'One Year Off'
Breaking the shackles of everyday life for the adventure of a lifetime
June 15, 1999
(CNN) -- Have you ever fantasized about leaving your job, ridding yourself of all the things that weigh down your life, grabbing your family and traveling around the world for a year?
In his book "One Year Off: Leaving It All Behind for a Round-the-World Journey With Our Children," David Elliot Cohen tells how his California family did just that.
Cohen is the co-creator of the best-selling "A Day In the Life" book series. He and his wife Devyani Kamdar decided to liquidate their publishing company and take their three children -- Kara, 9; Willie, 7; and Lucas, 2 -- on a 50,000 mile trek to 16 countries and across three oceans.
Selling the business didn't provide all the necessary funds for the trip. The family also sold their cars, their house and dipped into savings. "We just made the decision that we'd rather make this trip than have a big house and a more prestigious brand of car or early retirement," Cohen says.
The family traveled by plane, train, ship, car, houseboat, van, camel cart, oxcart and elephant howdah. Among the places they visited: the state of Rajasthan in northwest India; the Queensland coast of northeastern Australia; South Africa; Zimbabwe; Turkey; Greece; Italy and the autonomous region of Sardinia; Costa Rica; France; Laos and Cambodia.
Family and friends back in the United States were updated on the family's progress through e-mail. Cohen kept a chronicle of the family's adventures and experiences, which were occasionally harrowing.
Cohen says while the children adapted to the traveling life fairly quickly, he and his wife found it disorienting for the first few months not to have a home or jobs.
"What impresses the children is entirely different from what impresses us," Cohen notes. "The children didn't understand how unusual this journal was ... within a matter of weeks, living in a different room every night and traveling from one town to another every day seemed completely natural to them. They don't seem to cling to their old ways as a fixed frame of reference."
Cohen says scheduling was dictated by the children. "When you travel with three small children for any length of time you learn that speed and efficiency aren't part of the plan and schedules are meant to be broken."
He admits they didn't make this trip without worries or fears. He and Kamdar worried about what could go wrong on the trip. Would such along sabbatical cause them to fall behind in their careers? Would the children be OK? Would they have enough money? Would they face dangers? And would too much family togetherness cause tension? "I'd love to tell you that all these fears were groundless, but in fact, most of what we feared actually happened," Cohen says.
Travels and travails
In Botswana, the family's motorboat was rushed by an angry hippo and nearly overturned. In Zimbabwe, lions killed a Cape Buffalo just outside the family tent. Willie broke his ankle in Sydney. Lucas got an ear infection that caused his ear to swell to twice its normal size. Kara was nearly washed to sea by a riptide in Sydney and had to have minor surgery after smashing her finger in a hotel door in Bangkok. But Cohen says the family managed to deal with each challenge.
"What we got in return seems like more than a fair trade," he says. "A new outlook on life, a spectacular opportunity to see the wonders of the world while we're still reasonably young, and the chance to shape our children's lives and expand their horizons at an age when they're receptive to these lessons."
He says he hopes reading the story of his family's journey will make people "laugh out loud at the many incredibly stupid things we did, to feel as if they came along on a wonderful trip, full of adventure, and for them to find the courage to pursue their own dream."
The story of the Cohen's adventures is published by Simon and Schuster at $24.
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