The Eat, Pray, Love effect: Going way beyond the family vacation
Extended travel – going way beyond the family vacation – is part of a post 9/11, post Eat Pray Love effect. Families sell the house, pull the kids from school and go – looking for more togetherness, an escape from stress, and, a global education.
On the way home to New York from a London visit with cousins, Rainer Jenss’s sons, Tyler and Stefan, were raving about the city and how great it would be to grow up in a place with both Big Ben and double-decker buses. That got Rainer and his wife, Carol, thinking about traveling. Not just vacation travel, but ditching their suburban life – quitting their jobs, selling the house and cars – and traveling the world with their kids for a while.Skip to next paragraph
This is way beyond summer vacation. It's the "Eat, Pray, Love" effect, say travel experts, referring to the bestselling book by Elizabeth Gilbert, who pulled up stakes after a divorce to heal through travel. And it’s the kind of escape lots of people fantasize about, and Rainer and Carol had mused about it when he worked as an executive at National Geographic – a job that teased him with the idea of far-flung travel. But the Jensses’ careers got in the way – Carol was media director at an ad agency – and then their kids were born, and all talk of traveling stopped, supplanted by school, homework, sports, and sleepovers.
“It seemed irresponsible,” says Rainer, “like running off to join the circus.” But the idea percolated, and a year later, in 2004, it seemed possible – maybe even necessary, he says, recalling what felt like a bleak zeitgeist at the beginning of the Iraq war. Having traveled a lot as a child and professionally as an adult, he valued the open-mindedness of engaging with other cultures: “I wanted my kids to learn about the world through their own experiences.”
IN PICTURES: Way beyond vacation: the 'Eat, Pray, Love' effect
That was the start of four years of preparation: The family began living off Rainer’s salary and saving Carol’s. In July 2008, Rainer, Carol, and their two sons, then ages 8 and 11, each carrying one suitcase and a backpack – embarked on a one-year odyssey. Starting with seven weeks in national parks around the United States, they flew on to China and then to every continent except Antarctica.
The Jenss family was on the cusp of a new, growing trend among families: extended travel.