I distinctly remember the last time I used that phrase. It was early last February about mid-day, and I was in my apartment in Provo, UT looking at my Facebook newsfeed. I was just biding my time before my next class started and didn’t want to do anything productive. I spotted a friend from my school that I knew had been traveling around all over the world and decided to look through his pictures. Los Angeles. New York City. Alaska. Costa Rica. Mexico. China. All within just a couple of months, almost all during school. He was leaving for Australia and New Zealand for two weeks in a couple more days. I was admittedly jealous, I wanted his life. I had never felt so tied down than right then, with a demanding job and 23 credits of psychology degree. And here he was, traveling around the world in the middle of the semester.
I tried to reason it out, make sense of it all. He could do that because he had a lighter workload, or because he was single, or because he had funding from the local mafia and was actually smuggling smack to various locations that happened to be beautiful, amazing places. None of these reasons were even true. Fact was, he worked hard to support his lifestyle because it was important to him. When there was an opportunity for him to travel somewhere, he took it, even when it looked impossible. He made other things fit around it and let it work itself out. When I asked him what was going through his mind when he would travel during school, he would simply quote, “Never let school get in the way of your education.” I believed in that, but I still believed it was impossible for a guy like me. I would never be able to do that. My chance had dried up.
Two Months Later
Emily and I were just a week or two away from finishing our undergraduate degree. We would never have to walk the long road up the hill to where our classrooms existed, or take an exam in the dreaded testing center. I would never have to shave my face again. I was almost free, and the suspense was killing me. Even then, though, I knew I wouldn’t be able to fulfill that desire to travel the world… at least not anytime soon. We had just discovered that Emily was pregnant, and we were prepping to be parents for the first time. The plan was to find a house and stay in Utah for the next couple of years while I worked and Emily took care of the new kid, plus whoever else came our way during that time. After 4 years, we’d reevaluate. I was content with that decision. Happy, even. Then it got harder.
In our search for a home it came to our attention that we should get pre-approved for a loan, so that when we did find that special place that we fell in love with we can be prepared to make a solid offer immediately. I had friends that had been making pittle but gotten loans large enough to buy more house than they ever needed, and we just needed a portion of that. There was a distinct difference between those friends and me, though, and that difference was that I was technically self-employed. I wasn’t made aware of this stupid grudge mortgage companies had until we already had our hearts set on getting our own joint. Even the most gracious pre-approval we received only would have scored us a measly loan of $80,000, but we weren’t very interested in buying a smelly 1 bedroom condo and living there for 4 years. After some thought we determined we would just rent for a little and then around November have enough of an income to reapply for a loan. The apartment search was bleak, though, and when we did find something we liked, they weren’t willing to let us have our dog without a massive nonrefundable deposit and a steep monthly rent increase. Where we were currently staying was around 500 sq. ft and made us literally sick at night, as it had dark mold growing up and down the walls of our tiny bedroom. I started to feel trapped again, and this time we were out of options.
It got worse before it got better. Even when we thought we had found a place (and we were getting really close to just resigning and staying where we were), we still had to find someone to watch our dog for three weeks, since after graduation we had been planning a big trip out east to celebrate our new freedom. We tried splitting the dog watch into shifts between friends, but that wasn’t going to work. We tried offloading him on Emily’s brother, but he was flying the week after us and didn’t have room for Thadius. We even looked into a long-term kennel, but everything we found was going to charge us a minimum of $500 just for the 3 weeks watch. It was at this moment of ridiculousness that a bright window opened up. Emily’s parents gave us the opportunity to live with them for the summer under the condition that we would help them get things ready to sell their house. That would mean we had to move most of our stuff into storage, tell our employers we’re leaving (and potentially lose our jobs if they won’t let us work remotely), and drive the 2025 miles across the country in a car we weren’t completely sure was going to make it. More importantly, this meant that we would have the option to travel all of the northeastern United States during the summer nearly hassle-free.
Since I was mostly working remotely already (save for weekly meetings), it was fairly easy to have my employer sign off on the move. Emily had a couple jobs lined up, but they were all the kind you have to be there for. Given that she had just gone to school for almost 2 years straight while working the entire time, I was okay with the idea of being the sole bread winner for a while. We found a cheapo storage facility and a Uhaul and made quick work of the process. We had enough in savings to get us to the other side of the country. Unlike our prior plan, everything was lining up just right. We said sayonara to Provo and drove straight through to central PA, stopping only for food and gas. Google told us it would take about 35 hours to make the trip; we did it in 28. That’s when I first discovered that driving across the country wasn’t nearly as daunting as I had once believed it was. That’s also when I first realized the enormous travel power I always had, simply by owning a car and a couple bucks for gas.
The whole concept of being out of Provo was exhilarating. I had spent almost 4 complete years as a student there, always doing the bidding of some system I didn’t believe in. And now here I was, living in a place I’ve never lived in, in a part of the country I’ve never seen. It made me feel good to know I could do it, could live outside of the city that once had me highway hypnotized. Even if we had the stigma that comes with living with one’s parents (despite us being there on terms of a fair trade of services), it was worth it to get out of the rut I was confining myself to. It wasn’t Provo that was bad; in fact, we’re considering moving back there. It was the complacent state that I would have continued to be in had I not moved away. We do that sometimes, you know, become complacent with how our lives are, despite not having done what we really wanted to do. I would argue that 99% of all people have made concessions and justified their conditions simply because they feel they can’t change them. I hope that, at least in part, the next few paragraphs can prove that wrong.
As soon as we got to Pennsylvania, Emily and I sat down and talked about what we wanted to do while we were up here. We discussed visiting New York City, Philadelphia, DC, all of New England, Niagara Falls, and a couple religious historic sites that were nearby. Where I once thought a 6-hour car ride was at least worthy of 4 days’ worth of being there, we were comfortable making it in a day, opening up possibilities of places I never realized we had time to see. The list kept growing once we discovered we had a few plane vouchers we needed to redeem by the end of June. Visiting Emily’s brother in Orlando, Florida. Family reunion in Gatlinburg, TN. It was getting ridiculous. A couple days later it was time to leave for the first of the trips, our 7-day cruise to Bermuda. This was our first cruise, and we had been planning on it for the past couple months. We were excited, of course, but now it was only a short leg of our kick-butt rockstar summer.
Then we were thrown the biggest curveball of our lives. Up to this point, we had to always keep in mind that Emily might be feeling sick or otherwise unable to go walk around all these places we were planning on going due to her pregnancy. We were elated about everything we were going to do, but still remembered that, in the case that she wasn’t feeling up for it, it would be okay if we couldn’t go. It was our second day on the cruise when Emily started to feel pretty sick. We had some baby-safe dramamine kinda stuff so she wouldn’t get seasick, so we figured it was just pregnancy pains. We didn’t have anything drug-wise so we were subject to the high-dollar kid’s tylenol at the ship’s quickie mart. It wasn’t enough, though, and that’s when we knew something different was going on. The pain became worse and nothing was cutting it. I did what I could to comfort her, but we began to realize what could be happening, and there’s no comfort enough for that. That day was the worst day of our lives. That was the day we lost our first child.
A lot of people experience miscarriage, so much so that they even have some statistic saying how likely you are to have one. It’s really easy to say, “Cheer up, 23.6 people within a 50 mile radius have had a miscarriage and they’re fine…” Statistics are stupid, though, and those that rely upon them as a source of comfort have got some backwards ways. It doesn’t matter if 2 or 2 million people had gone through it. It still sucks. It doesn’t make it better to know that everyone else has had to deal with one too, in fact, it almost makes it worse. It’s almost taboo to talk about it, because if you hadn’t gone through one yourself, you’re 98.4% more likely going to give some statistic-laden bull crap answer, and we don’t want your pity. It’s not that I’m trying to be rude, it’s that you simply don’t know what it’s like until you deal with it, either through yourself or through someone very close. Before we experienced it I would have given some dumb response like the one aforementioned. Perhaps we went through this so that we now know the importance of the situation. Perhaps, even in the worst of our burdens, we were meant to help comfort someone else in a way that we can now understand.
This moment, though seemingly bleak, had great importance in the decision we made next. We started to see things in a different light as we tried to make sense of what had just happened. This changed our plans around. Instead of coming back from the summer and digging our heels into the beginning of our family life, we had, in a sense, more freedom than we really wanted. We were still planning on coming back to Utah to hold true to the commitments I had made with a few people (though we tossed around the idea of never going back), but we didn’t have much reason to stay there long-term anymore. We had thought deeply about resurrecting our plan to move to Hawaii, or Austin, or anywhere for that matter. Just to do it. And then I ran into this guy named Tyson.
Tyson was from Georgia. Or rather, claimed to be from Georgia, meaning he had a house there, but three days prior to me meeting him he and his wife and three kids had been living in Colombia for 6 months. You probably have noticed at this point that Tyson is not a latino name. He didn’t even speak spanish, at least not well. He was a college dropout that was currently in Philadelphia only long enough to interview at 3 different Fortune 500 companies that badly wanted him to be their IT manager. He was either late 20s or early 30s, had a decently sized family, had a massively killer career heading his way, and had already traveled the world. With his family. I was blown away. I picked his brain profusely, trying to capture everything that he did so I could imagine myself recreating the experience he had. He had a travel blog that they maintained while they were moving about, and it became successful enough to land him a deal with the Colombian government: he pays for the plane tickets out there, they pay for everything else, and then he blogs about it. They lived well, he said. I got his number and we parted ways.
Later that night I realized that I was spending too much time imagining myself in another’s shoes and not enough time in my own. I looked at the formula Tyson had laid out for me, and then peered back at my own situation. We were in a brilliant position to do what I always saw someone else doing. We could very easily take our travel-filled summer and stretch it out over the span of several years, if not a lifetime. With minor changes, we could be living around the world for the rest of our lives… WITH a family. This was not just a dream anymore, this was most certainly a potential reality. The only factor that had been missing was the knowledge that it can be done, and now we had it.
Traveling, Not Vacationing
Traveling for us, as you’ll hopefully come to know, isn’t just vacationing. Many people associate those two words very closely. I like to keep them as separate as possible, and here’s why. When you’re vacationing, you’re simply taking your own culture and bringing it with you. You’re going places and expecting to be comfortable, despite being out of the comfort of your home. You’re visiting tourist traps and taking pictures with oversized Disney characters. For us, traveling is a bit more than that. It’s about taking yourself out of the equation completely, and absorbing the culture around you. It’s learning the foods, the sacred places, the nuances, and the people and how they interact. We’ve tried to implement this philosophy everywhere we go, and we have never had a better time in our lives. It has changed how we understand what we believe, and how we treat other people.
The next step for us is a big one. We’re working on getting the right tools in place to allow us to demonstrate that world travel is not only possible for the single or the superrich. We’re planning to live in 12 very different countries all around the earth for a month each, and we’re planning on doing it with relatively no money. It will be some time before we can get everything in order, but it’s official. We’ve bought the website and everything, so there’s no backing out now. I don’t know when or how we’re going to make this happen… but that’s the glorious part. I don’t have to know. I just have to know it’s possible, and the “how” we’ll get to figure out along the way.
12 countries. 12 months. An entire lifetime’s worth of experiences.