By John Marshall
$26, 352 pages
Audio, eBook available
There was no major emergency that motivated John Marshall to uproot his family for six months of global volunteer work. It was lots of little things: declining intimacy with his wife of 20 years; the desire for quality time with their teenagers; and a general sense of boredom at work. Their travels do change their lives, in ways both expected and highly surprising.
In Wide-Open World, Marshall describes their quest with self-effacing humor. He's the first to admit the family did poorly at their first stop, a wildlife sanctuary in Costa Rica, and he has the multiple monkey bites to prove it. Time spent in New Zealand seems dreamlike in its beauty, and the family's work in a small orphanage in India creates bonds that prove unbreakable even after the story ends.
It's inspiring to see how Marshall's kids gain confidence and a new perspective on the world, as well as appreciation for a day's honest labor. He breaks down the journey's specific expenses and confesses to starting his research by googling "volunteer" plus the name of a country, to make it clear that if this idea appeals to you, it's well within reach.
Wide-Open World is an adventure made up of countless small moments of human connection. It's an armchair travelogue that may well inspire you to do good off the beaten path.