Karen reflects on the World Tour, after four months on the road.
It was a simple enough question. Our friend Marilyn asked via email, “Is your trip everything you thought it would be? Or is it still too early to tell?” She was surprised at Ken’s not-so-simple answer. Shocked, in fact.
While it generally doesn’t show up in the blog posts and videos, sometimes this trip has been a challenge. A royal bitch, actually.
Imagine selling pretty much everything you own, leaving all your comforts behind and throwing yourself into a very different culture. Sounds romantic, right? Most everyone was envious of our choice. We thought it was a fantastic idea. It was interesting to see how quickly that thinking started to change.
We left the U.S. in a flurry of activity, still feeling stress from all the last-minute preparations. (Remember, our house had yet to sell.) We toured Japan. While our head colds and the high humidity were a challenge, we were having a pretty good time there. Everything in Japan was fairly clean, easy and efficient. It felt like all the other 2-3 week vacations we had taken in the past. Except this time, we were not going home. We often found ourselves saying, “Oh my God, we are really on the world tour!”
Attitudes starting taking a turn in Australia. Hostels got dirty, activities were getting expensive, our travel styles were in conflict, tensions were flaring up. Being with the same person, 24/7, even if it’s your spouse, can be exhausting. Constantly planning our next move could be overwhelming. Paying for a flight we never used sucked. Squabbles here, some tears there. New Zealand lightened the load a little bit, with the locals’ laid-back approach to life. Wait, there was the damaged rental car. Oh, we left that off the blog? Yes, we did. More planning, more packing, more bad hostels. Are you seeing the pattern here?
The major thing we find lacking on our world tour is our support system. At home, we had our own spots in the house for some refuge. Most hotel rooms we stay in don’t even have a closet. At home, we had friends to call upon or hang with when we needed a hand or a break from each other. On the road we make and keep friends in 1-2 hour increments. We’ve had some delightful hosts and are so grateful to them. Travel is the most fun at those times. And then we move on.
We realized that we need our friends and family much more than we expected. Then a funny thing happened. Some friends stopped emailing, many staying out of contact. Even requests for email updates went unacknowledged. Hmmm, what was happening? Marilyn summed up the feelings we heard from several people: “We don’t want to send you bothersome emails that slow you down, that take you away from the adventure” and “Nothing’s going on back here that’s noteworthy”. Some friends thought that we were looking to change our lives drastically and did not want to hear from them back home. We weren’t fulfilling each others’ needs, and our friends were checking out on us. We were feeling a little disconnected and empty. For me, the excitement of seeing new things was waning. More squabbles, more tears.
In Malaysia, we have finally had some time to slow down and talk things out. We realize that our current style of travel may not work for another year on the road. We have money considerations, pace of travel decisions and me missing my 80-year-old pop much more than expected. Perhaps a flight to Las Vegas, where he is snowbirding this year?
So Marilyn, our trip is not quite what we thought it would be. Life rarely is. Setting up expectations is dangerous, as they are surely going to tumble down. We have new opportunities to explore and there’s no better time than New Year’s to take a fresh look at our plans. Just like many of our friends and family back home, we will be looking into the future and setting new goals.
Next Stop: World? You betcha! Stay tuned for our next move. Thank you all for your support.