Monday, December 21, 2009

Opening Up the Kimono

I was initially reluctant to do this blog, to begin what amounts to a public journal. For one thing "unplugging" is part of the opportunity in swallowing the red pill. For another, it just feels weird to talk to the world about what’s going on in our lives (I’m clearly behind the world there, and in no hurry to catch up). But then I discovered I might be able to make some money. Trump!

Well, probably not, or at least not much money. So really it was the urging of others to provide updates and the possibility that we could influence others to do the same thing (the trip, not the blog). That part also seems a bit weird and egotistical; to presume we are doing something so remarkable, difficult, and admirable that it might serve as a model for others. We don't think so. We are far from the first to do something like this, and with kids we won’t choose somewhere too daring. Also Diana and I have traveled quite a bit before, so we don’t have quite as much of the fear of the unknown. So if this blog serves any purpose in that regard, I'd say it is more to demystify the decision than to show how to "do something bold."

Someone recently asked to hear more about our plans and "get more ideas on how to make it happen." Few good books have been written on the actual logistics (The Family Sabbatical Handbook is one). But that is really what to do to make it happen. His question was how to make it happen. So I told him it's like skydiving: the preparation is just logistics; deciding to jump is the hard part. And I can't tell you in a blog how to overcome fear. So whether you are afraid of doing something like this or not is irrelevant to simply deciding to do it. You could plan yourself right into dozens of excuses not to do it. If you've thought about it, you already have all the information you need to make the decision to do it. You just need to listen to the angel or devil on your shoulder (whichever that is for you) and decide.

So, sermon over and enough about you. Let's hear about the Scherrs.

We had talked about doing this long ago, before kids. Traveling has been one of the most singularly defining experiences of both our lives. As I've recently heard, "You cannot have a small mind and a fat passport." I won't bore you with particulars (at least not now); suffice it to say that travel for us both has been a really big, humbling, eye-opening, fat, hairy deal. I even once had the idea that when my future children graduated high school I would make them a deal. I'd pay for all the essential college expenses if at the end of undergrad they took at least one year of uninterrupted travel. Otherwise they'd have to pay me back. (Check back in twelve years on the status of that deal.)

We can’t really remember what finally precipitated the decision to jump. Probably we faced all the regular things grown-ups face--working too much; not enough quality family time; concern about raising culturally myopic kids; throwing your back out shoveling snow--and simply had this answer already in our quiver when beginning to ask the "how did we get here" and "how do we change it" questions?

Most questions we get about “how you do this” are about material things: money, jobs, house, etc. But the only material thing that I think is truly a limiting factor is debt. Debt, particularly non-equity debt, is the only real anchor on your sea of possibility. Any other consideration is individual and still just a decision, however difficult.

Our biggest difficulty in making the decision was, and is, our other family. This trip is as likely as not to increase the duration and quality of time together with some of our family. But Diana's parents live close to us, are a huge part of our lives, and are really important for our kids. And we will be separating them from each other for two important years of all of their lives, the grandparents while they are still very physically able, the kids while they are still cute and obedient. No matter how much they visit us in South America, it will not be like having them a two-hour drive away.

So you can fret all you want over the logistics--money, schooling, language, career, job, lease, mortgage, and so much more--but your only meaningful struggle in your decision will be the affect on others. And don't try to make yourself more important than you really are and use that sentence as your excuse that "work needs me." Here's a rule of thumb: consider what amazing job offer would cause you to give notice at work. Well, this is that offer, give at least that much notice at work, and you're off!

And having said all that...we ain't gone yet. So just see how easy getting out of the country is, Mr. Travelly Pants. And we'll see how honest and thorough I can be in this blog to record all that.

1 comment:

  1. John and I heard through the grapevine that you all are in Ecuador. Thanks for sending us the blog link. I'll be reading regularly!

    - Marguerite