This post was last updated on September 18th, 2014
Last week we shared some of our favorite photos from a year of full-time travel around the world. As promised, today we are taking some time to reflect a bit more deeply on the past 365 days—and ultimately spill the beans on whether or not we think a nomadic lifestyle is the one for us.
To put it simply, the past year has been nothing less than amazing. Not easy, by any means, but amazing. When we packed up our lives in Taiwan and headed out on this nomadic journey, we didn’t really know where we would go or what we would do. Because this was in no way a ‘gap year’ or a trip with a finite end, we didn’t feel any pressure to plan farther than a few months ahead at a time. That’s not to say we weren’t always thinking about the future (contrary to popular belief, we’re horrible at just throwing things to the wind and waiting to see where the universe will take us). But planning for us meant thinking: ‘where do we want to be in five years?’ and never ‘where are we going to sleep next week?’
This loose life mapping without micro managing worked out perfectly for us. When we first set out to cycle Vietnam, we never dreamed that our travel tales would include hiking through the jungles of Costa Rica, exploring ancient Mayan culture in Mexico, cross-country skiing through Lapland, house sitting in the south of France, or cheering on Brazil during the World Cup.
There’s always more to see and discover in this world; for every one bucket-list item we cross off from our list, we inevitably add five more. But while we still have countless places to explore, in some ways we feel like we’ve lived a lifetime of memories in the past 365 days alone. And for this, we will always be incredibly grateful. We aren’t blind to the fact that we are fortunate to have freedoms and liberties that make our nomadic lifestyle possible. Little things we normally take for granted, like having passports, speaking English and being debt-free, have certainly contributed to making our travels possible. Even just being able to make memories traveling the world as a young, healthy couple in love is a tremendous blessing.
But while we will be the first to say we are fortunate beyond reason, we do think it’s important to note that our lifestyle is not just about ‘luck’. Every single day we are told how ‘lucky’ we are. And honestly, it drives us a bit crazy. We have actively decided to pursue a life of travel, and we have had to make a lot of sacrifices to make that lifestyle possible. We didn’t just wake up one morning and fall into nomadic living; we worked our asses off (and continue to do so everyday) to get a little closer to our goals and dreams. Unfortunately we don’t have a wealthy benefactor filling up our bank account, but if you happen to find one, don’t hesitate to send him or her our way…
But we’re getting a little bit off-topic. We’ve worked hard with the blessings we’ve been given to travel the world, and we have no regrets about it. We wouldn’t give up one moment of the past year, no matter how sweaty or expensive or tiring or even scary. We’ve also learned more over the past year than we probably did in four years of University. But all that said, we don’t want to talk so much about life lessons learned from traveling the world (that will certainly come later). Instead, we want to use this post to reflect a bit more on what one year of being fully nomadic has been like, and address the pressing questions that we get asked every single day: “Will you guys ever get a ‘real’ job?” and “Are you going to travel forever?”
We’ve spent the last few weeks reenergizing and refocusing in Rio de Janiero; to be honest, a bit of a break was long overdue. Before this, our travels were starting to loose a bit of their wonder and awe. We still loved what we were doing, and I’m not sure there is ever anything quite like the excitement of arriving in a new destination. But we were getting utterly and completely burnt out, not so much from travel, but from trying to juggle a hundred thousand different things at once.
Most people think we spend the majority of our days drinking cocktails on the beach. We do a bit of that. But in reality, we spend the majority of our time working—even if we’re not working at our computers. One of the cons of travel blogging is that you can’t ever really turn off. Everything we do is potential travel content for our blog or freelance clients. Or it’s a press partnership or photography gig. Or it’s inspiration for a travel narrative or social media content. Luckily we love what we do, so we don’t mind the fact that work, travel and leisure all blend seamlessly together. But it still gets tiring. The past year we haven’t just been traveling the world and throwing up a few blog posts here and there; rather, we have been diligently working towards building an online presence. We love blogging, we love our readers (you guys), and we love knowing that we are inspiring people to live life more adventurously. But it’s a lot of work to keep this website—and our other websites—going strong. There’s social media management, marketing, accounting, client correspondence, trip planning, branding, writing, photo editing… and that’s just the start. Add in all the freelance writing, photography and occasional consulting we do, and it’s no wonder why we were feeling completely and totally worn out. We also decided to travel to some of the most expensive countries in the world (aka Norway, Sweden, and Brazil during the World Cup), which put extra pressure on us to keep a bit of money coming in.
It wasn’t even the workload that was proving to be the most difficult thing for us—it was trying to please everyone and feeling like we weren’t pleasing anyone at the same time. As we mentioned, a lot of people think that we are on a permanent vacation, devoid of work and worry. But on the other end of the spectrum, acquaintances that meet us when we travel accuse us of spending too much time working and not enough time exploring. They wonder why we bother to travel halfway across the world if we are just going to spend the day sitting at our computers. Frankly, we don’t blame them. But we have come to realize that we can’t allow other people’s ideas of how we balance work and travel to impact our schedules. We love what we do and how we do it. Which brings us to the next point:
After one year of traveling the world full-time, we don’t know everything about our ‘ideal lifestyle’. Even if we did, we are certain that it would change over time. But we do know a few things. We love traveling. We love the freedom and independence of our lifestyle. We love working for ourselves, working towards our goals and our dreams and not someone else’s. We love the creativity our work allows. We love waking up every morning and feeling excited about the day—even if that day only consists of us sitting at whatever impromptu desk we have. The world is our office, and that’s something we’re not sure we could ever give up.
We also know that we have got to slow down. If we are going to keep traveling the globe and making a living online in the process, we have got to give ourselves the time to make it possible. We also miss having extra time to pursue hobbies like rock climbing, painting, surfing and cooking. Basically we need to do some exploration to determine what travel and work balance gives us the flexibility to adventure and explore without completely wearing us down. It’s going to take some more trial and error to figure out, and that’s okay.
For the remainder of the year, we’ll be doing some traveling through the Amazon, the Pantanal, and the south of Brazil, before jetting off for a month in Colombia. After that, we are finally off to Blue Osa again (something we have been eagerly anticipating since January!), where Casey will be participating in the one-month yoga teacher-training program. After that, we have no idea where we will go or what we will do. We have a loose idea that 2015 will find us following a ‘three-month’ plan, where we spend no less than three months in each new destination. We also might have an opportunity to live in Spain for a year, which would be a tough one to turn down. Right now we’re okay with not knowing all the details, only that we will still be traveling, blogging, and working towards creating a sustainable online income. It might sound like our feelings are all over the place about this whole ‘nomadic’ thing. And that’s kind of because they are. Will we be nomadic forever? We have no idea. Will we travel forever? We certainly hope so, at least to some extent. Will we ever get a ‘real’ job? Maybe. But who says we don’t have real jobs right now?
It will be interesting to look back on this post in August of next year and see where we are and what we’re doing. But as long as we are still having fun, still waking up each morning with excitement to start the day, still knowing that there are limitless possibilities and adventures to be had around every corner, then we’ll consider the next 365 days to be another success.
Now, just for fun:
We weren’t going to do superlatives, but we got a ton of follow up emails from last week’s post enquiring about our favorite and least favorite aspects of our last year of travels. So, in response to your questions, here are our answers!
Rio de Janeiro. (We always say ‘wherever we are at the moment’, but seriously, Rio is completely and totally awesome.)
Runner Up: The Lofoten Islands, Norway. We would never live there, but visiting revealed a dramatic beauty we have yet to see anywhere else.
Least Favorite Place:
Kiruna, Sweden. We have nothing against Kiruna other than the fact that we ended up having to stop there like four times when we were in Lapland. It just got a bit old.
Seeing the Northern Lights for the first time. Maybe because we visited Sweden late in the season so we didn’t expect to see them. Maybe because everyone said they weren’t all that great. Maybe because we went on an epic snowmobile expedition into the middle of the woods to see them. Whatever, the reason, it was magical.
Runner Up: Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City after cycling the entire length of Vietnam, completely untrained and unprepared.
Least Favorite Memory:
When Dan’s camera was swiped off a train from Champagne to Paris. It was completely unexpected, and a huge blow in our budget we are still recovering from. The lesson learned: Don’t just rely on travel insurance. Get individual property insurance for valuable objects.
Everything we ate in Mexico. Literally, everything. Runner Up: The chocolate in Belgium. And the moose burgers in Lapland. And also everything we ate in Vietnam. Have we mentioned we love food?
Least Favorite Food:
Sorry Costa Rica, but we just weren’t very inspired by most of the local food. Some of it was ahh-mazing, but we had trouble finding consistently good food at reasonable prices.
Biggest Travel Mishap:
Showing up a day late for our first-class flight to Mexico. Luckily, they just smiled and put us on the same flight a day later. We lucked out on that one!
Place We Most Want to Revisit:
Canada. We only got to visit British Columbia, and it was an incredibly quick trip at that.
Most Underrated Destination:
Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The people here are incredibly hospitable, the city is clean and comfortable, and the food is delish. It might not be Rio de Janeiro, but it is definitely worth visiting, if only to get to know some of the people.
Most Overrated Destination:
Amsterdam. We only visited for one night and unfortunately our visit was over a crazy holiday weekend. We would like to go back to give it another chance.
Most Romantic Destination:
Is it cliché to say Paris ? We still say Paris anyway. After that, probably Bruges, Belgium.
Best Adventure Destination:
Costa Rica, hands down. Whether it’s jungle trekking, zip lining, volcano hiking, white water rafting, swimming in waterfalls, or just surfing, there is always something to do here.
Casa de Mita. A few words can’t do this boutique, all-inclusive bed and breakfast justice. Read our full review to discover why this small luxury hotel easily wins first prize.
Tickets for the World Cup. It wasn’t cheap, especially since we decided to go to a second game at the last minute, but it was so, so worth it. I don’t think we have ever experienced such a tangible and contagious energy like during the World Cup games.
Biggest Life Lesson Learned:
I’m not sure we learned this over the last year, but it was definitely a lesson cemented into our minds: We all want the same things out of life. Live more compassionately and seek first to understand.
Biggest Daily Difficulty:
Finding reliable WIFI. Seriously, we could go on and on with the ridiculous stories of us chasing WIFI around towns and cities.
Countries Visited: 13
Miles Covered: 35,000+
Photos Taken: 20,000+
So there you have it: Reflections on One Year of Nomadic Living <in about 2,500 words>. Are there any other full-time travelers out there? We would love to hear your opinions and experiences. Anyone who is interested in learning more about creating your own independent location lifestyle? Drop us a line in the comments below.