We were not sure how long this trip would take when we left. We had planned for a year to get to Argentina, but found that the pace of travel required to achieve that goal did not suit us. The faster we traveled, the harder it all became. Long days of driving, not much time to explore and the cranky end of day fatigue occurred often when we were trying to move quickly. We found our stride when we slowed down (five months in Mexico alone!) and decided that this trip done properly was going to take much longer than one year.
Traveling long term has its ups and downs. I know on our blog the pictures make everyday look like a spectacular adventure, and most of them are. There are also hard days where you feel overwhelmed by nothing being easy, get on each others nerves, get very tired, burned out and sometimes underwhelmed by things that should be blowing our minds.
The underwhelmed thing bothers me the most. I hate it when I start to take things for granted. Sometimes seeing one stunning beach after another, the wow factor sometimes wears off a bit. That is when I have to reset, go on a long walk alone and remind myself where I am, where I would be if I was not traveling (working…) and that I am witnessing some of the most spectacular, remote parts of the world.
So here is a list of a few things I have learned this year:
Stress: I was so stressed out when we started this trip, I was a nut job, just ask anyone around me at the time. Selling all our things, saying goodbye to all our family, friends, coworkers and pets, leaving my career behind, moving into a camper, it was just too much for me to process for a while. I remember one day while we were driving in Alaska I started getting this heavy feeling. At first I could not recognize it. I felt heavy in my chair but in a good way. I realized it was what it felt like to be deeply relaxed. I literally had not felt that way in so long that I first thought something was wrong with me. Taking the stress out of your life is a game changer, and something I am really going to try to figure out how to keep on doing even after this trip. We have too much stress in our day to day lives, and I did not realize the toll it was taking on my soul and my health until I removed it.
Health: Being healthy is a gift and something that should never be taken for granted. I stopped putting my health first when I was working like crazy. I gained a lot of weight and did not feel strong or healthy. I was tired, sick and run down all the time and was wound up super tight. This last year, being outside all the time, taking long hikes whenever we can and swimming for hours in the ocean has given me my health back. I feel better than I have in years and have not been sick once (outside of some traveler food issues)! And even though I have not weighed myself this last year, many of the clothes I brought on this trip are so huge I can’t wear them anymore. I am so grateful we took this trip while we are still young enough to do all the fun and crazy things we are doing. I might be working until I am 80, but boy will I have some good stories to tell!
Sleep: Before we left on this trip I averaged 5 hours a night of sleep. I had really bad insomnia (from work stress) and I just got used to living off almost no sleep. Even with Ambien I only slept 5 hours a night! I thought I was incapable of sleeping 8 hours anymore. About four months into this trip as the stress truly faded the real sleep started. We started going to bed at 8:00- 9:00 pm (RV midnight as we jokingly called it) and waking up with the sun at 5-6 am. Before this trip I thought I would be sleeping in until 8 everyday. But falling asleep and waking up with the sunset and sunrise is a beautiful thing. I have found the pink hued mornings when the sun is coming up are my favorite times for walks while it is still cool outside and it is also my favorite time to quietly read with a cup of coffee. I forgot how wonderful it feels to be well rested every day. Falling quickly into deep sleeps is something I did not think I could do anymore. I sleep a lot, and feel healthier and more alive than I have in decades. Sleep is magic! It is the true fountain of youth. I never want to lose the ability to sleep again.
Appearance: Living in California there is a lot of emphasis on appearance and I used to spend a good amount of time in painful high heels and uncomfortable clothes. I spent a lot of money on make up and hair products and getting my hair and nails done. I have found on this trip my new beauty moto is that if you never look into a mirror, you always look good =). Seriously, I have found that a baseball hat will hide dirty hair and that makeup just smears and is silly when you are outdoors all the time. The most attractive I have felt is after I have summited a mountain or pushed myself to my limits. I look at our pictures and even though I am sweaty and exhausted, I look happy, and happy is beautiful. And even if I look like a dirty, sloppy wreck most of the time, I don’t care much. I have new priorities, and what people think about my physical appearance just does not matter anymore to me on this trip.
Humility: Humility is something that everyone could have more of. I sure felt like I needed a good dose of it. Seeing so much poverty humbles me daily. So does the generosity of the people we have met on this trip. People with so little material goods have opened their homes, shared their food with us, and helped us navigate the foreign lands we are traversing. South of the border the extended family still lives together. I loved seeing old grandpas living in the same households as their grandkids, sisters helping raise each others kids. Children are cherished and well behaved almost everywhere we have been. People are almost always friendly continually teaching me about what is important and how to have more faith in the goodness of humankind. Even though people may be carrying machetes and huge machine guns (police and military), look intimidating and bark words with lighting speed in a foreign language, 99.9% of the human race will respond to a warm smile and a kind hello. I know so little about the world, and with humility and an open heart I am learning more everyday. I am positive I will leave this trip a richer person.
Bathrooms: I thought so many things would be more of an issue when we traveled, but the one thing that seems to be the on going wild card is bathrooms. Will it have a toilet seat? Is there toilet paper? Will I ever be able to flush toilet paper again? Does it flush or do I have to find a bucket of water somewhere and make it go down myself? Is a frog going to pop up and hit me on my ass as I pee (happened twice!). Is there a spider the size of my fist in the shower right above my head? Will a giant cockroach crawl out of the sink as I am brushing my teeth (happened twice!) Is there water in the shower? Is it ice cold? Will I ever find a shower where I don’t have to wear flip flops again? Am I going to electrocute myself on the electric shower warmer (craziest invention ever)? Can I shut the bathroom door without it hitting my knees? Will I have 14 new mosquito bites after I pee? Will the giant toad in the shower come any closer? These are the only problems we have faced on the road. And to be honest, they are not really problems, they just keep things interesting. And they keep me humble. Somethings have to suck, if it was all sunsets and sundowners there would be no character building. Gross bathrooms are just part of this lifestyle.
Marriage: If you want to test your relationship, move into a space the size of a closet, then drive and navigate crazy roads, eat only foreign foods that you must order in a language you barely speak, try to be civil when you are hot, sweaty, hungry, frustrated and have been driving for nine hours, and spend 24/7 together. We had been together seven years before this trip and had barely two fights. We have had our moments on this trip. There are highs and lows and I can honestly say after a year in this close of proximity to each other we know EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT EACH OTHER. We have both given up any fantasies of privacy or space, but we also have experienced more life changing moments in this year than I ever imagined we would. Almost daily we look at each other and say “I can’t believe this is our life”. We are beyond lucky that we both found someone who shares the others passion for adventure and travel. This trip has given me an even greater love, understanding and respect for Sam than I had before.
Happiness: I have never had a time in my life this long where I am not working very hard and just truly following my passions. It is indulgent and it is glorious! And since I earned it through hard work and sacrifice, I don’t feel guilty about it. This last year I am able to reflect daily on life, and I have lived in the present more than I ever have any other time in my life. I am so grateful that we did this trip while we were still young enough and healthy enough to really enjoy it. I also have no regrets at putting my career on hold, walking away from sizable retention bonuses and having to start over again one day. I have lived more life in this last year and seen more places than I have ever dreamed of. I am living ten lifetimes right now. This has hands down been the best year of my life.
So here is to our next year on the road exploring South America! I am beyond excited for it!!!!!