Is It Time to Stop?

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 long had a consistently simple answer for that question.

“No.”

Dave house

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.

Running Dave

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.

London bridge

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.

Alpaca

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.

Car on the road to Mount Cook

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?

 

Stop image via Lucas Cobb, alpaca via cjarmk

46 Responses to “Is It Time to Stop?

  • I love it!! And funny enough, I can so relate. After many years of preparing to become location independent, I finally sold my apartment a year ago and did a camping road trip to mexico, hiked the 500km Lycian Way in Turkey and drove to the east coast of Canada/US for the first time… all while working on the road on my business that I love. It was all spectacular. Then I adopted a new dog while on this road trip. And my priorities changed, or I changed. I had been researching Tiny Houses for about five years and wham bam, I now find myself the new owner of a 1/2 acre parcel of serviced land on an island, a 90 minute ferry from Vancouver. Right now, home is a 26 foot trailer but I will build myself a tiny cabin eventually (or not, the travel trailer is awesome for now!). I love how this has become my base, (on a freakin’ island!), and still allows huge opportunities for travel since I’m still mortgage free and continue to have a location independent business. Oh my… live. is. good.
    I love your blog stories and how open you are to flexibility and willingness to change and I look forward to continuing to read about your adventures. Thank you for sharing!

    • Your plans sound amazing! One thing that really interests me about our tiny house plans is how much we actually do end up moving it around after it’s built. If we happen to find a place that we absolutely fall in love with, there’s always the option of buying or long-term leasing a bit of land there and hooking up to the grid. I guess the beauty of doing is that is it still doesn’t mean we couldn’t move the house now and then, then return to our patch of dirt when we’re done. Ahhh, flexibility!

  • Stoked for you guys – looks like I’m heading that way next year to do something pretty similar too – nomadic neighbours?! hahahaha!

  • Oh I LOVE the tiny house thing! Good on ya! We’re in London now and absolutely loving it after almost 7 years away. We’re having 7 months here to fully soak it up, then back on the road, India mostly, then check in on our house in Australia, then, who knows? I’ve always wanted an alpacca, but an alpaca is for life, not just for Christmas. I don’t think I could face being tied down again, ever. I’ll be watching with interest and good luck to you. Isn’t life great!

  • I feel like this is the perfect plan for you guys–although not going to lie, I was more excited when I read the sentence about AirBnB and thought you were moving to Portland! Granted, can’t wait to see all the surprises life might throw at you in the meantime 😉

    • Heh, you know that if visas weren’t such a hassle, we’d totally be going for a tiny house in Portland! And yeah, I suspect there’ll be plenty of adventures to come before 2016!

  • I think like any adventure in life, your future is shifting and adapting. There is something SO GREAT about having a space that’s *yours*, no matter how long you spend away from it (and having it portable – that’s pretty much the dream amiright?). I’m so excited for this for you guys and I can’t wait to read about it. And I’m kind of just a little thrilled you’ll be around Europe next year…

  • I think it’s a great idea. Some sense of comfort, of ownership, of amenity, of close connection with relatives is hardly a sin. There’s nothing lost if and when you feel it’s in your best interest to pack it all up and globetrot again. Life can be cyclical like that. If not, then it’ll be be one of your best life decisions.

    I’m guessing the alpaca is the must-have in the equation. How else are you going to get your mornings kickstarted?

    • As you say, there’s nothing to lose by giving it a go. Worst case, I’m sure we’d get back what we paid to build the place if we decided to sell it.

      And yes, who needs coffee to get you going in the morning when you’ve got an alpaca peering through your window??

  • I’m looking forward to seeing how the plans develop. The idea of having a “home base” has been on my mind, as well, even if I’m going to continue traveling. Not sold on where yet, but there is definitely something to be said for having a place you can retreat to when you need something familiar for a while. Coincidentally, Portland is on my list of choices.

    • Portland really is so great — I think it appeals to me for many of the reasons that parts of New Zealand do, just with an amazing food scene to go with it. If the visa situation was different for us in the US, it would have been a much harder decision about where to do the tiny house thing.

  • You probably feel similar to the way I do… Just the solution is different. I’m still happy to live in asia although I do have a base to come back to at any time. And this time I’m staying put for 2 full months for the first time in over 2 years… That’s nice. One thing I have noticed is that while it’s great to visit Australian & NZ, it’s just so damn far from everywhere that it makes travelling to/from an absolute misery. That would be my biggest worry.

    That said, I’m sick of where I’m living in Indonesia at the moment because of traffic. Thought that Penang might be a good base.

    • Yeah, getting a place in SE Asia is something we’ve talked about quite a bit too — cost of living and being roughly halfway between my family and Lauren’s make it quite appealing. Visas have been the sticking point — there’s no visa that would really suit that situation in (eg) Thailand for us, and it’s hard/impossible to own your own place as a foreigner too. None of that is insurmountable, of course, since we could rent a place long term for not a lot of money and only stay in it for a few months of the year. Definitely still an option, especially if we decided not to go ahead with the NZ thing.

      Totally agree about NZ/Aus being so damn far from anywhere — that’s another reason why we’re much more inclined to spend 3-6 months there at a time, then travel or live elsewhere for the rest of the year, rather than dealing with longhaul flights all the time.

  • I think you know how I feel about tiny houses, so suffice it to say I am super excited about your future plans!!!!

  • I would love to build a tiny house myself, who wants a massive mortgage when you can own a tiny house! I definitely see myself back in NZ one day and would like to live somewhere smaller with Napier, Waiheke Island and Wanaka being at the top of my list. Unfortunately my boyfriend has an Office job which means we would need to be near the city, but as it isn’t a corporate job we could look at smaller cities and commutes which is great. I think having a base but still being able to travel a large part of the year is getting the best of both worlds. I work short term contracts then travel in between, as well as taking shorter vacations while I am working, and find that lifestyle works well for me as I like having somewhere to call home and semi put down roots. I also like having a regular paycheck when I am working. I am excited for you and Lauren, it sounds like it’s going to be great!

    • It’s interesting — after growing up in Ashburton, I never had much interest at all in living in smaller towns in what already felt like a small country. I narrowed it down to Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch — Auckland didn’t appeal and Wellington’s weather is far from great, so with friends and family nearby I sort of ended up in Chch by default every time I moved back.

      It wasn’t until our long road trip last year that I thought ‘you know, some of these small places are actually pretty damn great’, and realised that if I wasn’t tied to a permanent corporate job, I could totally live in them for a few months at a time. Whether I picked up short term work would depend on whether I could earn enough from online endeavours, but I wouldn’t mind anywhere near as much if I was doing it with an end-date in mind.

      • I was never interested in the smaller towns either when I was younger, I think perhaps it is something you appreciate more as you get older. Being close to nature is very high on my list these days too. We are hopingfor our small house to be at treehouse. It will still be a few years till we buy land and build though, I need to get Sydney then Vancouver out of my system first but hoping to be back living in NZ in 8-10 years – I know, ages!

        • Yeah, being close to nature has definitely become more important to me over the last few years. I think for me, if I move back to New Zealand for any length of time, I want to be able to enjoy the things that really make the country special — and for me that’s the outdoors. While there’s nothing particularly wrong with Kiwi cities (especially Wellington, which has a great cultural thing going on), they aren’t what appeals most about NZ. When I want city life for a while (and I know I will), I’ll do that elsewhere in the world.

  • Even though I don’t travel constantly, just being an expat in a foreign country where the lifestyle is so very different from my previous makes me long for things I miss, like a real kitchen, or being able to read a language, or even the simple pleasure of holding a remote control in my hand and flipping mindlessly through television stations. I think it is important to know what you don’t want to go back to, but even better to know what it is you want. I am excited for this next chapter for you two, and look forward to taking selfies with the alpaca. 😉

    • Prepare for an Instagram feed full of alpacas! Totally hear you on the simple pleasures — well, everything except the TV. I don’t miss that anywhere in the world. 😉

  • Hmmm this is a funny one. I always thought I would never settle, but since living in Pakistan, I’ve found my feet are much less itchy than before. I could see my life here forever actually… but the reality of my personal situation means that will never happen. So I wonder if I feel that way because I can’t actually have it? Hmmmm!

  • I pretty much traveled nonstop for about 6 years. It was an amazing experience, but there was a certain point where I realized that although I wanted to keep travel as a part of my life, I wanted to have the comforts you mentioned.

    I still travel a couple months out of the year, but it’s for educational tours/research projects/my own company/a small vacation or two. I’ve realized that travel took on a new meaning when I could use it to fit into a new phase of my life. It’s also nice to have a house to come back to (which is easily kept in Chiang Mai). Also, being an expat is a great compromise. Living in Thailand with the cheapness of Air Asia, travel can happen all the time (we just picked up a ridiculously cheap flight to Bali). Though, sometimes I miss the awesomeness of Chicago, well, the summer at least!

  • Just discovered your blog. This is a great story travel as long as you can to be free. Definitely understand about staying in one place and building some foundation though to make the place seem like it’s home. Best of luck to you guys and can’t wait to hear more about the journey.

  • A true adventurer at heart!

  • sounds like you have things pretty sorted! NZ is so amazing its certainly a good choice. There is always more to be explored and exploring places in greater detail is always a good choice when you need a bit of a break or something more stable (little more stable)

    The first paragraph totally grabbed me though – its so funny how we always want to look into the future

  • Every time I’ve tried to settle down and leave my traveling ways behind me, the itch to leave builds up within 8-12 months of putting down stakes. I’d love to have a home base someday, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give up indefinite travel on a absolute basis.

    • Yeah, totally hear you on that — I tried so many times to put down roots in Australia and New Zealand, over the course of about a decade, and I just couldn’t do it for any length of time. The longest I managed it was 2.5 years, and even then, I was planning my exit strategy for at least a year of that time. 😉 It’ll be great to have a base, but I just don’t see myself staying there for more than 3-6 months of the year.

  • Great story just started following your blog. I’m excited that you guys are doing and living the life that you’re wanting to live. Look forward to seeing future posts.

  • Having lived in Perth WA for 45 years, I can relate to the distance. But I can’t imagine swapping a Perth sunset and a BBQ on the beach for an office life in London, New York or anywhere else for that matter. A move to Wanaka or Stewart Island does however appeal, but without the climate!

  • Heh, yep. Stewart Island, no way. Wanaka isn’t anywhere near as bad climate-wise, especially if we’re only planning to be there in summer… it’s actually one of the places that’s right up the top of the location list.

  • I’m a little late to read this one but I wanted to chime in and share my fascination with tiny houses. I think your plan is such a good idea. I met a woman in Oregon back in 2012 who was in the process of building one. I wish I kept her email because I’d love to hear how it’s working out for her.

    Do you have any good tiny house resources that you’d like to share? I know I can do a little research on Google and find tons of stuff but I’m wondering if you’ve found any gems on the web.

    • Oh man, I seem to spend half my life on tiny house sites at the moment. Much of it is the inspiration and ideas side of things at the moment — tinyhouseswoon.com is pretty great for that. Join the ‘Tiny House People’ Facebook group, and maybe check out Tiny House Build for the design that’s most appealing to us so far. There are many, MANY more though. 😉

  • Alex Heffron
    3 years ago

    Your plans sound very exciting! I saw the Tiny House being displayed at WDS this year – loved the look of it and something I am def tempted by it. I love the idea of getting one in the Welsh countryside (my homeland) and living there for the summer and renting it out the rest of the year or travelling around the UK with it… Or if we could find a way to make that work in Canada – never been there but reckon I’d fall in love with Vancouver/BC pretty quick!

    I started heading down the path of house, car and too many ikea candles – but have thankfully averted its disastrous (for me) end point! My girlfriend and I are embarking on a 6-month (currently – who knows whether we’ll be ready to come ‘home’ then though…) South American adventure in 2 weeks time – I’ve been very much inspired by yourself so thanks for helping me get to this place!

    My ideal in the future would be to split my time between a a base for 3-6 months of the year and travelling the rest. Not quite sure how to make that happen yet, but sure I can find a way.

    Excited to see your plans develop and have a great time in Myanmar!

    • It’s amazing how many people I meet these days who are right into tiny houses. I think it’s an idea whose time has come, especially for those of us who aren’t particularly attached to ‘stuff’ or the idea of staying in any one place for too long. The whole “base + travel” thing is super appealing to me, especially if it’s a base that can provide a bit of extra income when I’m not there (without having to service a big mortgage to do it, obviously).

      Glad I could help with the inspiration! Enjoy your trip (as if there’s any other option… ;-))

  • Live life at your own pace … never let well-intentioned people or marketing campaigns dictate your life … have a wonderful 2015!

  • 7 continents before I’m 40 is my plan … wish me luck and keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Did the idea of small house pan out for you? I have been mulling over it since last two but didn’t finally act on it. Was wondering how is it going for you? The idea of renting it out when you are not around is also nice.

    • As I mentioned in the post, anything we do with a tiny house wouldn’t be until next year at the earliest. At the moment, I don’t know — the idea of owning a tiny house in NZ is super-appealing, but the idea of actually building one there? Not so much. It’s a very under-developed market, which means you’re doing a lot of things pretty much from scratch rather than being able to buy them off the shelf like you could in in the US — and there are some pretty limiting rules about the weight and size of what you can tow on a standard car license, which becomes quite an issue when you’re trying to put a house on a trailer!

      So, we’ll see. It may not be in NZ, it may not be a tiny house on wheels, who knows… but having a small place to call my own somewhere in the world for a few months of the year is still the dream. I just don’t quite know the exact form that dream will take yet. 🙂

      • If you are interested – my Dad sent me the link to this Tiny House blog of a guy building his in Auckland http://www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com/

        • Yeah, I’ve been following that couple for a while. Their adventure is partially what’s shown me the challenge involved in building a tiny house in NZ, especially anywhere outside Auckland (I wouldn’t be basing myself there). They’re also getting some sponsorship, I think, which has to be making the process a little easier than it otherwise would be. I love what they’re doing, I’m just not sure I’m up for quite the same amount of challenge. 🙂

  • Love it! The hubby and I are considering building a container home make it bigger than we need then rent out the extra space on Airbnb for extra income. Personally, I could travel endlessly around the world – the idea of being out there is truly intoxicating. We had a taste in 2010/2011 (China/Southeast Asia) but were forced to return to the US due to belly up investments. 😐 We are recharging the batteries and planning our next epic adventure (hopefully this one won’t be cut short).

    Love the post!

  • Wow! Thank you for sharing so much with us! Love the idea of a tiny home. I just saw a documentary about the concept and it seems to be really liberating, wasn’t sure whether it was possible to drive long distances with the tiny house but would sure love to read about your experience!

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