We came, we saw, we left A family gap year

Charles J. Wheelan

Book - 2021

"Charlie Wheelan and his family do what others dream of: they take a year off to travel the world. This is their story. What would happen if you quit your life for a year? In a pre-COVID-19 world, the Wheelan family decided to find out; leaving behind work, school, and even the family dogs to travel the world on a modest budget. Equal parts "how-to" and "how-not-to"--and with an eye toward a world emerging from a pandemic--We Came, We Saw, We Left is the insightful and often hilarious account of one family's gap-year experiment. Wheelan paints a picture of adventure and connectivity, juggling themes of local politics, global economics, and family dynamics while exploring answers to questions like: How do you sn...eak out of a Peruvian town that has been barricaded by the local army? And where can you get treatment for a flesh-eating bacteria your daughter picked up two continents ago? From Colombia to Cambodia, We Came, We Saw, We Left chronicles nine months across six continents with three teenagers. What could go wrong?"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 910.41/Wheelan Checked In
Travel writing
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, Inc [2021]
Main Author
Charles J. Wheelan (author)
First edition
Item Description
"Nine months, six continents, three teenagers" -- Cover.
Physical Description
269 pages ; illustrations, maps : 24 cm
  • Trip Map
  • Chapter 1. Lost in Medellín
  • Chapter 2. What Were We Thinking?
  • Chapter 3. The Long Farewell
  • Chapter 4. If You Want Peace, You Won't Get Justice
  • Chapter 5. Into the Amazon
  • Chapter 6. Things Go South in South America
  • Chapter 7. Inspired by Real Events
  • Chapter 8. To the End of the Earth (Almost)
  • Chapter 9. Charlie's Choice
  • Chapter 10. The Left Side of the Road
  • Chapter 11. The Exploding Penis
  • Chapter 12. Do You Have What It Takes to Cross Four Lanes of Saigon Traffic?
  • Chapter 13. Indian Bureaucracy 2, Wheelan Family 1
  • Chapter 14. A Punjabi Shortcut
  • Chapter 15. One Afternoon in Tanzania
  • Chapter 16. Home Is Where Your Friends Are
  • Chapter 17. Heading to Hanover
  • Chapter 18. The Things We Learned
  • Epilogue: Where Are They Now?
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Booklist Review

Ah, the good ol' days, when a family could just decide, almost on a whim, to pack up and travel the world. For the Wheelan family, the opportunity came when their eldest of three children deferred her freshman year of college. Katrina's gap year set in motion a scheme whereby her parents, who had done a similar, albeit much more affordable, world tour when they were about her age, decided to put their jobs, their pets, and everything else on hold. Along with high-schooler Sophie and middle-schooler son CJ, Wheelan (Naked Money, 2016) and his wife Leah visited six continents in nine months. They experienced some harrowing brush-with-tragedy moments along treacherous trails and the transcendent moments of sheer joy granted by an unexpected sunset. The family's offbeat experiment in global immersion is a triumph of cultural connection, a celebration of humanity's similarities and differences, presented with a winning blend of humor and humility. For those suffering from pandemic cabin fever, Wheelan's exuberant travelogue will provide a welcome vicarious getaway.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Wheelan (The Rationing), a professor of economics at Dartmouth College, delivers a humorous account of the year he spent traveling the world with his family. In 2016, Wheelan and his wife, Leah, embarked on a nine-month trip with their three children: Katrina, 18; Sophie, 16; and eighth-grader CJ. Starting in Colombia, where the kids momentarily go missing on a train platform, high-strung Charles and budget-conscious Leah haul their moody children across six continents, balancing moments of self-discovery with family meltdowns. They encounter "avocado-sized spiders" in the Amazon, notoriously horrendous Saigon traffic, visa problems in India, and an orphanage for albino children in Tanzania, and go "kiwi spotting" in New Zealand. Frequently anxious yet determined to enjoy himself, Wheelan offers plenty of self-effacing humor, amusing digressions ("Our experience was the opposite of what happened to George Bailey," referring to Jimmy Stewart's character in It's a Wonderful Life), and heartfelt observations (writing about friends they made along the way, "They are a kind, charming people with a deep respect for this unique part of the world. I felt sad to be leaving"). This rip-roaring adventure will especially appeal to those whose passports are collecting dust thanks to the pandemic. (Jan.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A vivid chronicle of a family's intrepid sojourn. In the fall of 2016, Wheelan, a professor of public policy at Dartmouth, and his wife, Leah, who taught high school math, both just turned 50, decided to embark on a daring midlife adventure: traveling the world for nine months, accompanied by their three teenage children. Having traveled with Leah when the two were much younger, the author was convinced that they would again find that "the world is an interesting place," the time away would give them a much-needed period to recharge and reflect, and--because they rented their house and put budget-conscious Leah in charge of expenses--the trip would be affordable. Most important, the "gap year" would give the family a chance to "push back" against conformity and break out of the "bubble" of American life. Wheelan offers an entertaining, upbeat account of the trip, often astonishingly beautiful and sometimes harrowing. They encountered snakes, huge spiders, inch-long bullet ants, mosquitoes, quicksand, and a flesh-eating parasite; missed buses, trains, and planes; wilted in enervating heat and humidity; and dealt with profuse vomiting, since all of the children succumbed at various times to motion sickness. Still, Wheelan writes, "during the stretches when I was not worried about dying, I felt deeply relaxed." Traveling with teenagers--and home-schooling two of them--posed its own challenges: Their 18-year daughter insisted on being independent and occasionally left to travel with friends; their garrulous 13-year-old son became a judgmental environmentalist; and their 16-year-old refused to meet her school deadlines. Wheelan records five full-blown family meltdowns and many conflicts, requiring Leah to sometimes function "like the conductor of a needy symphony orchestra." Nevertheless, Wheelan deems the trip a success: The "quirky experiences" taught the family about the world's immense diversity and their own capabilities. A charming celebration of discovery. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.