A Life-Changing Experience

This is the final post in a series by the Cooney family about their world travels, made possible by the flexible learning offered at FLVS.

Cooney Adventures 12For the past 12 months, my family and I have been recounting our trek around the world and sharing what it meant to each of us.

Although it’s been nearly seven years since we returned in September 2009, there is not a day that goes by we don’t think about what the trek meant to us individually and collectively. Needless to say, it was a life-changing experience for each of us. My wife Catrell and I set several goals before leaving on our trek and they were all met.

First, we believed that by giving our sons Morgan, Zach, and Harrison the opportunity to see the world before they started college, they would return home with a broader appreciation of the world and their place in it – accomplished.

Second, we believed the real-world, hands-on, immersive education would give them the practical tools and an excellent foundation for their future education – accomplished.

Third, based on their experience, they could attend a community/state college and a state university, and choose any career path they wanted – accomplished.

An unintended consequence of the trek was that we all realized we were not defined by our “stuff.”

We had nine yard sales, sold nearly all of our “stuff” and felt free of the burden that clutters most peoples’ lives.  Today, by most standards, we live a minimalist lifestyle and would prefer to use any discretionary funds to buy travel, not stuff.  We’d rather make memories that will last a lifetime than buy a knick-knack, which will collect dust on a shelf and be quickly forgotten.

Since returning, we’ve only made one major new purchase – a 37” large screen TV.  It wasn’t because we wanted to watch more TV, in fact we don’t even have cable, but a cheap antenna instead.  The real purpose of buying the TV was to replay the nearly 14,000 photos we took during the trek, which continually helps to remind us of our life-changing experience.

By reading our other posts, you will learn about our individual experiences and takeaways during the trek.

In addition, I wrote a book about the first leg of our odyssey that tells stories of our adventures and misadventures while we backpacked for four months through Latin America – see details below.  One day, I may even get around to writing the second book, which will chronicle the seven months we backpacked through Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

Since this is the final posting about our amazing adventure, I want to leave you with my favorite quote by Mark Twain, which sums up my sincere feelings about travel.  And, given current world events and the political climate in the United States, I’d like to emphasis the very astute observation he made about travel so many years ago:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. – Mark Twain

Cooney World AdventuresThis post was written by Mike Cooney, father of three FLVS alumni, and is the 12th in a year-long series by the Cooney family. His book, Cooney World Adventures: Backpacking with Teens Through Latin America, details the first leg of their trek and tells the stories of their adventures (and misadventures) while traveling through Central and South America almost entirely by bus. 

Learn more at www.cooneyworldadventures.com or by emailing mike@cooneyworldadventures.com.

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