The Higham family's magnificent adventure

New book recounts year-long family vacation from Iceland to Belize

The Higham family rented out their Mountain View home and packed only what they could carry on their bicycles. Then they took off on an unforgettable 52-week adventure spanning 28 countries.

Now, just over two years after their return to Mountain View, there is a book to prove it.

"360 Degrees Longitude: One Family's Journey Around the World," by John Higham, recounts the thrills, spills and obstacles the author, his wife September, and their children Katrina, 15, and Jordan, 12, faced on their year abroad.

Even before their children were born, John and September knew they would one day take their family on a trip around the world. It started as an abstract idea while the couple was living in Japan, and over years of careful planning, the trip finally came into focus.

The couple wanted their children to experience travel, to "help Katrina and Jordan distinguish between wants and needs," as John wrote in the book. "360 Degrees Longitude" describes, in great detail, how they realized that vision.

In the book, John portrays both the humor and frustrations of travel, starting with stepping off the plane in Iceland, their first destination. He recounts riding a cattle truck through Cambodia, searching for the "seventh best" gelato in Venice and the time when, only weeks into their trip (which started as a bicycle tour around Europe) Katrina broke her leg.

The family encountered many such challenges during their trip, John said. But putting the book together was its own kind of monster.

"If I had known going into the process how difficult it would be," he said, "I don't know if I would have started it."

John wrote out a rough draft during the final month of their trip, on the beaches of Belize. Back in the States, he found himself a manager, who took the manuscript to search for possible agents.

Eighty-five rejection letters later, someone finally took him on. After that "it took a year to find a publisher who would accept it," John said.

The upside, John said, is that the book helped him make the transition to life back in Mountain View. An aerospace engineer, he likened the return from their trip to astronauts returning from space.

"All the astronauts, when they walked on the moon -- when they came home they felt a sense of loss," he said. "And I felt that sense of loss when I came home."

After all, he and September had planned the trip for over a decade.

"When we got home I realized I no longer had anything to look forward to. So writing the book in one way was a bit therapeutic for me," John said.

The subtext of John's stories is that this trip was transformative for every member of his family.

"We've talked about this and we all think about the trip at least once a day," he said. "I'd like to think at least that this afforded us a closeness that isn't possible otherwise."

With Katrina in a school marching band and learning to drive, Jordon busy with junior high and baseball, and John and September back to work, the Highams' family time is now spent doing more typical things, like watching a movie together.

But, as September writes in her portion of the book's epilogue, "As long as we can be together, life is mighty good."


John Higham is giving an author's talk on the book at Books Inc. on Thursday, Aug. 13, starting at 7:30 p.m. Books Inc. is located at 301 Castro Street, Mountain View. For more on "360 Degrees Longitude" or to order a copy, visit


Like this comment
Posted by kanan krishnan
a resident of Shoreline West
on Aug 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm

wow. thats awesome and really brave. pnly free spirits with no attachment to worldly things can do this kind of adventure. welcome back to the Higham family. Hope i can remember to go the bookstore this evening.

Like this comment
Posted by dan
a resident of Jackson Park
on Aug 13, 2009 at 3:32 pm

finally,a true story,with local heroes.i for one will be in attendance at books inc.tonight.god this is exciting.

Like this comment
Posted by kathy
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Aug 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm

I am sitting here at 8pm Thursday reading about this and I am really upset that I missed the talk at Books Inc which is just about ending as I write this!! Sounds like a fantastic story.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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