My wife chanted this mantra to me repeatedly over the last five years. It was the only way to get me to let go of fears that continually crept back into my logic-focused brain each day. The only way to keep me from completely losing it with the thoughts of what we were trying to do. Some days it worked, but many it didn’t.
We had convinced ourselves that we would change our lives as we knew them. We would change our spending habits, our location and our lifestyles; all with the intent of freeing ourselves to go explore the world. To get lost in order to truly find ourselves. And this mantra was the only thing that seemed to keep us on task.
Our goal was straightforward, but grueling. Save every dime and pay off debt, one loan at a time. Make the tough daily decisions in exchange for a longterm goal that we hoped would be greater than the sum of the parts. Each new loan payoff came with a faster growing savings towards the next. Simultaneously we were downsizing, renting out our home and moving into smaller and smaller places- each time purging the items that wouldn’t fit in the next space.
Pretty soon we were paying off equity lines, we were getting our lives back on track and retaking control. As we grew closer to our goal the light became visible from the other end of the tunnel. It appeared that we could actually make it happen, and we worked even harder. There were certainly bumps in the road, there were disasters and there were doubts. After nearly backing out after a large hurdle, we set a date and committed to each other to keep it.
When that date arrived we did what any sensible thirtysomethings with stable jobs and good incomes would do in the worst economy of our time…we quit our jobs and walked away. We make the leap. We sold and gave away what belongings we had left (the tv, the couch and the bed), moved into our van and drove away. Away from the lives we once knew. Good and happy lives; but lives in which something just wasn’t quite right, and we decided that we owed it to ourselves to go find out what that thing was.
We have now been living on the road since July, 2012. Most of our time thus far has been spent in Mexico. Our trip is some people’s dream and others’ nightmare. We are two adults and a 69lb dog living in under 47sqft of living space with no a/c and few comforts. But what we do have is the best front yard ever. Our 67 vw kombi is our ticket to the world around us and to being able to explore new lands and meet new people; and that is exactly what we are doing.
Our time on the road has been both rewarding and exciting. We travel without guidebooks and maps. We don’t stay in campgrounds when we can help it and we don’t stick to the “recommended” path. We are delighted by the constant generosity and kindness of others and our only weapon is a smile (and it’s all we’ve ever needed). We are amazed each day at the goodness of those around us and the richness of the mexican culture. It is so poor, yet at the same time so rich and giving. Strangers stop to ask where we’re from, to welcome us to their country and ask if we are having a good time. If you make the mistake of telling someone that you like the shirt they’re wearing, they will likely take it off and give it to you. We love this country and its people.
We have no master plan and no set destination or timeline. We might drive around the globe or we might never make it out of Central America. We usually decide during our morning coffee (usually while watching the sun rise over the ocean) whether we will drive on looking for another pueblo, or to stay one more day. We feel more free than we can remember at any point in our lives, and it feels good. Impossibly good.
We aren’t from rich families, quite the contrary. We didn’t win the lottery, receive an inheritance, default on our loan or start collecting unemployment. We don’t have our retirement account fully funded nor do we have an exact answer to what we will do when that time comes. We still pay for every penny we ever borrowed, and one day we will rejoice when those loans are paid off. We aren’t doing anything that can’t be done by anyone else with a dream and a mantra.
What we did do, was decide to invest in ourselves. To break the cycle of working harder to pay for things we didn’t really need just to fill a house that it turns out we didn’t really love. We decided to actually listen to everyone who ever told us to not wait until retirement to enjoy ourselves and do what we dream of. We decided to listen to our souls and follow them to wherever they lead, and while we don’t yet know where this journey will take us, or what it will deliver to us- we know that we made the right choice, because when we wake up every morning we get to choose what’s next. What makes us happy today? Where do we want to be tomorrow? And, one day when the response is simply- home- then we know it’s time to turn around and drive the other way.
We are Bryan and Jen, and Karma the wonderdog.
We have been traveling the world in our 67 vw kombi since july of 2012. We have no real plan, only a mantra- leap and the net will appear.
We share our stories so that others might follow their dreams, just as we used to read the stories of others to help us know there was a choice to follow ours. A way to keep us from making excuses why we couldn’t; and force ourselves to simply do what we knew was right. If you have a dream that life somehow talks you out of chasing, take some time to consider the path to living that dream. It may not be easy, and it might not be tomorrow, but it will be worth it. And at some point, there will be a day where the preparation has to end and you have to take a leap. Because if it wasn’t frightening, you’d probably already be doing it.