08.26.17

Wide-Open World by John Marshall

Posted in Review at 10:44 pm by Amber

Title: Wide-Open World
Author: John Marshall
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
Source: Publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

 

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 Marshall’s 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.

Parents getting to ready to face an empty nest, self-involved teens (aren’t they all?) and trying to find the spark in a marriage… a long family vacation doing good for others seems like a great idea. There are two storylines that run throughout the memoir.

The first is how the trip comes together (which isn’t easy) and the different experiences they have at each destination. Some of the stops include labor and others include working directly with people to share language or culture. The second is about the changes in the family. We’re so connected all the time to everyone that if you don’t respond via text, im or email within 5 minutes that some people actually get upset about it. Each member learns to be more present. When finding an internet connection is close to impossible, they’re forced to notice their surroundings and spend time with each other.