That was the start of four years of preparation: The family began living off Rainer’s salary and saving Carol’s. In July 2008, Rainer, Carol, and their two sons, then ages 8 and 11, each carrying one suitcase and a backpack – embarked on a one-year odyssey. Starting with seven weeks in national parks around the United States, they flew on to China and then to every continent except Antarctica.
The Jenss family was on the cusp of a new, growing trend among families: extended travel.
People are pulling up the roots of their stationary – often suburban – existence and hitting the road for long periods. Some want to give their children an experiential education, with the world as their classroom. Others want to disconnect from career stress, social media, a consumerist culture, and societal pressures to grow closer as a family. This isn’t a sabbatical; it’s often a life change. And some families aren’t even sure when or if they will return to their old lives.
A surge in this kind of travel happened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, inspired by a desire among families to get closer, observes Kimberly Goza, a founder of the website Families On The Road, which helps peripatetic Americans connect and share advice. The Internet has accelerated the trend, she suggests, making it easier to stay connected to friends, family, and co-workers. “It’s just easier now than it used to be,” says Ms. Goza, whose family has lived on the road for 19 years, supporting the lifestyle by performing professionally as “The Activated Storytellers.”