Last summer, my wife and I took our 11-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son on a nine-week trip through seven countries in Africa. As a lifelong traveller, it was a priority for me to take an epic family adventure, and I had talked about it for years.

Unlike many of the romantic notions of travel of my youth ("we should open a bar in the Bahamas!"), this nagging desire to do something off the grid as a family wouldn’t go away. I could see the last vestiges of childhood slipping away in my daughter, who didn’t yet have a cell phone and was about to enter Middle School. I live in complete dread of one day dropping her off at college, marking the passing of the 18 summers that I get to spend with her before she grows up.  And I have been unfortunate to see friends suffer from unforeseen personal tragedies at too young an age, not getting to most things on their bucket list.

Of course, there were practical obstacles to consider. As the founder of a small private equity firm, I was nervous about the impact on my career and the reaction of my partners, deal sources and investors.   For my wife, it was even more difficult to imagine pulling off. As a practicing trusts and estates attorney, she has clients and partners to answer to, and as a mom, she worried about the kids’ safety. We both worried about our house and finances. It all seemed a little crazy.

Despite the challenges, I was able to convince the family that we could do it, and so off we went. Over the course of 63 days, we had experiences that will last a lifetime: close encounters with wildlife, interactions with aboriginal cultures, road trips through stunning landscapes and so much more. We all got outside of our comfort zone, learned so much about the world and ourselves, and got an incredible family bonding experience.  Our hope is that this will give us perspective and a foundation to dampen the inevitable conflicts of our upcoming adolescent parenting years.

A few thoughts if you are considering such a trip:

  1. Just do it! It's easy to focus on the obvious reasons not to do it. None of us are as important as we think we are, and people can get by without us. If it is important to you, make it happen!  You have the rest of your life to work. Even while the financial piece may seem daunting and irrational, it is doubtful you’ll regret it when your kids have moved out.
  2. Involve your family in the planning process so that they feel engaged and buy-in. Even our 8-year-old was able to express preferences that we incorporated which gave him something to look forward to when he was fatigued from our long travels.
  3. While you don’t need to advertise your plans on LinkedIn, it is probably OK to share your vision and plans with work contacts.  Initially I was almost embarrassed to talk about it, but when I did, often I garnered a newfound sense of respect for taking such a risk and prioritizing my family and passions for travel.  For my wife, it was also seamless, and surprisingly her practice seemed to almost grow as she was more memorable in her networking, with clients feeling a catalyst to engage her before she left for the trip.
  4. Leaving can also force you to honestly assess what is important and urgent in your work and in your life.  I learned what work was critical such that it needed to be outsourced to one of my partners vs. other work that could wait until the fall.  It was amazing how quickly time flew and how much I was able to delegate/manage over the course of those 9 weeks.  I checked email each week when we had service in case of emergency, but in general, I was truly “off the grid” for much of the trip, which was refreshing.

So I hope that you are able to check a few things off your own bucket list that seem impossible or impractical.  It is likely more plausible, responsible AND valuable than you or your naysaying friends or partner might acknowledge at first glance.  Great things require investments and effort -- so just identify the key barriers and tackle them, one step at a time.  Remember what is truly  important to you and you won’t regret it - good luck!!