Eat, Pray, Love … For Families

Oppressive heat, grueling bus rides, backbreaking work, and one vicious spider monkey . . . Best family vacation ever!

Imagine taking a giant leap of faith. You and your spouse quit your jobs, pull your kids out of school, and travel from Central America to East Asia. It’s not a vacation. It’s voluntourism. The Marshall family volunteered their way around the globe, living in a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica, teaching English in rural Thailand, and caring for orphans in India. Wide Open World tells their amazing story. Turns out they didn’t change the world – the world changed them.

Dive into an excerpt from the Prologue of Wide Open World

. . . . .

As I watched the monkeys at the window, wondering which one as Sweetie and which one was Winkie (or whether it mattered), I noticed two scarlet macaws fly from above the Human Kitchen, screeching like show-offs, as if their spectacular red and blue plumage wasn’t attention-grabbing enough. They soared across the grounds, through the dense jungle growth, landing together in a palm tree that curved out across the Golfo Dulce. Beside me, Traca looked awestruck, as if witnessing a miracle, and our two kids—Logan, our seventeen- year-old son, and Jackson, our fourteen-year-old daughter—were as focused as I’ve ever seen them. If they were still harboring any reservations about this trip, they weren’t letting on. They looked enchanted, alive, overloaded by the sheer density of wildlife, the potential for danger, and the pure novelty that surrounded us all.

Our home for the next month would be the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, a little orphanage/rehab center for all kinds of abandoned or injured rainforest animals. Creatures like kinkajous, peccaries, coatis, tayras . . . though I was focused strictly on the spider monkeys. While all the other sanctuary residents were being cared for in cages, the spider monkeys were the only animals allowed to roam free. Which meant one very critical thing for me and my family: For the next thirty days, we would be living in cages. Whenever we stepped outside, we’d just be part of the monkey troop.

“Well, let’s see how this goes,” Carol barked in her usual forceful voice. She reached for the security latch on the kitchen door, then turned to me. “Just don’t show any fear or it’s all over,” she warned, clearly not paying attention.

Short of holding an i am afraid sign, I’m not sure how I could have exhibited any more fear signals than I was exhibiting at that moment. I was sweating liquid fear. My legs were weak. My heart was racing like a rabbit’s heart in Coyote Canyon. I knew this sensation. When I was a kid, I had an irrational fear of dogs; not just big scary dogs but all dogs. Even friendly golden retrievers could get my blood pumping in a panic, and as Carol opened the door, I had that same reaction: pure, instinctual fear.

“You okay, Dad?” Logan asked me, a white male himself but, ac- cording to Carol, too young to be perceived as a threat by the monkeys.

“I guess so,” I said. “If they go to eat me, save yourself.” I hoped he knew I was joking.

“They’re not going to attack you,” Jackson said, rolling her eyes as if she was annoyed. But I could tell she was a little worried, too.

Then, right before we stepped outside, I caught Traca’s eye. She flashed a big excited smile and I knew exactly what it meant. This was her dream. She’d wanted to take a trip like this ever since we first met, and now here we were, at the threshold of our first big adventure.

Click. The latch opened and out we went.

Excerpted from Wide Open World by John Marshall. Copyright © 2015 by John Marshall. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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