On the day I write this post, we’ve been on the road for 859 days, and it will be 861-862 days by the time you read this (depending which side of the planet you’re on). In that time we’ve visited 18 different countries on 6 different continents, and some of them multiple times. We’ve visited and lived in over 140 different cities. We love travel, but I’m starting to feel it’s time for a reality check.
We have had some amazing experiences. Tigger learned to dive, dove with sharks, and has done his first wreck penetration (which you usually don’t get to do until you’re at least 15 years old). He’s hugged kangaroos and pet wombats and koalas. We’ve had the fortune of being awoken by the laughing cry of a kookaburra and the sound of a clumsy hornbill crashing into one of our windows every time it lands in the tree next to our current abode.
We’ve been serenaded by donkeys and a herd of goats when we lived on an oasis in very rural southern Morocco. He’s wanted to adopt every cat we’ve run into on every continent we’ve visited. In Essaouira, I was ready to put down roots and start an animal shelter because we saw so many sickly kittens who were probably going to die.
I’ve experienced culture shock and clashes in some of these countries and am a better man and human for it.
But I’m tired.
While we’ve stayed in some places for a good amount of time—2 months on the oasis, 8 months on Utila—we’ve also had some rapid movement. We realized right before Vietnam that we were burnt out after a few months of fairly constant movement. It isn’t our style, and we weren’t liking it, so we’ve tried to slow down.
Housesits have enabled us to do that a bit. We had a month in one spot in Australia and nearly that long in New Zealand.
For the most part, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Kuala Lumpur (KL) felt like home in a lot of ways, and it’s in the top of the list for long-term bases. We are trying to slow down our pace and stay in places for at least a month before moving on. We have some places I’m really excited to visit, like Japan where we’ll be housesitting in Kyoto during Chrismakah and New Year’s.
But I am so sick of packing my suitcase.
After doing it so many times, I have it down to a science. Even when completely unpacked, it takes me maybe 10 minutes to pack when it’s time. That one suitcase represents most of my belongings. I love the freedom of not having too much stuff and wish I could divest myself of some more.
Still, I’m tired of doing it over and over again.
When we lived in Morocco and left the oasis for a few days, it felt so good to feel like we were returning home when our short trip was done. And because we need so little when we travel, we had small bags with us which was extra nice.
Even though we meet people as we travel, long-term travel can still be somewhat isolating.
Things really came to a head for me during our last visit to KL. We ended up being in the same place as the people behind the blogs Runaway Juno and Aaron’s World Adventures. Since we were all in the same city at the same time and have been talking online for years, we decided to meet up. For several days we got together, explored, shared food, chatted and visited, and it was so much fun!
Spending time with them made me realize just how much I miss having local friends. I love sharing experiences with Tigger, but it’s even more fun when it’s with other people. The National Mosque and the Blue Mosque just wouldn’t be the same had we not shared that together and having the inside jokes that come with it. “Do they have it in lavender?” and “Mall walkers unite!”
You had to be there.
We’ve had a few chances to spend time with other families, and it’s been fun to see Tigger get to interact with other kids. He may be even more social than me. I want him to have the chance to do that more often. I think we’re at a point that when we travel he doesn’t bother making local friends because we’re only there temporarily. He’s able to maintain many friendships online, but it isn’t the same as climbing trees, getting dirty, and sinking your toes into mud with your buddies.
I miss that feeling of community and having neighbors that drop by for a cup of coffee or whatever. I miss meeting up with friends for dinner or brunch. In New Zealand, we spent some time with the Edventure Project family. In addition to play, we shared meals, and delicious and nasty wines, and it was so much fun. When they left, I felt like I was saying goodbye to best friends, and I mourned their absence for a few days afterward. In some ways, we couldn’t be more different and in others we’re very kindred spirits. I find that combination to be such a wonderful one for friendships.
I have always taken pride in my independence, even if it created complications with would-be suitors who found it challenging that I didn’t need them. I have survived my childhood and early adulthood by not needing anyone else and learning to enjoy my own company.
But I can admit to myself that I do need local friends, too. Not that I can’t continue doing what I do without friends, but they enrich my life so much. My other friends are all online, and I’m so grateful they continue to be part of my life, but I need some ones who can physically spend time with me as well. I need that interaction, that sense of communion and physical conviviality.
Not that dating in the US was all that wonderful, but try doing it on the road!
We’ve had some issues that have kept us moving more than we’d like. In Australia, we could only stay longer if we had a housesit or something due to the great expense of living there. No offense to Kiwis, but NZ bored me too much to want to stay longer.
And I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of Bali.
Lately. I’ve had more “blue” moments than I care for. There have been times when I’ve had to force myself to write. If you know me, you know that it’s harder for me not to write than to write, so this is pretty big. Because of my lifelong battle with depression, I keep a close eye on that pulse as it were. I’ve had some of my most calm and tranquil moments during our longer housesits which tells me that I need to stay put longer. The challenge is that I still have so many places I want to see, and I do enjoy travel very much.
I do wonder about keeping the blogging momentum going while doing a more “normal” type of expat existence during those times at our “base,” too.
However, we’re running on an indefinite clock. Well, figuratively. We need to stop traveling like we’re in a race against time.
We’ve started talking more about where we want to make a base. While we’ve identified some places, I’ve managed to come up with some characteristics I require:
- I don’t want to sweat 8-12 months out of the year. I really miss having four seasons. Fall is my favorite time of year, and so far we’ve only had a mild taste of it in the last almost 3 years. So I would prefer a place with four seasons or at least a place that has periods of more temperate weather.
- I really miss running and cycling, and I need to live in a place that has temperatures that are reasonable enough for me to do those activities. I can’t do them in southeast Asia’s steam bath temps. Exercise is a key antidepressant for me, too.
- We adore the ocean and any body of water. We are both addicted to scuba. While I thought I needed to live some place I could dive a lot, the reality of my budget is that I will not be able to dive as much as I want unless I’m working. In the diving industry that often entails 10-hour days with maybe 1 day off a week. That really kind of defeats the whole purpose of redefining my life so that I can get more living into my life and spend more time with my child. So, being very close to the ocean isn’t necessarily a major thing. I’d like to be close, but I don’t have to live in a beach town or on an island.
- In order to continue to travel at least a few months out of the year, it should be near a good travel hub. This is one reason KL is so high on my list.
- While I love the challenge of not knowing the local language when traveling, I need to be able to communicate better in the place we call home. So there needs to be enough people that speak one of the languages I know so I can have that interaction and sense of community while I’m learning the local language.
- I need to be able to be me. I can’t live somewhere that I have to be afraid of being arrested or whatever for being gay. I need that for Tigger’s sake as well since I’m all he has.
- Obviously, it needs to be relatively easy to stay there a while. Having to renew a visa every 30 days is not going to work well.
- A beach with waves so I can surf or Boogie board.
- A place that is cheap but doesn’t have “Amigo! Amigo!” [No touts or relatively few].
- Good WiFi.
- Being near a big city would be nice.
I’ve been keeping my eyes open as we travel to identify a possible base, and we still have some places to check out. I think we can just slow our travels down even more to keep sanity while we continue searching, but I’m also keen on just stopping and breathing for a while in the interim.
No matter your lifestyle, I think it’s important to take time to be honest with yourself and do a reality check. What’s working, what isn’t, what would you like to change, and so on. In the process of keeping your life the way you want it, you sometimes learn some things about yourself along the way.
And that’s never a bad thing.