Stimulus Package for the Suburban Family

In late 2008 Congress passed what is commonly referred to as the Fiscal Stimulus Package. I haven’t read the act, but I believe that there is nothing in it that provides stimulus for the sagging spirit of the suburban American family.

There are swift and decisive actions in the Stimulus Package to reinvigorate a stale economy, but none to reinvigorate the day-in, day-out staleness of suburban life. There is plenty in the act to address the global financial crisis, but there’s nothing that addresses mid-life crisis. There are measures to get investors excited again about the American economy, but none to put more excitement in the lives of a suburban family from Marin County, California.

Just as the aforementioned legislation is geared to get the economy moving, our family decided to get moving…initially to Peru. Immediately following a family congress in April of 2008 we decided on the cornerstones of the first part of our Stimulus Package: volunteer, work and put down new “roots” in South America. We would later decide on the second half of this trip: a grand tour of the Mediterranean to traces the origins of western civilization.

Our principal goal was to find a sense of community in a completely foreign locale. We decided to try to find work and volunteer opportunities somewhere in the Peruvian Andes and have our two kids become proficient in Spanish. Since both kids are pretty good swimmers, we would also try to find them a swim team, to help build their language skills in a familiar environment and contribute further to a sense of community.

Certainly, the timing was right for an extended sabbatical. The economy hadn’t been this bad in decades and both my spouse and I work in cyclical industries (real estate and retail, respectively). With both of us professionally independent there was a good chance that we might not earn 6 months worth of income in the upcoming year. Some quick math showed us that continuing to toil in this manner left us financially worse off than renting out our house, volunteering and spending the next 12 months traveling the world.

This was easier said than done. Our strategy required renting out the house, home-schooling, or “road-schooling” the kids, finding a home for our dog, selling the car, canceling the cell phones and taking care of the myriad of details that go with an entrenched suburban life. We immediately launched into the planning phase and started ticking things off our list.

Although admittedly not the centerpiece of our Stimulus Package, we started to focus, like virtually every U.S. bank, on selling “troubled assets”. For example, we used Craig’s List to sell the lawnmower that hadn’t been used for 10 years, as well as the dust-covered wicker chairs that were purchased at a Williams-Sonoma sample sale 15 years ago. The government’s Stimulus Package was designed to utilize idle resources; the idea behind our Suburban Stimulus Package was to become more idle -- and less rushed -- in order to enjoy life.

This online journal will record how we made it happen and will document our progress.


  1. My wife and I are doing something similar. Did you have to get visas before going given the length of time? great reading your blog.

  2. It depends on where you are going. Peru, for example, gives you 6 months upon arrival...if you want to stay longer, you have to leave the country for a bit and come back, at which point they'll give you another 6 months.

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