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.