World Trip Family

Sabbatical Goal: My Quest to Become an Optimist.


We have week 2 of our sabbatical under the belts. We are still in England. I agree with Liv’s observation that so far the sabbatical is mostly like any other family vacation. We are with friends, there is no home work and we are sightseeing. We will report on England in more detail once we are back in The Netherlands. However, there are some small differences as we are slowly getting ready to transition from vacationers to nomads.

Shifting Priorities

It is amazing how far removed we are from our life in the United States after just two weeks. No epiphanies have happened, but our priorities shifted quickly. For example, when I left my job three weeks ago, I offered that I would continue to help promote a book that I have coming out at the end of August. When you spend your entire day with your children, and use the evenings to prepare the next day’s activities, there is little adult time (or motivation) to focus on such work projects. Perhaps things will get better once we settle into a routine and stay put in one place for a little longer. I still care about this book, just in a different way.

Traveling through this no mans’ land that lies in between our daily lives and our future sabbatical allows me to articulate my personal goals for this year more clearly. I know I want to spend time with loved ones and optimize our family’s happiness units, and above all we want to just BE together and learn together while traveling the world. However, since I am not sure I will take a year off from work any time soon again, I want to also use this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for nothing less than a personal transformation.

Travel Misfortune in England


By way of introduction, let me tell you about one of our travel misfortunes from the past week. The first day we arrived in our Cotswold cottage the children got up early and came to our room to ask for the key to play outside. Since it was not yet seven o’clock in the morning, my husband and I readily agreed hoping for another hour or two of sleep. We should have known better. By the time we got up at eight thirty, we discovered that our eight year old and his friend had played a game of ‘mining’ rocks from a hundred years old wall near the cottage. The wall now has gaping holes. My first, pessimist, reaction: “What were you thinking? This could cost thousands of dollars to repair. The owner will write a bad review on VRBO and we will not be able to rent other apartments for the rest of our trip.” My husband (he is the optimist) said: “Maybe the wall was already broken. The owner could have already scheduled a repair. Let’s just call him and see.” And my daughter added: “Or we could just get an account on AirBnB.” We have notified the owner, but not heard back yet. Whatever the reality, you see the different viewpoints in our family and I don’t like always being the stressed-out one.

If you want to read how this story ends, read here.

Choosing Optimism

Hence, the most important goal I have set for myself this year is that I want to become (more of) an optimist. I would love to be more resilient, more light-hearted and just see the glass half-full more often. Unfortunately, I was born a pessimist (or a realist at best). It is not easy to change something as fundamental as your outlook on life, but I am convinced it is possible. If I succeed, it will be powerful example for my kids. I would like them to know that whatever they dislike about themselves, a lack of talent for math, a tendency to lose their temper or an anxiety or fear of something, they have the power to overcome and change. I am also hoping I can discover and teach my kids important life skills along the way. Of course being more optimistic will also increase my personal happiness and hopefully that of the people around me.

Writing Experiments

A second experiment this year is to continue a search for meaning, for my personal passion in life. I have had a very fulfilling career to date, which has given me many unique opportunities including working on five continents, finding my husband (an Israeli I met in a bar in Tokyo) and becoming a United States citizen. However, I have not yet found my calling in life. From everything I have read on the topic, many psychologists recommend to go back to your roots, to the hobbies and interests you had as a teen or young adult. When I was young, I wanted to be a journalist. Writing this blog in itself is going back to my early interest in writing. Even if it isn’t as a career, I want to read more, improve my English vocabulary (not my native tongue) and to learn to write better. My daughter has very similar interests, and she already reads a lot more than I ever have so I hope it will make for a fun mother-daughter quest. So far, so good. The photos in this post were taken in the library of an old English estate we visited, where Liv and I each picked our favorite book quote.

We have planned the destinations of our world trip about six months in advance, and are planning to re-evaluate and re-plan the second half of the year based on the lessons learnt in the first half. I will attempt to break down my transformational goals for the next six months as well. Even then, as is the case for our travel plans, I am sure I will learn a lot along the way and adjust the plan accordingly.

Here’s what it looks like so far:


Optimism: exercise & eat healthy

Writing: start a blog

Countries: The Netherlands, England


Optimism: use a glass-half-full chart

Writing: read a lot (use ‘Notice & Note’)

Countries: The Netherlands, Denmark


Optimism: learn to meditate

Writing: actively improve vocabulary

Countries: The Netherlands, Check Republic


Optimism: the growth mindset

Writing: read a book on writing

Countries: China, Japan


Optimism: study & practice resiliency

Writing: do formal writing exercises

Countries: Australia


Optimism: spend more time in nature

Writing: write a short story

Countries: Thailand

Of course I also asked my optimist husband about his goals for the year .. 

What do you think he said? 

He just shrugged and replied: “Do we need any?”

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