Living The Dream – Why We Chose To Leave It All Behind

1 Apr

Recently we met a young couple who genuinely didn’t understand why we embarked on this huge journey.  They wanted to know why we didn’t seem to miss our clothes, our home, our ‘regular’ lives.  Why aren’t we worried about what happens when we go back, or when we run out of money?  Why aren’t we worried about our careers? Why would we choose this unstable sort of life?

These are all valid questions, and some can be answered at least partially by checking out our “About Us” section.

We’ve been on the road for almost five months and we’ve thought a lot about the things that motivate us to travel, and the reasons behind the decisions that have landed us where we are in life.

I’ve started this post a dozen different times and discarded every attempt at an answer until now.  It’s a complicated answer because life is complicated.

Why do writers write?  Why do athletes compete?  Why do artists create?  Most of them will tell you that it’s because it is their passion.  There is something that burns inside of them and says “This is what you must do”, and so they do it.  If you ask Justin if he has a burning passion for travel he’ll say no, but he does enjoy it.  If you ask me, I’ll say yes, I have a passion for travel, but it’s not all encompassing.   We have a love of the world, a desire to see new things, to immerse ourselves in different cultures, to meet new people.  Yes, it can be frustrating  to not have a huge wardrobe selection, or to have to move every few days, or to have to sleep in dorm rooms with 20 other travelers, but the benefits of what we are doing far outweigh these minor issues.

This alone might be answer enough for most people, but there is more behind it.

We’ve lived fairly comfortable lives.  We had the opportunity to earn university degrees, we had careers that we enjoyed, family and friends we love, and we could have settled comfortably into a nice routine in Colorado and lived out our lives pleasantly…but…there’s always a ‘but’.

People talk about living life to the fullest, taking advantage of every moment, every opportunity.  Most people don’t follow that philosophy in their everyday reality though.  Life is busy, things get in the way.  All those responsibilities build up and we have a hard time looking through them to where those moments and opportunities might lead us.  I’m as guilty as anyone else of living like that.  The conventional wisdom tells us to work hard.  Save money.  Plan for the future.  We were on that path.  We were saving money for a down-payment on a home. I was pushing myself professionally to make sure my career path had an upward trajectory.  We were diligent about putting money aside for retirement.

Then, over the last few years, a number of things started to jolt us out of that cocoon of complacency.  A close friend’s mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  My mother was hit hard financially and lost her home to the bank.  A schoolmate from when I was a child died from a brain tumor.  A classmate from high school died from melanoma.  Three years ago today, one of my most dear friends was murdered by her ex-husband.

Everyone knows life is precious and fleeting, but these events sucker-punched me.  There were things that had been left unsaid, regrets, and ‘should-haves’ and the weight of them felt terrible.  We came to realize that while we had a great life, we weren’t actually taking advantage of what it could be.  It became painfully clear that despite the best of plans and the most careful of arrangements, it can all be gone in an instant.  We took a good long look at ourselves and asked, What is it that we dream of?  Why don’t we follow that dream and see where it goes?

That burning passion that writers and artists and athletes have for what they do?  Well, I don’t exactly have that, but the thing that burns inside of me says take the chance.  So we did.


18 Responses to “Living The Dream – Why We Chose To Leave It All Behind”

  1. Rock April 1, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    So true it made me cry. Am asking myself these very questions these days.

    • Ashley April 4, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      It was initially quite scary to just take that leap, but it has been the best thing we’ve ever done. I suspect we’ll continue to ask these same questions of ourselves for the rest of our lives.

  2. woodswoman April 1, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    I read your post and want to shout. Shout about how proud and delighted I am, following the adventures of the Merrilings. That you and Justin found one another, each with your own strengths and supportive styles, was such a gift, and as you know, even to marry is taking a chance.

    I was always proud of you, of you and your brothers. As you grew into your individual personalities and styles, I marveled at the differences each of you began to show, coming from the same family. Sometimes the “chances” one of your siblings took was careless or wild. Sometimes I feared you were such a careful little person, then a careful worker, a careful saver, that you would be reluctant to venture off your path.

    But perhaps one of the things I encouraged was to “try something new”, even a little bit. That “failure” was only the first step to successes in one’s lives. Your grandfather modeled that throughout his entire 87 years. You went to Italy for a year of school, hesitant, but willing. Many other steps on the ladder to your current adventure . . . you took them all.

    Your brothers are in very different places than they might have thought about 10 years ago. They too have taken chances. And I want to say that I am still SO very proud of you all, and grateful that Justin has been willing to add himself to our family.

    Travel safely, travel well, and we’ll meet in Australia in the autumn for the total solar eclipse!

    We love you both very much.

    • Ashley April 4, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      We love you too 🙂 It has always been harder for me to take risks, I don’t like the feeling of not having control of things, but I’m realizing that you never really have control, so it’s better to just let it go.

  3. Marnie April 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    A&J: I’m glad you wrote this post, but I believe I already knew the answer to the question “why?” It’s the same why that led me to uproot and move 2500 miles to SF, to quit my marketing job and am trying a whole new career at 36. Life is unpredictable. We truly have to live every day like it’s the only one we’ve got. xo

    • Ashley April 4, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      So true, and I’m glad to see that you seem to be enjoying this new adventure of yours!

  4. Carol Hodges April 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Your post was marvelous. I admire you and Justin for doing something I would never have had the courage to do. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through your wonderful blog.

    • Ashley April 4, 2012 at 11:25 am #

      It’s never too late to have even the smallest of adventures! We are glad that you enjoy reading though 🙂

  5. Deryn April 4, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ashley April 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

      Thanks, have been thinking about you quite a bit in the last few weeks, hope all is well for you.

  6. Carlene DeFalco April 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your awesome adventure… and Justin are completing what most of us individuals would like to do but do not have the courage to leave life of responsibilities behind and have an adventure… are living life to the fullest and I feel like I’m living this adventure with both of you….I am lost for words right now, except for “thank you for sharing”……

    • Ashley April 13, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      Thank you for reading! I truly believe that it is never to late to follow a dream, even if it’s followed in small steps.

  7. nomadhelen August 31, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    Hey Ashley and Justin. It has been such a pleasure to meet you guys even though the circumstances were a bit scary! I really feel like I can relate to what you have written here too. It is up to us to make our dreams happen and there are very few people in the world who realize that. You guys are among that few. It takes courage, it takes guts and sometimes even blood, sweat and tears as you especially would know, Ashley 😉 Please do keep in touch. Wishing you all the best as you travel further and I do hope that our paths cross again at some point. (Just not in a hospital!)

    • Ashley September 7, 2012 at 1:01 am #

      It was a pleasure to meet you as well, despite the fact that I was bleeding, sweating, and crying all over the hospital 🙂 We’re happily enjoying our time in Bangkok now though, and we’d love to come back to Nepal at some point and have another adventure, without getting sick!

  8. Rhonda November 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    I just discovered your blog via my friend Kim at So-Many-Places and must say I LOVE this blog. My husband and I did a 14mth backpacking trip around the world in 2007-2008 for exactly the reasons you list. Having lost family members and pets and friends and having traveled enough to feel that passion we chose to leave it all behind and we have never been the same since. We’re now preparing for our next big adventure… to drive the PanAm highway, not for a determined amount of time, but with the intention of become location independent and living our dream of truly discovering all this amazing planet has to offer. I can’t wait to read more of your blog and follow you along on your dream!

    • Ashley November 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

      Thanks for checking us out! It’s funny because we are already talking about how we’ll be able to have another big adventure, and the Pan-American is one of the things we are considering. Do you have a start date yet?

      • Rhonda November 8, 2012 at 10:06 pm #

        We’re planning on about 16-18mths from now but our date is still fluid. Right now just doing a lot of planning and prep and camping around the Pacific NW and living vicariously through all of you on the road!


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