Note: Many people have expressed an interest into our thoughts and feelings since starting to travel long term. Most of our articles and blog posts do not describe the emotions we feel and how, as a family, we are affected by long term travel. It has now been 4 months since we sold everything we own, quit our jobs, and began our journey eastward with the goal of circling the globe. We now have a taste of the road and would like to share our thoughts and feelings with all of you. We will have three posts, one from each of us, describing our current state of mind. Enjoy…
It is hard to believe that we are now at our 4-month anniversary of being on the road. My husband, Jason, recently asked me has it been worth it i.e. selling practically everything we own, leaving good, stable jobs, pulling our daughter Sydney out of school, spending over $9,000 so far, leaving family and going to travel the world. My answer was an emphatic yes; I want to continue this journey. Our journey has not always been fun, exciting, or amazing and yes at times, I have longingly thought about “home” and extended family. Despite these bumps on the road, I am hoping that we will be able to extend our travel beyond 2 years.
Given that this is our 4 month anniversary of being on the road, I thought I might share some my impressions of our journey so far, the things that I miss and the changes that I am hoping we will continue to sustain once we are done traveling. I am sure that this list will change as we travel and I will probably laugh about what I wrote 2 years from now, but for prosperity sake here it goes.
One of the main reasons we decided to travel was to spend more time with each other. Previous to traveling, both Jason and I were working full time. Though Jason’s schedule was much more predictable, I would typically find myself staying late at work, up to 1 to 2 hours multiple times a week to call one more care management patient, to help in the clinic or to get my never ending charting done. Although being a Nurse Care Manager gave me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, I would frequently find that I was feeling sorry for myself, as I was still at work and missing out on an activity with Jason and Sydney.
So how is it now? I am sure the real question that everyone really wants to know about, are you sick of each other yet? Overall, No! I wake up most days thinking that I really love our life and appreciate the time that we have together. True, some days I do get frustrated or annoyed with Jason or Sydney over something trivial and I will have these fleeting thoughts that work is so much easier. Despite the annoyances, it is all worth it. I am enjoying that fact that I have so much time to spend with my family. I feel like I am learning so much more about Sydney and Jason that I never knew. I love seeing how Sydney thinks, how she learns and what makes her laugh. I also love watching her become increasingly independent of us. I have been told in no uncertain terms by Sydney I can no longer refer to the bathroom as the potty! I also feel that my relationship with Jason has deepened and that we our much more intimate with each other.
One of the things that I find the hardest about being on the road is missing extended family. I don’t know why, but these last couple of weeks I have really been missing my family. In fact, I woke up last week in the middle of the night realizing that my parents could die at any moment. I know that this is far from being profound as everyone dies. But somehow, I just could not get rid of the pressing sadness this thought brought on. I am currently getting teary-eyed again just writing this. Sheeesh…My parents reassure me that they are very healthy and have no intention of dying any time soon. But it still makes me realize how fleeting life is and how important it is to live life without regrets.
As my husband can attest, I am a constant worrier. Before we left I would lay awake with all these what-ifs running through my mind. Not surprisingly all these what-ifs around home schooling, quitting my job, not having a home, and the language barrier that kept me awake at night have not come to fruition. Sigh…all that energy wasted on the constant what-ifs. However as we have travelled, I have encountered several unexpected things.
I am finding that after a month stay in each place, it is bitter sweet to move on to our next place. With our current method of traveling, we are in a weird in-between. We are not tourists briefly getting a glimpse of a place, but we are also not locals who know and love a place. Just as we start to get to know an area, people start recognizing us, and we start making friends, it is time to leave again. Over the month, our apartment or house begins to feel like a “home” and I find myself feeling sad and conflicted about leaving. Part of me is ready to move onto the next adventure, but part of me wants to be surrounded by the comfort of the familiar.
One surprising difficulty is finding children Sydney’s age to play with. Part of the difficulty I think is due to the time of year, as most children are in school. However, Galya, the person who owns the apartment, gave me a powerful lesson the other day. I had mentioned the difficulty of meeting other children Sydney’s age to Galya. She had noticed children across the hall in our apartment building and promptly went over and knocked on the neighbor’s door explaining that Sydney would like to play. Happily they were willing to go out and play with her. I am typically someone who is shy around new people. I have this forever worry about not wanting to inconvenience someone or placing him or her in an awkward position. The lesson that Gayla provided me and one that I continue to learn over and over and over again in life and traveling is just ask. The worse that happens is someone says no. But in reality, most of the time, he or she is happy to oblige. Fortunately, Sydney is much more outgoing and adventuresome and is always game in meeting new people and making new friends. She does not have any of my inhibitions around meeting new people.
Some may wonder if we miss the US. I find that the things that I miss about the US, besides family, are very superficial. These things are nice, but are by far not necessities in life. I miss having a huge water tank so I can take a long hot shower in the morning. I have never been a speedy person in the shower and I tend to do my best thinking in the shower. It was a bit of a shock to me to find that there is not an endless supply of hot water. Europe houses tend to have itty-bitty hot water tanks. A leisurely shower rapidly turns into a cold shower. I also miss dishwashers. So far we have yet to encounter a dishwasher and our next place does not have one either. I am blessed with a husband who does 99% of the cooking. So my job is doing the dishes. Some days I feel like my day is just consumed by dishes. I am sure Jason feels the same way about cooking. I also occasionally miss Netflix. Europe currently does not have access to Netflix, Amazon Prime, or any other streaming movie companies. Sometimes I longingly wish to plunk down on the couch with a pile of junk food and waste a couple hours watching a movie. Despite the lack of these conveniences, my life is much richer.
My thoughts will often drift to what kind of life that I want once we are settled again. Overall I want to be less of a consumer and much wiser in what I buy. I want to continue really questioning myself whether I need (insert item here) before buying said item. Before leaving, I was aware that the US is consumer oriented and there is the constant message to buy, buy, buy. Despite my being aware of this, I would find myself buying things I really did not need or want. However, experiencing Christmas outside the US helped me focus on what life is really about. It is not about what possessions we have, but about family and good food. I am also hoping that we can continue to be more thoughtful about the food we buy and waste less. I really like shopping daily which seems to make a huge difference in the amount of food we waste. I would also like to try getting by without a dryer. I really thought I was going to miss a dryer. But I find that it is just as easy to hang clothes up versus throwing them in the dryer. But most important change I would like to sustain is to continue focusing on family. I want to make about sure that I really spend time with my family and do not allow the day-to-day life distractions such as work, tv, Facebook, classes etc. consume me.
After 120 days on the road, I have been able to see some amazing sites, meet some very interesting and kind people and learn interesting facts, but I have also learned much about my family and myself. Even if we had to stop traveling today, I would have no regrets about what we sacrificed to get here. I can honestly say I am looking forward to the next 20 months of travel with Jason and Sydney.