Six Months Returned

We’ve been back in the United States for six months now.  It has taken about that long to get settled, but it’s hard to believe that six months has gone by so quickly.  Sitting at my desk at work, the trip seems like a distant memory and I have to look at my pictures to remind myself that it was real. That this time last year, we were in the Middle East exhausted from traveling in Africa, but excited to head off to Europe.  We were warned by others that we’d be dying to get back on the road six months after we returned.

The travel bug, we were told, is a relentless bug that keeps rearing it’s head.

So six months back and where are we?  Well we’ve both settled back into work.  It took us a while to decide what was best for us on that front and what we wanted to do.  We had to make some hard decisions about where we see ourselves and what we want to accomplish in the next few years.  In the end we both changed careers, me back to communications and Danny into financial planning.  We’ve taken some big steps as well in the last six months, we’ve returned to Danny’s hometown in Florida, bought a house and a car.  We’re living a life I never thought we’d lead, one that three years ago I would have unabashedly said wasn’t for me.  It’s a life that today makes me happy.

Jumping at Valley Forge

I guess our journey around the world has quieted my soul down a bit.  I feel accomplished so far in my life, but I wouldn’t say completed.  Taking a trip around the world was the first of many big decisions over the last two years, but the most important perhaps was when to come home.  It was the easiest and hardest decision we’ve ever made. We knew our time was up, we loathed to continue on, but at the same time we knew what waited for us at home and how much we’d have to face upon our return.

I won’t say that I had to travel around the world in order to find myself. That’s a bit dramatic.  Six months later I believe I’m still the same person who left on that trip more than two years ago and who returned in December.  Traveling around the world let me find peace with myself. It gave me perspective. I could tell you about how differently I view the world now, but let’s just say I view it with more ease.  The consequences here at home seems so minor compared to some of the consequences of bad decisions on the road.

Traveling was the greatest gift I have ever given myself.  It’s been hard to be home and no doubt there are difficult days ahead, but it’s given me an inner peace and confidence that I didn’t have before.  I’m satisfied with my life in a way I never was before and I’m happy to take life as it comes.  I feel so much more aware of myself, my situation and the world’s possibilities.  I’m no longer yearning to prove myself, for traveling around the world proved to me that I can do it, that I can handle life.

Islas Ballestras in Peru

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that reading other traveler’s blogs doesn’t make me wish I was back on the road.  There are so many things that I miss about traveling, but I know that right now I’m happy being home, happy setting up a new life and happy with the gifts travel has given me.  It’s been a hard six months, but today I’m living life without regret, what more can I ask for?

If you’re interested in reading more about re-entry from our RTW, check out all our posts on coming home and the afterlife.

Returning to the Boxes

Two years ago we were officially on our way, traveling the world with our entire journey before us. We had sold it, quit it, packed it or gotten rid of it. We quite literally purged our small one bedroom apartment in Washington, DC, donating hundreds of household and clothing items to any cause that would take them. We neatly packed everything in cardboard boxes and tucked it away in my parent’s basement. Two years later it’s time to unpack and staring at the boxes before us I can’t help but wonder if we didn’t get rid of enough.

Getting ready to move

We sorted and packed for weeks before we carted boxes to my parents. I thought moving day would be a breeze and we’d just carry out our boxes and be out of there, on our way to traveling around the world.

Life it seems, had other ideas, and we stayed late in the afternoon sorting, packing and throwing out things that somehow we had missed. The afternoon passed so quickly I can’t remember what was saved and what was tossed. Going through our boxes now I find myself saving over and over again, didn’t we have a… or where did we put the… and ultimately not finding it.  And you know what? I don’t miss it at all.

Interestingly enough, the sort of the opposite has happened. I want to ger rid of more. The stuff I cared so much about saving I’m now ready to pitch in the can.  Some of it I can’t believe we saved.  At the time I thought we had gotten rid of everything we could.  Now, I see more.

Perhaps distance and time were all I needed to realize that this stuff doesn’t define me.

 In fact, it weighs me down.

All this stuff keeps me tied to something that I’m not anymore. To a life that I no longer live. We lived with 50L backpacks for two years and you know what, I hardly missed anything material.  I want to keep it that way.  I don’t want to surround myself with stuff I don’t need.

The stuff we kept

Maybe it’s just that time of year- spring – that makes me want to fling open the windows and rid myself of all this stuff. Maybe it’s because we’ve just hauled it 1,000 miles to our new home, or maybe it’s that we are putting down roots again. Either way I’m looking forward to going through those boxes a second time, this time as we unpack and getting rid of even more.

Our Bucket List

To those who think we’ve done it all….we haven’t, not even close. Here is our stab at making a bucket list. I’m sure we’ve missed things but here it is for your enjoyment. Feel free to add your own suggestions or share some of yours with us.

  1. 70.3 Triathlon (a.k.a. A half iron-man triathlon. Or as Danny calls it…an Aluminum Man)
  2. Be in a movie.

    Cakes of Mexico’s Semana Santa
  3. Become a gourmet chef…or at least know how to cook things better :)
  4. Bike across the USA.
  5. Bike Italy…. A wine and food tour.
  6. Camp Alaska.
  7. Catch and prepare my own dinner.
  8. Coach or Teach.
  9. Compete in a multi-day adventure race.
  10. Dance good salsa.
  11. Discover Bhutan.

    Hanging out over Bolivia’s Death Road
  12. Dive with whale sharks.
  13. Drive in the Mongol Rally.
  14. Experience Mongolia with a group of friends from home.
  15. Get paid to take pictures.
  16. Get really good at rock climbing.
  17. Grand Canyon. Hike Rim to Rim, 1 Day. (We already did down and up, rim to rim sounds better)
  18. Grow our own fruit trees and a vegetable garden.
  19. Have a wood-shop…and use it.
  20. Have kids.
  21. Hike the Appalachian Trail.

    Chocolate in Ecuador
  22. Learn Arabic.
  23. Learn how to make stain glass.
  24. Learn to play harmonica and play on the street until I’ve earned enough money for dinner.
  25. Live it up in the Balkans.
  26. Make our own chocolate…and have it taste good.
  27. Make our own wine, or maybe just work a vineyard.
  28. Make stationary.
  29. Open a travel bookstore with a Bariloche styled chocolate shop.
  30. Own our own home.

  31. Restore an old house…then move in.
  32. Ride a zebra! (I’d settle for a wildebeest!)
  33. Road trip Australia
  34. Russia….St. Petersburg to Vladivostok (or backwards). The Trans-Siberian we almost took.
  35. RV New Zealand
  36. Sail the ocean….or at least a small part of it.
  37. SCUBA the Red Sea from a live-aboard boat.
  38. See a grizzly bear catch salmon in its mouth.
  39. See a humpback whale breech.

    A Little Whirling Dirvish in Sudan
  40. See the Northern or Southern Lights…preferably while sitting in a hot spring in a glacier.
  41. Ski
  42. Skydive.
  43. Spend more time in the Middle East – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, etc.
  44. Travel Indonesia.
  45. Walk past a sidewalk cafe and take a free roll out of the basket on someone else’s table. 😉
  46. Win a race. Just one.
  47. Win the lottery.
  48. Work a potter’s wheel.
  49. Write a Book
  50. Travel the World (I guess we did this one already…)  :)

Globetrotters Seek Work

Many people ask us what we’ve gained from all this travel. What do we offer potential employers? As we sit down and start to identify what it is – exactly – we’ve gotten from all of this, we realize it’s much more than we ever expected.

IMGP5271For starters there is the obvious, our knowledge of history and geography are far deeper than ever before. We’ve seen great new markets for familiar products and can advise on more than one from which to stay away. If given the chance we could probably provide Coca-Cola or any number of car companies with a decade’s worth of advertising material.

We’re now accustomed to the unexpected and can readily come up with somewhat unconventional solutions that get the job done and keep everyone happy. In tough situations we’re used to maintaining our composure, rolling with the punches, and keeping the momentum moving forward…even when driving on the wrong side of the road.

For 5 years we worked and managed our lives toward a specific goal. With that initial – financial – goal achieved, we continued to work inside a very fixed budget and 21 months later returned on schedule and under budget, no small feat when you consider we dealt with 10 intertwined cash accounts, over 40 currencies…and no income. Shall I even mention my new found negotiation skills?

It took intensive dedication to research with an attention to detail to get through Africa and Central Asia over land; what roads were opened and closed, what visas could be obtained in which locations, where we would sleep each night. When it comes to balancing the logistics of multiple multi-day visa waiting periods, adept prioritization and planning is key.

We have a global network of friends, colleagues, confidants and advisors on every continent save for Antarctica. We can turn strangers into friends quicker than most politicians turn handshakes into votes. Small talk is important, that’s how you get to big talk.IMGP7902

Working in a team we once calmed an angry, machine-gun wielding, Ethiopian border agent; an angry client who actually speaks my language should be a cakewalk. It’s not just the words that count, you’d be surprised at just how expressive your gestures and body language can be without you knowing it. Good thing we’ve communicated with people in over 20 languages we don’t speak…let alone English and Spanish.

Above all else, there is one thing that we now trust in far more than either of us ever thought imaginable: that given the right tools, there is no challenge too big to handle.

Holidays at home

It’s probably no surprise, but some of the most difficult times to be on the road are during holidays. Generally we weren’t alone, but except with some friends in Africa, we rarely were with other travelers long enough to develop a deep relationship. We were surrounded by great people and sharing your traditions can be fun and memorable, but it’s just not the same as being home.
I’ll never regret spending Thanksgiving in India, sharing the story and celebration with our couchsurfing hosts, nor my birthday in Colombia or the amazing couchsurfers who threw a birthday weekend for Danny in South Africa. But when we came around for the second birthday, the second anniversary away, it was a little more difficult and we felt in some ways cut off. This year, we’re home and we’re spending the holidays with some good friends we met in Africa that have just immigrated to the U.S.

This week take a second to think about the people that aren’t celebrating with their friends and family. Consider yourself lucky if you are, and if you aren’t, remember that someone else around you might be in the same boat. That act of kindness, inviting someone to a festive dinner, sharing your own holiday traditions or passing along a piece of candy can really make a difference. For our own friends in all the corners of the globe, we are thinking of you guys and hope that wherever you are, you’re having a great holiday.