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. In case you missed the first post, Kerri’s thoughts after 4 months can be found here. Enjoy…
We have now been on the road for a little over 4 months. We are currently in Rabat, Morocco after spending 3 months in Europe. It is a little shocking, to say the least. Outside it is raining, horns are blaring from an endless line of cars, sirens are taking some poor soul to the third world hospital across the street, and the call to prayer comes from all directions. Just a few blocks away is the Atlantic Ocean with a wall of garbage and fill dirt pushed up to its edge. The street market behind us has blood from butchered animals intermixing with fresh produce for sale on the ground. The smell of rotting meat, sewage, and car exhaust fills my nostrils every time I step outside. Travel is not always glamorous, but I would rather be here then where I was before, suffering a slow death inside an office cubicle.
Last year was an interesting year that I have nicknamed, “The Year of Loss.” After years of accumulating stuff and remodeling our SE Portland home, we sold everything. We had planned to do this for 6 years, but it still felt weird to me. The American culture is a consumer culture. We are trained from an early age that we must have the latest and greatest toys. We must consume. There are the haves and the have-nots and nobody wants to be the latter. We purposely chose to become what most Americans fear to become and to give up everything in the pursuit of our dreams. After years of striving to have the perfect home theater system, the perfect wall color, and the perfect car, we sold it all. I personally found the experience refreshing and horrifying at the same time. I grew up poor and always dreamt of having nice stuff. I also dreamt of traveling around the world. Given the choice, I chose to travel. I can always buy more stuff, but I won’t always have the option to travel long term again. To me, the memories and experiences I get from travel are more valuable than any piece of stereo equipment or shiny car. And to be able to share it with my wife and daughter is priceless.
Besides losing our house and belongings, we also had the loss of our dog, cat, bunny, fish, my uncle, and our jobs. It seemed like everyday I was losing some aspect of my surroundings and life. We were going through a transformation and to me it felt surreal.
After so much work to get rid of everything we were finally free to follow our dreams and travel around the world. I was excited about the prospect of traveling to so many wonderful places around the world that I had always dreamt of visiting. I was also nervous that things might not go as planned. You can plan for the future, but it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to.
While Kerri stressed over Sydney’s education, having enough money to resettle, and being able to keep her nursing license, I stressed over the little things; namely microbes and parasites. You can buy every form of insurance, take every precaution, but all it takes to make your life miserable, or to even kill you, is one microscopic creature entering your body and wreaking havoc. Kerri still laughs at me over this, but I find it to be the number one threat to our health as we travel. Where did I put that hand sanitizer?
During our first month of round-the-world (RTW) travel we visited with family in Idaho, Utah, and New Mexico before flying to Paris, France. We used this time as a transition period to adjust to homeschooling Sydney. Kerri had really stressed over Sydney’s schooling, even with all my reassurances. I had read about other families on the road and many of them say to push the math and everything else comes naturally. When we first started out trying to be teachers, Sydney, Kerri, and I all butted heads. Sydney resisted us teaching her, threw tantrums, and was not a “model student.” Kerri and I had come up with a rigid program of homeschooling, but it was not working. After I gave Sydney a stern lecture about us being her teachers now, and relaxing the teaching style, things got better. We soon learned that you can’t force education on the road and being flexible was the key. Everyday I am impressed at how quick Sydney learns new stuff and how she has adapted to world travel.
During the first couple months of travel Kerri and I had a few disagreements. Our goals were the same, but we had different ideas on how to accomplish them and neither one of us would give. It was as if we were going to the same destination, but taking different paths to get there. It also did not help having a tiny apartment in Paris. While in Paris I often felt like I was in some strange psychology experiment where you cram a bunch of rats into a tiny cage and wait to see how long it takes before they start freaking out. Even though we were in one of the “most beautiful” cities in the world, it was cold and gray outside. I found Paris to be a very ugly city during the winter, and not very inviting. Even rainy and gray Portland, Oregon has green evergreen trees and grass everywhere to add a splash of color. Even the people in Paris all dress in black. The only color, other than shades of gray, was the brown dog poop on the sidewalks.
As soon as we left Paris to begin our third month of RTW travel in Arles, France everything got better. I found Arles to be a very magical town and thought it was what we needed to finally get into the spirit of world travel. The 500-year old house we were renting had a great energy to it that our apartment in Paris lacked. The narrow, labyrinthine streets of Arles were fun to get lost in and the people we met made it all the harder to leave. I never thought that you could feel “at home” in just a month, but that is exactly what happened. Even Kerri and Sydney found it really hard to leave. Hopefully we will come back someday.
Our time in Spain left me a little puzzled. It was not as I had envisioned it, but I ended up enjoying it after our month stay there. The longer we travel the more I realize that travel will always be full of surprises and to truly enjoy it you need to avoid disappointments by just going with the flow.
So, now for the big question: What are my thoughts and feelings AFTER 4-months of RTW travel? To sum it up in one word, LOST. Before we left for our RTW trip we had our itinerary and I had “my plan.” As we travel from place to place I search for business opportunities. To be honest, I don’t ever want to work in an office cubicle again, unless I had no other option. My hope is to start a business somewhere in the world. Kerri is a little skeptical on this plan, but I know we can make it work if we just find the right location. Sydney is so impressed with my cooking that she thinks I should open up a beach café somewhere, which is not too bad of an idea. She keeps offering ideas for café names and items that could be on the menu. I am also unsure if I ever want to live in the USA again. Getting out of America, with its big box stores and commercialization, is a breath of fresh air. It’s really nice to see these different cultures and the different ways of doing things. I am not trying to bash America here, as I still love my country, I just think it would be more enriching to live in a different country when we finish with our travels. So, with no idea on what I want to be when I grow up and not knowing where I want to live, I am lost. Aimlessly wandering the world looking for a home and something that can earn us an income.
During these past 4 months my relationship with Kerri has been enriched. Being together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, has helped us become closer and has taught us to work together. We have traveled together often before leaving, but long-term travel can really test a relationship. Fortunately, it has worked out well for us and we have passed the test. When we first started out we were both a bit rigid in our ways, but travel has helped to break down those barriers and to become more flexible.
Watching Sydney become more independent and confident everyday is something every parent should experience. Before we left I would see Sydney for less than an hour in the morning and for about 2 hours in the evening on weekdays. Our weekends were filled with racing around to different lessons for Sydney and doing house projects and it left no time to ask her how she was feeling and what her hopes and dreams were. Homeschooling her everyday gives me instant feedback about what she knows and what she needs to learn. I have been having fun trying to push math just a little further to see how fast she can get to Algebra, and I am always amazed at how well she learns things. I often feel bad that she is stuck with us all the time and has no friends to play with. Hopefully that will change this summer when school is out and more families will be on vacation. I also look forward to being in places with warmer weather so I can teach her how to surf.
It will be interesting to see how my thoughts and feelings morph as we travel. Will I change my mind and want to return to American life, or that working in an office was not so bad? The more we travel the more I notice the mental changes in us and it is hard to predict what the future will hold. Whatever it might be, I look forward to it and the adventures we will have along the way.