Sources of Inspiration for our Family Gap Year

James and Kate on their honeymoon in Banff, 2011.  The very beginning of a family gap year inspiration was created in March 2011 when James and Kate got married.

Often the first question we get about our family gap year is, “when did you start planning that?” This is a dream we’ve been talking about for over a decade but never thought it would happen for all the obvious life reasons.

There are so many sources of inspiration for a family gap year but our families are at the core of it. From before we met, both of us have been blessed with love from each of our parents and our families. As we approach our 40th birthdays, we are ever more grateful for this blessing in our lives.

Kate’s Family

One of the great joys of my childhood was our summer trips. Almost every summer, we spent two weeks traveling – exploring national parks, traveling by RV in Alaska, visiting Europe, or sailing the BVIs.

My dad is a hardworking, do-it-yourselfer with an adventurous spirit. His dreamer mentality led to many unique experiences growing up, from tasting the lobster of Maine by way of steaming them in a hotel bathtub, to skippering our own sailboat in the BVIs almost 30 years ago. His deep sense of determination and independence is emblematic of the American spirit and encouraged me to forge my own path.

My mom, ever the faithful companion to my dad, always puts family first. Often as I was walking out the door to school, my mom would gently remind me to, “always be kind to everyone.” The combination of dogged determination, a fierce family loyalty and a focus on being kind provided the foundation for me to explore the world.

I’ve been blessed with two brothers who live life with a carpe diem attitude.  They are examples for how to embrace each day, even with the stresses of work, parenting and health. 

My oldest brother’s love for the islands and fly fishing inspires all of us to squeeze those magical moments out of life. In between life’s daily responsibilities, he can be found pursuing trout in rural mountain springs.

My younger older brother embraces each day as a gift and challenges his own family to live boldly. He’s built an incredible life, far from the conventional path, and is a role model to all of us. He’s also the reason we’re going to Alaska this summer. 

James’ Family

My dad is a friendly, happy-go-lucky optimist who has more friends than anyone could count. He’s the ultimate example of someone who lives his own life but without judgment for others. He has that rare gift to focus on becoming better each day, purely for the internal drive that burns inside of him. His high expectations, with constant love and support, have been a guiding light in my life and ultimately led me to pursue my own path.

My mom has a permanent sense of adventure and creativity. She was the inspiration for some of my earlier trips in life, including a stint in Buenos Aires, where she joined for the last week. The combination of two loving parents, a drive to make tomorrow better than today, role models marching to their own beat, and an appreciation for so many different walks of life provided the foundation for our family and this adventure.

When we were in high school, my brother and I took a trip to the Exumas to Kayak. It was a cheap trip, which was perfect for us, and we soon discovered why…it was hurricane season in August! Despite some travel snafus along the way, my brother is always up for a good time. He’s also been an engineer since the beginning, which makes our trips and discussions always filled with new ideas and creativity. His strong sense of independence, wicked intelligence, and positive attitude make our time together one of the true joys of my life.

Rugged individuals

As a kid, James attended Camp Pinnacle in the mountains of NC. He met many men who had dedicated their lives to the outdoors and to enjoying the many natural gifts from Mother Nature. As part of packing up our house for this trip, James discovered his journal (below) that he kept during a one month outdoor trip in the summer of 1998, his last summer as a camper at Pinnacle. It brought back so many memories, but especially those from Adventure Trek leaders Luke Hunter and Brian Rueg.

There’s also a part of James that learned to love the outdoors from Wally Wallace, then head of mountain biking at Camp Pinnacle. That sense of freedom that comes from a bike, the energy from one’s own heart and lungs, and the quietness of the woods were instilled through Wally’s love for the outdoors. In many ways, these moments of independence, stillness, and seeing the world through others’ eyes are why we travel.

James' journal from his last year as a camper at Camp Pinnacle

Learning something new

More recently, we’ve spent the last three years learning how to sail. It has been a true joy as a couple to learn something that didn’t involve kids (love you, mean it, kiddos!). It has also been eye-opening to figure out how to plan a family gap year.

We’ve met many incredible people along our sailing journey, including the good folks at Charleston Sailing School and Captain Jeremy at Reef Runner Sailing. One in particular that really planted the seed for taking this Family Gap Year was Sterling Bryson. Sterling taught our ASA 103 class, the second of three classes needed for a multiday bareboat charter. Sterling grew up going to the Bahamas and talked about how much joy and independence time on the water brought him. One of the amazing things about sailing is people you meet. Through the sailing community, we’ve met seemingly ordinary people with incredible courage to pursue their dreams.

We are so fortunate to have the inspiration and support from our family and friends and we are looking forward to meeting new people on our journey.

Check out our Blog for the latest on our adventures