A LOOK BACK: 2 Years of Full Time Travel

It’s hard to believe it’s been just under two years – just under two years since we packed our bags and hit off on our quest to start an online business and see some more of the world.

Although this will be published some time later, I’m writing this on July 6th from a cafe in Chiang Mai, Thailand and we’re now 723 days in, and what an experience it has been so far.

2 years of full time travel

As July 13th 2015 will mark the actual 2-year anniversary of us leaving home, we think it’s the perfect time to reflect on time gone by.

A quick reflection after 2 years of full time travel…

It’s been almost a year since I wrote this post on our choice to live an alternative lifestyle, and having read over it today, my thinking on the subject has not changed all that much.

Two years on, we still hear a lot of “Do you guys ever plan on returning to the real world?” “When are you going to come home, buy a house, get a real job and settle down?”

Questions like this used to bother me and cause me to ponder over our intentions in life and I think;

Should we really have left home on a one-way ticket?

We were young (and kind of still are!); we had no mortgage, no kids and had a desire to see the world and experience new cultures, so why shouldn’t we have left home on a one-way ticket?

Are we ‘weird’ for not wanting a flashy car, a big house and a hefty car loan and mortgage to go with them?

Simple answer is ‘no’. Of course I’d like a (red) BMW M4 and a 2 story house in the countryside but what I don’t want is to spend my days stressing about the next bill that comes through the door and having to worry about whether I can afford to keep my BMW on the road.

For now, I want the peace of mind that’s got from knowing that I’m free from bills, free from bank managers and free from the stress of knowing that I don’t owe my salary to some one for the next 20 years.

Finally, what if things don’t work out?

So fricking what if things don’t work out in the end? Who cares?! We’ll return home and maybe even settle down and get ‘proper jobs’. It’s not that big of a deal, eh?

2 years of full-time travel

It wouldn’t be the end of the world if things don’t work out when all is said and done. Regardless of what happens in the next two years or even the five after that, we cannot put a price on the experiences that we’ve had over the last two.

We’ve lived in Thailand (twice), and we’ve lived in Paraguay and Colombia. We’ve travelled the length of Vietnam on a motorbike. We’ve cycled the world’s most dangerous road. We trekked to Macchu Picchu and got chased by a dinosaur in the biggest slat flat in the world in Bolivia.

We’ve slept under the stars in Thailand, we published an e-book while in Paraguay, climbed mountains in Brazil and swam in turquoise blue waters in the islands off Cambodia. We’ve walked the white sand of beautiful beaches in Spain, we’ve eaten some chunky steaks in Argentina, had lunch with some locals in Laos, drank bottles of Merlot in Chile and we experienced the World Cup in Rio.

motorbike trip in vietnam

Motorbike trip in Vietnam

In the last two weeks alone, we’ve visited what used to be one of the oldest and richest towns in the whole world. India has hit us both with a serious dose of culture shock and we’re settling into what is shaping up to be one hell of a 3 month adventure across India.

I wouldn’t have got to do all of that while sitting behind a desk in an office.

It’s not all plain sailing…

BUT – and there’s almost always a but – as the age-old saying goes, travelling full-time is not all rainbows and butterflies.

Of course we miss our families and friends. We miss our dogs. We miss the comforts of home. We miss routine. I miss mashed potatoes and gravy.

Over the past two years, we’ve slept in a brothel in Paraguay, we capsized in a canoe in Laos and nearly lost all our camera gear, we’ve been robbed in Ecuador and our legs almost seized up on a 24 hour bus journey in Argentina. We’ve had 2 motor bike crashes in Vietnam, we’ve been scared, we’ve been lonely, we’ve been sick, we went 4 days without a proper meal and we’ve been scammed more times than we care to remember.

None of these experiences or feelings was particularly fun at the time of happening, but looking back, every single one of them has had purpose and when combined with the all of the good above, that’s the real adventure and those are the stories we’ll have to tell the grandkids.

Travelling to 39 countries wasn’t always on my agenda and living out of a backpack wasn’t something that I dreamt of as a young girl.

But, as a 29-year old who has done both of those things, I can now say that making the decision to fill that backpack and hit the open road was (and always will be) one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made in my life.

I guess one of the big reasons why is because – as cliché as this sounds – travelling has taught me so much about myself and about other people too.

Going back…

As a 20 year old who had done very little travelling, I thought that I had to get along with everyone. I thought I had to go to great lengths to ‘pretend’ to like someone – even if I didn’t. What’s worse is I thought that everyone had to like me and by this I mean, I thought that I had to fit in even if I didn’t.

Travelling, and getting that little bit older (and I guess wiser), has taught me that I don’t need to like every person that I meet and they don’t need to like me either.

And what’s more is it’s ok not to like everyone and it’s ok for people not to like me too.

full time travel around the world

One of the best things about travel is meeting other interesting people around the world

We all like to feel appreciated, liked and accepted – that’s only natural. But it’s when these desires to feel this way get in the way of who we are that causes problems and can very easily cause a person to doubt themselves and become nothing more than a people-pleaser, which in a way I kind of became.

Should we need to excessively worry about how people perceive us?

Should a person need to change their personality just to receive validation from other people?

Definitely not.

I’ve learnt that if someone doesn’t like you or I, it’s no reflection on him or her as a person (or on us for that matter). It’s just the way of the world – we’re all unique and wouldn’t the world be a very boring place if we all had the same interests, values and personalities?

I certainly think so.

Trying to fit in and be ‘liked’ is draining and what is the point of it all if you’re not being the real you with all of your little imperfections? The show can’t go on forever and you’re going to have to forget them false pretences some day and just be yourself.

If that’s the case – and I’ve come to realise that it is the case – just think of all that wasted time. As I’m currently fast-tracking towards the big 3-0, I now realise more than ever before how that wasted time is valuable time that shouldn’t be spent worrying about if people like me and if I fit in.

When we first started travelling we made a huge effort with everyone that we met – even if we had nothing in common with a person and every sentence that was spoken between us was somewhat forced as nothing flowed naturally. A prime example of this was our safari in Africa.

Let me tell you about it…

We met a girl called Michelle in our hostel in Tanzania. She was loud, very opinionated and she was a very bad listener. She never seemed interested in what we (or anyone else) had to say and we didn’t particularly enjoy her company BUT…she was travelling alone and had no one to go on safari with so we let her come on our once in a life time 3-day safari with us of course.

What followed was 3 days of Carlo, Michelle, our private guide and driver and I exploring some of the most spectacular landscape scenery and wildlife that the world has to offer. But, those 3 days also largely consisted of her giving out about seeing too many elephants and not seeing any pink flamingos.

The very thought of hearing “I want to see some pink flamingos and I want to see them now” still makes my blood boil slightly.

On reflection, would we let that happen today? HELL NO!

My point with all of this rambling is that our travelling (especially over the last two years) has taught us that our time is precious and we want to spend it with people that we like, people that we connect with, and people that will add to our experiences rather than detract from them.

Had this 29 year old met another Michelle today in a similar situation, there would be no safari, no compromises and no feelings of sympathy. In its place would be a smile and a simple “I’m really sorry, but this is something that we’d like to experience together – just the two of us.’

Sounds reasonable without being rude? I think so.

This very same principle can be applied to everyday life.

Feel like you HAVE to go out to dinner even though you know the company will drag you down?

Feel like you HAVE to pick up the phone and call someone even though you know the whole conversation will be based on his or her life dramas with no interest in what’s going on in yours?

Feel like you HAVE to go over and say ‘hi’ to your nosey neighbour because you’ve now made eye contact and it would be rude to just keep walking?

While there will obviously be exceptions to these situations, especially if you’re in a small town and constantly surrounded by the same people, the point is that you don’t have to go out of your way to make an effort with someone that you don’t necessarily want to spend time with.

Your time is precious so spend it with people that positively add to your day and not take from it, remember?

If I had to go back and tell my 20-year-old self 2 things, it would be exactly what I’ve just talked about:

  • You’re not going to like every person you meet and likewise, every person you meet is not going to like you – and that’s OK.
  • Where possible, spend time with people that genuinely make you smile and happy. Don’t feel that you have to make the effort to get along with everyone – you don’t.

Travelling has taught me lots of little life lessons, but I feel these are the 2 that are the most important as they don’t just apply to people who choose to travel, they apply to everyone – regardless of age or circumstances.

When I say all of this, know that I’m talking about a deeper personal level and not just ignoring a person on the street because I don’t like what they’re wearing or feel that we’d have nothing in common based on first impressions.

As important as it is to spend time with people that I genuinely enjoy spending time with, it’s equally as important for me to get to know a person before making any further judgements as to whether they’re someone I’d like to get to know better.

fulltime travel

Enjoying Songkran in Chiang Mai with TheTradingTravelers.com and GettingStamped.com

And, with the passing of time and having been fortunate enough to experience so many different cultures and meet so many fascinating people on the road, I’ve also become a lot more eager, which I think is something that’s as important as understanding the above.

I’m eager to know more, eager to seek out people who are different to me and eager to understand their outlook of the world and get to know their opinions and side of the story.

Having just started out on our 3 month backpacking adventure through India, I’m excited to see what kind of lessons and realisations the next few weeks and months have in store for us.

We set off in July 2013 with an ambition to start a successful online business that would allow us to sustain a life of full-time travel.

Over the past 2 years, we’ve travelled to 14 new countries, met some lifelong friends, had some unforgettable experiences and we’ve learned so much about ourselves, other people, life in general and our eyes have been opened to a whole new world of online entrepreneurship and marketing.

Re the online business side of things, we’ve managed to carve out a full-time income from a combination of different ventures online.

This month, August 2015, we’re on course to hit our first 5 figure month so this in itself is a huge milestone for us. Sign up for our monthly income report here to see if we make it!

For some, this article may have seemed like a lot of waffle (apologies), but I think it’s important to recap from a personal point of view sometimes.

As this is a sort of ‘look back’ post, let’s finish with what has been the ultimate travel highlight for us both over the past 2 years.

Travel Highlights

For me personally, it was our Machu Picchu tour with Alpaca Expeditions. I loved everything about it and getting to trek through the Sacred Valley and experience some of the most enigmatic and beautiful ruins in the world first hand is something that I’ll look back on with a smile for years to come. Our tour guide, Ruben, had a big part to play in this and his knowledge of, and passion for, these magnificent ruins kind of rubbed off on me, which is the primary reason why this is my number 1!

full-time travel

Florence’s number 1 travel highlight was reaching Machu Picchu

For Carlo, and this will come as no surprise to those of you who know him, his travel highlight was being in Rio for the World Cup. As a lover of football and the World Cup especially, getting to experience the electric atmosphere and actually attend a game in the Maracana Stadium in Rio was a dream come true. Brazil has always been ‘the spiritual home of football’ and being in the country for the World Cup is a feeling that (as he puts it himself) will be hard bet!

world cup brazil

Carlo’s highlight was experiencing the FIFA world Cup in Brazil!

For those that are interested, we plan to do a 2 year recap business wise and share with you some of the things that we’ve learned along with some info about how you can potentially replace or supplement your income with some freelance writing so stay tuned for those posts.

A quick note to say THANK YOU to those of who that stick with us and follow our adventures – it’s great to have you along for the ride and we enjoy knowing that we’ve got company on our travels.

If you’d like to also connect with us on social media then here’s where we are posting a lot of daily updates and photos:

Snapchat – @nxtstopwhoknows
Periscope – @nxtstopwhoknows

We’d also love to hear your feedback so comment below if you have any suggestions as to places we should visit or topics we should cover more of on the blog.