As Sean and I enter our 34th month of travel, we find ourselves at the end of a road we thought we would have arrived at a long time ago. We sold everything and began traveling in June of 2015, and we budgeted to be gone for 12 to 18 months. After that, we supposed that we would re-establish ourselves with a fresh perspective on life! We’ve been on the road twice as long as we planned and we are different people now. So what’s next? Where will we live? What kind of lifestyle will we create for ourselves? What do we want to do?
A lot of what will be next for us has been shaped by where we’ve been. A good way to explain what’s next for us will be to answer the questions that everyone asks us.
#1. What were our favorite places to visit?
This is a difficult question to answer because we have visited four continents, 21 countries, 27 states, and 14 US National Parks. We started our travels with the vision of prioritizing living in the moment. With all of life’s uncertainties and our passion for adventure, we made a bucket list of trips that we thought only possible for the young and healthy. There are no guarantees of health or money when you retire. Hell, we can’t even count on a functioning government, so why wait to do the things we’ve only dreamed of!!!
So we set off to climb Denali, climb Mont Blanc, climb in the Himalayas, climb 14ers in California, scuba dive and learn to surf in Hawaii, see the “Big 5” before they go extinct, ski everything, and spend more time with family. And we have done all of these things, met amazing people, seen amazing places and animals, and learned a lot about other people, languages, politics, and cultures.
However, our top four experiences were:
- Uganda, Tanzania, and Zanzibar: these countries were our first opportunity to see animals, people, and cultures that we had only read about or seen on TV. The interactions we had with local people had a profound impact on how we see wealth inequality, poverty, and government corruption.
- Nepal: trekking, climbing, and mountaineering there was a lifetime dream for both us, although Sean had been to the Himalayas in 2003. This was a test of our all of our previous outdoor experiences and skills that ended up being more of a mental test than we expected.
- Switzerland: we fell in love with Zermatt the minute we stepped off the train. We have now been there in the summer and winter – both are magical.
- Denali and Alaska: this was our first really big expedition alone. There was unusually bad weather, predictable but unexpected hardship, and lots of lessons learned. It’s true that you learn more from your failures than your successes!
If you asked where we’ve been that we would like to live, we’d say Switzerland, Ireland, Scotland, or Italy. We are drawn to mountains, animals, and amazing cultures. If only we had EU passports!!!
#2 What are your biggest takeaways from traveling?
Full-time travel is comparable to project-based work, in that it has many of the same elements. It is not like being on vacation all the time – it requires a lot of work. So we got really good at the following:
- Brainstorming: coming up with fantastic trip ideas is easy!
- Strategic planning: examining the feasibility of the ideas is often a balance between flexibility in schedule and destination, prioritizing desires and goals, budget management, comfort, and physical and mental health — all while under the umbrella of “do now what you may not be able to do tomorrow.”
- Logistics: where to go, how to get there, what to do there, and where to stay.
- Packing strategies: what to take, which bag(s) to pack it in, and how to get it to the destination.
- Budgeting: individual trip budgets, yearly budget, and forecasting budgets.
- Acquisitions: we’ve been living out of a 10 x 10 storage unit, so purchasing anything had to be extremely necessary and multipurpose.
- Follow-up: Sean and I often have “business meetings” after a trip to debrief how various elements went. We also have lots of budget meetings.
Outside of the business side of full-time travel, we greatly expanded our knowledge of:
- Foreign politics: how the US impacts others, how other countries impact the US, and how interconnected world politics really is.
- Cultural differences: identifying what being polite and “manners” mean in different places, and being tolerant and compassionate when simple interactions are completely different.
- Flexibility: learning to gracefully accept that things will be at least slightly different from what was planned.
- Expectations: letting go of any expectations!
- Self Awareness: learning to identify and manage our own triggers, as well as each other, with compassion and understanding.
But the biggest takeaways for me were about myself! I learned that there were stories I was telling myself that were holding me back, fears that were keeping me small, and shame that was keeping me from speaking my truth and shining in life. Examining these things is a process that I jumped wholeheartedly into, not fully understanding the spiritual journey that I would go on. Now I find myself somewhere on a spiritual continuum; learning, evolving and working to be the best human I know how to be. I expand in abundance, success, and love every day– as I inspire those around me to do the same. More about that here!
#3 What’s next?
Now we get to design our lives from scratch! Designing, creating, and crafting our lives in the most purposeful and beautiful way needs vision and values that will serve as a clear guide for our future course of action. Our vision and values have been re-shaped by the last three years of travel; the places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, and the expanded perspective we’ve gained. Starting with vision…
- We don’t want to reacquire a bunch of “stuff.” Before traveling we lived a happy but restrained life, where we worked jobs that paid just enough, to pay for the place where we kept the “stuff” we never actually had time to use. We value experiences over stuff. More about that here!
- We’d like to have animals be a bigger part of our lives. We love animals, especially older dogs, and feel that we can be of service to our community and to the animals by rescue anything that needs a home. This will take time and money to establish but it’s a goal we’re working towards.
- We’d like our work to provide value to the community using our unique set of skills.
- We’d like to be more self-sufficient, live more sustainably, and have a small carbon footprint. We’d like to grow at least some of our food and the food for our animals.
- We’d like travel to continue being a big part of our lives.
And our set of values:
- Treat people and animals with compassion, respect, equality, and love.
- Communicate from a position of love, not fear.
- Live in loving essence! Look for the inherent good in ourselves and others.
- Be courageously vulnerable.
- Speak our truths with integrity and authenticity.
- Ask questions instead of making assumptions.
- Make agreements instead of having expectations.
- Be good stewards of the earth and vote with our dollars.
- Whole-food plant-based diets are good for us and the environment.
- Democracy is not the only “good” form of government. But Vote Anyway!
- Everything in moderation and shades of gray.
- Avoid worrying unless it is a real possibility, AND you can take action right NOW to make a positive difference.
- Avoid criticizing, blaming, and judging ourselves and others. Realize that we are all wounded in some way and show loving compassion and forgiveness to everyone.
- Shine brightly!
So our ‘what’s next’ journey begins with finding a place to live. For some time now, I’ve been craving a “home base” from which to travel. However, now that we are making that happen I feel overwhelmed and limited. The thought process goes, “if we commit to being somewhere for more than say 3-months, then we limit other options.” After 3-years of travel, I’m more comfortable picking up and leaving with very little notice, than I am with “long-term” commitments. On the other hand, I really want to feel grounded and part of a community. So I have conflicting feelings, just like I did when I quit my job 3 years ago and that turned out great!
Right now, we are renting a VRBO house in Durango, Colorado — the same house we were in while we prepared for Denali. And we just committed to a short-term lease in Telluride while we look for a forever home. We feel very privileged to have this opportunity! Living in Telluride is a dream for us that we could not have imagined four or five years ago. Our next step will be to find jobs! Then we’ll officially be re-established — full-time Colorado residents… again.