Guilty. I'm the one that hatched this crazy idea. I'll be the one to either be celebrated or blamed at the end. Frankly, right now it's 50/50 on which way it goes. Maybe 70/30 is more realistic. Which way? Depends on the day.
It all started when... Actually, there were a couple of events that precipitated this. The first was the summer of 2005. The second was a decision by my firm to provide a sabbatical benefit.
Let me start with the summer of 2005. I was in between my first and second year of business school, doing my internship at Hewlett-Packard in beautiful Palo Alto, CA. The downside of the summer was that I left April and the kids back in Indiana. The upside was that HP did an amazing job of building a community amongst the interns and I had an amazing summer.
My internship lasted ten weeks, and I used every weekend with my fellow interns to explore the Bay Area. From visits to San Francisco; to weekends in Napa and Sonoma; to heading WAAAAY up to Redwoods National Forest; to multiple trips to Monterey, Big Sur, and Carmel; to the highlight of the summer - hiking in Yosemite.
At the end of the summer, I had a week to make the drive back to Indiana. Over the course of the summer I had the opportunity to meet lots of people with lots of recommendations on what to see across this great country. So, over the course of the week, I went back through Yosemite one last time; dropped down to Death Valley; up through Vegas; up to Bryce Canyon and Arches; over to Denver; over to Kansas City; down to St. Louis; and finally, across to Indiana. Only hitting a small fraction of the recommendations everyone had given me.
It was the first time I was able to spend time driving across the country and I couldn't help but think how great it would be for April and the kids to be with me. Every time I went to Yosemite, I thought how amazing it would be to bring my kids to the top of Half Dome. Granted, my kids were two and four at the time - but, I knew with patience and time they would be ready to share the experience with me.
After b-school, I started consulting. An amazing career choice, I get to work with best and brightest to design and build the future. But, the work keeps me traveling from Monday to Thursday practically every week. As amazing as the work is, over the past eight years I have missed every Boy Scout meeting, most dance practices, most parent/teacher conferences, and a majority of birthdays (not the parties, just the actual days).
So, a little more than two years ago when my firm implemented a sabbatical benefit, I started thinking - how can I make this amazing? How can I use this time to reconnect with my family in a way that my kids will remember forever? I pushed myself to come up with the craziest ideas I could imagine, and slowly this idea that combined all of these elements started to take shape.