It seems like just yesterday that I came back from the Caribbean with a fantastic tan and even better travel memories. Last summer, I ventured down to the islands with friends and Garden Oaks neighbors, Jason, Kim and Benjamin Ellis, plus the Wells family. I spent nine days with our adventure crew exploring St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands – places like Maho Bay, Waterlemon Cay, Caneel Bay, Buckeye Bay – Culebra and San Juan, Puerto Rico. What an adventure we had.
To bring you up to speed with the Ellis family, they aren’t your typical neighbor. In their spare time, the family is traveling the back roads in their 1987 Westfalia Vanagon, but these days they’ve been preparing for their latest adventure: quitting their corporate gigs, selling the house and most of their belongings and moving onto their 44-foot catamaran this summer for the foreseeable future.
The Ellises aren’t your typical neighbors, but they’ve got good flavor.
Since our arrival back on Houston turf last year, the Ellises have made trips back down to prep the boat, liquidated assets, suffered through final days at the corporate gig until putting in final notice, prepared their son with expectations, and have been getting their ducks in a row to sell just about everything and put a few things in storage.
So what’s next for this flavorful family? For starters, both Jason and Kim have quit their jobs and left with well wishes from co-workers and bosses.
“I put in my notice and the HR lady said it was the coolest notice she’d ever have to process,” Jason Ellis said.
Jason quit his job on Monday, April 2; Kim quit her job about a month ago to start preparing their house to get on the market. Kim’s notice was a little earlier than they planned, but it came at the right time, too.
The first date on the calendar is April 15. The family will be meeting Kim’s parents, Sherry and Robert Hallbrook, in Disney World so the grandparents can spoil their boy with one big hoorah before they send the loves of their lives off on their adventure.
Disney departure day will be sometime next week; the family won’t be boarding a flight, but instead road tripping down in their 80 square foot Vanagon.
“The last day we can leave is Thursday,” Kim Ellis said. “We want to stop through the pan handle on the way and Benji was born in Pensacola, so we want to take our time getting down there.”
After their trip to Disney, the adventure continues. The next date the family has on their calendars is July 15, when they fly down to St. Thomas. Before July and after Disney, the family will be road tripping up the East coast and seeing friends all along the way.
“I think what I’m most excited about is getting to slow down and travel through these places that we haven’t seen without a time schedule,” Kim said. “We’ll get to take in history, nature, the cooler temperatures will be a plus. It’s kind of like we’ll be chasing spring.”
For what’s on the road trip agenda? There is no agenda.
“We need to make it up to Maine, but we could go as far north into Canada,” Jason said. “I’m excited for taking the back roads and getting off the interstate and just enjoying the drive.”
Once the family gets down to the Caribbean, plans do start to kick in. For the first year, the plan is to get the boat ready to sail south to Grenada and spend summer there.
The area is filled with families and it will be a great place for the Ellises to spend the summer, meet new people, learn about home schooling and just start with a low key environment. After hurricane season ends Nov. 1, they’ll sail north and island hop in the U.S. Virgin Islands and after traveling north they’ll sail where the wind takes them next.
Their midterm plan is coming up with a solution to keep the boat safe during hurricane season.
“Most will sail south and stay put,” Jason said. “You can also dock the boat and go north or go to Europe. We will sail south.”
The tentative long-term plan is exploring the places they’ve always dreamed of visiting by boat, like Cortez, Baja, Europe, the Panama Canal and more. But there’s really only one certain plan.
“We want to share all of this with our family and friends,” Kim said. “We have told all of our family and friends that we will see them on the boat and we hope to share this with them all.”
If you’re looking for a unique vacation, the Ellis family will open their boat for charter trips – just email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The love and friendship that this family has shown me, coupled with the memories and laughs we’ve shared brings me to tear as we send them off. I think a true wonder in this life is seeing your friends chase their dreams – it brings me pure joy to share their next chapter. I’ll be seeing you, friends.