The Eat, Pray, Love effect: Can my family leave it all behind?

Part 7 of a Monitor cover story: Families and travel experts explain how to leave it all behind when the Eat, Pray, Love effect hits.

Courtesy of the Andrews family
The Andrews family depart their hotel in Mohammedia, Morocco. Dee and Scott Andrews, of Boulder, Colo., are like a growing number of families hit by the Eat, Pray, Love effect: They left it all behind– pulling up stakes, not to mention, pullling the kids out of school – to travel the world as a family. At left, the family embarks astride camels on a camping trip in Morocco.

This Q&A is the last of a seven-part Monitor look at several famillies who have been hit by the Eat Pray Love effect – pulling up family stakes to leave it all behind and embark on extended global travel.

Can you safely leave your job to travel?
If you have desirable skills and experience, you should be able to find something else if your company can’t hold your job for you, says Steven Miranda of the Society for Human Resource Management. If your skills are average and you aren’t viewed as indispensable, he says, you take a huge risk walking away from that paycheck. Leaving your job to travel could also be viewed by a potential employer as reflecting a lack of commitment.

What about taking kids out of school?
Most families who leave on extended travel “road school” their kids using an established homeschool curriculum or by working out an arrangement for independent study with their child’s current school. Ann and Doug Brown used the Thomas Jefferson homeschooling program. Rainer Jenss says road schooling for his kids was “90 percent field trips and 10 percent schoolwork.” Dee and Scott Andrews put their kids into an international school while in Spain, then spent four months traveling and schooling their kids, carting around textbooks.

How do families save for a trip like this?
Slowly and diligently. It generally takes at least a year, usually more. Betsy and Warren Talbot saved for two years. The Jenss family took four years to save $150,000, socking away as much of Carol Jenss’s salary as possible. Some families sell their houses and live off the equity. Others, like the Browns, start a business wherever they land.

What is reentry like upon returning?
Long-term travel coach Tara Russell says it’s often hard for people to find their stationary lives meaningful: "They miss that feeling of wonder they have on the road, of being aware of every moment.”
Parents say the transition back to regular school for their children generally took just a few weeks. Craig James says that for his daughter the problem wasn’t academics but time management, since she had been doing her schoolwork in short spurts, rather than every day.
Many of the parents interviewed for this story changed their profession when they got back. Dani James became an English as a Second Language teacher; Rainer became an entrepreneur.

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