As of May 4th, we have officially been slow traveling for an entire year. Snap! Time flies, y’all.
We’ve had amazing times, slightly stressful times, weird times, and most of all, beautiful times. And not saying those things still wouldn’t be true if we had stayed in Austin, but they happened on a different, grander scale, and for that I’m thankful. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I like the unknown. I like meeting new people, going new places, trying new things and learning new information. It keeps life fresh and on its toes, and the same goes for me.
So after slightly over 365 days of living outside the Lone Star State, here’s what we know…
Lessons After 1 Year of Traveling
Find Smart Ways to Get What you Need
I am always looking to throw away, sell and generally get rid of more and more things and Peter always wants and needs more and more things. It makes sense, really. My hobbies are writing and dancing, so the only possessions I really need to accomplish those things are sneakers and a laptop. Done and done. Peter’s hobbies are above and underwater photography, drumming and scuba diving, all of which are heavily reliant on having stuff… cameras, underwater housings, lights, lenses, regulators, wet suits, fins, drums, etc. There’s simply no way in hell you’re able bring all of that stuff with you when you move.
The thing we’ve learned how to do well at this point is decide what we need, what we want, and what we don’t. Since we recently signed a year lease in Maui, it would be nice to have all of our stuff that’s sitting in garages in Texas, but that obviously isn’t a feasible option. Instead, we bought almost all of the furniture for our two bedroom apartment (besides a brand new mattress – thanks, mom!) on Craigslist for less than $500 and got lots of household stuff for free from a friend. It’s a much cheaper and better option than shipping our belongings here, plus we can probably resell it all for close to what we paid for it in the first place.
When we make the occasional trip back to Texas to see friends and family, Peter is great at packing virtually nothing on the way there and coming back with more of the stuff he already owns but doesn’t have here yet. The same goes for family and friends that come visit. They know a portion of their luggage will be reserved for transporting more of our stuff. And so it goes.
Stop Spending So Much Money
Stop spending money on things you don’t need. Get rid of cable. Stop buying new clothes. Drive a used car or take the bus. Make your own art. Live in a smaller space. Smoke less weed. Drink at home. Share meals.
I used to spend at least $100/week on clothes. And let me tell you something… I may have looked cooler and felt sexier, but that’s why I was broke. Also, especially from my experience in Costa Rica and Maui, nobody gives two shits about that stuff. Ever. Dressing up essentially means wearing pants or a dress not covered in salt water, and it’s far too hot for that nonsense anyway. Stop buying new stuff and buy yourself a new plane ticket.
Forget What Being an Adult is Supposed to Look Like
I used to think being an adult meant having an ice-maker, a banana holder, zero student loan debt and a house payment. And with the exception of student loan debt, which is still going strong according to my monthly payment reminders, I don’t have any of those things. The closest I’ve come to being an adult this year is getting health insurance and buying curtains. And eww… those things are super lame.
If you really want to live wherever you want, and especially if you don’t have the financial means to buy your own beach house and retire at 26, you have to change what being an adult means to you. Because at some point, it might mean making friends with prostitutes in Central America, having a roommate who digs hard rock or wearing the same 3 pairs of shorts for the foreseeable future. Just because you haven’t lived like a broke teenager since you were a broke teenager doesn’t mean you can’t (and shouldn’t) do it again in a place that rocks.
Be a Better Friend
Keep in touch with the people that matter. Just because you’re thousands of miles away doesn’t mean the people you care about stop caring about you. While the sand and sun and ocean can keep you warm at night (and they most certainly do), people and the relationships you make matter more. Skype your ‘rents, WhatsApp your friends and G-Chat everyone else. It’s 2014 and we have devices for these things.
Say Yes to Everything
Alright, almost everything. You don’t have to go to dinner with the homeless man from the bus or run that marathon with the lady you met on the beach, but say yes to everything else. It’s the best way to learn new things, see new places and make new friends.
Reevaluate Your Situation
One of my favorite things about traveling is figuring out which places I can call home, no matter how temporarily. If you don’t like where you’re at, don’t be afraid to move on to something, or somewhere, else. Had we stayed in Costa Rica, things would be very different for us. And not saying that we didn’t really like it there or wish we could have made it work longer, because we do, but it’s important to constantly reevaluate what you want and know when to move on.
Also, it would have been easy for us to set out with a goal of moving away for a year, but by keeping it open-ended, I think we kept it easier to keep going, keep traveling, keep discovering. I didn’t know how I’d feel after a year of slow traveling, but it only made me realize that I’m nowhere near ready to call anywhere my permanent home. There’s so much to see and do and be.
Even if you move away only to discover you miss everything you left behind and want to immediately move back, that’s part of it, too. Reevaluate your situation constantly and make sure you’re doing what you’re doing because it makes you happy.
But seriously. How could you not be happy somewhere that has turtles?