Christopher and I have been together for nine years. Once we got out of our poor college student/recent graduate stage and accumulated a little bit of savings, we decided to take our first trip out of the country together. I had visited several countries before meeting Christopher (Germany, France, Africa & the Bahamas) and had already fallen in love with travelling. It was his first time out of the country and he was a little more reserved than I, so we agreed on an English speaking country for our first international trip. That trip ended up being a two-week tour of Ireland where we rented a tiny car, learned how to drive on the other side of the road, and explored as many of the wonderful little towns, castles, and landscapes that we could during our time there.
It was absolutely magical.
On that trip we realized that we make excellent travel companions and became addicted to the sense of wonder and adventure that comes from exploring an unfamiliar place. It was there that we decided to work as hard as we could to travel to one new place every year.
That is how our travel story began.
After Ireland, we did a self-planned tour of Europe, which included Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. We were engaged in Paris, had a travel themed wedding in Virginia, and honeymooned in Thailand during the Loi Krathong & Yi Peng Lantern Festival. In 2016, we travelled to Costa Rica, where we saw a volcano, the Pacific Ocean, and a rainforest all for the first time.
While we love travelling, we also really enjoy the planning. We would spend all year planning for a trip that spanned two weeks and we would plan out everything in explicit detail. Flights, hotel addresses and details, bus routes and timetables, things to do, where we were eating meals, the best bars, tipping etiquette, how to hail a taxi, basic language phrases, currency exchange rates, EVERYTHING. Some would argue that it was because of my OCD tendencies, but it really was because we enjoyed the planning almost as much as we enjoyed the trip itself. Perhaps it was our way of making our trip last all year instead of only two weeks.
We would have beers at Dogfish and make lists of all the places we wanted to travel. We watched animal shows and travel documentaries every Saturday morning (like children watch cartoons) and add to our list. We had impromptu lists in notebooks, on napkins, in Google Docs, and in organization apps on our iPhones. It was always evolving — as we became more adventurous travelers, as world events made places more or less safe, or when a trusted travel friend said “you HAVE to go here”.
We always joked about quitting our jobs to travel. After a rough day at work I would come home and ask through tears, “Why can’t we just quit and travel the world?” One evening, during a particularly challenging period in my career, I came home and asked my rhetorical “Why am I doing this? I wish I could just quit and we travel the world.” Instead of quietly petting my hair until I pulled myself together like usual, Christopher looked me straight in the eye and said “Why not? What is stopping us?” I will never forget that moment. That is the moment where our dream, that dream that you always talk about in the tone of a joke about because you don’t ever expect it to come true, became a seed of reality.
Our whole perspective changed after that conversation. We stopped buying unnecessary things and became obsessed with saving. We still weren’t sure if we actually had the guts to do it, but working towards a goal gave us something to look forward to. We had conversations about how our family might react, imagined the difficult conversation with employers, and discussed personal goals we’d like to accomplish during the trip. We researched ways to save more money, health insurance, vaccinations, what kind of luggage would be best, things we absolutely had to do, etc. We sold items we no longer needed on Craigslist. Things got really serious when I posted my beloved purses on eBay.
We waited to tell our friends and family about two months before we left. Looking back, we probably should have told everyone sooner, but we were so worried about telling everyone too early and then not being able take the trip for whatever reason. We figured it would be easier just to wait until we knew for sure, and when that happened everything seemed to happen all at once.
Reactions were mixed. Most people were super happy for us, a few asked us if we were having a mid-life crisis. Some people cried, some asked if they could join us somewhere, and some didn’t realize what we had told them until ten minutes later (my grandmother). Friends and family went out of their way to catch up for dinners, meet for happy hours and send us kind messages before we left. We hope that those people know how much those gestures meant to us. We have never felt so loved.
We left at 5am on October 31st, 2016. Once we placed our backpacks in the trunk and I closed the door of the Uber, the last few months of planning, packing, moving, and goodbyes hit me all at once. I cried from our friend’s driveway until we arrived at Dulles Airport. Thankfully it was dark and I am a quiet crier when I want to be, so it didn’t hurt my Uber rating.
Before we left the US, I posted an update on Facebook that we were leaving with full hearts, open minds, and only what we could fit on our backs. It is the best description for what I felt as I left, it still holds true now after two months on the road. I wake up some days with an overwhelming sense of gratitude that we are blessed enough to take this adventure and that our incredibly supportive family and friends go out of their way to keep in touch. As for being open minded, Christopher and I work every day to learn as much as we can about the places we are visiting and people who live there. Sometimes it is easy, and other times it is more difficult, especially when you are in a place that has an uncomfortable history or couldn’t be bothered with tourists. We have learned to listen, show empathy where appropriate, and be conscious and kind visitors in every way we can.
We are thankful that you’ve decided to follow us on our journey, and hope you continue to check in as we update this site with our adventures. Please sign up for our e-mail list, which will shoot out an e-mail each time we add a new post!
Love from Australia,
Cathleen & Christopher