Reflections on the Road: Six Months

Just last week I was writing about hitting a major milestone—turning 30—and now it is time for another: it hardly seems possible, but Tony & I have now been traveling for six months. I know it's true, and yet I can hardly wrap my head around it.

My mind balks at the thought we’ve been gone for HALF A YEAR now. Half a year! That empirically seems incredibly long but, in reality, it has felt like no amount of time at all. And yet I can’t deny the changes that I have undergone, changes that no amount of wishing or wishful thinking will bring about, but only result from the thing resembling the spiritual boot-camp that we have constructed for ourselves.

Six months ago: Touching down in Japan!
Six months ago: Touching down in Japan!

Six months ago, we threw our old lives away and flung ourselves headfirst into the world, hearts open to whatever we might discover. Now as I stop to take stock of what I have achieved thus far, I see that my perspective on life and my way of seeing myself and what I am capable of, these things have irrevocably changed. Travel has changed me in ways I had fiercely hoped it would, but also in ways I never dared to dream it could. Whenever I doubt that this is the case, I need only look in the mirror or at our photographs compiled over the months. It is written on my body not just my psyche; not only is my soul lighter, I am physically lighter, too. In six months, we’ve left a lot behind, and that includes 25 pounds of unwanted weight on me alone.

Hanging out in Hong Kong's Chi Lin Nunnery
Hanging out in Hong Kong’s Chi Lin Nunnery

When we first conceived of this trip, our mission was to conquer an unknown section of the world, and in so doing kill two birds with one stone: we would cross some places off a travel list that was quickly spiraling out of control, slaking our wanderlust while we had no major commitments, all the while figuring out what it was we were meant to be doing with ourselves when we returned home. At the time, a year devoted to travel seemed impossibly decadent, and the itinerary that we had carved out for ourselves would surely allow us to say proudly that we had traveled and that we had seen something of the world.

Feeling great on the Great Wall of China

Six months in, the itinerary is as dead as the lives we were living (existing?) before we left. In an unforeseen mishap, our original route was accidentally deleted off the site, something I lamented when I discovered it, but now is something I think is probably all for the best. So, while I can’t refer you to our best-laid plans, I can tell you that those plans that once seemed so monumental, now seem like hardly anything at all. And this is not to belittle what we have seen and done, but is simply because my views on what my life has become and what is possible for myself are so much bigger than they used to be. It’s funny how the decision to give one relentless, ineffable dream the room to breathe caused the world and my life to crack wide open to me, but in taking the risk to travel, that is exactly what happened. I’ve quoted these exact words of wisdom by Joseph Campbell before on this site, but they are so fitting, I have to type them again: “You must give up the life you planned to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Only my life isn’t waiting for me anymore. It is right here, right now, and it is mine. Now every day that I wake up is precious because life is once more scary and exciting and unpredictable and challenging and in all these things there is beauty. So many things have happened on this trip that I never planned and, if I’m being completely honest, had insufficient imagination to even conceive of. I won’t attempt to enumerate them here as that’s what all our other posts are for, but suffice to say that though there are certainly days on the road when things are hard and sometimes even bad, the one thing life certainly is not is dull. I am always learning and growing, and I am constantly being surprised by twists along the way, and if that is not the way life is meant to be, then I might as well hand in my passport right now because if that is truly the case, then I have learned nothing.

On a sailboat in the Philippines
On a sailboat in the Philippines, a place we hadn’t planned to visit

Six months in, the old itinerary is out the window and the new itinerary… doesn’t exist. Now we only crudely sketch out what the coming months will bring, because as John Lennon once sang, “life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I’m learning to embrace the unpredictable and to focus on the present in ways I never was able to. We make last-minute plans and change even those at the last-second. Gone are the maps and bucket lists and instead the only compass by which we navigate is driven by the desires in our hearts, right here, right now. We go where we want most because the world is big and life is short and when you add those things together, there is no point saving the best for last or even until tomorrow.

Chowing down at one of Taiwan's famous night markets
Chowing down at one of Taiwan’s famous night markets, another country we hadn’t planned on

Given all that, I can tell you that in six months, we’ve visited eight countries and our ninth is just on the horizon. But I can’t tell you where we will be six months from now and what our tally will be at that point. All I know is that it won’t be enough. We were never so foolish as to think we could see the world in one year, but we were naive to think that whatever we did see would be enough, that we could cross countries off our list, content with the sense we had seen them and discovered all we could. Of the eight places we have been, only two of them are places we feel no burning desire to return to any time soon. And no, China isn’t one of them (can you believe it?!?)! What’s more, our list of places we *need* to see, has only increased. The more we see of the world, the more we realize how little of it we have seen, and how there is something inside us telling us that we must keep pushing and exploring, because the world has an uncanny knack for keeping you honest, astounding and humbling you whenever you feel just the slightest bit jaded. It has been six months, and I truly cannot envision a reality in which I exist and I will have had my fill of travel. It will never be enough.

On the prowl for cheap beer at the Tiger distillery in Singapore

Before we left on this trip, we had several people cautiously say they thought our idea was cool, but what did we plan to do when we got back? I would shrug and awkwardly mumble that I didn’t really know, but part of what I hoped to discover on this trip was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

And now I know: I want to spend my life traveling and chasing my bliss. The next six months, we’ll continue doing exactly as we have, turning the world and ourselves upside down to find the very best bits in each of us, but we’re also going to start laying the foundation to ensure that we can keep doing this. I don’t entirely knows what that means, but I know I have to find out.

I also know that one day, sooner than I would like, it will be time for us to head back and embrace the new life and host of possibilities that will be waiting for us there. The thought of it scares me, but I hope that when the time comes that I will be able to face that fear head on, just as I did six months ago.

But for now, I’m mostly just glad that today is not that day and instead brings another day of travel.

Six months ago we never would have dreamed we'd set foot in Brunei
Six months ago we never would have dreamed we’d set foot in Brunei

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32 comments Leave a comment

  1. What a fantastic time you’re having! It is great to hear that the lack of a plan is enhancing your trip. I hope the next six months are just as exciting!

    Feb. 11 2013 @ 8:43 am
    1. Jackie (Farm Lane Books) author

      I never would have guessed that not having a plan would be so invigorating and take this trip to the next level, but it really has! I’m still not completely a “fly by the seat of my pants” person, but I am working on it!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:17 pm
  2. Six months?!? I can’t believe it either. Following along, it doesn’t seem that long ago when I was waiting for your posts on Japan. And now all these new countries later, I’m not at all surprised you want to keep living this life. I wondered when it would strike you that enough is not enough. 🙂

    Feb. 11 2013 @ 8:47 am
    1. jenn aka the picky girl author

      Sometimes I wonder if it would seem more like the 6 months if we were not several months behind on the blog! It would be so nice if we could travel and write the narrative we wish to in a more timely fashion, but we decided that we had to strike a balance between taking the best trip we could and creating the best content as well and that means that we can only post a few times a week. Ah well, it just means we’ll have stories for months to come, even when we’re settled down somewhere.

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:18 pm
  3. Woohoo! Congratulations on six months guys, your enthusiasm and love for the world is infectious and I look forward to seeing what the next six will bring!!

    Feb. 11 2013 @ 3:14 pm
    1. Sarah author

      Thanks, Sarah! So excited for the next 6… and the 6 after that! 😀

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:19 pm
  4. This whole post makes me want to tear up. So many things I want to respond to.
    First, a quote I saw while we were trying to name our upcoming travel blog, reminded me of your quote: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”― Lao Tzu
    Second, I THOUGHT you looked like you had lost weight from the pics on facebook, but didn’t want to ask. It’s one of those things you don’t want to be wrong about, like asking someone if she’s pregnant. Although, it definitely shows that you both feel lighter, in body and spirit.
    Third, this makes me so happy because we’re almost exactly a year behind you and it seems so impossible you’ve been gone for 6 months already and we’re only 6 months out from quitting our jobs, and 7 from leaving.
    And lastly, it’s inspiring to see your transformation because I am *almost* as obsessive about planning as you were and to see that you’ve let it go and just figured it out gives me courage.

    As for everyone asking you what happens after travel…my goodness am I tired of that question already. My usual response is that I am just focusing on going through with it before I start worrying what’s next.


    Feb. 11 2013 @ 3:18 pm
    1. Carmel author

      Love that quote by Lao Tzu! The more I travel, the more I definitely am finding that to be true.

      Yes, weight is always a tricky subject and I know exactly what you mean. It has taken me a while to even notice the difference honestly, but now I can look back at older photos and see that I am much smaller than I was then!

      I really think that when you travel, you while find yourself freed in ways you can’t anticipate right now. Honestly, I thought I would always be a slave to my plans and planning, and while certain impulses will always be with me (I am Type A and there’s no getting around that), I am learning more constructive and healthy ways to integrate those elements into my life while developing new strategies. I can’t wait for you to start your own journey & I hope we’ll be able to meet up somewhere in this wonderful world!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:24 pm
  5. Dammit, I typed out a whole long comment and then the electricity went out and I lost it all! Anyway, I want to say that I LOVE this and I could have (and wish I would have) written it myself. Congrats on six months. I wish you guys many, many more to come!

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 12:07 am
    1. Kim author

      Thank you so much, Kim. Your words mean so much to me, especially as we have been on such similar journeys since launching ourselves into the world. Hoping that six months will see our paths cross!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:25 pm
  6. Love this! Congrats on six months.. that’s awesome! Looks like you’re having the time of your lives. 🙂

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 12:17 am
    1. Kieu ~ GQ trippin author

      We are having so much fun! I don’t want it to end!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:25 pm
  7. Six months of awesome.

    You know we’re nearing the same tally & you’ll already have heard us mention that we don’t want it to end too, but what you wont know is how much we hope you can manage to keep it going through another 6 months & beyond.

    You guys are both having the time of your lives & we’ve seen it with our own eyes. We both hope you can make it happen.

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 3:22 am
    1. ANGLO/Dale author

      Of course what I also didn’t mention in this post is that one of our unexpected highlights on this trip has been meeting up with like-minded people and travel bloggers as well, and of course you & Franca are at the apex of it all! 🙂

      I know we’ve got another 6 months in us, and while that time can be long & short, I am hoping by the end of it, we’ll have some kind of direction to get us through the 6 months after that. I think the 5 year plan is really dead and gone now!

      And I really hope months 6 – 12 find us seeing each other once again!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:27 pm
  8. Wow, congratulations on six months of travel! I love hearing other travellers reflect on how their trips are changing them and as we prepare to embark on ours I feel so excited to see how Andrew and I change as we travel. One of the things I’m really hoping is that, like you, I let go of scheduling, plans and itineraries and just learn to live in the present. I look forward to seeing where else the road takes you and hearing all about your adventures.

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 6:12 am
    1. Amy author

      It’s so interesting to connect with so many smart, driven women who are leaving their lives to travel and who claim to be trapped by their need to plan & control. Welcome to club! 😉 I think one of the best things travel can give us is security in the knowledge that we really don’t need to plan everything and yet things will turn out ok. Actually, they tend to turn out even better than if we had tried to juggle and plan everything. Learning how to let the little things go so you can save your energy for the big things is such an amazing thing!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:30 pm
  9. Happy 6 months!

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 9:15 am
    1. Hogga author

      Thanks so much!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:32 pm
  10. Congrats on 6 months! I think everyone reaches that point on their long-term trip when they completely scrap their original itinerary – that’s when everything becomes truly exciting. I think I needed a plan in the beginning to make me feel safe in the face of the unknown, but now I realize that amazing things happen when I make it up as I go along. Awesome post!

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 10:56 am
    1. Jessica author

      Yeah, I mostly clung to our itinerary at first because I like things to be elegant and logical and it helped me deal with trying to plan money things. But life is rarely elegant or logical and no matter where we go, we have to spend money, so we’d rather spend it somewhere we want to be rather than somewhere we feel it makes sense to be!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:33 pm
  11. I’m so glad y’all are enjoying yourselves! And I’m deeply impressed by how open you’ve been on your trip, willing to let the people and places and experiences change you instead of rushing into judgements. I selfishly rather hope your trip turns out to be more than a year, so that I can keep following along. 😉 I know I won’t be doing travel of this long term scale for ages, if ever (primarily because of my dog and my health!), but I love being a long term armchair traveller.

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 4:58 pm
    1. Eva author

      I was just thinking the other day about how one of the biggest changes I have notice in myself is a willingness to withhold judgment until I’ve given something a go first. Or at the very least, to acknowledge that I’m being judgey and I shouldn’t be! 🙂

      And don’t worry, we have so many stories and adventures that even if we went home tomorrow, we’d have enough fodder to keep the blog going for several months. Plus, I always remind myself that adventures can be had anywhere, and while writing about Toronto or somewhere in the States may not immediately seem as exciting or exotic as writing about China or the Philippines, life is what we make it!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:36 pm
      1. Steph

        Yay for more stories! hehe I really need to get myself in gear and write more about my own trips while they’re still somewhat fresh in my mind.

        You know, I’ve been thinking more about it, and I think I’m not really a long-term traveller a la RTW/gap year style even if I didn’t have my dog or health issues. I love to travel but I also love being a homebody, and I need balance between the two. I can see travelling for three, maybe four months, max before I’d just burn out. My ideal would be to move to a new place every couple of years and while living there periodically make other trips.

        Adventures can certainly be had anywhere, but for my current health status, they are facilitated by easy/reasonably priced public transport. I live in a city without that (we do have a bus system, but it is so slow it takes over an hour to get to the library which is 3 miles away, and that’s assuming it sticks to the schedule), and I end up spending most of my time home bound because I’m not up to driving or riding in cars. I love metros, and as soon as I’m able to control where I live, I’ll only be in places that have one! Or the cool new bus systems that are like bus/metro hybrids: that’s acceptable as well. 😉 Not to mention, when you’re in a different country/culture, *everything* is an adventure, which makes things more interesting! hehe

        Feb. 15 2013 @ 10:07 pm
  12. It really doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but I guess it has been. I’m glad you guys are really loving this!!

    Feb. 12 2013 @ 5:54 pm
    1. Amanda author

      It’s so weird that before we left, 6 months seemed like an eternity… now the time just flies. Even more weird is that though things seem to be moving so fast, most days I feel like I have all the time in the world. I really don’t want that feeling to end!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:38 pm
  13. Congrats on 6 months! This is such a beautiful post. Travel really is an amazing thing, and it’s no wonder it changes you. And yes, being on the road makes you aware of so many other places you never knew you wanted to see, and the list never gets shorter, only longer. Enjoy your travels over the next 6 months…or longer!

    Feb. 13 2013 @ 9:33 am
    1. Ali author

      Yup, ever since we strapped on our backpacks, our curiosity about the world has only increased. There are tons of places we visited that we know we’ll have to return to one day, but now a bunch of places we initially had no interest in are starting to seem very exciting indeed! What an addiction traveling is!

      Feb. 13 2013 @ 8:39 pm
  14. Wow, six months of adventure sounds amazing! Glad I stumbled upon your blog, and look forward to reading about the next 6 months!;-) Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Feb. 14 2013 @ 8:35 am
  15. All we have is the present moment. I love how your embracing uncertainty. It’s amazing how a journey unfolds. Happy traveling!

    Feb. 15 2013 @ 8:16 pm
    1. Curious Nomad author

      I am a planner at heart so I still struggle with uncertainty at times, but I am definitely learning that things really do have a way of working out, often times better than I would have planned!

      Feb. 16 2013 @ 7:24 am
  16. Many congratulations on six months so far. It sounds like a very emotional and personal as well as geographical journey. Numerous people planned to go away for 6 months to a year and ended up travelling for years. Who knows what the future holds for you. Congrats on the weight loss too.

    Feb. 17 2013 @ 3:44 am
    1. The Guy author

      Thank you so much for your supportive comments! We always knew that we would travel for at least a year, so six months was supposed to be the halfway point… but now we wonder what the halfway point of “forever” is! 😀

      Mar. 16 2013 @ 8:02 pm

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