We’re an Indian-American family from Chicago that has decided to take our lives on the road (on the water, in the air, etc.) for a year. We are made of 2 adults and 2 children who believe they are adults. We love watching movies, playing board games, teasing each other, spending time with family and friends, traveling, and having adventures whether a few streets over or on the other side of the world.
We certainly get annoyed with each other, fight (sometimes yell), hurt each other’s feelings, give each other side-eye, and snuggle and then make up.
Venu has been talking about “traveling for a year,” for a very long time. Years, in fact, maybe even before she married Sendhil in 2009. Venu is more a leap then look kind of person, so it all seemed immensely doable. Sendhil is more of a “let’s keep looking and keep looking, and we can talk about leaping next time”. Right before COVID arrived in 2020, Venu and the kids (Karthik and Meera) took a 5 week trip to India, Thailand, and Singapore. She thought it was a good run-up to the year trip she had already planned in her head. Then COVID, then not only no travel, no anything else, either. In June 2022, Venu and Sendhil started to get serious about planning. (Curious about what inspired Sendhil to start measuring the leap, check out his page on our blog here.) That planning and organizing and talking and fighting resulted in an itinerary for a year of travel, a year of homeschooling our children, and a year of distancing ourselves from our responsibilities in Chicago. We don’t have everything figured out yet, but the big picture is a good chunk of time in New Zealand, Vietnam, Tanzania and Ecuador, with shorter visits to Japan, Singapore, Madagascar, and Peru. (When we’ve talked about our trip, most people ask how we chose the places. Here’s a post on that very question.)
We’re planning to be away from Chicago for the whole of 2023 (but you know what they say about plans). We left Chicago on December 25, 2022 and don’t have tickets home yet, but will be back before the second semester of school starts. (Our son Karthik had a strong preference for graduating from 8th grade with his class. (As a side note, when did “graduating” from 8th grade become a thing.))
There’s no easy answer to the “why.” Venu has been relying on and recycling the same reason for a long time – time with our kids during some of their most formative years, creating a strong family foundation together, enjoying our mental and physical capacities while we still have them, and more. If you ask Venu now, here’s what she says”
“I was pretty unhappy in junior high. Teased, bullied, confused. It wasn;t easy being a chubby Indian kid in white-dominated suburbs in the 1980’s. My world felt so small and all the players so important. Somewhere, I convinced myself that I was going to give my kids something else. Just at the time when they feel like everything you know and feel takes place inside the walls of one building, I’m going to show them that the world is a whole lot bigger.”
It never occurred to Venu that her kids may not need or want a bigger world the way that she did. Or that Sendhil may have very good practical reasons that Venu need to slow her roll.
How? This is the easiest and hardest to explain. The biggest “how” is that Sendhil and I have economic privilege and, with that lots of other kinds of privileges. Sendhil has worked in finance on and “off”, and has been careful with his finances, savings, and more. It is this foundation that has allowed us to conceive of this trip in this way. As a complement to this, we live relatively modestly – outside of our travel budget. Money, however, is not the only how. The other part of the “how” is a commitment to the idea that we’ll be better together after our year together than before. There have been times when Sendhil and I disagreed quite seriously about the approach, cost, consequences, and benefits of this trip, and, yet, I think we each felt enough of the why to figure out the how. For the 3 months leading up to our leave date, I was haggard with running around trying to get ready and, simultaneously, feeling sick to my stomach. How would we ensure that our kids got adequate schooling, how would we make sure we were able to take our medications (some of which are critical for my mental health), how would figure out what to splurge on and what to cut back on, and on and on. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t stop eating. The “how” was where the fear lay? And “how” was were we decided to be courageous and leap.
In the end, this trip is really a way of honoring the idea that our life is ours, and that each day we make choices that align (or don’t align) with our values. The year of travel is the how.