A year ago, my husband, Mike, and I decided to quit our jobs and leave our comfortable lives behind in order to travel the world. It wasn’t because we hated our lives or our home, or because we were particularly tied to the idea of “escaping” the real world (to be honest, we felt more or less content with our every day). Rather, we just had an undeniable, insatiable desire for adventure, a love for travel that bordered on obsession, and a lingering feeling in our gut that we needed to push our boundaries.
Though we had talked about taking a long trip for years, we never thought that we would actually pull the trigger. The more entrenched we got in our careers and the more rooted we felt in our lives, the more difficult it seemed to let it all go. Then, one afternoon over beers with friends, we learned about someone who was leaving his job to travel the world with his wife and two kids. Something about hearing that a successful professional over the age of thirty – someone whose description sounded a lot like my own – could endeavor on trip like that struck a chord with me. I could not stop thinking about it.
“The more entrenched we got in our careers and the more rooted we felt in our lives, the more difficult it seemed to let it all go.”
Then, one afternoon, it hit me. If this guy was packing up his whole life and family, why couldn’t Mike and I? We could do it, too.
I articulated these very thoughts to my better half and his response was simply: “We can. And we should.”
I grew nervous. As liberating as the trip sounded, I was actually terrified: How would I tell my family and friends about what we had planned? How would they react? Could I really quit my job? Would it still be available when I returned from my travels and, if not, what would I do then? Would I get used to not having a routine? Would Mike and I really be able to spend 24-hours, 7 days a week together?
Then I asked myself a question that really mattered: In 50 years, will I be more proud to tell my grandchildren that I was the youngest female manager at my company, or that I had traveled the world?
When I put it that way, it was a no brainer.
“As we learned – as trite as it sounds – if you do what you are passionate about, everything will work out”.
Still, the risk averse, Type-A side of me couldn’t believe that I was making such a gigantic decision on a whim. Mike and I agreed that, although we would plan as if we were going to take the extended trip, we would allow ourselves to reevaluate and see how we felt after a couple of weeks. In reminding myself that I had options – that this decision was not final – I felt better. And surprisingly, the more we planned the more feasible and doable it really became.
Sure, it was difficult explaining our decision to our friends and family. While some were supportive, others did not understand why we were leaving or how we were going to make it all work. Many of my coworkers thought I was crazy for leaving a great, stable job, but regardless, they all wished me well. There were definitely times when I felt anxious reflecting on some of their concerns. And yet, I also couldn’t wait to see what the future would hold. Whatever happened, I would get through it with Mike. Whatever happened, we would be able to tell our grandchildren that, in our short lives, we chose to be adventurous and see the world.
Within 60 days of agreeing that we’d head off on our trip, Mike and I were on a flight over the Pacific. We planned to spend a month in Australia and New Zealand before heading on to Southeast Asia and India. While we had a rough idea of where we wanted to explore, the details of our route were completely up in the air. It was a very different way of traveling for Mike and I (we were accustomed to more intentional planning) but, as we learned – and as trite as it sounds – if you do what you are passionate about, everything will work out.
Kat and Mike’s tips for planning for long-term travel:
- Book a one-way flight so you can be flexible. Round-the-World tickets may sound appealing and cheap but they do have restrictions (fixed number of stops, time limits, you must travel in same direction and begin and end in the same country).
- Utilize the U.S. Department of State and the CDC websites to learn about visas, passports, safety, and necessary vaccinations.
- Check the weather before choosing your route to avoid rainy seasons and extreme temperatures.
- Use a backpack instead of a suitcase but make sure you chose one that fits your body and is comfortable. Prioritize practicality over size.
- Pack light. Things to include: Dry-fit, dri-wick clothing; biodegradable, low profile toilet paper; and usable technology. Things to leave at home: Hairdryers; more than 3 pairs of shoes; and smartphones (you can purchase cheap phones and local SIM cards along the way).
- Do not buy travel books – they are heavy and will weigh you down. Utilize online resources and blogs for planning. Check out some of our favorites and some other great apps.
- Avoid the urge to over-plan so you can be adaptable, flexible and open to cultural immersion.
Stay tuned for Part II of Kat and Mike’s Journey to Unearth the World!