Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: Wide-Open World by John Marshall

Title: Wide-Open World
Author: John Marshall
Source: Publisher

Goodreads Summary:

For readers of Three Cups of Tea; Eat, Pray, Love; and Wild comes the inspiring story of an ordinary American family that embarks on an extraordinary journey. Wide-Open World follows the Marshall family as they volunteer their way around the globe, living in a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica, teaching English in rural Thailand, and caring for orphans in India. There’s a name for this kind of endeavor—voluntourism—and it might just be the future of travel.

Oppressive heat, grueling bus rides, backbreaking work, and one vicious spider monkey . . . Best family vacation ever!
John Marshall needed a change. His twenty-year marriage was falling apart, his seventeen-year-old son was about to leave home, and his fourteen-year-old daughter was lost in cyberspace. Desperate to get out of a rut and reconnect with his family, John dreamed of a trip around the world, a chance to leave behind, if only just for a while, routines and responsibilities. He didn’t have the money for resorts or luxury tours, but he did have an idea that would make traveling the globe more affordable and more meaningful than he’d ever imagined: The family would volunteer their time and energy to others in far-flung locales. 

Wide-Open World is the inspiring true story of the six months that changed the Marshall family forever. Once they’d made the pivotal decision to go, John and his wife, Traca, quit their jobs, pulled their kids out of school, and embarked on a journey that would take them far off the beaten path, and far out of their comfort zones.

Here is the totally engaging, bluntly honest chronicle of the Marshalls’ life-altering adventure from Central America to East Asia. It was no fairy tale. The trip offered little rest, even less relaxation, and virtually no certainty of what was to come. But it did give the Marshalls something far more valuable: a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to conquer personal fears, strengthen family bonds, and find their true selves by helping those in need. In the end, as John discovered, he and his family did not change the world. It was the world that changed them.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely loved this book. Like really loved it. It wasn't necessarily always the greatest from start to finish- I did find some areas bogged down a bit, or just weren't as interesting to me as others. However, it didn't matter. I still loved it.

John Marshall and his wife had a struggling marriage, and they were losing contact with their children, one of which was retreating heavily into the world of technology and friends. Marshall's teenage daughter was a typical American teen, glued to her phone and her friends. One day, Marshall decided enough was enough. The family was going to make some changes, together. The best part: they were going to make these changes by helping other people, in far off distant locales.

Marshall and his family volunteered in a few different places over the course of the year - a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica, an orphanage in India, teaching English in Thailand. They also volunteered as WOOFERs, which is a program where people volunteer on an organic farm. I was most fascinated by the family's time at the monkey sanctuary and at the orphanage. Those two experiences really struck something within me, and drew me in. I just didn't connect with the other adventures the way I did with these two.  I actually could have read more about those two experiences, what we got just wasn't enough.

If this seems like an Eat, Pray, Love experience, it kind of is. However, at the end of this book, not everything ends hunky dory. I loved Marshall's commitment to being honest and open about what happened with his family over the course of this year. Also, another neat feature is at the end of the book, Marshall breaks down how his family managed to take an entire year off and also broke down the financial aspect of the trip as well, which I really wanted to know.

I feel inspired by this book. I love books that inspire me, and this one certainly did. I see voluntourism in the future for my family, and I can't wait!

If you are interested, you can check out Marshall's website, complete with photos!


  1. I'm reading this, but I'm bogged down after going in the sauna and smoking the pipe!

    1. Lol, I know some parts were so slow or I just didn't care about them! I could have read an entire book just about their time in the monkey sanctuary or the orphanage though.

  2. Hey Erin. Just saw this post after spending four months in India. I was back at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission. Job is now 18 and not a little boy anymore. Thanks for the nice words about the book. Hope you get out there into the Wide-Open World for yourself soon. All the best, John Marshall


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