Full-Time Travel: Finding Our "Why?"
My first domestic flight, well, that I remember (not counting flying as a baby of Marine parents between places stationed & my mother's home state of North Dakota), was in 7th grade on a group trip to a National Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) Conference. I believe it was either Anaheim, CA, or Orlando, FL, and also my first trip to Disney. Growing up poor meant I needed to work for every dollar that trip cost. Our small town community and FBLA Chapter organized many "jobs" around town for students who needed to earn the funds necessary to go. This included things like painting sheds & fences for the park board, raking leaves, doing odd jobs for elderly residents, or picking rocks in fields for local farmers. I took as many as possible because I yearned to get on that plane.
I earned the funds and my love of travel was sparked. I had never been anywhere and suddenly I wanted to go everywhere. I was fortunate enough to attend that conference six years in a row in places all over the US. I started dreaming of traveling to other places after college. Grant you, this was before the internet (yes, I'm older than Google) so it wasn't a long list, but I couldn't wait to start crossing them off. I knew I'd find a way.
Then, well, life happened. College, career, marriage, children, divorce, single parenting, re-marriage, and many, many things in between. I did a bit of travel for various jobs but nothing significant. Let's be honest, for most of us our life circumstances prevent us from taking much more than a small vacation every few years. The excuses to not travel are endless: the kids are too young, it's expensive, we don't have many vacation days, we need this or that before we need a vacation. I get it because I lived it too. But ....but....I still longed to see new places and experience new things. I needed to find a way to fuel this passion but wasn't sure how.
"To get lost is to learn the way" - African Proverb
Sometime in 2009, I stumbled upon a travel blog called "Nomadic Matt". He had been traveling the world since 2006 on very little money. What?!?! I devoured every post and started learning more about travel hacking. (I will do a separate blog post on travel hacking specifically, but basically, it's utilizing credit card bonuses of miles and points to travel for nearly free.) I was energized and excited about the possibilities. I was a single parent at the time and money was tight. I was dating my current husband, who hadn't traveled much either but had a desire to. Maybe this could be a way for our family to see more of the world!
So, we started collecting points and miles and learned about finding great deals on travel. Thrifty Traveler, based in Minneapolis, MN was and still is my all-time favorite place for great flight deals, excellent articles, and guides on utilizing points & miles. (let me know if you'd like a referral!) Besides that, they're just great people and will answer your questions without making you feel like you have no idea what you're doing (which happens to me a LOT!) Two other amazing sites I use are Travel Freely and Travel Hacking Mom. Again, just amazing humans at these small businesses too. This isn't a sponsored post - I genuinely love these sites and hope others support them.
c. 2014: our first trip to Europe for a wedding in Spain
Then, in 2014 two things happened: I had a TIA (transient ischaemic attack), or mini-stroke, and we visited Europe for the first time. Both events pushed us to want to travel as much as possible. At 42, I was suddenly scared my dreams of "someday" traveling and seeing all the places I'd dreamt could be limited. That summer, we attended a wedding in Spain and spent a few extra days in the Netherlands with dear friends. We were charmed and captivated by Europe and planning our next trip before we even arrived home.
By this time, we had both subscribed to various travel blogs & vlogs and started contemplating a longer-term trip several years down the road, once we became empty nesters. Brad was always enthusiastic and I knew he treasured the great trips we had taken on (mostly) points & miles, however, I was hesitant to tell him I wanted more. I had become genuinely curious about living a nomadic lifestyle, albeit, full-time.
One afternoon, I laid my cards on the table and nervously asked, "What would you think about quitting our jobs and traveling the world full-time?" It was said half kidding, half serious but his immediate response, without any pause to think about it was a resounding "YES!". Holy shit. Did he just say yes? My mind was spinning, my eyes were enormous and the smile on my face was gigantic. I have always known I have a phenomenal life partner and at that moment, I knew our journey together would be incredible.
"Someday is not a day of the week." - Janet Dailey
It was now "our" dream. Over the course of the following days, weeks, months, and years, we defined our goals and refined our plans. We had spent many, many years building a stationary, settled life in North Dakota. We knew we wouldn't be able to make our dream a reality without a lot of careful preparation, planning, research, and effort.
We made list after list after list. We told the kids and some very close friends our plans. We stumbled upon Minimalism at just the right season in our lives and have never looked back. Even after five years of living a life of "less", we have never been more consistently happy about something we did for ourselves. It's interesting how everything else in our lives became so clear once we started living with more intention and focus.
"Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it." -Joshua Becker
It certainly helped us save money. We knew we wanted and valued experiences over "stuff". We wanted memories, not things. It was HARD and overwhelming at times to purge, but we knew it aligned with our long-term goals. We wanted to travel more, learn new things, experience different cultures & places, and spend quality time with the people we love. We didn't want to define our lives by how much stuff we'd accumulated.
As our plans started to become reality, we ticked box after box off our lists. We were motivated but also felt a wide range of emotions as the date inched closer. We started to tell a wider audience of our friends and family about our plans. Reactions were interesting and only a handful of people seemed genuinely happy and excited for us. The most common reaction was a blank stare followed by no questions. That's ok. This is not a mainstream lifestyle choice that many people can grasp or understand. My hope in writing this blog is to educate and teach people that if you want to travel, you absolutely CAN. It doesn't have to break the bank.
"The more you love your decisions, the less you need others to love them." - Paulo Coelho
Maybe traveling the world isn't your dream. What is your dream? Whatever it is, I know you can make it happen. You can find a way. It's never too late. It's never too big. Do one thing today that will bring you closer to THAT. You'll never regret it.
Cheers, Peace, Love, and Kindness,