“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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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.