Me at Pompeii last month
This is my third new year as a permanent traveler. We packed all our possessions into a storage facility in August 2009, and our sofas, dining table, and box-after-box-after-box of books have gathered dust for the last two and a half years. We haven't settled in one place for more than two months in the last 28 months. 839 days of full-out nomadism. When we head back to the United States next September, we will have been on the road for three solid years. 36 months. 1096 days.
When we left for Australia at the very beginning, Chewy was a spry 8-year-old. Now, Abby, our baby girl, is going to turn 8 and Chewy is a steady 11. Our nephew was a Spongebob-adoring preschooler and now he's fully enmeshed in Little League and the first grade. We've lost and gained family members while we've been gone. We've watched friends marry and have children from afar. And, in those two and a half years, we've traversed five continents, over 20 countries, and way too many planes, trains, and boats. We've been together nearly every single day for almost 900 days.
And, so far, we're not bored. But, I'm afraid that it's going to happen soon.
Chewy and Abby seeing rhinos and zebras at the Cotswolds Wildlife Park
You see, at some point, traveling loses its charm. When we started this blog, we virtually met lots of travellers embarking on round-the-world trips. While we've been exploring the world, most of those blogging friends have returned home, resettled into jobs, and some have even had babies. In the last week, Jeannie from Nomadic Chick and Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic, two popular travel bloggers and super fun women, announced that they're ending their long-term travels.
Jeannie explained in her hilariously titled post, "Crazy Travel Lady Needs to Stop," that "I’ve been bulldozing alone for too long. It’s time to stop. I’m getting irritable, even slightly panicky about replenishing my savings. What saddens me the most is that I’ve lost something. The spark that first ignited my thirst for other cultures has dwindled. I want it back." Ayngelina echoed Jeannie saying, "I’m done with the constant travel. The nomadic lifestyle is not for me, I loved it for a year and a half but now traveling is becoming a chore. I miss the wonder and awe. It disappeared somewhere along the line. And I think many of you realized it before I did."
And, though not quite as dramatic because he's not ending his travels, Dave from The Longest Way Home, who has been traveling for 7+ years in search of a "home," complained recently that he was "frustratingly bored" by Southeast Asia. So, he headed to Kathmandu, the first place he ever felt truly at home, because, as he says, "I want to take up my own challenge and make a place to live. I want to throw caution to the wind and join the elements for an adventure to the edge of the world."
About a year and a half ago, Christine from Almost Fearless posted that "Eventually, Everyone Stops Traveling," referencing two other popular travel/lifestyle design bloggers who decided to quit traveling. Christine asked, "is the romance of the round-the-world trip actually burning people out on travel? . . . . I’m beginning to think the entire premise of a RTW trip is flawed. It’s as if we’ve collectively decided that if you’re going to travel, then you must cram as much actual traveling into that time as possible. Lest you miss something."
Us at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Patrick and I are doing things very differently than most long-term travelers. Because we've got Chewy and Abby with us, we move slowly. In the last five months, we've been in only five countries, renting holiday homes/apartments for two weeks (or more) at a time. We limit sightseeing to every other day at around 6 hours per day. We cook most evenings, meaning that we're not packing on calories at mediocre restaurants every night. We have our car with us which shortens most travel times. We rent places with laundry machines, WiFi, and big beds, to mimic home comforts as much as possible. Our dogs, amazingly, adapt to every environment in about 24 hours, eagerly scenting out the new places we stay in, creating as minimal disruption or annoyance to our lives as possible.
Even still, we are exhausted.
You see, we've been permanent travelers for 839 days. We move establishments every two weeks. I pick up a new language every month (while Patrick smiles and nods at my attempts to speak Spanish/French/Italian/German/you name it.) We are constantly adjusting to new climates and cultures. We find dog parks, walks, and veterinarians in every city. We work every single day at least five hours per day. (Last week, for example, we revamped our site while we were showing my parents around London.) We never know the day of the week because we never take a "weekend." And, sometimes, as Dani and Jess at Globetrotter Girls poignantly put it, we fear that we've become frighteningly forgettable as we struggle to keep up with our friends and families across the sea.
Yeah, we are exhausted.
The last four days, we've both slept over twelve hours per night. We haven't ventured outside the immediate proximity of our apartment since the new year began. We've been ordering in Indian takeaway. We've been pretending that London doesn't exist, though we haven't even been to the acclaimed National Gallery, because we don't have the energy to deal with it. Tomorrow, Patrick flies to New Orleans for a friend's bachelor party and, next week, we're both heading to Cancun for a wedding, but, in between, we're staying still. Sitting in one place. Catching up on Friends, Frasier, and The Big Bang Theory, all of which air continuously on British television.
And, I am totally okay with this.
I think five days will be enough to get our travel juices flowing again. When we come back from Mexico, we're heading to Croatia, a country that we are super excited to explore. I'm already pumped up about our two months stay in Turkey in the spring. And, have I told you that we're going to spend a month - a MONTH - in Paris, that heavenly land of cheese and chocolate?
I still love traveling. I love the excitement of waking up somewhere else, of being somewhere new, of finding those unmissable firsts. But, will I still be excited in another eight months? Lately, we've found ourselves starting sentences with these words, "When we settle down, I want to . . . . " Is the end coming for us as it has come for so many of our traveling friends? And, if it comes, then what? What do you do when you finish a dream? How do we even begin to plan to move on from our current state of now, now, now?
Denise from The Art of Slow Travel --- who practices ultimate slow travel, often spending months or even years in a place --- explained that "slow travel is about understanding that the world is big and varied enough to make travelling a life-long endeavour." That's it, exactly. We want this to be a life-long endeavour. We don't want to get burnt out or bored, and we don't want to be exhausted, either.
This isn't a round-the-world trip anymore. It's definitely not a vacation. This is our lifestyle. Our nomadic lifestyle. And, I don't know how this story's going to end.