After that first trip, the itch never went away. The desire to travel not on specific school holidays and to expand beyond the one week was always present. The longing for extended travel was on our minds and in our conversations always.
Round the world travel doesn’t have to be a one time thing. Now it was just about trying to figure out the where, the how and the when.
I was a teacher for sixteen years. After high school came university, after university came graduate school, and after grad school came teaching. Every summer in between, came camp.
I did have ample time to travel, but I had to do it all during certain times of the year, and they were always the most expensive and regimented. I knew I was lucky to have that time & traveled as often as I could, but having to stick to those predetermined dates was confining. Meeting people traveling for a few weeks or heading off on some grand adventure had me yearning for a time when I too could continue my travels.
My husband and I met eight years ago on a Contiki tour in New Zealand during an eight day Christmas break trip. We both had travel in our blood before we met, and it only escalated when we became a couple. Mathew lived in Australia, and I in New York. A long-distance continent-hopping courtship ensued, and we have been very lucky to see a large part of the world.
Our first big trip and the impact it had on us
After we married in 2009 we took a year off to travel and taste life in Australia together. I went on a one-year leave of absence from teaching, and he looked forward to working in Melbourne for a bit – if there was a job available. We were gone for a total of ten months and followed the sun the entire time. The year was filled with tons of travel and life in Australia. Returning from that extended holiday and settling in New York, we found it very difficult to return to the roles that others expected of us. We looked the same on the outside, but inside we were forever changed by this life-altering experience. We resumed life as it was with the accountant and the teacher falling back into step, but our mindset was different.
We looked the same on the outside, but inside we were forever changed by this life-altering experience.
We had experienced something that only few others we knew could comprehend. We saw so much of the world and experienced how various people lived their lives – all while dodging the so-called “normal” cycle of life. We were gifted this time of world travel, a grown up GAP year, and couldn’t imagine not doing it again.
There were bits and pieces that made sense to others, but that year away from “traditional” work with continuous travel was not in the frame of reference of most we interacted with daily.
We were gifted this time of world travel, a grown up GAP year, and couldn’t imagine not doing it again.
We needed time to figure things out. Time to recoup financially meant sticking it out in the jobs we knew how to do to be able to find a way to build a life we loved with travel at the forefront. We started to wonder what it would be like to change our circumstances and perhaps one day become location-independent with full-time travel. We gave ourselves a few years. A few years would give us time to financially and geographically figure out what was next.
Teaching was changing, and it was no longer what I signed up to do. I was ready to step away again for a little while to see if some time could pull me back or provide a new way to make a difference in the world. Mathew’s job was countless hours each week with no end in sight. He too was ready to take a leap, even if it meant leaving and having to find another job upon our return.
We knew we were bucking the norm, and at times it was uncomfortable, but being stuck in an unhappy routine was worse. There had to be another way.
Once we made the decision to go again-the stress was over and the fun planning began!
Making it happen again
We checked our finances to see how much we thought we could spend to determine how long we would go for this time. Discussing timing, we knew we couldn’t leave immediately based on finances and responsibilities. By early September of 2012 we were close to a decision, and by October things started to take shape.
I was hoping to get a leave of absence from late January through June. For my husband, looking for a job in the summer in New York would be harder than the spring, so we had our window. We didn’t have a year like last time – only a couple months – but it worked for us.
We decided we could take off in February and travel through early spring. Since our plan was to travel for 9 weeks, not months or years, we didnt’ want to give everything up. We needed enough of a cushion to pay rent, incidentals, and have a ‘just in case’ fund while we were away and for our return. Once we had our window, the rest started to fall into place.
Figuring out the details for a shorter trip
Like so many others in the travel world, we both have made our share of lists. Where we want to go to now, which places we’d save until a later date, which islands we’d like to visit and dream in an overwater bungalow, and so on. Together, we made a list of places we’d like to visit, sights we’d like to see, and discussed if we’d want to include any places we’d already been to either individually or together. We talked about visiting friends in certain places, where we’d do a tour to help manage transport and distance, where we were happy to go it on our own, and how we could use some miles to help cover costs. The list started to develop, and a fuzzy itinerary was born.
Based on our experience, if we were to do a round the world ticket with an airline alliance like we did last time, we knew we’d have to continue heading in one direction around the world. Considering we had two places that we agreed on a tour (India and Cambodia), we had to research to see if any of the dates would work in our rough plan. We wanted a large part of our time to be spent in Melbourne and wished to explore a new place within Australia. There was also the situation of necessary visas and vaccinations to be updated and the time they both needed to process.
Throughout our planning, there were the at home costs to also consider. We rent our apartment and are not supposed to sublet it due to condo restrictions. We decided to continue renting, and needed to take that into account. As the US health insurance is sticky at best, we didn’t want to go for a time without. We chose to COBRA our health insurance and pay for that (along with travel insurance for the entire trip since the US health plans don’t work overseas) while we were away. We left our car with relatives so it wouldn’t sit idle. We made sure that our banking establishments knew of our travel plans, and that we had a method to pay our bills. We shared travel plans with a few neighbors and our building super, providing them with numbers of those who could be contacted in the event of a situation in the apartment/building. Packing list established, asthma prescriptions filled, extra contacts in place, and tickets booked, we were ready to leap.
Why continue to put your life on hold
Those we’ve met traveling tend to understand the travel bug. As is with anything in life, when you don’t choose the path most traveled, it’s often seen as “wrong” in some way. Those friends and family who just want you to be happy are thrilled for you and care no matter what, but even they might not fully grasp the desire to see the world and place an adult life on hold for travel. We’re at the stage in our lives where many of us have been working in the same job/profession for years and are choosing to follow the paths of house, kids, pets, and holidays when possible.
Let me be clear, there’s nothing at all wrong with that path but we’ve FINALLY learned that there’s also NOTHING that says we all have to follow the same one.
It may be different than the norm, but it makes us happy.
It may be different than the norm, but it makes us happy. Why wait to see the world after we retire? There are so many wonderful things to experience in cultures different to our own that we want to take advantage of those things now. If it means our resumes are jumpy or our LinkedIn profiles slightly askew, then jumpy they will be. We hope people will see the merit in our decisions and take that into professional consideration. We think that world travel and life experiences count for something.
Having a chance to go on extended travel, to plan just enough and leave room for the spontaneous, to meet heaps of people who in our day jobs we wouldn’t have the chance to connect with, to eat diverse foods, listen to different languages, and learn more than a text book could ever share – for this, we would give up the routine to which we both thought would be more frightening than the unknown.
Round the world travel doesn’t have to be a one time thing. It may be different than the norm, but it makes us happy. It’s merits, benefits, and gifts are life-long and effects endless. Channel Mark Twain in your adventures and relish his words. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Take the leap. Book the flight. Without question, it will change your life and is worth the risk.
Have you taken a big trip, went back to “regular” life only to head back out on another big trip? Share your experience below and why you did it all again.
Read more on the benefits of long-term travel:
- Reinventing Your Life With Travel
- Should You Travel Long-Term?
- The Freedom of Travel vs. The Paralysis of Stuff
- Making the Decision to Go: The Hardest Part of Long-Term Travel
Photo credits: All photos courtesy of the author and may not be used without permission.