One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey with Our Children by David Elliot Cohen......love, love, love this book! Published in 1999, David Elliot Cohen is a successful businessman (he co-published the "Day In the Life Of" series of coffee-table travel/photo books), with a wife & 3 kids in suburbia. Around his 40th birthday, he starts to feel uneasy about his life & longs for the carefree, vagabond days of his younger years. He proposes a radical idea to his wife: sell the house, the cars & travel the world for a year. His wife, Devi, who also led a free-spirited life in her youth, was game, so after several months of planning, they were off!
Over the course of the year, the Cohen family visited 16 countries. Some of their stops included Costa Rica, Paris, Rome, Ancient Olympia, Instanbul, South Africa, Mumbai (Bombay), Bangkok, Sydney, Cambodia, Hong Kong & Tokyo. Each chapter of the book is set up like an e-mail to friends from the author & he tells the tales of their travels with great sincerity & humor. The family experienced so many exciting cultures, viewed countless works of art, climbed hundreds of steps, ate many great meals. There were also moments of danger, like when a hippo almost capsized their boat with the intentions of Cohen Family Annihilation. Or getting lost in South Africa at night, when everybody they talked to said stay off the roads at night because of carjackers. Dodging land mines in Cambodia. All the experiences, good & bad, made for the trip of a lifetime.
The author is quick to point out that he and Devi were already experienced international travelers before they took on this adventure. The Cohens also brought along a babysitter, Betty, who, despite almost getting deported in Turkey, stayed with them until their stay in Sydney. So, the author & his wife got some help with the kids on the road & got a chance to sneak out & go out to eat just themselves a lot. The family also knew a lot of people & stayed or dined with friends quite a bit. They also stayed in Sydney for 6 months & enrolled the kids in school....so it's really like "6 Months Off" instead of a year! These things all added up to make the trip a little more do-able, I think.
I first read the book years ago, before our kids were born. I loved the book & loved the idea of world travel. But now that I re-read it after we have our own kiddos, I really appreciate the travel-with-kids aspect to it. The Cohens' 2 oldest kids, Kara (8) & Willie (7) fought & bickered the first few weeks on the trip. I can relate! But, after a while, this settled down & they all seemed to enjoy the trip without the constant fighting. The youngest, Lucas, was only 2 at the time of the trip. One thing that wasn't addressed by the author is the thoughts & feelings of the kids after the trip. Were Kara & Willie happy to be back in the US, or did they miss all the adventure? Was it hard for them to readjust to their former life? Does Lucas remember anything from the trip? I'd also like to know about the logistics of traveling with the kids. Did they bring all their bedtime stories with them? When did the kids play? Did they bring toys with them? Was bathnight a real pain? How did they deal with car seats? Diapers for Lucas? My Mom brain can't help wondering about those kinds of details!
I really love the ending to the travel story, but with a caveat. The family found themselves in a Buddhist cave in the remote hilltops of Laos. The author lit match after match to see the Buddha statues staring at the family & it was a moment of illumination in all senses of the word. That experience wrapped up their travels in a very spiritual, thoughtful manner. I do add a caveat, because after they left Laos, the Cohens traveled to Hong Kong, Japan & Hawaii before making it back to their home state of California. These 3 stops are barely mentioned in the book & I don't know why, but that bugs me for some reason. Perhaps because I just want to hear all the details of the trip & since I'm living vicariously here, I want want to go to Hong Kong, Japan & Hawaii, too!
This brings up a good point: I can't help but wonder where I would go if given the chance to roam the Earth for a year. Would I choose different locations if the Bachsters were in tow? Here's my Top 10 list of locations for the Bach Family to visit on our fictional one year journey around the world:
1. France. This country gets its own listing. The Cohens sacked out in Syndey for 6 months.....I would sack out in France. We might not ever leave!
2. Europe. I want to see it all: Italy, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany, Spain.....we would spend a great deal of time in this corner of the Earth. Can I sneak Greece in there, too?
3. Pyramids of Egypt.....a must-see
4. Great Wall of China.....another must-see
6. India - reading about the Cohen's adventure in India makes me want to go there to experience a culture so different from our own.
7. South American rain forest. I liked that the Cohens started their trip as sort of an eco-adventure. I think it would be amazing to see & the travel dollars could help the people of the rainforest regions (so that they won't actually slash & burn it).
8. Great Britain - England, Ireland, Wales - DH and I saw just a tiny part of England on our trip in 2001 - I want to see more!
9. Antarctica and/or the Arctic Circle - this might seem like an unusual choice, but years from now, who knows how this area will change, with global warming upon us? I want to see it now.
10. USA - there are many, many areas of the US that I would love to visit but have not had a chance to do so....yet! California, Hawaii, Alaska, New England & Yellowstone/Yosemite/Sequoia National Parks, tornadoes in Kansas! And I want to revisit some of the places I've been to, but DH & the kids have not, like New York City & Charleston, S.C.!
Word of warning: reading this book will give you a serious case of wanderlust!
What is your Top 10 Destination Dream-List? Do share!