Five years ago, I bought a ticket to Mexico City. It wasn’t my first time outside the United States, but it was the first time I stepped out on my own. I was 19, and I thought it would be scary. I thought I would learn how to speak Spanish. I thought for sure I would come into some kind of contact with the drug cartels.
None of that happened.
Instead, I was introduced to a world I didn’t know existed. And, on and off for the next 4 years, I lived life in that world. Whether I was waking up at 5 to work after an hour of sleep and a full night of partying, or I was just chilling surfing along a black sand beach in El Salvador, I loved every second of it. I knew at some time I would stop and take time to grow my business. I knew sometime down the road, I would start a family. My timeline was vague at best. I had never really given stopping much thought.
This life I was living was more or less separate from any of my of my family, even though I’m quite close to them at home. I wanted to expose my brother to the life I had been living, so I bought him a ticket to come with me. We flew to Mexico City, to Acapulco, and then back to DF before flying to Cancun -> Playa del Carmen. This is the trip where Deborah and I met. We traveled for over a year together, and every single day was the new best day of my life. You know the fairy-tale version of the rest of the story, but the part we talk about less is what changed inside of both of us:
We weren’t solo travelers anymore.
Unlike me by myself, together we did set a timeline, but we had fooled ourselves into thinking we could continue the status quo. The plan was globetrotting three to five more years. We even had a predicted route, and then we would “settle down,” which would probably happen in London.
A lot has happened since our engagement. Some legal stuff, some geopolitical things, some personal realizations. I don’t need to go into all the details of the legal and geopolitical things, because the personal realizations are monumentally more important.
(Especially one that loves beer) When you’re traveling alone, or even in a couple, in Asia and South America, you can always find a pack of fellow travelers to hang out with. And if you can speak the local language, you can connect with the local people as well. At a certain point, though, you realize that you will probably never see (most of) these people again. It becomes quite a chore to reintroduce yourself to the same type of person over and over again. You’ll have the same conversations, drink the same beer. Not only does this get time consuming, but it’s also quite boring.
2) We wanted to point our focus toward business
Deborah and I believe that you have to work on yourself constantly to continue to thrive. If you’re not moving forward, you’re probably moving backward. In business, a big part of that is partnership with other people in various forms. That’s much more difficult if you and everyone around you is always moving.
In addition to the above, we have to travel very light. We can’t bring anything that doesn’t fit into our backpacks. I wouldn’t advocate for living excessively, but as someone who works online, I’m monumentally more productive in a controlled environment, with a large desk and at least one extra monitor, which isn’t something I can pack around.
3) We don’t have the time to make the most of traveling.
When Deborah and I traveled solo, we did fun things all the time. I worked online and Deborah worked at hostels, but Deborah’s work was fun and I didn’t need to work all the time to pay any bills, so “having fun,” getting to know a new environment, and meeting new people are all tied for first priority. Work and family life are very far in the distance. I worked only when I had to and had maybe weekly skype calls with family.
We have a very different set of priorities. Coming together, we’ve had to think about the future and more about our aspirations than before.
4) The same things aren’t as interesting as they used to be.
I think Lauren from Never Ending Footsteps put it really well:
I used to pride myself on my childlike sense of wonder. Every time I visited a waterfall, I’d stop and pretend it was the first one I’d ever seen. I would do everything I could to prevent myself from comparing it to the other, more impressive waterfalls I’d seen on my travels.
After five years of seeing waterfall after waterfall after waterfall, though? Eventually it just became falling water and I can see that whenever I take a shower.
But, we’re not just talking about waterfalls. The more cool stuff you see, the less incredible things seem over time. Deborah and I found ourselves traveling to places and not even being bothered to see the things the places were famous for.
5) We needed a base.
There’s a certain point when your hostel’s environment just isn’t that good. A point when you realize most people are loud and obnoxious, the bed just doesn’t let you sleep enough at night, the table just isn’t flat enough for your computer, walking around town looking for faster and more reliable wifi is just a chore that eats 25% of the work day. You realize that sometimes you need a place to get away from people, to have your own stuff and invest in yourself.
Our businesses and suffered, and I think our health did too. We kept telling ourselves and each other, “the next place will be better.” In Cyprus, we thought Portugal would be better. In Portugal, we thought London would be better. In London, we thought Sweden would be better, and so on all the way through Thailand.
A Turning Point
After Thailand, but before Indonesia, Deborah and I had a long layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We didn’t do much, because we knew we had a decision to make: where and for how long would we set up a base?
We toyed with the idea of moving to Bali, islands off the coast of Malaysia, cities across North and South America, Melbourne, London, Berlin, Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon. In non-American, non-Canadian, and non-European cities, we’re limited to 30 – 90 days or in Mexico, 6 months. We weren’t sure if we were giving up on full-time travel or if we just taking a break.
It was hard for each of us to voice it to the other, but we were done “traveling for the sake of traveling.”
It’s not that we dislike traveling, but when we talked about business, we were talking about taking action right now! When we talked about kids, we did want to talk about some vague time in the distant future.
Our Lives Now
It’s only been a few weeks since we’ve moved to Germany, but the effects are kicking in.
We’ve realized that we’re the type of people who really do need stability and constants, not because they’re necessary to survival, but we’re passed the part of our lives where they’re less necessary. We want to create a family, and we want to excel in business.
Deborah and I have moved to Berlin, where our lives are richer and more balanced. We’ve made friends and I don’t have to throw out my 20th pair of scissors before getting on the plane. We get to cook again! Wow, it’s been a long time. We take long walks every day, and talk about how we can advance ourselves..our wants and needs, how our businesses can get better.
What about traveling?
We haven’t left Berlin yet, but we already have several trips planned!
Have you taken the plunge and “settled down”? What made you want to do it? Comment below!