The fortune cookie was the final sign.
Months earlier I had casually raised the subject with my wife over lunch at a local Latin American restaurant. “Would you think I was crazy if I said we should take a year off, pull the kids out of school, and travel around the world?”
I couldn’t tell if Dani was humoring me or if she really meant it when she said: “Sounds interesting. Could we really do it?”
Once I voiced what I had been thinking, the signs began to appear.
It started with my son. One day, out of the blue, he said to me, “Dad, I know what I want to do when I grow up.”
“I want to travel around the world, talk to people, listen to their stories, then use what they tell me to make up new stories.”
Conor was ten.
Weeks later, I brought up the possibility of a trip around the world at dinner. I was sure my daughter, Caroline, would object. She has never enjoyed change. Years earlier, when we were thinking about moving to a new house in the same community, she’d objected so strongly I thought she would have a meltdown at the mere thought of moving less than a mile away.
But she didn’t object. She wanted to hear more. What exactly was I talking about?
Weeks passed and we continued to talk about it in pairs, threesomes, and when we all gathered for dinner.
It began to feel like it was all we talked about. It was our family secret – we were sworn to talk about it only to each other. The idea seemed so crazy, we didn’t dare tell anyone else.
One night we got Chinese take-out. Over dinner I asked Caroline how she felt about the idea of the trip now. She would be heading into high school, and it would probably impact her more than any one else.
She said: “Dad, I’ve thought a lot about this. And the way I feel right now, I’m scared to go. But I also know I’ll be really disappointed if we don’t go.”
Then Caroline broke open her fortune cookie. It said: “You will step on the soil of many countries.”
And that, for me, was the final sign.
After my son had, at age ten, expressed my childhood dream in a more direct, articulate way than I could have. After my daughter pinpointed the emotions I felt, and put her finger on the fear of the unknown that had stopped me in the past.
After my wife had said to me, in so many words, I’m up for an adventure with you.
We passed the fortune around the table. I called for a family vote: “All in favor of taking a year off to travel around the world, raise your hand.”
Four hands shot up.