Yesterday, in a matter of minutes, I lost all hope in humanity, and then regained it again.
As soon as the door to the hotel gym shut behind me, I realized I had left my keycard behind on the floor where I had been working out inside. Unfortunately, I needed the key to unlock the doors to the gym. So there I stood sweaty and tired (because 15 minutes of tabata will quite literally kill you) and really dreading the trip up to the lobby to get a new key.
Then I saw that there was still one man inside on a treadmill. I thought to myself, surely he wouldn’t mind to hop off that treadmill and run over to open the door for me. It would only take him all of 2 seconds. And besides he had just seen me leave the gym so he knew I was not some vagrant off the street that sneaks into hotel gyms for kicks (although I probably looked like one. I’m not pretty when I work out and if you are, I hate you).
So I knocked. Nothing.
I knocked again. Still nothing.
Well, I figured New Years is a great time to update you on Tom and I and our life after traveling abroad. And since it is now almost Valentine’s Day you can probably guess that “stop procrastinating” was not one of my New Year’s Resolutions.
Anyway, we have been back in the States for just over 5 months now and every week, we seem to relive our last year. Conversations often start with “last year at this time, we were…” And if I were to complete that sentence this week, I’d tell you we were hiking hiking around Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia (probably my favorite part of our entire trip!). Talk about nostalgia!
As you can imagine, this can get a little depressing week after week, and it did, so we decided we must do something about this.
It has been nearly a year now since Tom and I left our jobs to travel. It has been a whirlwind of an adventure that has included 14 countries, 2 continents, and 3 broken Apple products.
And here I sit on a fairly secluded beach on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. One friend described this spot as a slice of paradise, but I have to disagree.
I mean, if spending all day laying in a hammock, cooling off in the turquoise-blue ocean, and sipping mojitos is paradise, then yes, this is the place. But if paradise is supposed to be our ideal existence, something we can live out and enjoy eternally, then a place of total rest just won't do.
Now, don't get me wrong. Rest is good. It feels good, but I would venture to say that it is actually impossible to enjoy rest, maybe even impossible to have any rest at all without actually having work.
I love you, but my time away from you has been the best thing for our relationship. As it’s said, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and my appreciation for you has grown during this year abroad. I miss your peanut butter, your Heinz ketchup, and your widespread availability of toilet seat covers in public restrooms. For many reasons, you are beautiful just the way you are.
However, there’s another saying, which is “out of sight, out of mind.” And during many of my days of travel this year, I found myself fully forgetting you, spending my days and nights in the arms of others: France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Argentina, and the list goes on. It has given me some healthy perspective and while I wish to someday return to your warm embrace, there are a few things I will need you to work on first.
So for the 2014 year, I recommend you adopt these 5 New Year’s Resolutions:
What is a souvenir that is free, takes up no room in our bag, cannot be stolen, and grows more precious over time?
As Tom and I said goodbye to friends this past weekend and packed up our apartment in Newport, I realized how much more my life is enriched by people than by possessions.
I especially felt the burden of our things as Tom and I cleaned, sold, packed and stored all of our stuff. Every object we have worked so hard and spent so much money to acquire now drained us of time, effort, space, and more money during our last week in Newport. As I looked at all our stuff, I felt exhaustion and discontentment.
On the other hand, I had a heightened experience this week of the richness and blessing of the relationships with friends and family we invested in over the years. As Tom and I squeezed in every last second with the people we love, we found ourselves physically tired, but spiritually refreshed.
It reminded me that relationships, like things, require time, effort and work to maintain. Without such intentionality, they slowly deteriorate. Our good friends sum it up best in their toast to friendship (thanks Ziyalyan’s and Hovsepyan’s): Friends are easy to make, but hard to keep, because friendship requires effort.
But unlike possessions, friendships leave us humble, appreciative, and strengthened.
Nevertheless, we will always have things in our lives, and that isn’t necessarily bad. As I whittled my belongings down to the bare minimum this week, I took note of the objects that are worth buying and keeping. I found that the most precious of my objects either commemorated or facilitated a relationship.
A good example is our party hats!
People continually ask Tom and I how we can afford to travel for a year. But maybe the better question is how we can afford not to?
We jotted down a quick list of annual and monthly expenses that we won’t have to pay while traveling.
We know the nomadic life comes with its own price tag and some new extra expenses (which we will track and share in future blog posts), but it also gives us reprieve from having to spend money on maintaining life at home. Just imagine your checkbook if you didn’t have any expenses related to rent, mortgage, or cars.
Below is a list of some actual post-tax annual expenses we paid in the past 12 months that we won’t have to pay in the next 12 while traveling:
Tom needed new pants. He had been wearing the same Dockers for way too long and they looked pretty tattered. However, Tom hates to shop, and unfortunately, so do I.
So when Tom needs new pants, he’s on his own. But when faced with the option to go buy new pants or do pretty much anything else, he undoubtedly chooses "anything else.”
One day about two years ago, Tom recognized that he needed to force himself to go shopping. He knew that if he were sporting new pants, I wouldn’t be able to resist squeezing his little ass, and then he'd be glad he shopped.
So what did Tom do?
He walked into the bedroom picked up his Dockers and ripped them down the middle. He looked at me as I stared back at him in shock and he said, “now I have to go buy new pants today.” He gave himself no other option.
From that day on, “ripping your pants” became a metaphor in our family for intentionally doing something in order to leave you no other option, but to do the very thing you don’t want to do, yet know is best. So when Tom quit his job last week, he “ripped his pants.”
He left us no other option but to continue our plans to travel. We no longer had his job as a security blanket on which to fall back. We no longer had a reason to stick around Southern California.
Now people keep asking us how we could leave “good” jobs. Below are 10 beliefs that led us to our decision.
For years we said we held these beliefs, but we realized that we weren't acting accordingly. So we finally decided to align our actions with our beliefs and the result was quitting our jobs to travel:
My husband and I have slowly traveled the world 1-2 weeks at a time. But unsatisfied by the limited glimpses these vacations afforded us, we talked about traveling for an entire year. We wanted to experience life while traveling, rather than travel as an escape from life. We had lots of ideas and dreams, but we also had a lot of excuses.
Then one day, Tom got a text message from an unknown number with this quote:
"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" -Mark Twain
To this day, we do not know who sent the text or why. There was no explanation, just the quote. So with the fear of regret behind our backs, the world within our reach, and each other for support, we took the plunge and we're leaving for a year to travel.
This is our journey; join us!
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!