It’s been 51 weeks since we left the United Sates on our journey around the world. The trip has taken us to six continents on 48 flights and taught us to say thank you in 25 languages. We’ve packed and unpacked our bags more times than we can count, and we’ve slept in at least 85 different beds.
Sometimes we get lost and sometimes we give people directions. Our scenery is always changing and the only constant in our lives is the four shirts we wear on repeat. As soon as we start to feel comfortable somewhere, we know it’s time to leave.
As cool as we think that sounds, most of the time when we say we’re a year into a 15-month trip around the world, we get the same question:
Are you sick of travel yet?
We don’t take offense to the question. Humans are wired to plant roots and we’re doing the opposite. We’re almost 30 years old and while most of our friends are having children (or are already done having children), here we are mastering the digital nomad lifestyle.
The question is usually followed by an awkward laugh and a glance at Kenny to see which of us wants to field the question this time. Because the truth is …
It depends who you ask.
We will both answer this question very differently. You see, long-term travel is an endurance challenge, and you’re talking to two marathon runners. We’re both pretty familiar with how we handle endurance challenges.
Kenny can run faster and will beat me in any race of any distance. I’m much slower, but I can run for a long time. It takes a different type of endurance to run a three-hour marathon than it takes to run a five-hour marathon.
It’s not surprising that this is also how we handle the challenges of long-term travel. After a long 12 months, I have finally hit my stride, while Kenny has already mentally finished the race.
Our different feelings on the topic certainly has to do with our role in the travel planning process. He plans the big-picture pieces of our travel schedule, like working out our route and booking flights. He’s also the points guru who figures out how we can fly first class on Singapore Suites from Singapore to London for only $400 cash. So he’s usually operating a month or two ahead of me.
I am in charge of planning the daily activities and schedules, so I’m usually thinking on a much shorter timeline. Half the time, I don’t even know what city is next until we show up and I have to plan our days there.
I will let Kenny answer the question in depth for himself in a separate blog post.
So, Emily, are you sick of travel yet?
No. I am not.
I have carved out a routine in the chaos that is our lives, and I love how it’s working. Things that challenged me at the start of this — like packing everything I own into a backpack — have become so normal to me. I’ve got itinerary planning down to a science. My understanding of the things I “need” has changed, I’ve learned that I’m so much more adaptable than I would have ever expected.
The world is beautiful, guys. And it is big. There is so much to see and I want to see it all. Every time I check a city off my list, I add five more. My bucket list is just “Everywhere.”
The only thing that travel teaches you is how much travel you have left to do.Ken: Husband, Traveler, Poet
I still want to go to Costa Rica, and Saint Petersburg, and Zimbabwe, and Alaska, and about 100 more places! It’s addicting. There’s no better feeling than walking into a new city for the first time. It’s just the best.
At the same time, though, it’s all the same. I mean that in the best possible way. I can’t say it enough: we are more alike than different. People all over the world are just trying to live their best lives, and that looks so similar no matter where you are.
It’s about more than just people, too. Cities themselves are more alike than different. (So much so that I do the same five things in every city!) Everywhere you go, there’s a church and a square, an art museum and a history museum, coffee shops and restaurants. I’m learning to find that beauty is in the details.
Travel isn’t all fancy flights and day drinking (though flying first class on Etihad Apartments from Sydney to Abu Dhabi was definitely an experience I won’t soon forget). It has its challenges and hard pills to swallow.
It is finding out that one of your best friends is pregnant over FaceTime. Missing your college roommate’s wedding. Failing to find pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving in Hong Kong and settling for nachos at an Irish pub. Constantly struggling to find wifi, make our phones work, and teach Google that we always want results in English.
But even with the struggles and the hardships, I’m still not sick of it. And this is why.
I’m so comfortable in our routine.
The use of the word “routine” might sound a little liberal here, but I firmly believe it applies. I think what you do matters more than where you do it. The things we do every day are usually pretty consistent. Our life on the road is actually very similar to the life we lived in Chicago. We just live it in a different location every week.
If you couldn’t tell by the name of this blog, we’re kind of into coffee. That means that our days almost always start at a coffee shop. The best days start at coffee shops with wifi and plenty of space for us to sit and hang out all morning. Our mornings are usually spent on our laptops, working and blogging, which is what pays the bills for our afternoons.
The second half of our day is reserved for adventures: exploring, sightseeing, and eating and drinking. This is the part that changes with every location. In Europe, there’s a lot of churches and museums. In Asia, it was temples and shrines. South America had parks, hiking and ruins. It’s always something different.
Of course it’s not always this structured, and travel days are always a crapshoot, but usually, this is how our life looks. How can you possibly get sick of that? It’s a pretty great gig if I do say so myself.
My understanding of home has changed.
I never really thought that I was someone who moved a lot, but looking back, I have. The only physical home I’ve ever really been attached to is the one I grew up in for 18 years. After that, I’ve pretty much changed apartments every two or three years. So I’ve never really felt “home” was particularly tied to any location.
When we tell people we’re nomads, people often say that they can’t imagine not having home. I understand that as a concept – people want a place that is theres, where they can feel safe and secure, to feel “at home”. I want those things too, but I’ve realized that this concept doesn’t require physical roots.
Visiting all the Disney parks around the world is actually what helped me realize that I do love being “home”, and that it’s not at all related to a physical space. Home is so much more than where you keep your stuff. It isn’t even just “where the heart is.” (Have you ever noticed that the people who say “home is where the heart is” are usually the people with really nice homes?)
I think home is where you are free to be the best version of yourself. It is where you feel relaxed, and you can be yourself with the people you love. None of that requires roots. Together, Kenny and I have created a “home” and we take it with us wherever we go.
Now, if we could just get teleporting down and I could invite my friends and family over to visit from anywhere around the world, I would travel the world forever.
Work-life balance has taken on a new meaning.
That’s right — this nomad is employed! I work part-time and remote as a Talent Acquisition Operations and Recruitment Marketing Specialist for a pharmaceutical company. (I promise it’s way cooler than it sounds.) Working while traveling the world can be stressful, but for the most part it is incredibly grounding. It helps anchor my day, maximize my productivity and keep me sharp.
My boss is an inspiration and truly one of the smartest, most thoughtful and hardest working people I know. She is committed to aligning the right work with the right people at the right time. She doesn’t care about the rest of the corporate nonsense that often gets in the way of getting the work done, like what you wear or where you’re sitting. Working under that kind of leadership, combined with my actual interest in the work, means that work feels a lot less like work.
Due to my part-time status and my ever-changing timezone, I am not confined to a traditional work day. I set my own schedule, and I am able to choose to do the work when I’m best positioned to give it my fullest attention. Sometimes that’s during the “workday”, but sometimes it’s late at night or on a Saturday. My work doesn’t have an on/off switch the way it used to. My work and my life are fluid, and I’m constantly flipping between the two.
I used to think that “work-life balance” meant that “work” and “life” were on two separate sides of the scale. I no longer believe that’s the case. It’s not about separating oil and water, it’s more like making a cocktail. You add the right amounts of the right ingredients and shake everything together to make the perfect elixir.
I adore travel blogging.
Lattes & Runways brings me so much joy. It brings me even more joy when people actually read it (so thank you), but I enjoy the process regardless. I just love having a platform to document my travels — successes and fails — and sharing it here.
Sometimes I struggle with what this blog really is and who it’s for. Many times I think it’s for me, as a living journal and photo book to look back on. What I actually want it to be, though, is a resource. I want to help fellow travelers figure out how to rent tubes in Vang Vieng or pick a tour provider to get them to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Maybe it doesn’t have to be just one thing.
What I do know is that right now, I’m flooded with new content ideas. Literally, every single day I’m experiencing new things to fill these internet pages. I can’t write fast enough to share all the things that I want to. I think that’s a fine problem to have.
So no. I’m not sick of travel just yet.
There is still so much left to discover in these last three months. I can’t afford to spend any of that time worrying about the future or thinking about anything other than how cool it is that I got to wake up in Amsterdam this morning.
It all comes down to time, and there’s just never enough of it. Every night, I go to sleep with work that still needs to be done, blog posts I want to write, and a whole world I want to see. If I don’t have enough time now, when I have 15 months of creating my own schedule, then how do I stand a chance when I return to “real” life?
This problem isn’t unique to me or to travel. Time is fleeting and these moments can’t last forever. So we have to live them fully and savor every second. I desperately try to focus on the present, because the truth is that this trip is ending in three short months, whether I like it or not.
Sometimes I wish I could travel the world forever, but I know that there are even greater adventures on our horizon.