What happens when one family ditches the daily grind to travel the globe?

Excess Baggage: One Family’s Around-the-World Search for Balance by Tracey Carisch

 – Book review by Eloise Dempsey

Read this book if: you’re keen to swap the rat race for a change of pace, and find answers to life’s existential questions in the process.
Buy this book for friends who: won’t stop complaining about their jobs.

Do you ever find yourself coveting Tupperware when your odd jumble of Chinese food containers do the trick just fine? Have you ever caught yourself stressing about your garden, before realising that you don’t really like gardening anyway? Have you ever had the sneaking suspicion that your job doesn’t actually do anything? Tracey Carisch can relate. A panic attack during a girls’ night out set off an unexpected chain of events for Carisch and her family, resulting in an epic global adventure and her newly-released book Excess Baggage, is the utterly charming account of their journey.

 

Desperate to discard the familiar mix of mundanity and pressure that comes with everyday life in the Western world (the fast-paced job, constant consumerism, trips to the hardware store to pick up weed killer), Tracey, her husband Brian, and their three kids, Emily, Liv, and Alison, set off on an 18-month trip around the world.

 

“It’s a weird feeling, this whole discontentment-in-the-midst-of-happiness thing,” Carisch writes. Yet this unidentifiable sense of restlessness is certainly relatable, as evidenced by the growing number of digital nomads who are trading their 9-to-5s for more adventurous lives.

 

Excess Baggage is compelling in its honesty – there’s nothing like a dysentery-induced epiphany – and inspiring in the way Carisch’s enlightenment unfolds. The Carisch family visited 24 countries during their adventure, and their encounters with people living in substandard living conditions ignited a change in their perspectives. Volunteer work around the world provided fertile ground for Carisch to challenge her pre-trip behaviours (addiction to approval; accumulation of material stuff; a rush to blame others) and train her brain to think differently.

She writes:

When we hear stories focussed on what’s wrong with the world, we have a choice. We can be overwhelmed and immobilised by the injustice of it all, or we can look for the good miraculously finding its way out from under the rubble.

 

For Carisch, the good comes unexpectedly: a wordless encounter with the daughter of a drug addict in Bolivia; a rush of tears during a heart-to-heart with a Buddhist nun in Cambodia; conquering her fears in order to dive with sharks in Fiji.

 

But there are also heart-wrenching moments for the family that speak to Carisch’s newly- coined noble truth: “Life is full of frustrating bullshit.”

 

So what does it mean to trade middle-class comfort for 18 months on the road? It means finding balance in the absence of a hectic schedule and making the conscious decision to choose happiness. As Carisch states so definitively in Excess Baggage, “Life is about being happy right now”. And if that means taking time out from your every day to get away, then start booking those flights. Tell the world that Tracey Carisch sent you.

 

Excess Baggage:

Read this book if: you’re keen to swap the rat race for a change of pace, and find answers to life’s existential questions in the process.
Buy this book for friends who: won’t stop complaining about their jobs.

 

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