The Eat, Pray, Love Effect: Reentry is hard to do

Part 6 of a Monitor cover story about how families hit by the Eat Pray Love effect leave it all behind. But reentry is hard to do.

Courtesy of the James Family
The Eat, Pray, Love effect is sending an increasing number of families on the road around the globe. But reentry – going home again – is perhaps the hardest part of extended travel. Dani James (left, at Dead Sea spa in Israel with her friend Marth Kruger) was especially sad and emotional when her family came home at the end of a year.

The hardest part of an Eat, Pray, Love style adventure for a family may be reentry – the transition back to the routine, stationary lives these families left behind, says writer David Elliot Cohen who took a year off with his wife and three kids in 1996 and wrote “One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children.”

“All the banalities and the real-life stuff comes back. And it’s tedious,” says Mr. Cohen.

Rainer Jenss, who traveled through 28 countries with his wife and two sons for a year, says coming back to life in Nyack, N.Y. was “a bit depressing. When you leave like that, for so long, your identity gets washed away. I was no longer ‘vice president.’ I came back and realized I had to reconstruct my life,” he says.

Dee Andrews, who travelled for a year with her husband Scott and two daughters, says when she came back and moved into a house she and Scott bought on the Internet while in Spain, she realized her idea of home had changed. “I looked at that differently, that it was just a house, it doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be forever,” she says. “I feel like we have kept the sensibility of a pared-down life.”

At the end of their extended travel, says Craig James, his wife, Dani, was especially sad and emotional. Before the trip, Dani wanted her family to be put into unfamiliar situations and environments in order to stretch themselves. So Dani, more than anyone else in her family, says Craig, “really understood what this moment in our lives meant. She knew that a chapter was ending and it would never be like that again. When we came back, it’s not like everything was different. In fact, things were remarkably the same.”

But the changes revealed themselves over time, especially in how open-minded they had all become about the world and themselves.

“My children are better citizens now because of our trip, and when they talk of future plans, it always includes travel,” says Craig. “My daughter is going to El Salvador this summer to do a public service project and I might not have let her go if we hadn’t had this experience,” says Craig. “But now I know it’s a good thing, not something to be afraid of.”

Next: Some questions answered about how you can take your familiy on the road.

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