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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Lindemann

Our First 505 Days

Updated: Apr 10

It's been 505 days since we left Fargo, North Dakota, USA to explore the world. 2023 was our first full year as nomads and I still pinch myself to remember this is our real freaking life! We've explored amazing countries, met incredible people (some we know will be lifelong friends!), immersed ourselves in different cultures by living at least a month in most places, and gained so many (mostly) fun memories along the way. We've learned much about ourselves, one another, and the great big world we all call home.

 

On the flip side, we've also made a shit-ton of mistakes in addition to dealing with difficult situations and uncomfortable things! Here are a few of our more memorable:

 

  1. Accidentally taking buses and trains heading in the complete opposite direction of our destination

  2. Not buying the correct (but more expensive) train ticket to the Paris airport, then talking a French policeman into reducing our fine by half by pulling out my "innocent/dumb tourist" act.

  3. Brad getting lost in the English countryside with no cell service and me freaking out because I couldn't reach him and had NO IDEA where to look.

  4. Making an $800 car insurance mistake in Ireland. If you decide to rent a car there - DO YOUR RESEARCH!

  5. Dealing with multiple bouts of food poisoning

  6. Struggling with crappy wi-fi connections (seriously, how is this still a thing in 2024!)

  7. Driving on the wrong side of the road & nearly causing an accident

  8. Living in less than ideal conditions (think hoarder house) where we caught mice on the daily in the kitchen

  9. Battling feelings of isolation & loneliness before finding a tribe of fellow travelers online to connect with in person all around the world

  10. Falling prey to a common tourist scam in Mexico City and paying $150 for 3 drinks & 3 waters

  11. Mourning the loss of our "old" life

  12. Navigating health care in a different language

  13. Adjusting to early retirement (Jenn)

  14. Missing our kids (and families) like CRAZY and wishing our friends lived closer

 

I was recently telling a group of girlfriends a crazy travel story from years ago where we ended up in the wrong Swiss village with no amenities to stay one night at an unpleasant guest house with weird vibes. Think really old creepy lake house from Friday the 13th. Without other options, the owners offered to cook us dinner and we reluctantly agreed, all the while contemplating.…Can we find a train and another hotel for this one night? Will they poison our food? Murder us in our sleep? We overcame our fears and went to dinner. Turns out the owner was an Italian chef who moved his family to this tiny Swiss village so his children could train for the Olympics in skiing. The meal was gourmet and probably one of the best we've ever had. The family was great - definitely NOT going to murder us in our sleep and we were amazed at how quickly our minds were changed. Why am I telling you this? Because doing uncomfortable things adds up to immense growth. After hearing this story, my friend Jill concisely concluded: "What a great testament to your current world travels. You are pushing through your discomfort & fear and coming out on the other side with an experience you'll never forget!" Amen, Jill. Amen!

 

A true highlight of our year was falling in love with petsitting. While we have always loved animals, we naively figured house and petsitting would simply offset some of our housing costs. We had no idea the profound impact our cherished clients and their families would have on our lives. We were fortunate to spoil over a dozen pets in addition to "borrowing" a few along the way (i.e. stealing our AirBnb hosts' pets for walks, finding cat cafes to get our fix, and admiring stray animals everywhere). Caring for a clients' precious pets feels like "home" to us and we feel blessed to have met so many wonderful people. 

 

Interesting Statistics

I love a good spreadsheet and while we're not big budget people, I do track some of our costs, especially for housing & transportation. Here are a few interesting statistics from our first 505 days of travel:

 

No. of Flights/Miles Flown: Brad: 33,837 miles and 27 flights 

Jenn: 27,455 miles and 24 flights

Interestingly, we only had ONE canceled flight, which was rebooked within the hour and had no impact on our travel day. We also had ZERO bags lost or delayed!


Average Monthly Housing Cost: $1200-1300 USD

Visitors received: We had 11 Visitors in our first 505 days

No. of Books Read: 103

Countries visited: Netherlands, England, Germany, France, Scotland, Italy, Vatican City, Croatia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.


Favorite New Country: Guatemala

Favorite New City: London


New Foods We Loved: INDIAN FOOD in England; Cevapi and Black Risotto in Croatia, Oaxaca/Quesillo Cheese in Mexico, and Cacio e Pepe in Italy.


New Foods We Didn't Love: Sausage Rolls and Cumberland Sausage in the UK, and Chapulines (fried & roasted grasshoppers) and Mole in Mexico

 

A Look Back Over the Last 505 Days


Nov. 2022-Feb. 2023: We spent our first few days in Amsterdam celebrating our 10th Wedding Anniversary. We saw some dear friends, walked the canals, and slept at odd hours trying to get rid of our jetlag. Next, we flew to England and spent nearly 4 months pet-sitting in places like London, Newmarket, and Thurcroft. These pets and their owners helped make our experiences so amazing. Our first visitors arrived between Christmas and New Year's - we had a great time exploring York and Sheffield together.

 

We fell in love with the English countryside as well as the spectacular city of London. In January, my son joined us for a week of sightseeing before he set off on his own month-long backpacking adventure through Europe. We heard England was the 2nd best place in the world to try Indian food, which we had never experienced, so we gave it a go. Wow - where has this been all my life? Needless to say, it is now our all-time favorite type of food!

 

Our curious French neighbors

March-April 2023: We spent 6 weeks in Paris, one of our all-time favorite cities in the world. My daughter and her boyfriend joined us for 12 days over spring break and I think they fell in love with this enchanting city too. A last minute cancelation of a dog-sit in SW France had me scrambling to find alternative accommodations for our final 3 weeks in France. We stumbled upon a quaint farm cottage in the tiny village of Beaulieu-sur-Sonnette. It was a magical place surrounded by farmland, charming country gravel paths in all directions, and the most interesting, lovely family (the owners) who lived next door. They were kind enough to let us "borrow" their dog Tilly for walks and their cat, King Louis, for naps & snuggles. We had fresh baked bread, goodies and eggs delivered by their sweet children. It was a much needed respite after 6 weeks in the city and we'd love to go back one day!

 

May-June 2023: We flew home for a visit in May and stayed nearly 3 weeks. It was great to be home for my daughter's college graduation in addition to catching up with friends and family. While we love going home, it tends to be one of the more stressful trips trying to fit everything in. We traveled to New York City for a long Memorial Day weekend before flying to Ireland. It was Brad's first time in NYC so it was fun showing him all the sights.

 

We spent an (exhausting) month in Ireland. We rented a car in order to maximize our time. Since Brad didn't start work until 11:00a due to the time difference, we spent most mornings sightseeing by car. We moved each week to a different area of the country and even squeezed in a very long day trip to Northern Ireland one weekend.

 

We had been warned the weather may be iffy in May/June, so we felt like we hit the lottery with 18 days of sunshine before having a brief rain shower pass through. We managed to dodge rain most of our remaining days as well. Ireland is STUNNING. Jaw-droppingly beautiful. We did, however, learn that moving every week was too much for us and subsequently, we now try to stay at least a month in each new place.

 

Lastly, we spent roughly 3 weeks in Germany in the small village of Aulosen where some cherished friends live. We laughed until we cried and have already planned a trip with them in 2025. Driving on the Autobahn was a highlight for Brad (I closed my eyes!!!) A highlight for me was spending a weekend in Rotterdam, Netherlands for my birthday to hang out with friends for a Jack Botts concert. 

 

July-August 2023: July and August brought us back to the UK. We spent 2 weeks in Edinburgh, Scotland watching a sweet lab called Bodi - his family was awesome which is always a bonus! We also spent time in York, Sheffield, Hemel Hempstead, and London - splitting our time between, pet-sits, hotels and AirBnb's. It was strange that England now felt a bit like "home" to us coming back after spending four previous months there. 

 

September 2023: We flew to Croatia and spent time in Split and Hvar. This country truly surprised us. We had heard it was beautiful, but WOW! We loved the area and plan to explore more of this country in the future. Some dear friends from Minnesota joined us for vacation and it was great to spend time relaxing and catching up. Plitvice Lakes National Park was another highlight of our time in Croatia - UNREAL scenery.  We flew home for a 4 day visit the end of September before continuing our adventures south. 

 

David, Jenn & Brad

October-December 2023: After spending most of our first year in Europe/UK, we decided to head south of the US border into Mexico and Central America.  We shared an AirBnb in Mexico City (CDMX) for two weeks with one of my besties, David, while he worked remotely. It was great to explore the city and surrounding areas on the weekends and evenings. We all fell in love with CDMX, despite also experiencing our first earthquake! It occurred on a weekend evening around 11:00pm while we were walking around the city. It was barely a shake (4.4 on the Richter scale) but interesting to see the power lines shaking and the alarms buzzing.


After David's departure, we moved to a smaller apartment and stayed another month in CDMX before moving to Oaxaca, Mexico. In Oaxaca, we stayed at our first co-living/co-working space. These have become popular in recent years with the increase in digital nomads. The concept is similar to a hostel, with some shared spaces, but geared more towards remote work during the day.  We thought we'd try it out and booked a private room/bathroom. It was ok, but we didn't love it. The work area was great for Brad, our room was spacious, and there was ample opportunities for community activities. The downside? It was quite large and we were basically living with 25 other people for a month. It was hard to find privacy even in our own room. We may try the concept again in a smaller setting for a shorter period of time.

 

December 2023-January 2024: We arrived mid-December for a month long stay near Jaco, Costa Rica. We shared an AirBnb with another couple we met online who also travel and petsit. It was awesome to spend the holidays with friends! We explored the western coast on the weekends, cooked amazing meals together, played so many card games I lost count, and had the best time getting to know one another better. We've both booked petsits in London to spend the holidays together again this year. 


 "La vida es completa cuando se comparte or Life is complete when it is shared." - a favorite Spanish quote I found on a random wall

Costa Rica is lush, green, and biodiverse. We encountered so many new (to us) birds, animals, and plants. I was, however, unprepared for the coastal heat and humidity! Most days it felt like I needed to shower again within an hour of being outside. We'd love to go back and visit the mountains and cloud forest someday.

 

January-March 2024: We arrived mid-January to Antigua, Guatemala and fell in love almost immediately. The natural beauty of the surrounding volcanoes, the welcoming people, the cobblestone streets, the multiple ruins, the eternal spring weather, the food, the green spaces, the gorgeous textiles, and on and on. It immediately felt special to both of us. This is the first country we feel we could stay a while longer or even live one day! It has really wowed us. We spent 6 weeks in Antigua and are already planning to return. 


San Jose Cathedral, Antigua

We experienced our 2nd and more significant earthquake in Antigua, measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale. We were shaken awake from bed and had a difficult time going back to sleep. It's a surreal experience for a North Dakota girl!


I enrolled in 3 weeks of Spanish School while in Antigua. I studied 4 hours per day, one-on-one, with a delightful teacher named Alejandra. Her mother and aunt also worked at the school. Brad & I were very fortunate to be invited to lunch at their house one Saturday afternoon. It was an amazing, authentic experience we will never forget. I plan to continue studying Spanish with her online starting in April.

"Different places expose you to different versions of yourself; different aspects of your personality need the right conditions to come out. In this way, traveling is never about a place, really, but about the reflection you see when you’re there. And, sometimes you want to bottle that reflection. Sometimes, you want to be that person forever." - Ash Aimbridge

Currently, we are nearing the end of a month long stay on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, which is roughly 75 miles west of Guatemala City. It is the deepest lake in Central America at 1,120 feet. Another area of stunning natural beauty and eternal spring weather, as it's situated in the Guatemalan Highlands. There are 11 villages situated on the lake. We are staying between two villages at a large villa split into 7 separate apartments. To get to any of the other villages on the lake you just have to stand on the dock and flag down one of the many public boats.

 

While based in Guatemala, Brad and I recently each took separate journeys to the US to meet up with cherished friends (Brad to California, me to Florida) for four days. We love that our friend groups continue to make time for these trips -- we really do have the best friend ever! We both returned feeling renewed and refreshed.

 

What's Next?

We're moving to Panama this weekend! We will explore Panama City for a few days before heading off to start two long-term pet sits. Our first is a 2 month cat sit on the Azuero Peninsula near the village of Tonosi. We are hoping to eat our weight in seafood since this is known as the "tuna coast". Our 2nd sit for June/July is in Playa Coronado for 2 dogs and an outdoor cat. Come August, we will visit North Dakota/Minnesota for two weeks before heading back to Europe in September. Our plans include attending Oktoberfest in Germany in addition to a special trip planned with our kids in early December exploring the European Christmas Markets.

 

Whew! That's a wrap on our last 17 months. While this life certainly has its challenges, we both agree we can't imagine being anywhere else with anyone else!

 

Cheers, Peace, Love, and Kindness,

Jenn

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5 Comments


Stacy Bjornstad
Stacy Bjornstad
Mar 31

Fun to reflect back on all you've experienced already...with so much more to come!

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4e Winery
4e Winery
Mar 26

Thanks for the "catch up" my friend! Miss you but love watching you guys travel the world. ❤️

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Jennifer Lindemann
Jennifer Lindemann
Mar 27
Replying to

So glad we got to soend some time with you and the Dakota Vines crew in Paris last year ❤️ See you in August!

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donnaw
Mar 26

I certainly hope you can some day publish all of your spectacular writings into a book and live off the residuals of your travels! donna

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Jennifer Lindemann
Jennifer Lindemann
Mar 27
Replying to

If only..... 😊

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