• Posted on January 02, 2014


This final short film about our journey around the world has been an (intensive) labor of love.  The movie is about Time, and how weird and ridiculously valuable time is.  Time, it turns out, was the real gift we gave ourselves:  One year to be alone together discovering the world.  In this time, we discovered how little we truly knew about the world, we made friends, gained confidence, refreshed our creativity, saw things we could only dream of, and our whole family grew a hell of a lot closer in the process.  What a year.

RTW365 explores the concept of time in a different way.  As you probably observed, Mark shot a “moving image” — either on his 5D or his iPhone — every single day of our journey.  This film takes one second from each day and strings them all together.  When we watch this mind-bending mash-up — our personal Around The World In 365 seconds — we are instantly transported back to the experience of the trip.  The feeling of openness and adventure and discovery and togetherness.  It’s incredible how the days really did seem to move past in seconds, and the best year of our life — while it seemed long while we were living it (to paraphrase Finn) — seems like it flew by in minutes.We suppose it’s fitting that the song we happened to chose for this film is called “Time” by The Mowgli’s.  Franny introduced us to this band (as she’s our Commissioner of Music).  When it came up on Mark’s playlist and he heard the lyrics — “I don’t like time /Time is making me old / But I’m doing alright / ‘Cause I will still be young tomorrow” — well, some things just belong together.

It’s a funny thing about time and songs actually.  The Mowgli’s song “Time” runs only three-and-a-half minutes, but 365 seconds equals a little over six minutes, so we had a creative dilemma.  Do we play the song twice?  Do we transition to another song?  Then we came up with the best possible solution.  We convinced Franny to cover the song so when we played it a second time it had her voice.  Chad Fischer, the composer on our film “Little Manhattan,” generously helped put together the track, and it seemed very fitting that our Year To Think should end with Franny, now fourteen, standing in a sound booth in Chad’s backyard recording studio singing about time.

Thank you for coming on this journey to with us.  We were shocked by how much we enjoyed sharing it with all of you.  We’re generally private folk, but knowing we had friends and followers who cared about our journey and enjoyed it with us — you were a powerful warm wind at our backs.  The trip was made more special for knowing we had so many friends with us all along the way.

Now we’re home and time still moves forward at its unique speed and we’re now working on  the big riddle.  How do we carry our Year To Think with us?  How do we embody the spirit of the trip — the openness, and creativity, and sense of adventure — in each day of our lives?  As we get the answers, we’ll share them with you — along with a few films.

Deep appreciation,
Mark, Jen, Franny & Finn

  • Posted on October 08, 2013


It’s one thing to find your way around the world, but it’s another thing to find your way around a blog about finding your way around the world.  Therefore, we have created The Essentials, our own personal favorites culled from the 120 films we created while we were on the road.  Here are eleven of our favorite films that will take you around the world in a (relatively) short period time, presented in glorious chronological order:






(If you’ve got a free afternoon and you’d like to see forty-three of our favorite films you can click here.  And if you want to start at the very beginning, click here.)
  • Posted on September 24, 2013


Don’t you just love it after reading a story when you’re given the chance to catch up with the characters and learn what’s become of them?We’re only one month removed from the trip, but life in Los Angeles is surprisingly lovely.  We use the word “surprising” because we were pretty much dreading our return.  We were so happy on the road, we never wanted our journey to be over.  It turns out that sometimes the greatest gift you can give yourself is low expectations.  Here, we have been happily reminded what great friends we have, how nice it is to live with closets instead of suitcases, and — aided by a little time and perspective — Hollywood seems like a fun place to return back to work.  (Another great thing about Los Angeles is how many talented people surround us, like our friend Tim Olyphant who lent us his voice for this film, and our friend Jacob Ehrlich who made words magically float in the sky).  Our whole family has changed in ways we are discovering each day and we will probably be discovering for years.  In the meantime, we will stay in touch.  Not as close as before, but when you least suspect it, an email will appear in your inbox and it will be us shouting hello and and sharing a little something we’ve discovered along the road of life.

  • Posted on September 01, 2013


Memory is ridiculously fleeting.  Almost instantaneously as we arrived home, we could feel the trip slipping from something we were doing to something we had done.  It’s startling how quickly the present becomes the past.  So on our fourth day back in Los Angeles, before we even officially returned to our house which was still occupied by tenants, we sat down to capture our thoughts about the trip, to talk about how it changed us all, and to try and remember a little of how we felt about… everything.

  • Posted on August 25, 2013


One of the incredible things about our Year To Think was how the trip completely demystified travel for us.  The more time we spent on the road the more we learned about how to navigate all sorts of logistical challenges — and we discovered a variety of basic truths that we now want to share.  We offer the following ten time-tested tips for easy, inexpensive, fabulous and fulfilling world travel (complete with handy, hard-to-see, yet fully-clickable hyperlinks).


When you stay in an apartment, you immediately feel as if you live in a place.  You have a neighborhood.  You have your coffee place, your grocery store, and with a little luck you have your lovely local bakery as well.  We have been renting apartments when we travel for the last five years or so — but in the last few years it has gotten much easier.  On our journey, we would ideally rent for a week at a time — but sometimes we rented an apartment for as little as a single night.  There has been a real revolution in the rental -by-owner market and the heart of this revolution happens at airbnb.com.  We had used airbnb on a trip to Paris in 2011 and had a less-than-stellar experience.  But airbnb has grown a lot in these past two years and on this trip, we found killer airbnb apartments at great prices numerous times.  In Shanghai, Melbourne, BilbaoBerlin, Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen and Edinburgh, we found sensational airbnb’s that were generally under $200 a night for a two bedroom apartment.

The great thing about airbnb is that it’s also a social network of sorts — you review the places you stay and landlords review you (check out what people said about us here).  It’s not just a virtual social network, it’s literally a great social experience.  Often the landlord — looking for a little extra money — will vacate their apartment for the time you’re there and stay with friends or family.  This might strike you as a bit weird, but it’s actually quite nice.  In Berlin, Copenhagen, Melbourne and Shanghai, because they were close by and accessible, we became good friends with our landlords, we went out to dinner with them, and we continue to keep in touch.  Damn, airbnb should pay us for all the nice things we’re saying about them.  It was (and is) our go-to site for cool places to stay.

Additionally, VRBO.com (vacation rental by owner) is the grandaddy of all rental sites.  It’s been around the longest, it’s bit more expensive and a bit harder to use (airbnb makes booking and paying super easy).  Still we got amazing places off VRBO as well.  In Beijing, while the apartment was hardly what you’d call “nice,” it did come with a private car and driver as well as a spectacular translator/guide all for one reasonable price.  We used VRBO in Kyoto (where expectation met reality), Vienna, Barcelona, and it’s where we found our magnificent apartment in Paris as well.  You should also check out Flipkey, Homeaway, or just google the name of the city where you want to go along with the words short term rentals (i.e. rome short term rentals) and the apartment of your dreams is usually just a few clicks away.


For one or two night stays, sometimes a hotel is just easier.  The internet makes finding nice affordable hotels super easy.  Our favorite hotel website Booking.com introduced us a host of good rooms all for 200 dollars a night or lower.  What we loved about booking.com is that you could really specify that you are four people and it would guide you to available “family rooms” designed to accommodate more than two people (Kayak, for example, does not offer this option).  We also recommend you check out hotelscombined.com (which is a clearing house for all internet hotel sites), agoda.com (in Asia especially) and hotels.com which is a British-based site.  The nice thing about staying in hotels is that you often get breakfast too.  And in Southeast Asia, you can find serviced apartments on these sites as well.  Using these tools, we found awesome places in Adelaide and the Gold Coast of Australia, Bangkok, and Queenstown, New Zealand.


We love doing our own travel planning because we feel we know the way we like to travel best.  But what if you’re going to a part of the world where you feel like you need extra assistance?  Well, in the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, India, and Kenya we felt like a little extra help navigating those foreign landscapes would be necessary.  But here’s our big tip:  Always buy local.  Every travel agent we found was based inside the country where we were traveling — and the prices quoted were dramatically cheaper than American travel agents who we contacted about the exact same itineraries.  In the Galapagos, for example, a highly rated Seattle-based company was offering us the lowest level cabin on a boat called the M/V Santa Cruz for what seemed like a fairly high price.  When we reached out to a local Ecuadorian agent at GalapagosIslands.com, we got the VERY BEST CABINS on the EXACT SAME BOAT for LESS THAN HALF THE PRICE.

Each of the indigenous travel agents we discovered were stellar and able to create experiences for us that offered sufficient luxury, but were most importantly affordable, interesting and authentic.  A special shout out goes to V.P. SIngh of India’s Legends and Palaces.  They say that to travel in India you have to go very high or very down and dirty.  V.P. Singh showed us the road in between.  He made our money go magically far, looked after us via telephone each day, and was almost a magical character on our journey.  We never met him, and no one we encountered in India had ever met him either but everyone spoke of him as a mysterious legendary figure.  There is a rumor that he was was a General in the Indian Army.  When we go back to India again, he will be the first person we call —  but this time we will be determined to meet V.P. Singh in person.

How did you find good travel agents abroad you ask?  Well, as always Google was our guide.  But some sites were our “go-to” places.  Fodor’s Forum is a wonderful place to learn from other travelers.  Often you can find the answers you want by searching their site.  Many people have asked similar questions to what you’re wondering about.  Or you can ask your own questions.  We found our amazing fishing village Tour with Tong through the Forum.  TripAdvisor is also an incredible resource and the most popular travel site in the world.  Besides using it to check out hotels to make sure they’re a place we wanted to be, we found some of our favorite meals on their pages, and some of our favorite guides.  Jen was searching for days for a “driver in Morocco” and then the google sea parted and gave us Jalil — one of our truly great finds of the trip.  If you’re going to Morocco email him ASAP.


Do you need a guide?  Well, that’s an interesting question.  We had guides all over the world.  Often times the private guides can be a little curmudgeonly and dry and the kids would check out a little bit.  We had incredible private guides in Delhi, Petra and Athens (we found the great Dimitrios on TripAdvisor).  They were well worth it.  But we also came to love Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours.  The idea is that the guide works for tips.  The guides tend to be young, hip, a lot of fun and incentivized to give a great tour to earn more money (as opposed to the complacency of the veteran pre-paid tour guide).  We took Sandeman’s tours in Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, and London.  All were great, with a special shoutout to Kim MacArthur in Berlin.  She also took us to Sachsenhausen outside of Berlin and our children happily went as she was so fantastic.  And while Sandeman’s doesn’t operate everywhere (though they are in many, many places), just googling “free walking tour” will find you a great experience in most cities.


We only had our first two months really mapped out when we left.  As we soft-boiled ourselves in a natural hot springs in New Zealand we realized we didn’t have one hotel booked for Southeast Asia just four weeks later (in fact besides knowing when we were flying in and out of  Bangkok we didn’t even know which countries we were going to visit).  This made Jen anxious.  But Mark said “it will be okay,” and sure enough we put it together piece by piece.  By being flexible when we met up with a family in Shanghai and they told us about the most amazing days spent in  the jungle of Luang Prabang at the Laos Spirit Resort, we were able to book it at the last minute.  By the end of the trip, we were planning our travel with only weeks or days advance notice.  On a few nights of the trip, we even hit the road without even knowing where we were going to sleep and — you know what? — each night we slept somewhere.  Amazing.
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  • Posted on August 21, 2013


With about five posts remaining, we wanted to share this little love letter to the road with you.  After a sojourn in New York and Boston, our family has finally touched down back in Los Angeles after more than 365 days away from home.  Now the re-acclimation process begins (wish us luck!).  As Old Blue Eyes says “It’s Nice To Go Travelin'” — and we four veterans of the road couldn’t agree with him more.

  • Posted on August 17, 2013


What makes for a good movie on “A Year To Think”?  Compelling subject matter is, of course, king.  A strong cinematic concept definitely helps.  A narrative arc is never frowned upon.  And a surprising emotional component is always home run.  But not everything we shot found its way out of our constantly moving post-production facility.  Our roaming camera wandered down a lot of dead end alleys out there.  Some films fell victim to too little time, or too much footage was shot to sift through, or they were just too plain boring to end up on the small screen.  Here is our tribute to a handful of potential gems that unfortunately never found their way to the front page of the blog.  But oh, what could have been!

  • Posted on August 14, 2013


Okay, we’ve talked about Great Cities To Live In.  But let’s face it, you can’t live everywhere.  Some places you just want to visit.  Here are fifteen incredible places we recommend seeing before you’re six feet under (and a handful of places that, in our opinion, you can meet your maker without laying eyes upon).


15.  EVORA, PORTUGAL  We visited this ancient walled city in the off-season and it felt like we had the whole place to ourselves.  It’s a two hour drive inland from Lisbon and worth the trip.  Walk along the narrow streets winding up to amazing churches where you find boundless views across the vast green countryside.  Go to the restaurant called Botequim da Mouraria where you can only sit at the counter and trust that whatever the owner prepares for you is going to be absolutely delicious.

14.  BEIJING, CHINA  Beijing was far from our favorite destination on the trip, but it is undeniably a must see.  Here you will find the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, Tiannemen Square, not to mention a world class state-of-the-art subway system built for the 2008 Olympics.  Beijing is also home to our favorite meal on the whole trip:  Peking Duck at the world famous Da Dong restaurant.  We’d fly back tomorrow just for the crispy duck skin dipped in sugar.

13.  VARANASI, INDIA  We would never want to live in Banaras, as the locals call this holiest city in the Hindu religion.  But are we glad we went there?  Without question.  This was the India of our imaginations.  Our sunrise boat ride along the Ganges and all the sacred rituals we witnessed will be embedded in our memories forever.

12.  STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN  Why do people only talk about how beautiful the people are in Sweden?  This city is absolutely gorgeous.  Along with Sydney, it is one of the great “water cities” of the world.  Swedish meatballs are world famous for a reason, the people here are kind and Viking tall, and if it not for the seven months of winter, Stockholm would have easily made our list of most livable cities on earth.

11.  GOREME, TURKEY  In the heart of Cappadocia in central Turkey, Goreme is home to remarkable rock formations called Fairy Chimneys and your hotel will literally be built into the naturally formed rocks.  Eat at the Topdeck Cave restaurant, take the hot air balloon ride, and send us a note thanking us for the recommendation.

10.  DEAUVILLE, FRANCE  About an hour east of Omaha Beach is this picturesque resort city referred to as Paris’ 21st arrondissement because it’s the perfect weekend distance from the French capital.  While not as well known as its southern cousins on the Côte d’Azur, Deauville is a beautiful seaside escape for when you just can’t take any more of the ridiculous splendor of Parisian life.

9.  PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA  Fascinating, complex, and quite beautiful, this capital city is often overlooked as tourists flock to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat temple.  The S-21 Prison Museum must be seen to fully understand the horrors of Cambodia’s recent history.  It was just outside Phnom Penh in Oudong where we met the unforgettable Small Guides.  If you go to Cambodia and encounter any of these young men, please send them our love.

8.  QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND  The most beautiful place on the planet in our opinion — high praise indeed, but unquestionably deserved.  There’s a reason Peter Jackson used it as the setting for so much of Lord of the Rings.  There’s also hiking, boating, biking, and skiing.  Don’t forget to check out neighboring Arrowtown which is a smaller and more quaint but no less gorgeous.

7.  THEKKADY, INDIA  To get to this Spice Village in the hills of Kerala in Southern India, you have to snake along some of the most treacherous roads we’ve ever seen.  But it’s more than worth the journey.  Learn where all the world’s most unique spices come from and eat at the restaurant called Fifty Mile Diet, where all food comes from within fifty miles of the kitchen.  This may be the best square fifty miles for dining anywhere on the planet (and they even serve beef, a rarity for India).

6.  BILBAO, SPAIN  The best kept non-secret on the planet.  Since Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim Museum first rose along the riverside fifteen years ago, the city has undergone an astonishing renaissance that makes it a world-class destination.  This Basque capital must be added to your list of great Spanish cities — along with Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville.  P.S.  Eat at Artxanda and order the fried peppers.

5.  PETRA, JORDAN  Of all the “Wonders Of The World” we visited (including Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum, Angkor Wat), Petra was the most “wonderful.”  You can travel down from Amman or cross the border from southern Israel to discover this remarkably preserved ancient city that must hold a high place on your bucket list.

4.  MERIBEL, FRANCE  For a family that only skied a couple times in Big Bear, California, the French Alps were an absolute revelation.  Franny, Finn, and Mark all gained great confidence in their four days on the slopes of Altiport (perfect for beginners and Black Diamond experts alike).  Eat at Alti 16 where the owner Jean-Marie will make you the best raclettte we’ve ever tasted, then head back out to the slopes.  (Special thanks to our friends Isabel and Jean-Michel for introducing us to this incredible place — see you next year!)

3.  HIROSHIMA, JAPAN  From the horrors of war comes the world’s greatest monument to peace.  Hiroshima is a now beautiful and inviting city where you can find Okonomiyaki, a unique savory pancake that was one of our favorite foods of the trip.  It’s just a short tram ride out to Miyajima where the orange temple gates rising from the water make it Japan’s must-see shrine.

2.  SHELA, KENYA  This quiet beach town on the coast of Kenya is just a ten minute walk from the larger city of Lamu — and an hour and a half flight on a small propeller plane from Nairobi.  If you’ve got the stomach for the flight, you’ll discover one of the best kept secrets on the planet.  Beautiful beaches, warm water, ridiculously delicious local seafood, and some of the friendliest people we’ve come to know (yes, we mean you Ngala).

1.  THE GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR  The perfect intersection of vacation and education — or as we like to call it “vaceducation” (copyright pending, other suggestions welcome).  The Galapagos are seriously a once in a lifetime experience.  Contact a local travel agent in Quito to get the most bang for your buck (only book through an American company if you want to pay double), take a cabin on a ship called the M/V Santa Cruz (stay away from the overpriced National Geographic ship which literally uses the exact same guides), snorkel among the reefs, and walk within inches of wildlife you’ll see nowhere else on the planet.  This is where our year began — and in many ways we saved the best for first.


5.  ROBE, AUSTRALIA  This is where the good people of Adelaide go for holiday.  Adelaide is a nice enough place with one of the world’s great indoor markets — but don’t make the trek out to Robe.  You’ll immediately want to turn tail and drive full speed back to Adelaide, which is what we did.

4.  EILAT, ISRAEL  At the southern tip of Israel along the Red Sea, you’ll find this scuzzy vacation destination where we were so grossed out by the man spraying Windex over all the ingredients of the falafel case, we insisted they take keep our money if it meant we didn’t have to take the sandwich we ordered.  Once again, we ran.  There’s only one good reason to go to Eilat:  It’s where you walk across the border to Jordan to visit Petra.  But if you’re going to Petra, spend the night in Aquaba on the Jordanian side for a little taste of Arabic culture.

3.  XIAN, CHINA  People come from all over the world to see the Terra Cotta Warriors.  But is it really worth the eleven hour train ride from Beijing?  Unfortunately, not at all.  See the Terra Cotta Warriors when they come to a museum near you and save yourself the hassle.  If you do go to Xian however, don’t forget to take a bike ride atop the wall surrounding the old city and definitely check out the Muslim Quarter (but air quality could limit your “outside time” drastically).

2.  GENEVA, SWITZERLAND  We arrived in Geneva at nine o’clock on a Sunday night and it was a ghost town.  We’re talking Swiss tumbleweed.  There is absolutely nothing to do in this city where the greatest attraction is a spout of water that shoots ten meters high.  And to add insult to injury, it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world.

1.  NARA, JAPAN  People love Nara so feel free to disagree.  But the one night we spent there was the low-point of our trip.  The city is known for its wild deer roaming freely through the parks, and its gorgeous temples.  When we visited the deer were feral and tick-infested, chasing innocent passersby into traffic — and the allegedly gorgeous temples were covered with scaffolding leaving everything to the imagination.  The good thing about low-points, however, is that it makes the high points that much higher.  We’ll always have the Galapagos.

  • Posted on August 11, 2013


On our journey, we were blessed with weirdly nice weather and oddly good timing nearly everywhere we went.  It’s not that we didn’t have our rainy days (in Venice), our blistering cold days (in Budapest), and our staggeringly hot days (in Bangkok) — but for the most part, we managed to bob and weave with the calendar in very fortuitous ways.  We spent the better part of Europe’s longest winter in decades down in Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and Israel — still managing to ski in freshly fallen snow in the French Alps.  We ended up finding ourselves in Barcelona on the night of the Parade of the Three Kings.  In Prague, we happened to stumble upon the inauguration of the new president and found ourselves with a front row seat.  In Belfast, we coincidentally arrived on the 11th night of July, which is one of the most notorious (and fascinating) nights of the year in Northern Ireland.  And as fate would also have it, we managed to be at our most northerly point, high in the Baltic Sea on June 21st, the longest day of the year.  We’d heard about the Midnight Sun for our whole lives and, thanks to the alchemy of the trip, we actually got a chance to experience it.

  • Posted on August 07, 2013


“How do you pack for a year around the world?”  This is our second most asked question.  The simple answer is “Pack as if you’re traveling for two weeks.”  We found this advice on a number of blogs we found when we googled “family around the world travel.”  Most importantly, it all begins with the right bag.  We did our research and ended up with the Eaglecreek Orv trunk.  These bags are strong and carry a lot, but they’re not too big.  Jen, Franny, and Finn got the 25 inch trunk and Mark got the 30 inch variety.  They haven’t failed us on the entire trip.  We’ve stuffed these suckers within an inch of their lives and their zippers have never busted.  Check out how quickly and efficiently Mark’s bag gets packed up:But what did we put inside of these bags exactly?  Well, Mark boasts of only bringing three pairs of pants for the entire year, and while that’s certainly admirable, it’s not necessarily something most women can relate too.  Here’s Jen’s packing list:  5 short sleeve shirts, 10 long sleeve shirts, 4 sleeveless shirts, 3 skirts (one safari, one black, one colorful), 1 long black dress/coat, 2 linen dresses (one white, one black), 2 black cardigans, 2 striped cardigans, 2 pullovers, 1 brown cashmere sweater, 1 summer grey cotton cardigan, 3 pairs of light cotton pants, 1 pair of sweatpants, 1 workout pants, 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of khakis, 4 bras, 1 sports bra, 10 paris of underwear plus two pairs of travel underwear (you cannot have too much underwear), 1 nightgown, 2 belts, 7 pairs of socks (three pairs of hiking socks, four pairs of ped socks), 2 bathing suits, 1 pair of sneakers, 1 pair of hiking boots, 1 pair of black flipflops, 1 pair of orthopedic black maryjanes (given away to our driver in Kenya), 1 black windbreaker with 19 pockets, 1 black down Patagonia fleece, 1 orange sun hat.

This has kept her in good stead for an entire year.  She will tell you that the one thing she missed the entire year were her clogs.  She invested in four pairs of sensible shoes for the year and well, while she was always able to walk, there was something missing.  Sometimes a woman doesn’t want sensible shoes — but such is the life of the RTW traveler.  The real trick is to bring many different types of clothing in many different weights.  While Franny had to buy a winter coat in Istanbul, Jen had brought a down shell, along with a windbreaker from Scottyvest that had 19 pockets.  There was no time when the weather got too cold for her.  She did pick up a scarf and gloves along the way, but besides that, she was set.  She also brought a couple skirts for “fancier occasions.” but accepted that she was not going to ever really “dress up.”  This whole year to think has been a real lesson letting go of our vanity.

Regarding the actual packing, we had heard about “packing cubes” for years, and truthfully they always sounded a little silly to us, but after investing in a set for each of us we are now full-on believers.  “Packing cubes” enable you to keep each of your clothing separate and allow you to unpack easily.  There is never the experience of your suitcase exploding.  Regard all that fits into a single packing cube:

We’d also like to say that one way we were all able to stay sane for the past year was that we each brought our own pillow.  We strongly recommend the pillow from home.  We packed them in compression bags and, as a result, no new bed felt entirely foreign to us.  The simple key to happy travel begins and ends with the familiar pillow.


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