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The Eat, Pray, Love effect: Going way beyond the family vacation

Extended travel – going way beyond the family vacation – is part of a post 9/11, post Eat Pray Love effect. Families sell the house, pull the kids from school and go – looking for more togetherness, an escape from stress, and, a global education.

Part of what some travel experts say is the Eat, Pray, Love effect of Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller of the same name, the Andrews family at left were bored living a comfortable, middle-class life in Boulder, Colo. They were swept up in the extended-travel trend that is seeing increasing numbers of families hitting the road to go way beyond the family vacation. Here, they head out aboard camels for a camp-out in Morocco.

Courtesy of the Andrews family /John Kehe staff illustration

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On the way home to New York from a London visit with cousins, Rainer Jenss’s sons, Tyler and Stefan, were raving about the city and how great it would be to grow up in a place with both Big Ben and double-decker buses. That got Rainer and his wife, Carol, thinking about traveling. Not just vacation travel, but ditching their suburban life – quitting their jobs, selling the house and cars – and traveling the world with their kids for a while.

This is way beyond summer vacation. It's the "Eat, Pray, Love" effect, say travel experts, referring to the bestselling book by Elizabeth Gilbert, who pulled up stakes after a divorce to heal through travel. And it’s the kind of escape lots of people fantasize about, and Rainer and Carol had mused about it when he worked as an executive at National Geographic – a job that teased him with the idea of far-flung travel. But the Jensses’ careers got in the way – Carol was media director at an ad agency – and then their kids were born, and all talk of traveling stopped, supplanted by school, homework, sports, and sleepovers.

“It seemed irresponsible,” says Rainer, “like running off to join the circus.” But the idea percolated, and a year later, in 2004, it seemed possible – maybe even necessary, he says, recalling what felt like a bleak zeitgeist at the beginning of the Iraq war. Having traveled a lot as a child and professionally as an adult, he valued the open-mindedness of engaging with other cultures: “I wanted my kids to learn about the world through their own experiences.”

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