Cook: How to travel the world without leaving home

Cook: How to travel the world without leaving home

July 14th, 2019 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

The Carisch family traveled to Peru, one of dozens of countries during their year-long adventure.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Long before she swam with bull sharks in Fiji or wept with Buddhist nuns in Cambodia or heard the voice of God while sick on a bathroom floor in Nicaragua, Tracey Carisch sat down one Chattanooga night with a simple glass of pinot noir.

That's when everything began to change.

It was a girls' night out, 2013. As Carisch and friends settled in for drinks at a North Shore wine bar, somebody turned to her and casually asked: So, Tracey, what did you do this week?

She ... didn't ... know.

Sure, she'd done things that week, lots of things. Carisch was neck-deep in the life of a working mother. She had 600 emails in her inbox. Two dozen errands to run.

Yet what had she actually ... done?

"My life has become a repetitive, uninspiring to-do list," she realized on that pinot noir evening. "Was nothing in this entire week worth remembering? Am I just going through the motions?"

Anybody else know that feeling?

That wine-bar revelation soon would unfold into one of the most epic moments in the history of Chattanooga middle-class families:

IF YOU GO

Tracey Carisch will speak at Starline Books on Saturday, July 20, at 6:30 p.m.

Within the year, Carisch and her husband, Brian, and their three daughters sold their North Shore home and most of its belongings and started a journey around the world, traveling to dozens of countries while homeschooling and performing community service along the way.

The journey would take Carisch to places most of us will never go.

But remember: her story isn't about the faraway and exotic.

It's about what's right here, each day.

Whether we are bakers or candlestick makers, how can we live more intentional lives?

"A horse was galloping at great speed, and it appeared the rider was going somewhere very important," Carisch likes to say. "As the hooves thundered through a village, a young boy watched the man ride by."

"The boy shouted: Where are you going?

"The rider yelled back: I don't know! Ask the horse!"

This wonderful horse story opens Carisch's new aptly named book, "Excess Baggage: One Family's Around-the-World Search for Balance." It is part Rick Steves, part Elizabeth Gilbert, part Bill Bryson.

"Twelve months of global travel had shown us a world very different from the one we'd learned about on the twenty four hour news networks, where fear and controversy apparently sell more advertising than heartwarming stories about random acts of kindness," she writes.

On July 20, Carisch returns to Chattanooga for a speaking event at Starline Books, the independent bookstore on Market Street. (They now live in Colorado.)

"The event will feature insightful travel stories and an open discussion on how we find balance and connection in the midst of busy schedules," she said. "I've had so many meaningful discussions on finding purpose, handling conflicts, and setting life's priorities with the people who attend. I'm so excited to finally get to do one back here in Chattanooga, where this all started for us."

I love her story. The daringness of it. The courage. The honesty. We may never travel the world, but can we travel to lives that are more intentional?

Can we practice more mini-revolutions of mindfulness within the daily spin cycle of mortgage, bedtimes, homework and emails?

David Cook

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Times Free Press.

How can we learn to say no?

How can we learn to say yes?

"We were just ... so damn busy," Carisch writes of her pre-travel life. "Always going, going, going, running from one thing to the next."

Traveling to 24 countries — Croatia to Ethiopia to New Zealand — and helping with 56 community services projects shifted that damn-busy-ness to something more freeing.

Thailand. (Rode elephants. Her husband accidentally ate a hash pizza.)

Bolivia. (Worked with homeless drug addicts.)

Peru. (It is a small world after all: on the shores of Lake Titicaca, they stumbled into a charming couple ... from North Georgia.)

There is a particularly moving story about a wordless encounter over incense with a Buddhist nun. Just the touch of her kind hand brought Carisch to deep tears.

Another haunting story describes the days they spent in Fiji with Reuben and Diana Summerlin; it would be the last time they saw the unforgettable Reuben, who was later killed by a truck driver while riding his bike.

In Nicaragua, dysentery hit. Writhing on the bathroom floor, Carisch somehow heard a divine voice: Welcome it all with open arms. The good. The bad. The everything.

"I rediscovered something I'd lost when I was a stressed out working mother," she writes. "It was a truth my higher self had always known, but the frazzled mom had forgotten over the years."

Maybe we can find that, too.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com