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Reflecting and Moving On

1 Apr

Fabulous shot of our new home city by vandan desai on Flickr

A year ago today I wrote a post about the heart of why we decided to take our career break to travel around the world.  Part of me wanted to write it to answer some of the questions we’d gotten about why we wanted to take this kind of a trip in the first place.  Another part of me wrote it as a way to recognize some of the terrible moments of loss that caused us to re-evaluate our path in life.

We’re done with the trip, and in a bit of a state of limbo.  We’ve returned to my home state of Colorado, and are in the middle of the hurricane that is searching for new jobs after not working for nearly two years.

Now that we’re home, people want to know if we think we’ll miss all the travel or if we think we’ll be happy here.  I’ve learned to not anticipate how I will, or will not feel about something.  Right now I’m very happy.  I was ready to come home and see my family and friends.  I have been longing for my own space, a garden, the intellectual challenge that comes with my line of work.  Right now I don’t miss travel, but that’s partly because I know our travel will never really be done.  We’ll always have a strong sense of wanderlust, and I’m sure we’ll be travelling as frequently as we can, just as we did before this trip.

One thing I do know for sure is that we are much more focused on living the rest of our lives with as little regret as possible and we’ll continue to listen to what burns inside of us because really, those are the things our dreams are made of.

Below is our post from April 1, 2012
‘Living The Dream – Why We Chose To Leave It All Behind’

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.

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