By Leslie Lindsay
One American family. 18 Months. 24 Countries. 6 Continents and a complete life-altering adventure in this debut memoir. And she’s here chatting about this ‘no-regrets’ life, real-life experiences, how travel strengthens brains of children, over-scheduling, and stunning photography.
Tracey Carisch thought she had it all. She was living the American Dream with her husband and three young daughters. They had good jobs, a 4,000+ square foot home, and everyone was happy. Or, were they?
At 37, Tracey has a panicked moment, sending her into a midlife crisis of sorts and questioning everything. What would happen if they gave up their jobs, sold their home, their belongings and traveled the world? They found out. And it became the adventure of a lifetime. But, there were some naysayers and judgmental folks–especially on the American side of the pond. And yet, and yet…they did it and they were all changed for the better because of it.
I found Tracey and her family completely relatable, the story awe-inspiring, and I honestly didn’t want to put the book down. EXCESS BAGGAGE (She Writes Press, August 14 2018), was one of those books I didn’t know I needed to read until I did; it called to me, whispering in my ear, ‘You need to read this.’
There are plenty of ‘growth’ moments for the family (and individual members of the family), but reading about their adventures will also make *you* grow; it will shift your thinking and have you aching to jump a plane to whatever country that most calls. I laughed (a lot), I got tearful, I felt excited and terrified…seriously, EXCESS BAGGAGE hit on every emotion.
So why now? August is Family Fun Month and while many are enjoying vacations, family reunions, and the like, others are gearing up for back-to-school…whether it’s home-schooling, or world-schooling, or private college-prep programs, EXCESS BAGGAGE will open your eyes to a new worldview, a new way of being with your family, and it just might transform your thinking into a more simple, meaningful existence.
Please join me in welcoming Tracey Carisch to the author interview series.
Tracey, it’s a pleasure! I am so in awe with the scope of this book. You cover a lot of ground…literally! Was writing about your travels always part of the plan or did it evolve once you returned?
We definitely planned on doing a travel blog during the journey. As our blog gained a substantial following, writing became a normal activity for me. I’d never considered myself to be “creative” before, but that piece of me definitely grew while I wrote the blog. I knew I was going to miss writing when our travels came to an end. The book, however, didn’t become a real possibility until the very end of our trip. I was talking with a friend from the United States who was visiting us in Nicaragua, and she was convinced I needed to write about my perspective on our travels. I wasn’t sure, though. I mean, who would be interested in reading a memoir about a woman who goes through a midlife crisis and then travels the world with her family to find herself, right? Shortly after this conversation, I happened to notice the book Eat, Pray, Love on a bookshelf in our rental house. Every other book was in Spanish, but this was the only one in English. I’d read it years before when it was first released and loved it, so I picked it up and reread it that last week before our return to the United States. By the time I finished, I’d decided that continuing to grow that creative side of me with a memoir was something I should do. I’m no Elizabeth Gilbert, but there’s definitely a place for women to share their journeys to authenticity with one another, and I wanted to be a part of that.
Ironically, your background is organizational effectiveness, project management and the psychological aspects of work-life balance. We all seek balance, but can we really attain it?
Yes, but I will say, it takes commitment. It can be such a challenge to keep ourselves from getting sucked into the rat race of our busy modern world. In my book I call it “The Blur,” where the weeks blend together with the same obligations, chores, meetings, and activities over and over again. There have been several times since we returned from our journey where our family has started to feel that Blur creeping back into our lives. Like those moments when you look at a calendar and can’t believe the month is almost over. When that happens for our family, we force ourselves to stop and look at what’s been added to the schedule, or in some cases removed from it. Are we signing the kids up for too many activities? Working too many hours? Letting go of important things like family dinners or time outdoors? One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn when it comes to true work-life balance is becoming independent of the opinions of others. Sometimes you have to let go of what other people will think of you in order to do what you know in your heart is right for your life.
I have to say, EXCESS BAGGAGE reinforced my dream to pick up and move to Ireland (they speak English—and so less of a language barrier—right?!) What would you say to a family who is contemplating such a move?
Do it! I can’t say it enough – experiencing the world together changed our family for the better. There’s something special that happens when you go to new culture with the people you love. As you navigate the travel learning curve and tackle the challenges that come with being in a new, foreign environment, you find yourselves working together as a team. You learn things about each other that you never knew before. Seeing the world is certainly a great way to learn about ourselves as individuals, but I think the effect it has on our relationships is even more powerful. Family dynamics evolve when we step away from our normal lives and create new stories together.
What about school? And children? How does travel like this shape their brain for ‘the real world,’ and how can parents—even if they can’t do something as drastic as your family—still expose children to other cultures and ways of living?
Research has shown that when children experience new things, the information they acquire causes new connections to form between the synapses in their brains, especially in children under the age of seven. We literally improve the physical structure of their brain matter when we give kids new experiences of any kind, whether it’s going to a new country or just going to a local museum. Incorporating new family excursions into daily life can have a tremendous impact on the way a child thinks and views the world. What is especially impactful about new cultural experiences is the immersion that takes place. A different culture brings new language sounds, new foods, new smells, new clothing, new modes of transportation, and new approaches to all aspects of life. If an international trip isn’t an option, museums and cultural festivals are great alternatives. Even just sitting down as a family and watching a great documentary about another country can create really rich conversation with the kids on cultural differences and unique traditions around the planet.
Did you have a favorite country/city/continent? I am sure each experience stands out for various reasons. Can you talk about that, please?
We loved so many places for so many different reason. In terms of culture, Cambodia was a highlight for us. We lived near the Angkor Wat Archeological Park and worked with local charities supporting education, so we learned a lot about the country’s tragic past and how far the people have come. When it came to natural beauty, New Zealand was definitely at the top of our list. The diversity of the landscape is absolutely astounding. Ireland and the Czech Republic brought great connections to the locals we met, and some of them will be lifelong friends. Fiji will always be a precious time for us since we spent it with old friends who will remain an important part of our lives forever. It’s simply impossible to pick a favorite a favorite place after an experience like this.
How about your children? How are they doing now and what lessons or experiences from your travels do they continue to revisit?
Our daughters have all asked us, “When are we going to travel again?” which is a good sign that this experience was a very positive one for them. One of my main concerns was my ability to effectively homeschool them. I worried that when we enrolled them in a public school system again we’d realize they’d fallen behind academically. However, all three of them came right back into their grade levels without skipping beat. In fact, they were ahead of their classmates in many areas. Our girls are all normal kids, but I do think they have a different attitude toward life than most children their ages. They seem to see the big picture. The typical kid dramas aren’t the issue I thought they’d be now that we’re entering the teenage. I think our journey just instilled a more empathetic and mature perspective in them. It’s something intangible in the way they view the world, and I’m not sure we would have been able “teach” it to them. They simply had to see it for themselves.
Since we’re right in the throes of back-to-school, can you provide a few tips for parents regarding over-scheduling and simplifying family life?
It can be so tempting to enroll our kids in all those enriching activities we think might benefit them in the future. I remember wanting to get the girls signed up for a sport so they’d know teamwork, or put them into an art class so they’d be more creative, or learn a musical instrument because some researcher somewhere said it would improve their math skills. It can feel like we’re doing our children a great disservice if we don’t give them every extra-curricular opportunity available to them. Yet, an important lesson my husband and I took from this journey is that the most enriching thing in our children’s lives is us. Our family’s relationships and our experiences together will give our kids the confidence, curiosity, and courage they need to lead fulfilling and happy lives. When we over-schedule ourselves, we separate our family too much. We undervalue the importance of our time together, and we inadvertently outsource the enriching life experiences children should really be having with their family members to a coach or instructor instead. My best advice would be to add up the time you actually spend together as a family. How many minutes in each day are you enjoying each other’s company compared how much time is spent getting everyone to all of those activities? When you quantify that number, you’ll know if your family is doing too much.
I know your husband is a fabulous photographer and he captured so many of your breathtaking experiences. How did all of this shape him? His work? And can you direct us to his website?
I don’t think I really understood how talented Brian was until we went on this adventure. It’s now a life dream of his to become a professional photographer. At this point in our life we have obligations to our girls, so the income from his software development business has to take priority. However, he has the talent to make it in the world photography, and someday he’ll be able to give it his full focus. In the meantime, his website is www.briancarisch.com and many of his photos are featured on my web site as well. Rather than inserting small black-and-white images into the book, we’ve created a photo gallery for each chapter. When readers visit, they’ll be able to follow along with the story in full-color images. Some of these photos from our trip are available for sale, and a large portion of the proceeds will support three of the charities we worked with closely during our travels.
Tracey, I am so taken, so intrigued and inspired with your travels (and book!) that I could ask questions all day. But I won’t. Is there anything I should have asked, but may have forgotten?
I’m most excited that this book will bring the opportunity to travel to new places and create connections with the readers. I want to hear their stories and share our lessons with each other on living a “no-regrets life”. The most rewarding part of my work as a professional speaker are those conversations I get to have with people around the world. If someone reading this wants to have their hometown added to my book tour, they can connect with me on my web site and we’ll work to get something set up.
For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of EXCESS BAGGAGE, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tracey Carisch grew up in a small Midwestern town and attended Indiana University for her undergraduate degree. After beginning her career in technology consulting, she returned to academia for her MBA and founded her own consulting firm, helping to lead change in education and workforce development. Tracey is now an international speaker and leadership professional. Her presentations challenge audiences to embrace change and find the opportunities in life’s difficult situations. She lives in the mountains of Colorado with her family, their two dogs, and a cat who thinks he’s also a dog.
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
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[Cover and author image provided by PRbytheBook and used with permission.]