23 days, 23 hours, 43 minutes until take-off…

Well, life has been pretty hectic lately with all the trip planning. By the time my service provider finished developing a blog template, I was in the thick of everything with no time for pithy observations on the planning process!! I had fully intended to build a journal of day-to-day thoughts and feelings about the decision making process for this trip, planning efforts, etc….but such is life! So, here it is in one go – why and how we decided to take this trip, to get this blog rolling:

I guess the simplest answer to this question is because we want to, and we can – so why not? It’s the why not bit that’s really hard to get over. In our society, at least, it seems that travel is largely something you do as an irresponsible teenager, a retiree, or during your two weeks per year of vacation time. Some of our friends already thought we were crazy the few times we took an entire MONTH off work to go to somewhere that wasn’t an all-inclusive resort! This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’d sort of had it in the back of my head that we’d “try” to take a year off when our child was about 12. I’d talk about it and Grant would say yeah that would be nice, which probably meant that we’d never get round to it.

Then there was Jessica. I took the first year off to stay home with her, and going back to work was really tough. I just wanted to spend time with my family. Quality time, too…you know – the kind when you actually get to just hang out and do stuff (or even do nothing) together without multi-tasking to get your list of a million must-do “things” completed? Rainy Sunday-afternoon kind of time. I was getting tired of just “dealing” with Jessica instead of actually enjoying my time with her.  Work was 12-16 hours a day of insanity and I was finishing off my MBA in the evenings. Grant was working odd hours and sometimes out of town. We were, in short, miserable. The most important thing in our lives – our family – was taking a backseat to jobs and mortgage. Something had to give.

So, in a particularly exasperated moment, I suggested to Grant that we sell this big stupid house that takes all this time to clean and just GO. Sell EVERYTHING and travel for a year, hang out with our kid, and just be a family for awhile. Come back and start over once we had some time to think about what we wanted our lives to look like, and with the side benefit of seeing some really cool stuff along the way. Grant’s response was ARE YOU CRAZY! What about my TV? I’ve worked so hard for all this stuff and I’m just going to throw it away? That’s entirely irresponsible and I could never do something like that!! End of conversation.

Months went by, and occasionally I would tease Grant about taking off for a year when he’d had a particularly long day at work. My work-life balance had mellowed out a lot with the completion of my MBA, and a job change. So, I was no longer as stressed and more able to spend quality time with the family. The need to “get away” wasn’t as immediate, but I still wanted to do some more traveling.

One day, we were having a serious conversation about plans for the future, travel plans, finances, etc. We had decided the house we’d bought, while we could afford it, was too much space for us and we weren’t really enjoying the features we’d thought we “needed.” During the conversation, I asked Grant what he would do if he won a million dollars. He said: “I’d pay off all our debt and go traveling.” My response was – well, we can live our “win the lottery” dream TODAY, so why aren’t we? AND, I said, we could choose whatever lifestyle we wanted when we get back. We could downsize into a condo, and have the income free to travel more, retire earlier, start a business, or whatever. That gave him pause, and he started asking questions about how we could manage it financially. Being the geek that I am, I hauled out my spreadsheet and proved to him that we could afford the trip and not be completely destitute when we returned. The ball was rolling….and a few days later he announced that he wanted to turn 40 in Australia.

To say the least, I was completely gobsmacked when Grant decided we should take the trip. By this time, I’d found a job I liked and was spending more time with the family. We had some initial conversation about maybe taking a shorter break, or waiting a few years, so I could keep my new job. But all things considered, and with the Calgary real estate market going CRAZY it made the most sense to just take the plunge!

Yes, Jessica is really young and it’s true she won’t remember most of the trip. But, this trip is about spending family time together and experiencing new things. THAT, we’ll get to do in spades! Some people feel we’re being selfish by “wasting” this trip on her when she’s so young. Well, I figure this experience will help form the kind of person she grow up to be, whether she remembers individual experiences or not. She will become more self-sufficient, she will be introduced to new cultures, new experiences, new languages, and it is my fondest desire that she discover that there is food in the world that is not made with PEANUT BUTTER!!

When all is said and done, we hope to incorporate travel into our lifestyle permanently. Provided we survive this trip, my guess is that there will be others like it in the future. As Jessica gets older, and as we grow together as a family, we will take different things away from our experiences in other countries.

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