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Former Bay News 9 journalists to cast off with baby, explore Europe

Anna Tataris and her husband, Roy De Jesus, both former Bay News 9 employees, and 1-year-old Sophia leave June 30 to follow their “Great Escape Plan,” in the works for years.

EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

Anna Tataris and her husband, Roy De Jesus, both former Bay News 9 employees, and 1-year-old Sophia leave June 30 to follow their “Great Escape Plan,” in the works for years.

TAMPA — The Great Escape Plan took root years ago.

Former Bay News 9 journalists Anna Tataris and Roy De Jesus have always loved traveling. On 7-7-2007, they married in Santorini, Greece. Two years later, they went to Spain.

They've always wanted to trek the globe. Spending a year abroad would be a dream.

And then it became a reality.

This year, they sold a car, packed their suits and said goodbye to their co-workers. They plan to ditch furniture and their rental condo on Bayshore Boulevard.

On June 30, the pair and their 1-year-old daughter, Sophia, will board a one-way flight to Europe.

They're calling it the "Great Escape Plan," and they have a website, Facebook account and Twitter feed by that name. They plan to sip wine in French vineyards, pick olives along the Mediterranean, dance in Spain and spend afternoons on a whitewashed terrace in Santorini.

They'll document the trip on their website, where they'll post blog entries and videos about their experiences.

Tataris and De Jesus hope to gain followers and maybe even sponsors. But most of all, they hope to explore different cultures, meet locals and inspire others to pursue their dreams.

"We know it's the right decision," said Tataris, 37. "We're doing something that's going to make us happy."

When they first tell people of their plans, many say "that's crazy!" the pair says. Responses often shift to "I want to go," and "I wish I were as brave."

Concrete plans started coming together about two years ago.

Tataris and De Jesus noticed that each of their Bay News 9 contracts would be up in 2012. And though a baby girl was on the way, they could take her abroad.

Although they both love reporting and producing television segments on news and features, they didn't like the long hours away from each other. Time apart became more pronounced after the birth of Sophia, who turned 1 last week.

De Jesus, 33, worked as a Web anchor and hosted restaurant features. Meanwhile, Tataris spent recent years covering a lot of crime and courts news. The awful events she has reported on have given her an existential perspective that's pushing her toward travel.

"I've seen so much tragedy and people who don't get to live their dreams," she said. "Why not take a chance?"

About a year-and-a-half ago, they started telling people about their plans. One of the first was their longtime friend Ryan Dougherty, 37. He says his initial thought was: "I know they can do it."

Dougherty had moved from Tampa to San Francisco with his wife though neither had jobs waiting for them. Now, four years later, they have jobs, friends and say they're happy they made the leap.

"Seeking that initial support motivates you. People are skeptical and ask a lot of questions," Dougherty said. "There's that fear factor."

He said when Tataris and De Jesus started focusing on telling a story about their adventure and sharing it with the world, the plan seemed to really click.

"It's exciting," he said. "It's like having your own reality show without the commercialization."

Their itinerary includes Greece, Italy, England, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France and Germany and will take a year, though they don't have any concrete plans for after the trip.

If it's possible, they say, they'd love to keep traveling.

"Next year, South America," De Jesus said, half-joking. "Then Asia."

A lot of it depends on finances. They declined to say exactly how much they have saved, but said they're trying to cut down on costs by bartering.

In Santorini, they'll produce a promotional video for a woman who rents a studio on the island in exchange for a discount. They hope to do freelance work while abroad and draw enough followers to their website to attract advertisers and sponsors.

"We're hard workers," Tataris said. "We couldn't just travel."

Said De Jesus: "Even if we won the lottery, this is what we'd be doing. We love storytelling."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Former Bay News 9 journalists to cast off with baby, explore Europe 06/10/12 [Last modified: Sunday, June 10, 2012 10:13pm]

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