We Left Behind Our 9 to 5 Grind to Travel the World with Our Children – Living, Loving, and Learning as a Family on the Road

Our slow journey began in 2016 with an unexpected hiatus in my 20-year long corporate career (the 9 to 5 grind). At the time, the sudden loss of security was upsetting.

However, we quickly realized that this turn of events gave us an incredible opportunity to do much of what we’d always wanted to do. The big things. The bucket list kind of stuff.

For us, this meant traveling some of the best parts of the US for months straight, as a family. Camping, hiking, road-schooling our kids. We’d live, love, laugh, and learn on the road, together. It was a (long-deferred) dream come true.

Hiking in the Paradise section of Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Why Did We Wait So Long?

However, as pressing as these dreams had always seemed to us, we’d always put them off because we never had enough time or money.

(Big Hint #1: There’s never enough time or money)

But when the security blanket of a high-paying corporate job dissolved, seemingly, overnight, we quickly realized that we were on the cusp of an incredible opportunity. We could now do the things we’d put off for “some day.” Only, someday was now!

In a blur, something akin to a dream, we spent the next 90 days setting our home and our lives in order, so that we could get the heck out of dodge, and keep those improbable promises to ourselves.

A family overlooks Yosemite National Park near Glacier Point

Near Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park

Leaving the 9 to 5 grind to take a sabbatical and travel the world with our children was something we thought about for years. We’d discussed it 1000 times, on 1000 different occasions, daring to dream…

“What would it look like, if…?”

There were a few big ideas, or guiding questions,  we wrangled with. When our moment of choice came, these ideas and questions gave us guidance to contemplate our next move.

A family hikes near Devils Bathtub in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Near Devils Bathtub in the Black Hills of South Dakota

Guiding idea/question #1:
If you take a step in the direction of your dreams, the Universe will meet you halfway

This may be a paraphrase from Thoreau in Walden. Him, and a hundred other intentional creators in books from across the centuries. From self-help gurus to the Sunday pulpit, we’d heard it said, “God helps those who help themselves.”

Our experience had proven it time and again. We hadn’t been brought this far to be dropped off. This next leap of faith, however anxiety-inducing, was, in truth, one more in a long line of successful leaps of faith.

Children riding bikes along the Hiawatha Bike Trail in the Idaho panhandle

Hiawatha Bike Trail in the Idaho panhandle

Guiding idea/question #2:
What would you do if you had 6 months to live?

The impeccable Don Juan Matus once instilled in his pupil, Carlos, that Death was, indeed, a Wise Advisor.

Nothing has the potential to wake you up faster and with more clarity than a health scare. This happened to me twice in the last two years of my work, during a couple of particularly stress-inducing moments.

The scary thing about an anxiety attack is it shares most of the same symptoms as a heart attack. To this day, I can clearly remember Googling in a panic, “signs you’re having a heart attack,” and reading down the list, “Yep, yep, yep…”

Not good.

As frightening as these experiences were, they did not immediately pry me out of my stressful role in the 9 to 5 grind and thrust me onto the road with my family. They did, however, catch my attention long enough for me to reassess my long term plan.

No amount of financial or corporate success would be worth it to my wife and kids, if I sacrificed my health in the process. This was my proverbial moment of clarity.

A family overlooks Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Further, I’d once heard that in life, you should follow your bliss. And if you don’t know what your bliss is, then imagine you have six months to live. Knowing you have only six months, what thing would you most want to do? The answer to that question may lead you to your bliss.

We’d known for years the answer to that question. We’d travel the Northwest United States for for an entire summer and fall, and then use the remaining time to see family, both in the US and Europe. So, that’s exactly what we did.

A young girl performs a cartwheel in front of sea stacks along the Oregon coastline

Oregon Coast

Guiding idea/question #3:
Who can best educate our children?

Education comes from the Latin educere, meaning ‘to draw out’ the pupil. That is to say, true education is less about what you put into the student, and more about what you draw out of them.

We intuitively believed that for a single year, we could educate our children as well as public school. Maybe even better. Even informally. Even on the road.

We learned from our experience that true education can happen anywhere and at any time. It happens best as a family.

Must we always teach our children with books? Let them look at the stars and the mountains above. Let them look at the waters and the trees and flowers on Earth. Then they will begin to think, and to think is the beginning of a real education. - David Polis

Things that Make You Go Hmmm…

Guiding Idea/Question #4:
Life’s too short to not like your job…even a little bit

An executive in our company, a friend of mine, used to say, “You have to love it, at least a little bit.” Meaning that, of course the job can be overwhelming at times. And God knows, its a lot of work, in general. But if you love it – even just a little – then you can be successful.

This same fellow also used to say, “If you’re not having fun, then you’re doing it wrong.” Very true, indeed.

The truth is that by the time we arrived at our jumping off point, I hadn’t loved my job, even a little, for quite a while. And I certainly wasn’t having fun.

A family ascends a long staircase at Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco

Point Reyes National Seashore

Let’s clarify, for posterity. I invested 19 years of my life working for a company that valued its employees as Partners in the business.

The company believed in personal and professional development, hired the best and empowered them to own their role, made the engagement of the working Partners the ground from which everything else flowered, and is known worldwide for its unique, attractive, and value-inducing corporate culture.

This was a company I was proud to work for and likely would have continued working for until I retired…

…or, until something else happened, which it did.

A year shy of my 20th work anniversary, the division I worked for became part of a corporate merger. If you’ve ever been through a corporate merger, you may have a sense for what I’m talking about. Let’s just say, it wasn’t on the bucket list.

We put our best foot forward and got the job done for two more years. Despite the challenges (and there were plenty), the thing that kept me going was the loyalty of my people. I was the boss in Albuquerque and I had an amazing team, whom I love, even now.

But eventually, enough was enough. And when that time came, we knew exactly what the plan was going to be (see #’s 1-3 above).

And so, we took off, leaving the 9 to 5 grind behind.

We loaded our Toyota Sequoia with everything we thought we’d need (plus more) for 5 months on the road, living and learning as a family unit. We would explore 30+ national parks and monuments, encounter wildlife we couldn’t imagine, make friends we’ll never forget, and experience a journey so profound we feel compelled to share it with you here.

Gold 2006 Toyota Sequoia in Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah

Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah

And our journey continues…

Every new experience builds on culture, learning, friendship, and a sense of place. We live in the moment (sometimes) and follow our hearts. We’re grateful to experience our lives in a way too few do.

We hope our stories from the road – from our hiatus – will inspire you to contemplate your own journey. Because whether you realize it, or not…

…You are on a journey. And how far you go will be up to you.

Happy reading! We hope you enjoy our blog. Please connect with us by commenting, sharing, or making a suggestion about what else you’d like to see and hear from us.

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