We’ve been on the road a little over a year and have learned a few things we’d like to share.
A quick recap of the catalysts to change that we’ve experienced since September 2014: after selling the house in Redmond, Washington and keeping only what fit in storage and our little car, we set off for lands remote. Our southerly route through the Pacific Northwest took us through the Southwest where we sold our car and boarded a plane to Amsterdam via Iceland where we moved into our Fiat Ducato Pilote Galaxy motorhome named Charlie.
From the Netherlands, we navigated our new home on wheels across Western Europe south to Morocco in search of warmer weather for the winter. Our three months in North Africa was an incredible experience. The spring saw us undertake a mad dash across the continent eastward to meet loved ones in Greece. Along the way, we stopped in Madrid and said goodbye to our US-bound daughter. We drove to Turkey, explored Eastern European countries, flew to Egypt, then drove back north through Central Europe to our base in Utrecht, Netherlands. 30,000+km, 400+ days, and countless experiences later . . .
Our first lesson is one that we think every family with children must face at some point and is not inherent in our overseas adventure: that of the inevitable “empty nest”. Our 18 year old daughter Mali braved seven months with us, her parents, in what she called a “tin can”. Although the decision to let her go was not what we had in mind for our family when we started this journey, her growth and courage to seek her independence as a young adult and follow her own path has made us very proud.
We learned that unexpected change is hard. You’d think we would have figured that out already. We quit our jobs, sold our house and cars, and liquidated almost everything we owned to be able to wander the globe unfettered. In hindsight, we think it was saying goodbye to Mali that helped us learn that unexpected change can be scary and hard. Sometimes just moving forward knowing you are doing the best you can eases the pain of change.
The next lesson we learned was that sometimes what you think you want isn’t necessarily what you need, and you have to be reflective and open to this possibility. We thought this trip would have an end – that there was a finality to circumnavigating the globe. Getting from Point A all the way ‘round back to Point A. But living this dream has helped us realize we want this as our lifestyle, not a holiday or break in routine.
However, while our time is unlimited, our funds are not, so we shifted our thinking from how to circumnavigate to how do we become location independent, continue to explore new places, and earn an income. Our six weeks in Albania over the summer and working on two new start up companies has brought about an unexpected yet delightful curve to our plans.
We’ve learned to be open to unexpected shifts in our own paradigm!
The third lesson is far more practical: what it is to live in a motorhome full time. We love so many aspects of being able to pick up and move to another location, exploring everything in between. We’ve learned to maneuver well with three-then-two people in less than 100 square feet in all kinds of weather.
We’ve learned that communication is key to smooth living arrangements no matter your circumstances and that sometimes your own sacrifice is worth it for the whole. We’ve learned some hardships too. It’s harder to meet other people in our age group and we have yet to meet other Americans traveling as we do.
The fourth lesson is about people in general. Where ever we’ve been, whether it’s Morocco, Macedonia, or Montenegro, people are kind. Sure there are nutters out there that want to do harm, but we’re fortunate that we’ve met such kindness and generosity everywhere we’ve been. Some cultures nurture more overtly friendly people than others (Egypt, Greece, Ireland, and Albania for instance), but it’s amazing how a smile helps make a connection between people that don’t even speak the same language, and kindness ensues.
The fifth lesson is about our own culture and its reliance on “stuff”. We were amazed that even after living frugally for years and years we had collected all kinds of stuff that just ended up in boxes in our garage or in the furniture we had to buy to house it. We had some beautiful and useful things, but when it came down to it, we sold and gave most of it away. Granted, we rent a tiny storage closet that stores a few heirlooms, artwork, our instruments, and the rest of our kitchen supplies, but we don’t miss any of it. We felt so tied to our “stuff” for so long: now we don’t collect anything but memories and photos. We feel freer than we’ve ever been.
These aren’t the lessons we thought we’d be sharing with you a year later. We assumed we’d want to pontificate about the specific places and adventures we’d experienced, the benefits of extended travel, and the hundreds of tips we have for future vagabonds (okay, we do have resources and insights we’ve gathered . . . check them out!).
Instead, we’re sharing what transcends our assumptions and may resonate with others whether or not they also live in a tin can.
We’re under no illusions that this lifestyle is desirable or doable for everyone, but from our position driving down the roads of lands remote, there’s no other place we’d rather be.
-written and photographed by Tammy