John Marshall took a roundabout path on the way to becoming a writer.

Marshall, 49, worked for 20 years at Maine TV stations, producing and appearing in commercials, game shows, news and all sorts of local programming. Then he planned a six-month trip around the world, with his wife and two children, that involved volunteering at orphanages, schools and animal sanctuaries in exchange for room and board.

When the family got back to their Gorham home in 2010, Marshall knew he had a story on his hands that needed to be written.

His book, “Wide-Open World,” came out Tuesday from the Random House imprint Ballantine Books. He hopes the book will launch his career as a writer, a childhood dream, and inspire others to experience the world in new ways.

“A lot of people dream about taking a trip around the world, but can’t imagine how,” said Marshall. “But once we started finding out about volunteering around the world, we found that it was much more doable and affordable. I’d love this book to be a doorway for people.”

Marshall and his family planned their six-month trip around the world partly to re-connect with one another, Marshall says. His children were teenagers – daughter Jackson was 14 and son Logan was 17 – and spending more time on the things teenagers will. Marshall and his wife were busy and drifting apart, and they always seemed to connect better when traveling.

The biggest challenge, Marshall said, was that if they wanted to travel for six months their budget had to be about $8 a day, per person.

So the family sat down and picked places they wanted to visit. Then they went online and searched for the country names and “volunteering.”

That search led them to several places that would let them come visit and work, in exchange for lodging, including a monkey sanctuary in Costa Rica, an organic farm in New Zealand, an orphanage in India and a school in Thailand.

Marshall writes about “transformational” moments that occurred during the trip, like watching his teenage children teach English to students in Thailand. His daughter is now a pre-med student in college, and his son recently came back from his own volunteering trip in South America.

“I think here in the West we don’t give our kids enough credit for what they are capable of doing,” Marshall said.

The trip in 2010 not only gave Marshall the idea of writing a book, it convinced him that he needed to continue volunteering around the world.

Last year he went back to the orphanage in India that he had visited with his family, this time alone. He was going to travel around India, but became ill and spent time recuperating there. After spending time with the children, he chose to stay longer, for nearly a year.

He used his video skills from years in Maine television to create an online campaign that raised more than $30,000 in the first month alone.

Marshall said the children at the orphanage helped him more than he did them.

“I loved these children and getting to know them was life-changing for me,” he said. “Nothing I’ve done has been as powerful and transformative as helping these children.”

To read more about “Wide-Open World” and a new initiative by Marshall to help orphanages around the world, go to