How We Got Here: The Road to Long-Term Travel

This started out as a “Why we are traveling” post but morphed into a “How we got here” story instead. I’ll have to go back and try that first one again some day. 

Even though the title of this post contains we, this is really my story. Maybe one day J will write a guest post relaying the path he took to this moment. It’s pretty similar, it just contains more jobs and less New York.

Because traveling is awesome, duh.

But seriously, I love traveling.

It would be pretty strange of me to start a travel blog if I didn’t. Am I right?

As early as high school I dreamt of  living abroad and being one of those little thumbnail bust photos in the back of a Lonely Planet Guidebook. I was bit by the travel bug early on, and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been buying guidebooks and dreaming up trips. The only feeling better than travel planning is the moment I step off the plane (and then every consecutive moment afterwards until the return flight).

The first time I read about a round-the-world trip, I was hooked. I had to do that one day. The exact same reaction came over me when learning about people who travel full-time. How can I do that? Ever since graduating from college I have been on a mission to make it happen.

Old Growth Kauri on Coromandel Peninsula

The first attempt.

My first foray into “long-term” travel began the following Autumn. I made plans to volunteer for six weeks in Peru, then I would return home for the holidays. After the new year, I spent a month in California, then headed off to Australia to start my journey. With a one-year working holiday visa, I planned on traveling a bit, then working and saving enough money to continue my journey. Well, as you may have read, that didn’t happen. Essentially I was brought down by loneliness and ended up back home after just 3 months.

Somehow, that didn’t deter me. As the months passed, I thought about all the different ways I could make my dream a reality. I lived with my generous sister, trying to save money. I worked as a waitress and a gardener, always dreaming of my next move. I was able to do a bit of domestic travel – six weeks driving across the country to the Napa and Willamette Valleys, where my friend and I used our restaurant connections to drink copious amounts of wine and learn all about the US wine industry.

Finally, I was all set to run off and get my CELTA certification and high-tail it to South Korea to teach English. I was stopped short when my Dad, always wanting me to settle down and get a “real job,” got me a couple of internships. Being put in the position of choosing responsibility over my dreams of travel, I took the path of least resistance. I found myself a year and a half later working as a marketing assistant and living in Brooklyn.

I was miserable.

And spent every spare moment dreaming of South East Asia (and downing $5 well tequila and Tecate happy meals… is that still a thing?). A new hope arose within me, however, with my lease coming to an end in February. Another job opportunity came knocking at my door and I figured out a way for me to fulfill not one, but two dreams in one fell swoop.

The circuitous route.

After six months working as a full-fledged fashion marketing assistant, I was able, with the help of an amazing woman (Dana, I love you) to catalyse that into paid freelance copywriting. It is a complicated story, but essentially I was working two jobs for the same company. Only, one of the jobs I was doing did not require me to be in the office. It also paid quite a bit more. More money while working from bed? Yes. Why did I ever give up that gig? Oh yeah, because the fashion industry is SATAN.

Sidetracked. So, if you have read the intro post, you’ll know that I went to culinary school at some point. This is that point. I had always enjoyed cooking, and generally thought, “Hey, you know, when I’m forty and need a career change, I can always go to cooking school.” So, I jumped the gun a bit. After doing some research (which I do a lot of) I learned that The French Culinary Institute would be starting a specialized farm-to-table course at the beginning of May. That was perfect for me.

So there I was in January 2013, with a budding freelance writing career, a miserable 9 to 5 assistant job, a month left on my lease and dreams of travel and culinary school swirling in my head. A monkey could guess my next move… I put in my notice for the assistant job. Then I planned an epic eight week trip to South East Asia, getting me back in New York just in time to start culinary school. I had the next 3 to 5 years planned out. After culinary school I’d get a job as a chef on a yacht or cruise ship and sail around the world to my heart’s content. DREAMS FULFILLED!

That didn’t happen. Due to some family conflicts, the trip was cancelled, but I was able to begin my culinary program. When the program ended, I turned in my last copy assignment and returned home to Alabama with a restaurant job waiting for me. Three days later, I met Jason.

The times, they are a changin’.

For the first time ever travel was put on a back burner. Nothing was more interesting or important to me than getting to know this fascinating person… who just so happened to have dreams of traveling too. On our first date he told me how he wanted to work as a fly fishing guide in Colorado and how he wanted so badly to go to New Zealand. I think we even began dreaming of sailing around the world together that first night.

Even though I had always imagined myself traveling solo in these adventures, I was happy to have a partner. In fact, I think having Jason is my safety net against the troubles I faced alone in Australia.

I applaud those who travel long-term solo. Sometimes I am jealous of you. I look on my departure from Australia as my biggest failure to date. However, I wouldn’t trade a day traveling with Jason for a million days traveling alone.

We left for New Zealand 3 years, 1 month and 28 days after we met. In that time we mostly lived in Alabama and worked towards our goal of life on the road. We oscillated between planning an epic 18-24 month RTW trip and simply moving somewhere to work. Instead, we’re not quite doing either. We are traveling around New Zealand and will begin house sitting in just over a month. In between bird watching and boat trips, we’re trying to figure out this whole “location independent” thing. Baby steps.

Where we go from here.

We’re not totally sure. We have loads of ideas, none of them concrete. We do know we want to keep moving. I recently came across a John Muir quote that says it best…

The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.

The stars above Lake Pearson
Photo by J. Howell Photography

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