It’s a natural tendency to want to know what happens next. That’s why people read horoscopes, mindlessly scroll through Facebook for hours and binge watch every episode of Friends during one inglorious rainy weekend.
Apparently, though, it’s not just Ross and Rachel’s future that interests people. In the last few months, I’ve found myself being asked a particular question much more often than before.
“Are you ever going to stop travelling?”
While six, twelve or even 24 months of wandering is somewhat acceptable, people seem to find more than that a bit strange. As my three year travel anniversary draws nearer, friends, family, taxi drivers, random strangers on the Internet have all started asking if this trip is going to end one day.
Aren’t I sick of it yet? Isn’t Lauren? Don’t we want a house? Normal jobs? Kids? 2.4 puppies and a white picket SUV?
I’ve lived much of that life already. I owned a house, once upon a time, and spent the most miserable winter of my life renovating the stupid thing. I had a cat, a fancy car, a string of regular jobs. It didn’t feel right at the time, and feels even less so now. The last 34 months have been the best of my life, without a doubt, and I can’t think of anything else that would have bought me as much happiness.
But… that doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects I miss. While I couldn’t care less about having a nice car, renting scooters in Thailand reminds me that I like having my own wheels. Rows of identikit houses in the suburbs leave me vaguely nauseated, but living in Airbnb apartments for a month makes me pine for luxuries like hot water, a coffee maker and not falling over my backpack every time I go to the bathroom.
I thrive on meeting and learning from new people around the world, yet every Skype call with my nephew reminds me he’s growing up so fast and I’m only around for a few weeks a year to see it. Drinking with friends I’ve known for a day is a wonderful experience… but drinking with friends I’ve known for a decade is even better.
While there’s very little I miss from my corporate job other than catered meeting rooms, I wouldn’t mind having a nice fat cheque hit my bank account each month. The excitement of entrepreneurship has been intoxicating, but watching my bank balance inch downwards? Not so much.
I really miss running – and being somewhere with a climate and routine that make it easy to get out on the trail. We’ve spent little time in temperate places with flat pavements over the last three years, and joining a gym to sweat it out on the treadmill is a crappy substitute. While other travellers manage to stay fit on the road, it’s something I’ve really struggled with.
So, what does all of this mean? Is there a solution, or do I just have to accept that to have some of the things that matter most to me, I need to give up the others?
To be honest, I don’t know for sure. What I do know, however, is I’ve never been one to die wondering. So, as is always the case when things aren’t quite working perfectly, it’s time to change them up a bit.
Whatever happens, though, I’m not going to stop travelling. Returning to a grey existence of cubicles, meetings and three weeks of vacation time has zero appeal. We’ll still spend a good chunk of each year on the road. Travel – and the freedom to do so whenever we like – is absolutely vital. It’s just time to try doing it a bit differently.
That change starts in December. We’re heading to London (in the depths of winter, because apparently I didn’t get enough of the cold when I lived there) to spend Christmas with Lauren’s family, and have rented a kick-ass apartment in Brixton for a month through Airbnb (PS: Here’s a $25 coupon if you’d like to do something similar.)
From there we’ll most likely head to Spain and try to find a place for six months or so. We’ll work on our language skills, eat far too much ham and be generally astonished that our house has more than one room, before travelling slowly around Europe and perhaps Asia for the rest of the year.
And then something even more exciting might happen.
Ever since we rented a tiny house in Portland last year, we’ve been in love with the idea. When we found they can be built onto a trailer and moved from place to place, that love affair became an obsession. The concept makes a lot of sense for us – we’re used to small guesthouse rooms and living out of backpacks, so even 200 square feet feels luxurious… but they’d be our 200 square feet. Complete with coffee maker for me, and pet alpaca for Lauren. One of those things might be optional.
We want to have some sort of base, but don’t want to be tied to one place. Even better, the price estimates I’ve seen to build a tiny house suggest that we could probably do so without taking out a mortgage. While dipping into savings to build the place is fine, having to pay hundreds or thousands to the bank each month is not. We’d want to make the place able to be self-contained – that means power, water and sewage – if necessary which gives us the freedom to put it anywhere we can find a flat piece of land to borrow or rent for a while.
So we’ve got the “what” sorted out. The next question is“where”.
That, surprisingly, didn’t require much debate. Lauren fell hard for New Zealand when we spent two months driving round it last year. I can obviously live there without a problem, and it shouldn’t be hard to get her a visa either. Much of my family and many of my friends live either there or Australia, meaning I should see a lot more of them than I currently do.
Even though I thought I’d never want to return to my homeland for an extended period, I’ve come around to the idea. Without being forced to live in a city due to job prospects, we could base ourselves in the best parts of the country. Doing that for a few months over summer each year, enjoying the beauty of the Kiwi outdoors? Actually, that sounds pretty good.
I know how things work, and getting set up will be easy. It’s not a cheap place to live by any stretch, but at least we could legally pick up part time jobs if necessary — and moving less means more time to build businesses as well. Renting the house out while we’re not there should also provide some income, and I’d be happier if I knew I had friends and family who could help deal with dire emergencies.
So, come 2016, we might just find ourselves building a tiny house in New Zealand. Of course, we might not as well – it’s still a long way away, there are plenty of practical issues to sort through, and we’re not always that great at sticking to plans — but if you’d told me three years ago that I’d be even considering the idea, I’d probably have laughed in your face.
Life’s a damn funny thing sometimes.
What do you think of our plans? Awesome or crazy? Would you consider doing something similar?