The Key to Long-Term Travel (for me)

When I tell people I meet that we have been travelling the world for the last year and are now living in Mexico for another, and after that, “Well, we don’t really know yet, but probably South America”, they either look at me like I’ve just grown an extra head, or look at me longingly and say, “I wish I could do that.”

I usually tell them that they can, if they really want to, and proceed to tell them about how we sold our home, our cars and all our stuff; how Tyrhone worked two jobs and banked every cent from the second job as well as half from his first job; about how we stopped going out for dinners or buying new clothes or… (by then, their eyes are usually glazing over, because it all sounds like too much hard work, and they’re right because it did involve hard work, at least it did for us).

And that’s where I can usually tell if that person really does want a life of long-term travel or not, because if they did, they would want to know how and why, their every cell tingling with the idea of maybe I could do it too! Tell me how!

Because that’s how I felt when the spark was first ignited within me, a slow burn fueled by a life-long love of travel that soon grew into a roaring fire, stoked with dreams of a life beyond mortgage payments and ‘getting ahead,’ along with the knowledge (though I resisted it) that my life was meant for something else.

What, exactly, I didn’t know (and still don’t!), but I sensed it involved travelling in a way I’d never experienced before, without a plan, an agenda or an end date in sight. I wanted total freedom to experience the world without labeling it an ‘around the world trip’ whereby we would travel for a set amount of time, then return to the same lives we had before. Whilst it may sound greedy, since for some people, that would be a dream come true… I wanted more.

I now live in a country that I had never even visited until six months ago; I’m part of a community and picking up the language (slowly). I have friends here I feel I’ve known for years who I never would have gotten to know if I was just passing through.

Whilst sometimes I take it for granted and get bogged down in my own self-imposed fears, for the most part, every day brings me some sort of simple, unexpected joy that I am so grateful I get to experience.

Playa del Carmen beach - man and bike

Like seeing this guy have a quiet moment at the beach yesterday…

I think, “Why isn’t everyone doing this?” or “How come we get to do this, what makes us so special?” and then I remember there is nothing special about us, we just allowed ourselves to see outside of a prescribed notion of success, to place our values on experiences rather than material accumulation, and that (and this was a big one for me) a new pair of shoes or shiny sunglasses won’t actually make me more secure/happy/worthy/successful!!

Who knew?!

And that is what it all comes down to, for me – a shift in values from having stuff to experiencing stuff, from looking a certain way to being the person I am inside, from pretending to know it all to becoming a student of the world; from being afraid of failure to relishing the lessons the world has to teach me, and from seeing my dreams as mere fantasies to recognizing them as messages from universe, calling me to become the person I am meant to be.

Because no one else can walk the path that is set out for us, or learn the lessons we are called to partake in. No one else can take our falls or celebrate our victories. They are ours for the claiming, should we take the risk to be who we truly are.

And that has been the key to this long-term travel adventure, for me.


The Key to Long-Term Travel (for me) — 48 Comments

  1. Kudos to you for recognizing that you could follow this path, it takes a lifetime for some to gain this insight. Well-written Sarah. I hope some day our paths will cross at some point in this amazing world in which we live.
    Patti recently posted..From OR to CA and Back Again ~My Profile

  2. I stopped buying ‘stuff’ half way through last year and as I’ve gotten rid of ‘stuff’ the past few months it’s become easier to accept that I could be gone for quite a while now! #toinfinityandbeyond
    Jimmy Dau recently posted..Pre Trip NervesMy Profile

  3. Really great post Sarah! You’ve managed to capture so many thoughts i have myself but more articulately than I ever could. I am in awe of people that can sustain a life of truly long term travel, it’s incredibly brave. A step I don’t think we could ever make simply because we really haven’t got a clue how we’d sustain it and believe me we’ve thrown tons of ideas around.

    One of my bugbears is when people start with the ‘you’re so lucky’ and ‘I wish I could afford to do that’. It’s not luck, it’s hard work and determination and you should be incredibly proud of yourself on having achieved that dream.
    Maddie recently posted..Why Canberra deserves a breakMy Profile

  4. I love the eyes glazing over part; it’s so true! And then I just trail off b/c there is no point. But…if you see and feel the fire, then, then you just can’t shut me up! Because yes it was bloody hard work but it was worth it, every second. I don’t miss the stuff one little bit but I love every single experience!! Fabulous post Sarah!
    Gillian @OneGiantStep recently posted..Monday Moment: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto, JapanMy Profile

  5. Beautiful post :) it’s so true though that although so many people want to same dream of travelling, there is still of lot of time, preparation and hard work needed to achieve it. But hey, real dreams aren’t worth aiming for if they’re too easy to obtain!

  6. I often wonder if I would appreciate the travel as much if the money was somehow handed to us. We did get a lot of gifts for our wedding in cash in lieu of stuff, but I still think that was a sacrifice of sorts. We had to keep our hands off that money while I was unemployed and were still paying off my credit card debt. We may not reach our savings goal, but we’re going anyway with the knowledge that we worked hard for every single cent. As we’ve discussed before offline, I know this is part of the journey right now. It may not be the fun part right now (although it’s not THAT bad), but we’re living our dream right now. It’s what gets me out of bed every day and that’s how I know it’s right.

    • Hey Carmel, yep I think it’s a necessary part of the journey, and probably the most profound transition you will make (being focused on a somewhat ‘untraditional’ dream whilst still living a pretty normal life). I guess we need to have the stage where we question everything and let our worst fears play out in our minds, and let me tell you, I did!!

  7. When I tell my friends I’m taking a shot at the nomadic life some are excited for me, others feign interest and none are interested enough to join me (that’s fine though).

    My parents are supportive of my dreams but most of my relatives aren’t. They’ve tried to get me to stay though various ways and it has become taxing.

    Sometimes you’ve just gotta live you dreams regardless of whether those around you approve.
    Wil @ Where’s Wil recently posted..How to Make Money from Anywhere – as a Self Published AuthorMy Profile

    • Hi Wil, I think it’s hard for people to get their head around, but it’s great that your parents are behind you. People tend to support you more once you’re actually doing it, rather than saying you will. All the best!!!

  8. I feel that minimization is a wonderful thing. If you apply the Palmetto or 80/20 principal: we use 20% of our things 80% of the time, and this applies to a wardrobe too. So why not minimize everything down to 20%, and then maybe do it again a couple of times over if you want to live an indefinite nomadic existence. That way we can eliminate worrying about less important things focus more on what’s at hand.
    Mike recently posted..Captured for the Camera in Beautiful BañosMy Profile

  9. Hi Sarah,

    I am in NH right now where we are having a blizzard and I am dreaming about my next travel adventure! My husband and I are planning to get on our bikes and ride away in 487 days. (That means I have 487 days left to sell the last of what we own and get my life to fit into 4 panniers.) We have been saving and planning our trip since our son was 10 and now he is in college and we just have to finish paying that bill before we leave. It is hard work but we also indulge in a few trips a year to keep our travel bug happy.

    Today is the first day I have ever been to you site, and today’s post was like reading my own thoughts – thank you for putting it down in words! I will be back to read more!

    • Linda! Wow what a story! You have completely blown me away, and make my journey seem like a walk in the park! I am in awe of you guys for your patience, dedication (and for not making your son pay his own college bill – kidding!!!). Guess what? 484 days!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story, you made my day!

  10. Hi Sarah,
    I love this post!!! I too, actually started drafting a post about this last week, but haven’t found the time to finish it. It amazes me still how people comment about us ‘living the dream’ – it was just a decision, only one, and some courage. But when the desire is so great no fear can scare you away. And now I love to see the expressions on peoples faces when we say we have no idea if or when we will return and that we don’t have a huge trust fund.
    Happy Travels, Jill
    Jill Miller recently posted..It Is True, The Crabs Are Huge This YearMy Profile

  11. Hey love. Fabulous post! Different things will make different people happy but to me its the process of taking a step back, getting to know yourself, being mindful and trying to understand what will make YOU happy. I love the way you (and Tyrhone) think and I love reading about your adventures, lessons and philosophies. Keep em coming gorgeous’s!! X

  12. I have to second Gillian’s comment 100%. There is a definite difference between people who actually want to give everything up and travel and people think it sounds nice.

    It still amazes me that I don’t miss any of our stuff (ok, maybe just a few random things like a dining room table….), and all I want now is new experiences. Great post!
    Brian recently posted..If Everyone Else Jumped Off A Waterfall, Would You?My Profile

    • Hey Brian, Tyrhone misses his big screen TV and his own car with a killer sound system… but none of those things fit in a backpack… though one day technology may accomplish this, we hope :)

  13. Hey Sarah. I can really identify with this post right now. we are still at the working very hard stage of our travel dream. We are still waiting on the sale of our home to start traveling. I have found telling people about our goal (despite their eyes glazing over)liberating, even comforting. Comforting because I feel more confident in wanting to fulfill this dream because my desire holds strong even though very few people we come in contact with really understand it. This lifestyle is just meant to be for us (and you and Tyrone). Not many people are in touch with what they really want in life. I feel lucky we do:)
    Tracey recently posted..More On Why We Want This Travel LifeMy Profile

    • Hi Tracey, good luck on the sale of your home, it was a stressful time for me! Kudos to you guys for going after your dreams and being true to what you want out of life. I got to the point where I realised no one was going to give me permission go after my dream, I just had to do it!

  14. A beautiful post, Sarah, and exactly how we feel. Even though we did our first extended trip as a round-the-world, what we learned was that we wanted more. And now, back at home, paying off debt and working towards our drive down the PanAm we don’t have the money for dinners out, etc and friends just don’t understand that we are searching for a life less ordinary. Thanks for being an inspiration to the rest of us who want what you have and are working towards that goal.
    Rhonda recently posted..Foto FridayMy Profile

    • Hey Rhonda, your ‘next big adventure’ sounds wonderful!! I’m sure it will be worth all the hard work, saving and dinners at home, thank you so much for reading and I look forward to following your epic journey :)

  15. What a gorgeous post, Sarah, one that resonated deeply with me too. Since leaving on our journey 7 (!) months ago, I have realized how much this “one” trip is not enough… unless we can make it last forever, that is! 😀 Sometimes I worry that we won’t be able to sustain this or find a way to be truly location independent, that when the money we allotted for this trip runs out, we’ll have to go back home and try to fit ourselves back into slots that are no longer the right shape for us anymore, so will have to hack off the segments of our life that have grown and flourished while we’ve been away. And then I remind myself that if it’s what we really want and we are truly committed to living the life we want, then we will make it happen. Because once you start listening to yourself and honoring the voice inside you, there’s no going back, is there?
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Drifting About in DauinMy Profile

    • Hi Steph sorry for the late reply and thank you for your insightful comment, I totally agree, there is no going back, I have experienced irrevocable transformation and life will never be the same again. The sky truly is the limit, we just have to keep the faith xxx

  16. I have those moments of “why isn’t everyone doing this?” too sometimes! I guess I was lucky, I’ve never been a stuff person, so it wasn’t hard for me to give that up…because I never took it up in the first place. From what I’ve seen in others (my partner, most notably), is that once you experience the way your life can be with all those experiences in place of the stuff, you become pretty quickly convinced that it makes you much happier. But then, I still have plenty of friends who don’t want to give up their stuff. And that’s OK too.
    Sam recently posted..Food Porn Friday: Bulebar, MontevideoMy Profile

    • Hey Sam, its definitely not for everyone, but to those of us who find fulfillment and freedom through this travelling lifestyle I just want to shout, “Woohoo!!” (if that makes sense!)

  17. We are so on the same page!!!

    We found it so liberating getting rid of all the “stuff” that we did not need. We never shop for pointless stuff now, although we did buy an ancient tattoo kit in Burma but hey, you never know that might come in handy one day!
    Paul Farrugia recently posted..Life on the riverMy Profile

  18. Lovely post Sarah! I think you are absolutely right, it is a shift in values. I was trying to explain it to someone yesterday who said that he wishes he can do what Chris and I do. I said to him that I haven’t bought new clothes for about 8 month and reminded him how much his daily coffee at Starbucks is and he soon realized that you don’t need to win the lottery to travel, but that you do indeed have to make sacrifices.
    TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Flashback Friday: The time I doubted our helicopter’s air-worthinessMy Profile

    • Hey Tammy, yep you hit the nail on the head. I have photos of myself in a dress in India in 2010 that I still wear today… and I got it from a second hand store for $3 originally!! An extreme case, but true… :)

  19. Thank you for sharing, Sarah. I just discovered your blog and am enjoying reading through it.

    In making the world trip happen (T-Day minus 20!) I’ve experienced many of the challenges and heard many of the responses that you and other comments describe, from eyes glazing over to “You’re so lucky” and so on. I’ve come to believe the hardest part for people is the mind shift. You have to rearrange your priorities (e.g., What do you want more in life, to travel the world or that new car?) and focus on achieving them. Sounds straightforward but to give up the life you have and are accustomed to and comfortable with in order to live in the world, well, it is hard and you have to do it yourself.

    Good luck on your journey, I look forward to reading all about it!
    Peter Korchnak recently posted..My top 7 pre-world trip travel experiencesMy Profile