Businessman Working at Desk in Water

School. Work. And Traveling Forever.


Thinking back, there were really only 2 great days of every school year.

There was the first day of school.  This was the day when life started again.  When friends returned from a 3 month hiatus with new clothes, new haircuts, and new personalities.  This was the day when kids and adults of all ages realized just how much can change in 3 months.  Old friends came back to life with new looks and new stories.  School was a welcomed change after a long time away.

Then, of course, there was the last day of school.  This was also the day when life started again.  When you left your friends, your routine, and your homework and headed off into the unknown.  Summer was a break, but also a forced leap of faith.  Who would you meet?  What experiences would you have? And wouldn't it be great to share them with everyone a few months down the road.

School wasn't always great, but the opportunity to change that it offered was amazing.  New classrooms, new teachers, new summer jobs, new seats, new classmates, new teams, new camps, new experiences, and all of this every year of our lives.

And then of course school ends and we "grow up".  Some of us begin working desk jobs that won't change for the next for 40 years.  Some of us buy homes that we hope will stay in the family for generations.  We surround ourselves with the same people and places.  We develop a new routine.  We forget about summer vacation.  We forget about change.  And as time passes there seems to be many fewer stories of summer enlightenment to share.

The adult world most of live in is not a big fan of change.  It doesn't want to have new offices, bosses, or co-workers.  It hates summer vacations and relocating.  And it sure doesn't want you swapping desks all the time.

But who says it has to be this way?


A while back I found this story about a prominent businessman/designer, Stefan Sagmeister, who decided that every 7th year he would shut down his offices and travel the world.  His purpose in traveling was not to merely to take a break or vacation, but instead to stimulate his creativity.  He wanted to find new worlds that would help him generate new ideas.  And then, after a year or so, he would return to work and start fresh.  His slate would be clean and his canvas full.

People like Stefan are unique in their approach to business and creativity, and yet the approach Stefan has taken is one we were all raised on.  As kids we locked into routine and did our work, and then we left to refresh, grow, and change, only to come back and share what we had learned.

Why did we ever stop this process? 

Why as working adults to we insist pushing through the monotony and creative lulls in our life instead of just stepping outside of ourselves for a little perspective?

Why The Goal Is To Travel Forever

I have tagged our journey, for better or worse, as the "Quest to Travel Forever".  To be clear, this doesn't mean that we wish to be on a train for the rest of our lives or crossing borders every week.  It doesn't mean we never want to settle down or own a home or send the kids back to school.  To be so absolute about traveling forever would be pretty much the same as committing to an office chair for the next 40 years, and no one here wants that.

What we desire is the ability to travel forever.  The ability to change.  The ability to step away and find some perspective. 

I can't imagine our situation is much different from the rest of you out there.  The only people I knew before I started this website were pretty much tied to a few weeks vacation each year and the hope of a Christmas bonus, but for me that is just way too boring a concept to attach to my life.  I need my summer vacations.  I need my 7th year off to get away.  I think we all do.

Obtaining and developing a school-like routine as an adult requires a lot of time and effort, especially when you're all ready locked into to the adult world, but if we learn how to travel forever and change our ways of working and playing, than surely we can settle down a bit at some point and still have the ability to travel when we want.

We are looking to re-educate ourselves through the change that travel brings.  We are going back to the beginning.   We are re-learning how to change classes, environments, friends and teachers.  We are going to try and travel forever.  Learn a new system.  Forget the Christmas bonuses.  And see what perspective that road brings.  And maybe someday we can settle back down and have the ability to take summers and winters off to travel the world.

OK Escapists, that’s it for now, but make sure you come back and check in on our progress in our quest to travel forever.  We promise we’ll put everything we’ve got on the table for you.  If your really looking to plan an adventure, take a look at our 52 Steps To Travel.

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'School. Work. And Traveling Forever.' have 17 comments

  1. November 28, 2011 @ 8:40 am Jenn Miller

    This is a great post Justin. I really like the concept of life consisting of a series of periods of focused work or study and then periods of open-ended adventure. This is how our life has settled out, in the end. We spend a few months in one place, learning, stretching, growing, working... then we take off on bikes or trains or chicken buses to move forward a while.

    You capture the kernel of the concept of location independence perfectly: it's not about never settling down, it's about having the freedom to move, or settle down as the wind blows you, according to YOUR schedule and YOUR dreams.

    Keep going. :)


    • November 28, 2011 @ 10:05 pm Justin

      I think 50/50, half your time settled and half your time traveling is ideal Jenn. Now settling down we know we can do, that is easy. Traveling is something we have to learn, so why not jump in with 2 feet. if we give ourselves enough time to learn the ropes, hopefully we can achieve the balance at some point


  2. November 28, 2011 @ 6:08 pm Val in Real Life

    Another great post Justin. I read an article not long ago about habituation and our need for change in order to thrive. I can't seem to find it but what you've described here fit perfectly with how a change rejuvenates you. I'd never considered the "school changes, work/life doesn't" conundrum before.

    And as much as I want to make lifestyle changes for my own benefit, I want even more to show my kids there are many paths you can take. I want them to know they have options which is something I didn't realize I had until a few years ago.

    Cheers to breaking the mold my friend!


    • November 28, 2011 @ 10:09 pm Justin

      Options are great aren't they? Nothing like growing up and feeling you have a choice - that is key!

      Don't get me wrong, it can be scary sometimes to break the status quo, but that doesn't mean it is wrong or difficult, it's just different. And sometimes different is good.


  3. November 29, 2011 @ 7:35 am S King

    Great post! I really like "re-educate ourselves through the change that travel brings".
    When I was in college, I went on a foreign term to travel throughout South America. It happened to be the most impact-full experience of my entire 4 years at college. It changed my perspectives on everything, some slight, some big and some that I didn't realize until now. It's not ironic that I have lived in Costa Rica and now Belize. It's purposeful that I am raising my children in a multitude of cultures, not just one.

    We 'Slow Travel", which means that we park it for 6 months or longer at a time in a country. We get to know the locals, culture and food because we live it...not just visit it. And that is our goal in travel. I don't just want to 'see' things and 'eat' their food. I want to embody the entire experience as my own.

    You're going to have one wild ride...welcome to life!


    • November 30, 2011 @ 9:17 am Justin

      Thanks Sabina. What you speak of as "life" is what I am seeking. I want to embrace other ways of living. Really get to know the culture. Thanks for the vote of confidence!


  4. November 30, 2011 @ 12:17 am Jo

    Great post, Justin. I think so many are stuck and see no way out of their rut. I was talking with a pedicurist last month and asked her if she liked where she lived. She said "no", so I asked her where she would like to live. Her answer was Chicago. She didn't say why she chose to live in her current town, it's possible she has family responsibilities or some other reason, but all I could think of was how sad it was to not be happy where you live and not be able to change it. I'm pretty sure they need manicurists in Chicago. I kind of want to go back and encourage her to be bold and follow her dreams. That and get another pedicure. ;-)

    I honestly think a downside of traditional schooling is that you learn to put up with miserable situations because you have no choice. Boring teacher? Mean kids? Maybe next year you'll be assigned a different teacher with nicer classmates, in the mean time, just learn to live with it. I think it has fostered a sense of hopelessness for many that you can't change your lot in life. I'm enjoying watching you extricate yourself from your current situation in order to live the life you want to live. You're an inspiration.


    • November 30, 2011 @ 9:20 am Justin

      Good points Jo, and thank you!

      I think we all get stuck, kids and parents. Sometimes it does seem like we have no choice, but of course we always do. You clearly have to overcome some personal hurdles to get to the point to where you KNOW you have a choice. It sure took me a while!

      I say go back. Tell her she has a choice. Do it. It might change her life!


  5. November 30, 2011 @ 10:35 pm Paige

    Wow - I like the 7th-year-off plan. But I'm not sure I'm patient enough to wait 7 years. Or if I even have faith that I'll be around in 7 years. That's why we're going out next year, I guess! Hitting the road for as long as we can. So exciting!


    • December 1, 2011 @ 9:24 am Justin

      I feel the same way Paige. I am very rational and logical at heart, so this type of thing doesn't come easy for me. But part of my logical side says there is a great big world out there and it is stupid to waste my life behind a desk or on the couch.

      I applaud you for doing it. Nothing to lose by going!


  6. December 6, 2011 @ 3:28 am Amy

    Three months school holidays! lol - only in America!!! :) Here we have 6 weeks over summer!


  7. December 6, 2011 @ 4:23 am Jarrad

    We travel for a few months, then work for a few months. It turns out that we end up working about half the year. It's a great balance. Except that Amy is about to have a melt-down because she hates the pharmacy she is currently working at. Six weeks only, though, and then we'll move on to the next place.


    • December 6, 2011 @ 10:19 am Justin

      I love the on/off thing you guys do. I think as adults we need that. Everyone needs a break. It's a nice system you guys have going as long as the job placement works out!


  8. December 6, 2011 @ 10:24 am Tracey

    Jono, my 10 year old,asked me yesterday to explain why I'm not on holiday when he is off school. I had to explain (again) that he gets 12 weeks leave per year from school and I only get 4 weeks from work. He still cannot understand how that works! At least this time I was able to say that in 2012 we'll have our 52 weeks off together!


    • December 6, 2011 @ 11:59 am Justin

      I can't wait to meet you guys. So happy for you. I was just walking through the kitchen last night mumbling about work and then I said to Heidi, "Hey, you realize if we stick it out that this time next year we will have enough cash to be free with the kids for almost 2 years!" Man, what a feeling.

      I don't blame you or your son for not getting it. It's a crazy system. It's hard to "get" crazy sometimes.


  9. July 31, 2012 @ 9:53 am Granola Talk: Gather No Moss »

    [...] Justin at The Great Family Escape posted School. Work. And Traveling Forever. yesterday and I’ve been noodling on it quite a bit since then. What’s been on my mind [...]


  10. November 22, 2012 @ 5:22 pm amelia

    hello Im from argentina and want to know how it works,want to travel and improve my english,Im 55 years old,it's possible?


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