So the biggest questions we get about our travels are: how did you do it? How do you afford it? And what was your favorite place? Picking a favorite is challenging and still as impossible as Carmen and I made it out to be in our summary posts. The costs of travel require the simple task of tracking the money that is one minute filling the pocket and the next lost in a flurry of memories, tastes and excitement. The planning, packing, financing and execution of a trip like ours takes finesse and commitment. A new chapter in our lives will be sharing our skills and educating the world in the ways of 4feet2mouths travel.
This is the first post of our two-sided travel series to educate and entertain all of our readers. The first series will be Trip Tips, which this post is part of. We will delve deep into the topics of planning, packing, financing and even bargaining to help everyone get out and see the world. The second series will be called Costs of Travel which will look at the real costs of travel that we experienced. We will show off some impressive graphs and we hope to provide some insight on how to travel the world for under $50 per person per day including flights, visas and everything.
To answer the questions of how, I first want to describe my motivations for travel because they have an impact on my travel style and choices. This requires a brief history of myself: I was born and raised in a mountain resort community; we had a pet cow, endless pine trees and the companionship of dogs, many dogs. Looking back on it I think the mourning of each runaway, each death was quickly suppressed with the introduction of a new puppy. I kept mostly to myself, but with all these dogs I always had a friend to wander the woods and explore the forests with. I thrived roaming the hillsides and I always had a companion to share in the adventure. Quickly I learned the need of a good travel partner, the essential reinforcement that one gets from a friend.
As I got older I was eager to see something other than the mountains I knew so well. I wanted to be a little caught off guard and out of my element. I needed something different. I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at 18, eager to get out of town. It is such a freeing experience to leave home; the confines of a roof disintegrates and opens to an enormous sky of stars. I let go of all my past and I moved away for good.
Berkeley is obviously on the opposite spectrum in comparison to the mountain I grew up. How exciting it was to finally be in a place that welcomed cultures and people from around the world; the birthplace of free speech was bound to teach me a little more than engineering. My excitement for exploration continued and I was eager to see more of San Francisco.
Right about then I got an invitation from a young lady down the hall from me to go to a Mexican/El Salvadorian festival in San Francisco. My first exploration of San Francisco involved hours of walking, talking and meandering through the stomach of San Francisco, the Mission neighborhood. Instantly our relationship grew; each step planted roots, each meal was another experience and each neighborhood was a new adventure. Welcome Carmen into my life.
From there, Carmen and I shared a insatiable love to explore everything and anything. I found my companion. We let go of our hearts and we bound ourselves to each other. We hiked weekly in the Berkeley hills, we fulfilled our weekends walking across San Francisco and attempted to check every world cuisine off our lists. Our adventures started small, built confidence and grew rapidly and broadly. Quickly we wanted to explore more of the world. We started with small trips: a weekend backpacking trek, a week in Rosarito, Carmen studied the summer abroad and we eventually moved to London to work to work for six months. We planned and executed five weeks in Southern Europe in 2006, four weeks in Germany and Poland in 2006, three weeks in Portugal in 2010 and six weeks in Asia in 2009. Each trip was building our skills to plan, value pack, finance and travel with one another 24/7.
TRIP TIP #1: Letting go is easier with a good travel companion.
Then in 2012 we began the biggie- fourteen solid months of traveling. The idea of this trip was more or less in the making for several years before we actually got to it. The reason was that we had to learn to let go. Short-term travel pushes a pause button on typical routine life, the vacation happens, and then life is resumed with workflow, money-flow, friendships and daily life continuing uninterrupted. Long-term travel is different. Routine life is stopped; jobs are ended, friendships are pushed away and personal possessions are thrown out. It takes courage to tell society “enough time has been spent on your clock, I’m doing this for me!” This can be difficult. The dull heart-wrenching feelings of telling your family you are not coming home this holiday was a hard choice to make.
Self-discovery requires more than just maintenance of the status quo. It takes letting go. We had to let go of everything that was stable in our lives; we suppressed it and welcomed the uneasiness and excitement that is part of a real adventure. It takes commitment to travel like we do. It is not easy living out of a suitcase. I still get uncomfortable watching my life savings deplete by the day. And the constant anticipation/fear/challenge of where we will be in two days time is often so overwhelming it feels like we could explode. But there is a WE, a companion is an essential part of letting go and taking flight into the world.
Together, Carmen and I could support and encourage each other to achieve everything that you have witnessed on this blog. We experienced an uneasiness when we freed ourselves into the world, but it all became possible with knowing that we were together. Letting go of the handrail of our old life was possible knowing that we had the stability of each other’s hand to grab in case we fell. To really travel, to really experience the world it takes an open mind to see everything and taste each morsel of a culture even if conventionally it is not comfortable. Letting of those conventions is that much easier with a teammate.
I am not saying that only couples can travel. We have met hundreds of travelers, many of them single. Most of them find a friend to travel with. There is comfort in pooling resources, communicating in a common language and struggling through regional transit. The nomadic lifestyle of world travel improves in small numbers. Travelers are some of the most welcoming and open-hearted people you can find. When traveling, let go of your guard and open up to a new friend, the travel will be more fulfilling and the friendship priceless.
Lesson learned, we let go and we found a companion. We said goodbye to our belongings, postponed our careers and opened ourselves to the world. Becoming a world traveler required cutting loose those heart strings that guarded us. We lucked out finding each other. We grabbed onto the reins of our lives and took off in any direction we wanted. The plan is not to travel forever, just yet, but if we wanted that, we know together we could make that jump. Our journey crossed drastic landscaped and diverse cultures; each day and each week we improved our ability to travel. Our experiences of traveling the world need to be shared. We look forward to delivering our Trip Tips series and Costs of Travel series to you. Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll try to address each one individually.