“You are so lucky!” “It’s going to be the trip of a lifetime.” “I’m so jealous of you.” “I wish I could do that.”
These are a few of the most common responses I get when telling someone our plans of leaving our jobs and everyday lives to travel the world. What’s ironic is that I’ve most likely spoken some of those very words in the past when meeting travelers who told me the exact same thing.
Ever since the decision was made, however, I have found these thoughts to all be unfounded. Let’s start with the first one. How are we lucky? We didn’t win the lottery. We don’t have an inheritance or six figure salaries. Making this dream of travelling the world long term a reality took a lot of work and sacrifices. There have been no purchases of clothing or materialistic “things”. Cups of coffee have been cut down to once a week. I’ve been that guy walking into Chipotle for the sole purpose of grabbing enough napkins to last me a month. I’ve packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch day in and day out. I cook at home and have cut down on eating out and spending a lot out at the bars. We’ve signed up for multiple airline credit cards that offered bonus miles to help us save on flights (more on that topic here). We both have sold furniture and odds and ends on eBay and Craigslist to bank some extra cash. We are both moving in with our parents for a few months to save some extra money as well. Every dollar saved will make the journey last longer. Saving a few dollars may not seem like a lot, but that few dollars really stretches in places like Southeast Asia. For those with student loans, I had that burden on my shoulders as well, and understand the pain. I lived home until I was 27. I lived within my means, and developed a budget that I have stuck to for years on end. I credit this with my ability to pay off over $60k in student loans and becoming debt-free, leading to the saving of enough money to make this happen.
When I hear the words “trip of a lifetime”, I struggle to understand. For some people, I guess there is a trip of a lifetime. When you embark on the path of a marriage, house and kids, life has a way of moving at an accelerated pace I suppose. For a lot of people, maybe that 2 month trip in Europe after college becomes their “trip of a lifetime”, as their focus in life turns to work and kids. A lot of people just delay travel for a day not promised in the distant future, such as retirement. Why wait for a day that may never come…why not go now when you’re young and able? Do you want to wait until you have a bad back to hike up to Machu Picchu? Are you going to have the desire to get on a 14 hour flight across the globe when you are in your 70s? You can always make more money. You will never get your youth or your time back. This is our reasoning at least. Every single trip I’ve planned and told people about, I have heard those words, “trip of a lifetime.” I always think to myself, I will never have a trip of a lifetime, rather, I’ll have a lifetime of trips. This journey is not to get the travel “out of our systems.” Travel is part of who we are, and will be forever.
The bottom line is this took sacrifice. This took dedication and focus with a goal in mind. If there is any point to be taken from this, it’s that if you really want to travel the world long term, you probably can do it. In fact, I believe this applies to almost anything in life…just substitute travel for going to school to be a teacher or lawyer. Or learning a new language. I think coincidentally, the decision to travel the world has taught me a valuable lesson before even boarding on our first flights from NYC. It has taught me that nothing is really as far out of reach as it seems. If you truly want something bad enough, you will make the sacrifices and you will maintain the focus and dedication necessary to make it happen.
So no, we are not lucky. We chose to do this. Instead of buying watches, or taking out a loan on a car, or hitting the clubs and bars every weekend, we chose to make other decisions with our money. We value experiences over possessions, and thus aligned our spending habits based on these priorities. So perhaps you can be jealous, or wish you could do this, but most likely you can if you truly wanted to. And no matter if travel is what you are seeking, or whether it is something else, I hope you go out there and grab whatever it is you want out of life that seems too far out of reach. I hope our story inspires others. We worked hard for this and it just shows that if you put in the work, you can do amazing things. And just know that the road won’t be all cocktails and beautiful beaches. We will be doing laundry, sometimes in hostel sinks surrounded by 20 roommates in our dorm. Sleeping and bathroom situations will be in constant flux. Living out of a 60L pack will be trying. Language barriers will exist in some places. We will need to navigate in foreign lands, apply for visas on the go, and live with a budget in mind, meaning lots of cooking our own meals in hostels or while we are staying with Couchsurfers. So the sacrifices will continue on the road, but we both believe they will be well worth it. This journey is going to be one of the special moments in both of our lives, and surely will be an adventure which we will never regret.
I guess you could say it kind of is the trip of a lifetime. Our next of many trips of a lifetime. Or to put it better, our next trip in a lifetime of trips.