Imagine packing up, leaving your job and home behind and traveling around the world for a year. While this may seem like a mere fantasy, one alumni couple dares to dream so big. After entertaining the idea for several years, Frank ‘82 and Elizabeth Baker ‘84 Parkinson of Quincy, Mich., made this “grand adventure,” as they call it, a reality for their family. With their four children, ages 3 to 11, the Parkinsons embarked September 2004 on a nine-month world tour of the globe – a trip that promised to change their lives.
The Parkinson’s grand adventure, which began in Hawaii, takes them to 16 countries, including Australia, Japan, Cambodia, South Africa, Greece and Ireland. The family spends from a few days to several weeks at each destination. Although the logistics of planning such a trip seem overwhelming, the Parkinsons planned the entire trip themselves using the Internet and guidebooks to book all of their flights, lodging and tours. The trip became possible when Frank sold his business, leaving some time “in between jobs,” he wrote. He and his wife had long considered such an adventure for their family and “were lucky enough to have a window of opportunity open up for us.”
Managing such a trip with four young children adds a whole new dimension. Before committing to the trip, the Parkinson’s had to get the approval of their children’s teachers, as the world tour would require missing a year of school. They met with a positive response from the school principal, who was very supportive of the Parkinsons’ plan. While underway, the school-aged children are keeping up-to-date with educational CDs and workbooks. The Parkinsons believe that their children’s education on the trip will amount to more than reading and arithmetic lessons. “Obviously, we hope that exposure to the world in this manner will prove to be a unique form of education that will benefit them for the rest of their lives,” Frank said.
From the journey’s beginning, the parents have seen their children’s growth and excitement at their new experiences, such as learning about Hawaiian folklore, sleeping on the ridge of a volcano crater and chasing wallabies “Down Under.” The trip has had a clear impact on their family as well. The parents noticed right away that daily family meals, which had been lacking at home due to rushed and busy schedules, became a highlight on the trip. With no distraction from work, they also have more time to spend with their children – a blessing the parents cherish. Although the trip’s long-term effects on their family remain to be seen, the Parkinsons say, “We are optimistic that it will have a positive effect on each of us individually and also collectively by making us closer as a family.”
To record and share their experiences with friends and family, the Parkinsons created an online travel log. From each destination they send “dispatches” describing the adventures of each leg of their journey. The site also allows friends and family to correspond with the Parkinsons by posting responses to each dispatch. Visitors can keep up with the family’s progress through the site’s extensive photo gallery, as well.
Although it was not easy to leave behind home, friends and family for a year, the Parkinsons didn’t hesitate to embark on this adventure. Instead of being daunted, the family seized their opportunity to see the world, living up to their motto: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the places and moments that take our breath away.”
NOTE: If you want to keep up with the Parkinsons’ world travels, check out their Web travel log.
– Kelly O’Connor ‘05