Does travel change us? If so, in what ways?
Today marks 628 days on the road for us and this will be blog post number 100. To celebrate this milestone we are dedicating this article to questions from our readers.
To our readers, THANK YOU for every comment and all the encouragement you have given us along the way. We are writing these articles for you.
Here are the Questions from our Readers:
- The weakest moment where you said I’m ready to pack in and the greatest moment that you felt it was the perfect decision – Sly
- What are the most important things that you have learned during traveling? -Tania
- [What is the] greatest personal challenge for you, and you as a couple, and how did you resolve these challenges in another world? – Carol King
- Do y’all ever feel homesick? Have you thought about planting roots somewhere specific? -Melisa Blevins
- I would like to know how you have changed as a person after traveling around the world and how it has changed your view of America/Americans. – Julie M
- Is there anything you miss from home, like a certain food? Tina Stephens
- Does blogging change the way you travel? What motivates you most to continue week after week? – Julie H
Q1: The weakest moment where you said I’m ready to pack in and the greatest moment that you felt it was the perfect decision – Sly
One of the things I always have in the back of my mind is that we are never stuck. If we ever get tired of travel, if we ever just get too homesick we can just walk outside, hail a cab, head to the airport and go home. Then buy a house in whatever state we wish and simply live in peace.
My greatest moment of weakness is easy to answer since it really stands out against all the others. We were in the middle of nowhere, no possibility of a cab or a way out. It was our last night in Bolivia and I was freezing cold and struggling with altitude sickness. We were over 15,000 feet and I had just read about a girl in Colorado dying at only 10,000 feet.
I had been cold for two months it seemed since most of Bolivia has no heat in the homes nor in the places we stayed. We were both sick of the apathy of people towards each other in the country. I was done. It was a very long night. I had to wait till morning and finish the tour of Bolivia (with a hungover driver). I was ready to go home to the USA that night. We were so happy to finally descend down into Chile. The friendly people in Chile renewed our desire to keep trekking.
My greatest moment is a little more difficult to pinpoint. I don’t think there has ever been a moment of regret, even on that last night in Bolivia I was happy we did this, but just wanted to be off the continent.
The greatest moment could have been:
- Swimming with sea lions in the waters of Galapagos and coming nose to nose with each other. Looking into that sea lion’s eyes. She was curious, I was elated.
- Standing on the uninhabited Genovesa island watching red-footed boobies mate in their natural habitat thinking that I never dreamed I would ever have this opportunity.
- Sitting in the company of Tania and her family in Nicaragua and having the beautiful opportunity to celebrate New Year’s Eve with them. We ran from the fireworks “bull” and watched the burning of the viejo at midnight, family-style just how Nicas do it.
- Walking through the Cocora Valley in Salento, Colombia. I stood in a massive meadow that was shrowded in mist with the tallest palm trees in the world spread like massive toothpicks sticking up out of the meadow brushing the sky high above us.
- Warming ourselves by the fireplace high above Quito, Ecuador listening to Boris talk about his near capture by the Colombian Guerillas.
- Maybe it was on my dive in Bocas del Toro feeling weightless near the ocean floor gliding toward a shipwreck which I would soon swim through and encounter a shark.
- Maybe even the moment Machu Picchu came into view after a climb straight up the mountain upon which she sat.
- Boarding a bus, finding our seats and heading off to a new place. The excitement of something new always gets me giddy.
There have been so many highlights, so many mountain tops or simply walks on the beach when I just felt full, and so happy we made this decision.
Q2: What are the most important things that you have learned during traveling? -Tania
Tania, always good to hear from you and I hope you and your family are safe and doing well in Nicaragua. I think the most important thing I have learned is how to live life slowly, and as a result, I’ve rediscovered the joy of being able to focus.
Previously I was in the corporate world where it was necessary to cram as much work into every moment of time I could spare. Even when I took a break I could still think of a huge task list of things that needed to be done both for work and for home. I had little time to think. It was a constant cycle of gathering facts, making a decision, and moving forward to the next matter.
Now I have very few tasks on my list and the one I have are now actually reasonable and can be done within the time allotted. It is a good feeling to actually finish a list instead of just check things off but only see the list grow with more things to do.
Time is Gold
In addition to the reduced list of action items, we are also attempting to live life at the pace of the countries we visit. Taking a bus, doing laundry by hand, walking to the grocery store, all of these take time, time that allows me to think.
I would never have discovered my passion for writing if not for a slower pace of life. Time allows me to really process each experience and learn from them. It has given me time to write a book as well, one I may never publish, but that has enabled me to work through so many things and find a peace that I did not have before.
Having time to think has taught me that my life was so busy before – getting things done and moving forward at a breakneck speed that I ceased to truly enjoy the best things in life. Time has also allowed us to think about and revel in the beauty around us.
Q3: [What is the] greatest personal challenge for you, and you as a couple, and how did you resolve these challenges in another world? – Carol King
Personally, the hardest part of this journey for me is the hours spent behind my screen pouring out my heart. I’m writing a book that is emotionally draining. I’m writing about my journey to freedom, mentally, spiritually, and financially. It takes everything out of me to write some of these words down, so many failures and heartbreak along the way all building to where I am now. I may never publish the book but I have found that in the writing and facing the challenge I am experiencing even more freedom.
Challenges as a couple
Carol, this is the most difficult question, can I list it as our greatest challenge as a couple? 🙂
In many ways, our differences are very compatible. Trin likes the brownies on the edge and I like the brownies in the middle.
In other ways, we operate very differently. I like to review all the facts, decide, and go. Once something has been decided I get annoyed when the decision is changed in the middle of the street, literally in the middle of the crosswalk. Traffic is coming and in some of these countries they will just run you over.
Trin likes to silently think at length about each one and has no problems doubling back on what was decided. He calls this spontaneity. So when we decide to head home and begin to cross the street there have been occasions when I end up on the other side without him. I have learned to stand there silently as he analyses and then we can both head home comfortably.
The strength of his analytics is that I don’t even question when he finds a good deal on something. I know he has already done all the homework and feel comfortable with just going along with whatever he chose.
Q4: Do y’all ever feel homesick? Have you thought about planting roots somewhere specific? – Melisa Blevins
Yes, I miss friends and family. Being away from them this long I cherish every comment from them both on this blog and on social media. I am really looking forward to our trip home next year and am already making a list of places we need to visit across the USA to see everyone.
As far as planting roots, yes, eventually we plan to do that. It is one of the things that started this journey. Trin came to me one day and said he had an idea.
“What do you think about retiring in Ecuador,” he suggested.
“Sure, but shouldn’t we go visit the place first before deciding?” I asked
“Agree. When do you want to go?” he was ready to go soon.
“Since we are going that far why don’t we visit the entire continent? Heck while we are at it, let’s see the whole world first. Then along the way put places on the list as possible longer-term options,” I said. And the plan began.
We still continually talk about the future. We might modify our plans and pick a six-month home and six-month travel plan. It will all depend on what we learn along the way.
Q5: I would like to know how you have changed as a person after traveling around the world and how it has changed your view of America/Americans. – Julie M
This is a good question Julie and it’s one that I think about from time to time. Sometimes it is hard to tell how much we have changed. This might be a great topic to explore on our next visit to the USA when we are around our friends again. I think we will realize a lot more change then.
Primarily I think we have adopted the Latin America “tranquilo” attitude. Things get delayed, canceled, or changed constantly and most of the time it is no big deal. We have learned to take everything as it rolls and enjoy that as a lifestyle.
Our view of America has definitely changed. I have learned to appreciate the standards and the enforcement of building codes. While residing in the US I often saw them as overbearing and just a bit too much.
Having stayed in countries where there is no code or the code is not followed I have come to appreciate them much more. We have walked down sidewalks that suddenly disappear into a deep hole, no warning tape. Don’t text and walk in some of these countries!
We have stayed in places where bare electrical wires just stick out of walls or above the shower head, or places that would certainly fall in an earthquake. I have come to see the codes as an extension of the value of life and the quality of life that America has.
Does the world hate Americans?
While we were in the US, we often heard people talk about how the rest of the world hated us. It is simply not true. It was heartwarming to stay in the home of someone who told us proudly that people from the US and Canada built his home after he lost everything in a hurricane. There were many stories like this and appreciation for aid that they had seen for their countries from the USA.
Watching the USA from afar is also heartbreaking. From here it seems as though hate is building hotter and hotter and sides are not talking to each other. I do believe America is great, but it can be destroyed by hate. No matter what political party is currently “winning” we all lose if hate prevails. But as a whole, I have come to appreciate the spirit of Americans and their care for each other.
Q6: Is there anything you miss from home, like a certain food? Tina Stephens
Desert. Cake in South America is dry. I miss the USA deserts. On the other hand, it is really good for me to go without them for a few years. I wonder when I get back if they will be too sweet for me. That might be a good thing.
Most of all I miss our friends from home. I’m so happy that social media and Google Voice allows me to keep up with friends and family. But it is not the same as being with them. I am really looking forward to sitting down with everyone again and just catching up on their lives and all that has changed since we last talked.
Q7: Does blogging change the way you travel? What motivates you most to continue week after week? – Julie H
Julie, I love this question because writing has become a passion for me. Unexpectedly I have found that it really enhances my travel experiences. When we are out exploring I’m often thinking, “How can I describe this, how can I share this with my friends back home.” As a result, I think I see more, research more, and seek to understand more. I get more out of the places we visit.
Motivation can all be summed up in one email from a friend. She said, “You may never know the impact and inspiration that your collective courage in that domain left with me.” I was deeply moved. That is really all I want. To help people continually find more freedom in the way they live and the way they think. I desire to encourage others to think outside of their own cultural norms, be thankful for what they have and have the courage to seize the opportunities that come their way.