From the very beginning of our traveling adventure, many of our friends and followers wondered “How is John about this?” Close friends thought, and some actually said, “he’ll be back in 6 months”.
This public display of skepticism is my fault. On many occasions (more than I care to admit) you would hear me say that hiking, camping, rafting, dancing — actually doing anything that I had not done before or could possibly turn out poorly would be met with “I’d rather not — I might break a nail!”
So this post is for all of the no-sayers, including me, the people who thought they knew me or at least thought they knew how I would do “On The Road”.
After 2 & ½ years on the road (only 8 weeks in the states) staying in unfamiliar Aribnb’s and house/pet sit’s, walking in mud up to our ankles, being around Elephant, horse, and goat poop, sleeping in a few marginally comfortable beds ( some actually really uncomfortable ), and wearing the same clothes day in and day out (no starched shirts with cufflinks), I am still here, loving our new lifestyle more than ever.
We have learned so much about ourselves and each other during the past couple of years. For starters, I have been thinking a great deal about how this adventure and life in general is nothing more than a series of doors — doors we must pass through without knowing what might be on the other side. Going from High School to College is one of the doors. We do not know what is on the other side (although we think we do) but we are in a blasted hurry to go through nonetheless.
Getting our first job, marriage, having kids, changing jobs, changing jobs, changing jobs, retiring are all doors. We do not have a clue what is on the other side, good or bad, pain or pleasure, but we go through them, often without much forethought.
Our traveling adventure that began 2 and ½ years ago is one of these doors. To say I was reluctant to go through it would be a gross understatement. Change has never been my favorite sport. I was not sure what would greet us on the other side of this door. Truth be known, I had no vision for life after work. Full-time travel through house and pet sitting wasn’t even a vague consideration. From the beginning, without a shred of real, tangible supporting evidence, I was pretty certain it was not for me.
On the other hand, however, Bev was very clear in her vision and was determined to see it fulfilled. I could either participate, or not. My choice. And, she was fine either way.
Not having a vision can be good or bad. On the one hand it can be good since it is like a blank canvas upon which you get to create your future. On the other hand, it can be very bad since our reaction to every alternative can be negative. “That’s not what I envisioned”, we say. Of course it wasn’t. I had not envisioned anything but my current life without work. So, most every possibility looked bad. This was my reaction. Anything that was new, different, or would stretch me was something I had to think about. Thinking about things had always been my go-to stall tactic. It was my way of saying NO without actually mouthing the word out loud.
So far in 2019, we visited 7 countries, 25 cities, and flown over 200,000 miles. We have stayed in 14 Airbnb apartments/homes for as long as a week and as short as one night, and done 6 house and pet sits for one month each.
In total, from the beginning of our journey, we have:
visited 13 countries
cared for 36 dogs,
6 or 7 ducks,
3 fish plus a bunch in a marine aquarium in Crest and koi in Brisbane,
and 2 goats.
We have stepped through a lot of doors. So many that even I have become more comfortable with the unexpected and uncertain. It is all unexpected and uncertain. We spend a great deal of time planning (Bev way more than me) and still we are not at all clear on what is on the other side of any of these doors.
For years we used to remind clients that things are never as bad as we worry they might be or as good as we dream they could be. The same is true with our experiences going through doors.
- We were afraid we’d hate the cold, rain, and snow in England during the “Beast from the East” storm of 2018. We did but we lived through it. Despite not loving some of the weather in England, we have spent eight months there since 2017.
- We were told that traveling to Morocco, a Muslim country, was dangerous. At first, this was a big fear of mine more than Bev’s. As it turned out, we were we actually not concerned about security in Morocco at all or any other of the countries we have visited.
- We were told not to go to Naples because it is dirty and unsafe. We loved Naples and look forward to returning.
- I was sure that staying in someone else’s home/bed would bother me. Not for a moment.
- At the beginning we used house/pet sitting as fill-in when we couldn’t find, or afford, an Airbnb apartment. Now, it is the reverse. Staying in a home with pets, particularly dogs and cats, is far more comfortable and enjoyable than most Airbnb’s or hotels.
- On the subject of animals, I have never been a fan of cats. As it turned out, the cats have sought me out to get acquainted, pet, and cuddle in most of our “sit’s”. They can be distant and demanding but also way more interesting and friendly than I had previously thought. Mia, Jack, Higgins, Spot, Pretty Kitty, Chanel, Neko, Kai, Frank, Kiki, and Nagu thanks for opening my eyes, my brain, and my heart.
- We did not know whether we could afford this lifestyle. With regard to going through doors, a friend told us “You Never Know, Unless You Go”. So, we went and here are the facts. Since 2017 our savings have increased despite monthly withdrawals of several thousand dollars. That plus Social Security and rent from our home has given us plenty to afford a very comfortable life. For all this we are grateful for a very favorable economy.
- Language barriers were more of a concern at the beginning. Bev speaks and understands French pretty well and I do an ok job with Spanish and Italian. What we have found is something that we knew already; If we try to speak the local language people will appreciate the effort. Just trying, even though we may butcher the language, opens people up to also try.
Jean-Paul, the owner of the coffee shop/sports bar in Lauzun, France spoke very little English, we thought. But every day over our morning expresso we chatted up a storm, in French. We learned to say Bonjour, Bonne journée, merci, cafe s’il vous plait, combien coûte, and “un bagguet s’il vous plaît” effortlessly. And when we didn’t know a word or a phrase we asked (quel est le mot pour — what is the word for, or Comment dit-on – how do you say?). After a while Jean-Paul began speaking a little English. He was a wonderful and helpful friend.
- Bali, Vietnam, and Thailand were very different. So far away in miles, language, and culture than any place we have been thus far. It was hard to prepare. Since we visited Hoi An Vietnam during Chinese New Year, we did learn to say Happy New Year (Chúc Mừng Năm Mới). Although we mangled the greeting every time we tried to say it, people just laughed and wished us a Chúc Mừng Năm Mới as well.
For me, this part of the world seemed to be a more scary door to go through than the others. My mindset was that everything would be so, so different. In Europe you can always find someone that speaks English. I wasn’t so sure about Asia. Bali and Chiang Mai were easier because there are so many English speaking expats. But Vietnam seemed so much more of a challenge. As it turned out we really have not had a challenge in any country thus far. The challenge has all been in my head.
It is fascinating how we do this. We’ve never been through a door before yet we think we know what will be on the other side. We let what we think deter us from going through the door and experiencing the joy of what really is on the other side. The more I practice not doing this but just going through the door and experiencing the other side the more I enjoy the entire process, the less anxious I am, the less I have to stop and “think about it”.
Go through the doors, the otherside may surprise and delight you.
See you on the road,
Bev & John
Caring for two dogs, two horses, two goats, two cats, and a bunch of chickens and roosters in a small village in a foreign country can be
daunting. But, not for us. (Or should we say not for Bev.) We have done it before,
As International Trusted House Sitters we get to make new friends with all sorts of critters. The best part, however, is making new human friends.
We have rented our home and rid ourselves of most of our “collection of stuff” so we could explore the world, unencumbered. Join us as we learn how to live like locals, throughout the world, without it costing a fortune.
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