How and why one Colorado family left it all behind and found what mattered most.
All while traveling "Children Class".
There are two classes of travel: First class, and with children.
- Robert Benchley
He's right, you know; there is no posh, no pamper, no true relaxation when traveling with children.
When we grownups travel or walk into an office or a sit in a pew or stand in an elevator looking anywhere but at someone else, it is because we have been trained how to behave in certain situations or settings. Children, haven't a clue. And so when traveling they are as exasperating, frustrating, entertaining, and exhausting as any other day of their lives.
What is different with travel is that we grownups finally have the time to be properly trained by them. For example, when children take a break from study or chores or other responsibilities, they do not seek out a hammock with a Mai Tai Kool-Aid with a wee umbrella sitting close by. No, they seek play, which is really just work with a different purpose. We grownups tend to think that proper relaxing is the complete cessation of all physical exertion (save for waving down the pool boy for just one more Mai Tai). Relaxation, our children continually try to teach us, is not rest but the freedom to pursue your own purpose.
Children couldn't care less about physical rest, and when they do, they usually settle down to something calm yet mentally engaging and creative, like drawing or building (or for boys, wrecking). And when children are active, there is no relaxing for parents (until after that second Mai Tai).
In order to put into practice, then, what our children have been trying to teach us all these years, my wife, Diana, and I decided to take a 14-month family sabbatical in Ecuador, to travel Children Class. We quit our jobs, stored our stuff, rented our house, and moved to Cuenca, Ecuador. The kids attended local school, we all learned Spanish, and we spent much of our non-school time traveling and discovering Ecuador and its people. We played and learned. We engaged and studied (Salsa lessons, Internet marketing, Ecuadorian cooking).
That's the short version.
We have since returned home but have not returned to our old jobs. Diana is now an independent marketing and communications consultant. I am writing and have also started a website to inspire and help other families to take their own sabbaticals. Everything we do now is designed to remain independent, flexible, and mobile. Our time away not only inspired that life change, it gave us the time to learn how to do it. (By the way, here's how to do it—just do it! We've discovered all the important learning comes after you've begun anyway. Everything before that is just to give you the confidence to do it.)
So here are 10 reasons to take your own family sabbatical:
1. Spend more and better time together as a family.
2. Get to know yourself and your world by leaving the life you know for a bit and viewing it from the outside.
3. Give your children a rare and valuable education beyond the school walls and their usual borders.
4. The chance to reinvent yourself. Find a new and better career, income, or skill. Learn guitar, painting, or cooking.
5. Looks great on a resume (if you ever need one again). Creatively reference the skills you needed or learned—creativity, improvisation, bold action, planning, budgeting and financial management, independence, self-sufficiency, flexibility, list making.
6. It's a down economy; why struggle to make money? Go live somewhere less expensive and come back when the money hose turns back on.
7. Learn another language.
9. Liberate your life from stuff.
There is no perfect age for the kids to do this. It will not get easier if you wait. It is not as difficult as you imagine. But, it is more amazing than you imagine.
And the Buddhists might be wrong—this may be the only life you get.
Matt Scherr is the editor of Radical Family Sabbatical and more importantly, married to Diana Scherr.
Together, they parent two world wanderers, Piper and Duncan.