As of this week, we have officially been slow traveling for four whole years! That’s longer than high school, my crush on Freddie Prinze Jr., and my willingness to drink cheap coconut rum, and it feels pretty damn glorious. This year, our travels have included a move from Bali to Australia, and we’re currently in the middle of prepping for our next move in only a few short weeks.
One of the questions we seem to get the most, from strangers and friends alike, is how long we plan to keep living this lifestyle until we move back home and settle down. The issue, however, is that “home” is a relative term these days. Is “home” the bedroom where I grew up in Irving, Texas, the room I haven’t lived in (barring the odd summer break in college) since I was 18 years old? Is “home” the state of Texas in general, because that’s where we’ve spent the majority of our lives thus far? Is “home” generalized as anywhere we’ve previously lived, or the place we wouldn’t mind returning to? Home is none of the above, I think. For me, “home” is wherever the hell I am right this very minute, and beyond planning ahead for the next immediate move, who’s to say when, or even if, we’ll decide to settle down, and where that might be.
All I know is that I enjoy this funky and fulfilling life of ours – the newness of different landscapes and animals and cultures, the challenge of making each location feel like home and not just another vacation destination, and navigating all of the quirks and nuances to let the unfamiliar become increasingly less so. So without further ado (I really hate that I used that phrase – adeww?), we’re sharing our hard learned lessons after 4 years of traveling.
Lessons After 4 Years of Traveling
Be Adaptable, Y’all.
When you travel somewhere with the intent of making that place your new home, part of ensuring your own happiness means being the most low maintenance, chill as hell version of yourself as possible. This doesn’t necessarily mean lowering your expectations (though sometimes that is part of it), but rather being positive, efficient and calm when shit hits the fan.
After living in Indonesia for 8 months and suddenly moving back to a first world country only to be greeted with a major shortage of housing options, ridiculous prices for public transportation and slim opportunities for employment, being adaptable was the only way to move forward. From working that part time catering job till 2am to spending more money on bus passes than groceries to seriously considering living in a dirty house and sharing a bathroom with 3 dudes (thankfully that one fell through), the most helpful thing you can do for yourself is be adaptable, and then actually adapt.
Things are going to be different than you expected – the culture, the weather, the jobs, the people – but that’s the thing about slow travel… you have time to adapt to all of those things.
Set an Example for your Home Country.
Whether you like it or not, traveling internationally makes you a representative of your home country, even in the smallest, most trivial of circumstances. Over the years, several people have told us they’re glad to have met us, if for no other reason than to squash the loud-mouthed, ignorant, blunderous stereotype of the average American traveling abroad.
And while I’m more than happy to do my part in breaking up the unflattering burger-shoveling, wall-building image of ‘Mericans, I am equally appalled by how many people never seem to think about this aspect of traveling at all. When in doubt, treat your new home like your best friend’s grandma’s house – be considerate, be polite, and generally avoid acting like a total twat until you’re back in the comfort of your own home.
Make the Most of Your Time.
Even when you move as often as we do, it’s still easy to get consumed in the stressful aspects of day-to-day life, especially when it comes to money, or likely the lack thereof. However, if you move half way around the world to get stuck worrying about the same ordinary problems you had back home, what’s the point of moving at all?!
No matter what your budget is, be sure to remember why you moved, and make the most of your time in that location. Whether it’s always been your dream to move to Bali and surf all day or camp every weekend in Hawaii or host Friday pants-off-dance-offs on a secret Australian nudie beach with at least 6 wombats, DO THAT. Don’t let boring life shit drag your dreams through the mud, or sand, or wombat feces, or generally any substance likely to swallow dreams.
And while we’re at it, pushing yourself to get better at the things you’re passionate about is equally as important as discovering new interests. Peter always sets time aside for surfing and taking photos, and although I’ve become lazier about it in recent months, I always set time aside to go to the beach, read a book, lay in a hammock, bust a move, or go out and chat with old men in bars. Also make a wombat pal.
Ditch the Friggin’ Life Plan.
Chances are if you’re alright with making a major move to a new location, you’re also alright with living unconventionally. One of our travel lessons from year 1 was “forgetting what an adult is supposed to look like,” and I think this is an extension of that concept.
When you move away from loved ones, their life doesn’t suddenly stop, and neither will yours. It can be weird to see your closest friends and family members go through the standard progressions of life without you – having babies, getting married, buying houses, getting promoted, making new friends, getting divorced, finally getting that giant Bearded Dragon tattoo across their stomach (much to the dismay of aforementioned grandma) – but it doesn’t have to be. At the end of the day, it’s just an alternate path, and having a desire to travel and live in new places doesn’t have to mean giving up any of that… it just means you’ve chosen different priorities. Ones with less Bearded Dragons, let’s hope.
Read the Paper.
No, seriously. Australian newspapers are full of pure golden crazy nonsense. Heaps of it.