Hi, I’m Clark. I write most of the content on Family Trek and share most of our social media updates, but my wife Monica will occasionally chime in as well, particularly on topics related to education and “hack-schooling.”
We started this blog back 2011 when we were coming off a major life meltdown. This blog became a way for us to sort through what we wanted in life and over the years we came to do some amazing things. We took off to Central America in 2012 with our two young kids and stayed in cheap hostels. Even bartered our way through Guatemala a bit. Then, in Honduras, we ran out of money and only got out of the country because some generous people at the airport gave us money to pay our exit fees.
Over time, we got our footing back. Started to make more money (not tons, but we weren’t broke anymore). Still, wanted to be deliberate with our life and our money.
People who follow this blog know that for a while I’ve felt like I am in a season of transition once again. Like this post I wrote, “What am I doing with my life” or this one where I dissect the lyrics of a folk singer and lament that I don’t know what I am doing with my life. There are a lot of blogs where the creators make themselves out to be some kind of guru, like they have life all figured out. Heck, I wrote a book on lifestyle design. (It’s called unWorking and you can find out more about it here). But I’ve always been honest. If I eventually have to recant everything I wrote in unWorking I will, and I’ll chalk it up to the process of living and learning. (I don’t think I will and I would definitely love for you to check out the book and tell me if I’m right or wrong).
More of a listener than a reader? Check out a few podcast interviews that Clark’s done.
Ok, so here’s more….
In my 20s I was in a big ol’ hurry to get ahead. By the time I was 26 years old I was the deputy director of the historic home of President Ronald Reagan and had personally solicited millions of dollars toward the preservation of the historic site. This season of my life culminated when, at the age of 30 I ran for United States Congress. This did not end well.
I then went the total opposite direction. I checked out of my career. Moved to Tahoe where my life was centered around skiing. When I wasn’t skiing, our family was off on a trip somewhere. A few extended road-trips across the USA. A few long stints in Central America. Three months in Thailand.
Now, I feel like I am ready to settle somewhere in the middle. I am never going to be Reagan Ranch Clark again. But I’m also interested in something more than how many ski days I get this winter. I want to do something with my life. I want to build something. I want to be a part of something.
Perhaps this urge comes now because my kids are getting a little older. I would encourage all parents — moms and dads — to put their careers on the back-burner while their kids are young. Not that I’m checking out as a dad (not by any means!) but as my kids get a little older I feel some space opening up in my life and I have the ability to allocate that space to self (more skiing, more travel) or to doing something (service, or “building” some body of work I can be proud of). By the way, Tim Ferriss did a long and meandering interview with Mike Rowe that you can find here. I felt sympatico with Rowe as he described getting to this place in life where he felt like he was able to enjoy a greater quality of life than most people he knew, despite making less money, but finally realizing that he wanted to build something he could be proud of. That’s when he began making a series of decisions — when he got himself in a current (more on that word here) — that has led him to do some big things in recent years like Dirty Jobs.
Whatever changes are on the horizon, some things won’t change.
We are a family who loves to travel. If we’ve not been there yet, it’s on the list. And when we’re not traveling to some far off corner of the globe, we’re exploring all the nooks and crannies of our California home. Doing that requires 2 things. Money and freedom. But funny how in order to get money you have to give up freedom. That’s the way it works doesn’t it? Ok, so we’re breaking the rules. Want to know more? Keep reading.
How did we “achieve” this “dream” life? It’s not been easy. And we’re not yet where we want to be.
At one time I said,”If it doesn’t work out, I can always go back and get a job.” I don’t think I’m going back now. Here’s a little video I put together about how my son Jackson is a powerful visual reminder of a dividing line in my life.
Monica is a a bit of an engineer. That’s the way her mind works. Actually, she’s an arcitect by training and was with a prestigious firm in Santa Barbara during my Reagan Ranch years. Now that we are settled in Tahoe she is dusting off her drafting table and starting up a little architectural business again. I’m more active with our kids and love to take them on adventures. She’s more thoughtful and deliberate. We “hack-school” or kids, but she likes to refer to herself not as their teacher but as the curator of their educational experiences.
Some people say that opposites attract and that this is good because they balance one another out. I think Monica and I have been able to do some amazing things in life because we don’t balance one another out. We are both comfortable with risk and we both want to do great things. She graduated from college with an architectural degree…. and then started a surfboard company. Their boards were sold in Costco. When that business went belly-up, she parleyed that experience into working with a church in Ireland! This was around the time she met (we had a courtship from different sides of the world) and she finally started practicing architecture when she moved back to Santa Barbara and we were getting ready to get married.
Our kids are Jackson, Emery, and Abby. All of our kids take great satisfaction in sharing their travel stories — and the reactions they get from people when they talk about their adventures in Thailand or Central America. Jackson is a very caring and sensitive kid who loves to surf and be outdoors. Emery is aggressive and love to grab life by the horns, like jumping off a 30 foot platform and into Lake Atitlan in Guatemala when she was three years old. She loves to ski, and loves Disneyland and princesses! Abby is eager to not be left behind and wants to do everything her older siblings do. She’s also our reader, and starts most days by bringing us piles of books to read to her!
When Monica was pregnant with Jackson people told us our traveling days were behind us. Whether we were talking to our older friends whose kids were in some cases already out of the house or our friends who had kids relatively close to ours in age, the prevailing wisdom was that those early years were not years of travel. Conventional wisdom was that the kids needed routine. The same bed at night. The perfect sleeping environment to get through the night. Dinner done in just a particular way with a particular spoon. Bibs at the ready in this drawer. A bottle warmed in just a particular way.
In our travels our experience is that these routines are more about the parents than the kids. Kids quickly adapt. The question is whether the parents can.
When Jackson was 14 months old we embarked on a life-changing journey. I’m serious. It was completely life-changing. We rented out our house for 6-months and traveled across the United States. We also took little diversions to Ireland and Nicaragua. At the end of those 6 months we returned home to Santa Barbara. Now our home base is in Lake Tahoe. But we’ve never stopped traveling. Traveling has become a way of life for us. It’s a priority for us financially. And we don’t allow not having enough money for having a “perfect” trip keep us from going on adventures.
While we’ve had seasons of life where we’ve been semi-nomadic, we’ve recently purchased a home in the Lake Tahoe area. Where I once loved the idea of several weeks or months on adventures abroad, now I am content to take off somewhere for a week or two and settle back into our routine. And I love that my work as a fundraising consultant for non-profits allows me to visit lots of places around the United States.
How am I doing with this “About Us” thing? Are you getting a good picture? If you’re new here you may want to check out my post on how our family ended up living in my in-laws garage. See, I told you achieving this life hasn’t been easy. If our approach to life seems a little unconventional, you may want to check out my post about why I’m a dad now. Monica has a great post about our travel state of mind. And her post on our patchwork income approach to life will give you a little background on how we fund our lifestyle.
What else do you want to know?
Oh, did you know that on our first date Monica and I fell off a 90 foot cliff? Seriously.
Hope that you’ll stick around. Send us a message. Leave a comment. Let’s get to know each other.
Check out my interview with Gregory Denning along the shore of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.