About Us

In planning this trip, I have read countless blogs in my pursuit of the RTW family travel holy grail, and I always go to the ‘About Us’ page after reading posts, viewing pictures, and living vicariously through these amazing people who have made their dream happen. And now we are also following that calf path, where so many have gone before us yet somehow managed to have their own unique experiences. How many paths around the world are there? Like becoming a parent for the first time (or the fourth), this journey that we are taking, where so many have trod before us, will end up being our own.


Who are we and what led us here?  We are a busy family of six, ranging in age from 42 down to 6, happily ensconced in our lives here in Seattle.  Jon and I met when we were 17; six years later we were married.

Travel wasn’t part of our culture growing up; neither of us had ventured outside North America.  Our first travels together were road trips to California to see his sister and young nephews, or to ski with friends in Canada.  We honeymooned in Jamaica and managed to stray outside the idyllic cacoon of the all-inclusive resort we were staying at. The abject poverty just on the other side of the fence was shocking and made us realize how little of the world we were seeing; maybe that first glimpse of reality was the beginning of it all?

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Wow, the 90's were painful!

Everyone knew we were Americans because of the tennis shoes. Ouch! Europe-bound, July 1996

If our newly discovered worldliness isn’t apparent, at least our relaxed demeanor is! Crete, five weeks into our Europe trip, August 1996

It was not until two years later, after I was done with grad school (and conveniently unemployed), that we took the first trip abroad. We think our budget was about $40/day as we backpacked through 8 Western European countries in six weeks and had the time of our lives. We were smitten.

Failed in my efforts to talk Jon into a couple of years of living abroad, we returned to our mortgage, friends and family; Jon resumed his first job at Deloitte and Touche and I started my career as a clinical pharmacist.  Still, the awe of that first trip never faded. When our credit cards were paid off, we booked a trip to Turkey in 1998.


Baby on board! Visiting the Alhambra in Granada, Spain 1999

A year later, I was over half-way through my first pregnancy when we took our last trip together to Spain and Portugal.  I felt David kick for the first time in Sevilla on my birthday.  I took it as a sign that our journeys as a family would continue with kids in tow.


Can you hear the Rice-A-Roni theme song?

We never left North America with David, but he spent many hours in this pack trekking about the US. David and Jon in San Francisco, June 2000







In reality, we never made it further north than BC or further south than Mexico with the kids.   At first it was just too hard and seemed a little selfish or risky to haul them along on our treks; later it seemed logistically impossible as they entered school and sports.  The idea simmered on the back burner, until Vivian, our youngest, was born.  Ready to look ahead to the next phase of parenthood, we hatched the plan that would allow us to see the world with our children, even going so far as to pick a departure date.  David would be in the 8th grade (last year before high school), and Vivian would be in the 1st grade.


Why? I guess our “why” is the same as many other families’…we want to introduce our children to the world, allowing them to shape their own realities and impressions of global issues and various cultures and religions, rather than learning it all from books and media.  And, we just want to spend time with them.  Jon and I both are pretty engaged and involved in our kids’ lives.  Regardless, nine years go by and you realize that your children have lived with you half as long as they will!  As much as we love our sports and activities, we decided to give up one year of that, for a chance to experience something new together as a family, rare and unscripted.  Can’t wait to see where our own path around the world takes us!

As far as the eye can see. Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, CA – April 2013


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  1. Joyce

    I love your sense of adventure and your blog! Bill has already given Jon some suggestions from our travels but, I think that you will find, as we did, that the kids will have the most fun when/where you least expect it, and they will end up remembering this adventure better than you do!

    Our next travels will surely include suggestions and recommendations from you guys. Have fun and be safe!

    So envious,

    The Ehrlichs

    P.S. Do tell what ONE pair of shoes you decided on. (That is the hardest part!!)

  2. Gretchen

    Thanks, Joyce! You and Bill are well-traveled and we’ve appreciated the tips thus far! I hope you are right about the kids remembering the trip…I suppose in this digital and electronic era that everything is much better recorded and documented than our own childhood experiences. We are each bringing 2 pairs of shoes – sandals and trail runners. My sandals are ‘Paris’ by Naot (replaceable footbeds!) and my trail runners are RocLITE 268 by INOV8. I built my wardrobe from there using grey as my ‘neutral’ and blue as my spot of color. Can’t believe how few clothes I’m bringing but that seems to be the single most common thing I’ve read/heard..pack as light as you can and then cut that amount by half!

  3. Paul Shoemaker

    I hope you guys have a GREAT trip! Seems impossible not to, we’ll all be living vicariously through y’all. The handful of friends I know that have done what you’re setting off to do are universally so happy they did it. Bon voyage and have a great first stop in Iceland

    P.S. Jon, I’m surprised you’d willingly post the Spain ’99 photo!!

  4. Hallie O'Reilly

    I’m just re-reading some of these and reading newer posts and feeling all emotional as your d-day is TODAY and the countdown continues to list hours and minutes and no longer marks months.
    I am so excited for you guys and feel so fortunate to be in your lives and get to share in your adventure through your blog and through our pending meet up in Australia next year!
    Slainte, means good health in Gaelic and is an Irish well wish of “cheers”…take that with you along your journey and know that I am thinking of you, missing you, and cheering you all on! Love you very much!

    1. Gretchen

      Thanks, Hallie! Missing you so much and we are excited that your adventure is growing nearer. We are definitely settling in to travel. Thank you for the Irish toast! It made me think of something very special that I loved about the Icelanders, and it is that instead of Ciao or some other farewell, they would mostly say “Bless”. Always made me feel hugged! Bless, Hallie!

  5. Scott, Pam, Laurel & Jennifer McCabe

    Hello, Gretchen, Jon & family, we met you today at Pompeii. We had a great day and ended up spending 5 hours there. We know you will have an outstanding time on your world adventure. Your children will grow up with a wonderful appreciation and a better understanding of foreign cultures a will be better because of it. If you ever want to adopt a few Canadians let us know. Ciao.

    1. Gretchen

      Hello Scott, Pam, Laurel and Jennifer!! We really appreciate your kind words and support of our travels! Pompeii was amazing, we were sad to have to head out so rapidly to Rome but we enjoyed meeting you all and sharing the wonder of that magical place. We love Canadians – if you can figure out the paperwork, we have room in our lives for four more! Arrivederci!

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