Isn’t it a bummer how so few families go on real, honest-to-goodness adventures nowadays? It seems as if so many of us are content to have a home, a car, 2.5 kids and a microwave oven, all the while repeating the same routine every day. We wake up, go to work, come home, have dinner, go to sleep and do it all over again.
And somewhere in between we turn on the television and watch someone else living life to the fullest on Discovery or the Travel Channel.
Indeed, to many the “American Dream” means a quest for more square footage, upgrading a 3-Series BMW to a 5-Series and scoring the newest iPhone. Yes, to many it also means getting an even bigger flat-screen LCD TV to watch someone else’s adventures on.
Now, if all of that is what you truly want, so be it. More power to you, as they say.
But here’s the thing. In our work at dating coaches, we often ask people what’s on their “bucket list”. Those lists are almost invariably dominated by travel-related desires.
Yet, so few people ever prioritize travel over material possessions. It always seems like money is better spent on the stuff we perceive ourselves to need. Weirdly, however, studies and surveys demonstrate over and over that within ten years of spending money on material items we’ve long since deprioritized most of what we purchased, if not completely forgotten about it all or used it up.
Meanwhile, we almost always remember experiences we spend our money on with fondness, seldom with any regret. What’s more, regardless of what turn one’s finances take, no debtor can repossess memories or experiences.
That’s why for us, as for an increasing number of others, a life of adventure traveling the world has become the 21st century “American Dream”. Sitting in a cubicle all day for the sake of supporting a big mortgage and a car payment just doesn’t cut it anymore.
But weirdly, it’s almost as if you have to chase the old-school version of the “American Dream” for a while to figure that out.
Sure, single people and childless couples tend to do the backpacker thing for a season, scrambling to see the world on a self-perceived deadline. After all, conventional wisdom (whatever that is) dictates that parenthood and career ambitions loom on the horizon…at which time all of the global gallivanting will have to come to a screeching halt.
It’s no wonder that getting married, landing one’s “dream job”, and (gasp!) starting a family almost invariably causes most couples to blindly assume that all the adventures must come to an end…especially international ones.
Not long ago I was on a panel with three other dating coach types. I listened as all three matter-of-factly opined that people should cross as many items off their bucket list and see as much of the world as they can when they’re young, because everyone knows that after you’re married all of that fun and adventure comes to an end.
Serendipitously, I was given the gift of going last. When my turn came I simply said that we hadn’t apparently learned that lesson yet. After all, I can personally vouch for having crossed more items off my bucket list and seen more of the world since marrying Emily and having children than I had in all my years previous to that.
No kidding. We’ve actually come to fully believe in our hearts that being “married and buried” is NOT a foregone conclusion.
One day a number of years ago Emily and I got to thinking. We realized that back in the 1800s when settlers moved west every day was an adventure. And of course the kids were along for the ride. Even nowadays, much of the world lives in a perpetual adventure. Hang out with the Maasai in East Africa or the nomads in Mongolia, for example, and it’s obvious.
Really, it’s only those of us in post-modern suburbia who have weirdly chosen to wrap ourselves in a cocoon of perceived “safety”.
The question we asked was how “safe” it was to live in ignorance of what other cultures are like, do so much sitting around, breathe so little fresh air and eat so much processed, packaged faux food. Did really LIVING, for once, necessarily have to be dangerous? Or could it be that in the final analysis it could actually be safer?
After all, “adventure” doesn’t have to be death defying. Really, by definition it only has to be experientially exciting and/or unusual. The bold, risky, dangerous part is optional…and can definitely be scaled.
Really, the meaning of “adventure” is quite subjective. For example, hiking the Grand Canyon really isn’t all that life-threatening, as long as you aren’t a complete idiot. But nobody’s going to deny that it’s an adventure.
The same goes for climbing around in hollow giant sequoias, crossing streams at Big Bend, seeing the northern lights at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, hot-air ballooning in Cappadocia or even driving around the Monaco Formula One circuit in a rent-a-car.
All are reasonable, attainable adventures…provided you’re simply willing to get your butt up off the couch, reallocate some funds accordingly, bite the bullet and GO have them.
Ultimately, we did what very few families do. We stopped looking for a bigger house and started budgeting more for travel. And we’re not talking about driving a few hours south to Padre Island and lying on the beach. Everyone got passports and suddenly the entire globe became our playground.
Family and friends thought we’d lost our mind. Yet, as soon as we returned they all wanted to know how it went, what happened, what the food and the people were like.
One “trip of a lifetime” turned into another. By the time our son hit Kindergarten last year, he had been more places and done more cool stuff than the rest of his class combined, even if he wasn’t driven to school in a Jaguar.
Instead of buying a new Audi, we did something that was utterly contrary to every fiber of how I was raised as a child in Preppy Land. We bought a gently used 26-foot travel trailer and proceeded to run epic Griswold-length road trips every summer.
It’s been a breathtaking experience to see almost every national park we could name off the top of our heads and live to tell about it, all while spending barely more than we would have were we at home eating at Whataburger, going to movies and waiting for shipments from Amazon.
Finally, we passed the point of no return.
We truly gave any semblance of conventional middle-class “safety” the middle finger.
We took our four-month old daughter to India.
More people than ever, including virtual strangers, thought we were stark, raving nuts. But hey, the baby was breast fed, we “wore” her in a baby harness the whole time and by God we wanted to go to India.
Like our other adventures, it all worked out. We were enriched as human beings in a way material possessions simply cannot.
So, is this sort of lifestyle for you and your family? We can’t answer that question.
But what we can do is wish from the bottom of our hearts that reading this blog will empower you to go on family adventures, even if it starts at your nearest State Park. Get out, breathe the oxygen, have some fun and discover the exhilaration!
But fair warning: The next thing you know your budget for new carpet may end up paying for tickets to Cusco, Peru instead. Just sayin’.
Be Good and Have Fun,
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