Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family's Lives Forever
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For readers of Three Cups of Tea; Eat, Pray, Love; and Wild comes the inspiring story of an ordinary American family that embarks on an extraordinary journey. Wide-Open World follows the Marshall family as they volunteer their way around the globe, living in a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica, teaching English in rural Thailand, and caring for orphans in India. There’s a name for this kind of endeavor—voluntourism—and it might just be the future of travel.
Oppressive heat, grueling bus rides, backbreaking work, and one vicious spider monkey . . . Best family vacation ever!
John Marshall needed a change. His twenty-year marriage was falling apart, his seventeen-year-old son was about to leave home, and his fourteen-year-old daughter was lost in cyberspace. Desperate to get out of a rut and reconnect with his family, John dreamed of a trip around the world, a chance to leave behind, if only just for a while, routines and responsibilities. He didn’t have the money for resorts or luxury tours, but he did have an idea that would make traveling the globe more affordable and more meaningful than he’d ever imagined: The family would volunteer their time and energy to others in far-flung locales.
Wide-Open World is the inspiring true story of the six months that changed the Marshall family forever. Once they’d made the pivotal decision to go, John and his wife, Traca, quit their jobs, pulled their kids out of school, and embarked on a journey that would take them far off the beaten path, and far out of their comfort zones.
Here is the totally engaging, bluntly honest chronicle of the Marshalls’ life-altering adventure from Central America to East Asia. It was no fairy tale. The trip offered little rest, even less relaxation, and virtually no certainty of what was to come. But it did give the Marshalls something far more valuable: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conquer personal fears, strengthen family bonds, and find their true selves by helping those in need. In the end, as John discovered, he and his family did not change the world. It was the world that changed them.
Praise for Wide-Open World
“Marshall’s use of rich details locates readers firmly in each time and place, enabling them to sense the adventure, wonder and joy he experienced in his surroundings and in watching his children grow into hardworking, more responsible teens, as well as the frustrations and disappointments he and his family inevitably encountered along the way. A great armchair adventure that should inspire others to consider voluntourism as a way to help others and see the world.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Each new location combines beautiful scenery with a dose of sentiment, a good deal of humor, and some heartfelt consideration of the human condition. . . . His philosophy may not fit everyone and the ending is bittersweet, but this is an enticing call to service.”—Publishers Weekly
“Wide-Open World is an adventure made up of countless small moments of human connection. It’s an armchair travelogue that may well inspire you to do good off the beaten path.”—BookPage
“For anyone who has ever imagined what it would be like to pack up, unplug, pull the kids out of school, and travel around the world, this volunteer adventure is your ticket. Wide-Open World will move, engage, and inspire you, even if you never leave the couch.”—Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train
sure they sense his complete trustworthiness, his sincere love for them that shines like a safety beacon. And as our food was brought into the room (Tibetan dumplings called momos, rice, vegetables, hot tea), I felt a profound sense of gratitude that my own children got to spend so much time with this remarkable man. Especially Jackson. Khen Rinpoche is not the type to pick favorites, but he had a special relationship with Jack. He teased her constantly, hugged her, made puppy-dog eyes and
be. As I suspected, there was nothing to kill in this creature, because it simply would not die. No matter how much I twisted the knife or dripped sweat onto Logan’s bed, the scorpion continued to strike the knife handle with its barbed tail, eventually working itself free, cutting itself nearly in half, and falling into the darkness under the bed. When that happened, Logan, Jackson, and I screamed at the same time, an earsplitting sound I’m sure the howler monkeys envied, all of us jumping
was hot and drenched, our scant clothing soaked. But the New Zealand air was cold and crisp, the sky vast and arched overhead, the stars thick as ancestors above. It felt like rebirth, every inhale a deep grateful gulp, every exhale a sigh of release. 21 WILLING WORKERS ONE OF THE COOL THINGS ABOUT WWOOFING—AND THIS MAY SOUND counterintuitive—is the work. Especially if you have kids who might be categorized as less than “willing workers” back home. (Without any official data to back me up, I’m
comes,” and, “We almost have her,” but I didn’t know, not for sure. It wasn’t until Traca finally pushed Jackson’s little body into the world and our midwife held her up like baby Simba, her wrinkled pink bum facing us. Then Traca and I watched, suspended, breathless, as Jackson made her first grand entrance … a slow, dramatic turn … until there was no mistaking the anatomy. A girl! A beautiful baby girl. My heart exploded like fireworks. Then fourteen years passed. One day, after Traca and I
B in whatever way they unfold. With those steps in mind, you might think that catching a direct bus from Banbasa to Rishikesh would be a straightforward affair—but travel follows a unique set of rules in rural India. As we discovered, there are no clean and tidy bus terminals. No orderly lines. No assigned seats. In fact, without a seasoned Indian traveler to help us navigate the madness that was waiting for us that morning, I seriously doubt there is any way Traca and Logan would have found the