house during your RTW year. You return your car to the dealer and they will drive it weekly for you when you're gone. They'll take good care of it and you'll only have to pay some for the inspection and the fuel. You might have to postpone remodeling your kitchen or updating the hardwood floor design.
So what's left to do? You'll still need a few things and Ileana covered that in her post. You'll have to keep a blog to help prepare other families and return their emails asking for advice and information. You'll read other blogs and learn from them. After you come back, you'll continue to read and remember and re-live your memories.
It's not a fantasy, there is a world like that out there. Becoming part of it is a simple mental process. Just cross a fine line and redefine what "normal" is. The technical details don't matter anymore. I followed Sarah and her family for her year and she graciously replied to my emails. She even wrote a post about that! I now follow Ms. Blab and she helped me secure the apartment she was renting in Kyoto. When she left, she wrote to me "It's your turn now!" I replied "Yes, it's our turn now!"
It can be your turn next. The banks, the employers, the schools and the governments can join in whenever they want, but who cares about them anyway?