The Eat, Pray, Love effect: Why families leave it all behind

Part 3 of a Monitor cover story about how families hit by the Eat Pray Love effect leave it all behind – selling the house, taking the kids out of school and embarking on extended global travel.

Courtesy of the Andrews Family
The Andrews family, of Boulder, Colo. decided to leave it all behind and travel – Eat, Pray, Love style – in 2008. They moved to Spain before extensively traveling, and put their daughters in a local school so they could become fluent in Spanish. Here Emma (l.) and Grace Andrews wear the uniforms of their Spanish school.

Dee Andrews wanted to “shake things up a bit” in her suburban life. A stay-at-home mom in Boulder, Colo., she may not have seemed like the type who would care to take the risks that extended-travel – Eat, Pray, Love family style – and leave it all behind.

But her sentiments are not unlike those of a growing number of families who are pulling up stakes – not to mention, pulling the kids out of school – to travel the world as a family. A variety of reasons are behind the decision to take off - work stress, desire to be closer as a family, curiosity, desire to learn a new language.

Dee and her husband. Scott, were bored living a comfortable, middle-class life, she says. So they decided to decamp for Europe in 2008. Dee was home with their two daughters, Grace and Emma, who were 5 and 8 at the time. Scott was chief executive officer of a high-tech, venture-backed company, working long hours.

“It was a stressful time in my husband’s life, and there was the monotony of the job and of our life in Boulder. We just needed a change from the routines into which our lives had fallen,” says Dee, who wanted to let go of PTA meetings, soccer practices, and volunteering at school, and “shake things up a bit.”

Before they had kids, the Andrewses had moved frequently and changed jobs every few years. In fact, Dee says, they once even discussed moving down the street “just to change something.” Then, after a particularly stressful week for Scott, the family went camping. “We were in the mountains, sitting there together, and the kids were asleep. And Scott said, ‘Let’s move abroad. Let’s just make this happen.’ And I remember grinning from ear to ear thinking, ‘Finally, we’re going to do this,’ ” she says.

They decided on Spain so their daughters could become fluent in Spanish, a language the couple felt would be useful in the US. After school ended in 2008, they sold their house and cars; they put some things in storage and gave some away.

“It was one of the most freeing experiences I have ever had,” says Dee.

In the case of Cameron and Nicole Wears, the recession was their defining moment of change Both had good jobs in Vancouver, British Columbia; a condo; and cars. Cameron worked in franchise development for 1-800-GotJunk. The recession dramatically slowed franchise sales, the company had some layoffs in 2008, and Cameron saw the writing on the wall: “I was very nervous about my situation there. At the same time, Nicole and I had always wanted to travel....

“I saw everything in the economy going south. We had money saved to buy a house, but the real estate market tanked, so we decided to just quit our jobs and use the money to travel instead. We would see if the world figured itself out while we were away.”

So he quit his job and she quit hers, running programs for young professionals at the Vancouver Board of Trade. They rented out their condo for a year and headed to South America to start their year of travel.

Just two months ago, Danielle and Greg Podlesny bought a 24-foot 1982 motor home. The RV has a bed above the driver’s compartment, bunks for their two sons, a kitchen, toilet, and shower. It’s the Podlesnys’ home for the foreseeable future. They plan to travel in it indefinitely throughout the US, in an effort to reconnect as a family.

The Podlesnys had been living in Oceanside, Calif., where Danielle has a nanny agency, Munchkin Minders, and Greg had been a general contractor. An injury a few years ago made it difficult for him to continue working, and the couple was tired of the “craziness of day-to-day life,” says Danielle. They rented out their house, and Danielle now runs her business from the road.

“We were disconnected from each other,” she says. “We wanted to be more involved with one another as a family.”

Next: “This lifestyle may seem expensive, but it certainly doesn’t require someone to be extremely wealthy to do it.”

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