Living in the “In-Between”

photo-3The news of our long-term travel adventure has been out publicly for a few weeks now, and we have 2 weeks left before we rent a U-Haul truck and load it, drive our remaining stuff (that we don’t sell or give away) to a family member’s house in Fresno to store it, deep clean our house in Sacramento and hand the keys over to our landlord, and drive off into the sunset [okay, that last part is a romanticized vision; the reality is that we’ll feel a bit sad to leave our home and close this chapter in our lives — living comfortably in our dual-income household, in the midst of walkable and charming Midtown, while working full-time (for me, in human resources, and for Aaron, in public policy) and running my fitness business on the side— but also excited that the day we depart for our nomadic journey of long-term travel has finally arrived after much planning, preparation, and anticipation]!

I’ve been commenting lately that I feel like we’ve been “living in the in-between” over the past few weeks. What I mean by that is we have made some MAJOR, IRREVERSIBLE life decisions that we’ve communicated (i.e. to our landlord and our bosses); the next tenant (or tenants, we don’t know) moves into our house on August 15th, my replacement at work has been identified, and Aaron’s team at work is putting together a game plan to divvy up his responsibilities until a new Analyst comes into the picture. However, although these BIG decisions have been made and we’ve been discussing our upcoming travel plans with pretty much everyone we come into contact with at this point, very little about our day-to-day lives has actually changed yet, as we’re still working in our jobs and living in our house (although, while spending pretty much all of our free time listening to travel podcasts, researching information, “practice packing” and checking items off of our packing lists, taking care of the logistics that make it possible to leave our lives as we know them, meeting up with friends and family for the last time we’ll physically spend time with them for a period of time, selling our stuff on Craigslist or giving it away to friends and family, etc). There are moments where I’m ready for it to just happen, and there are others where I mindfully try to soak up as much as I can in the hyperaware moments I have in the life I’m living today while I’m still in the midst of it; I know that in a very short period of time, things are going to abruptly change and it will be time for me to start adapting to our new lifestyle on the road, which is going to be amazing, but will also bring its own challenges that I promise to rawly share with you along the way.

Overall, we’ve received a supportive response of excitement and curiosity about our decision, which has been so nice to experience. However, 

I worry that some people look at us, upon hearing the news, and pass judgement and/or make assumptions inaccurately (this is the part of me that innately cares what other people think, which I’m actively working on shedding myself of this as much as possible as I embrace our new lifestyle), so I feel compelled to share more details about what we’re actually doing to proactively clear up any potential misconceptions (which are about to follow). We must be rich, right, because how else could we afford to do this? It must be nice to be able to “vacation” indefinitely and leave life in the office for life on the beach with a cocktail in hand every day, because that’s what we’ll be doing, right? Or we must be modern hippies, leaving steady income and a comfortable life to live out of backpacks, not having our whole entire trip mapped out precisely before we leave. We must be crazy. The reality is that while we are fortunate and grateful to have this opportunity, we are uniquely positioned for it. We don’t own a home, we don’t have kids, we don’t have pets, we aren’t in debt. We live a modest lifestyle where we live below our means and prioritize experiences over material things [i.e. you won’t find us purchasing the latest technological gadgets (have you seen Aaron’s flip phone or my outdated iPhone4 I’ve had since 2012 that Apple barely supports anymore?), expensive brand name items, or new cars (in fact, we both drive vehicles that are about 10 years old and functional, far from luxurious)]. We’ve been saving for the sake of saving for a long time and regularly stay apprised of our spending habits, adjusting as necessary to meet our overall savings goal, not just for this long-term travel experience, but for living our lives when we return. We spent a small amount (compared to what most in the U.S. spend) on our intimate wedding and honeymoon a couple of years ago, and about half of the total was “reimbursed” through gifts from friends and family (whereas most couples budget the equivalent to, or more than, a down payment on a house). And when you take away your household and other services bills and consider what you actually need to live on a day-to-day basis, in many countries where the cost of living is a small fraction of what it is to live in the U.S., you realize how doable a long-term travel experience like this really is. Couple that with engaging in some volunteer and work exchange opportunities periodically, where room and board is significantly discounted, if not fully provided, for your services, and discovering “travel hacks” to find cheap, or free, transportation and accommodation deals (more on this in later posts), and you’ve got yourself a year-long (ish), one-in-a-lifetime travel journey of living abroad (key word, living, not vacationing) to embark upon! (Well, then there’s the whole part about being willing to give up the comforts of your daily life, like work, your home, your friends and family, your stuff, etc… But, it’s possible if you’re open to that or can work towards being open to that over time). For me, I’m embracing this experience of letting go of our physical “stuff” that can weigh us down/ground us in one place as a freeing experience; I’m lightening my load physically to open myself up to non-tangible, social and emotional experiences that await me, which I believe will impact my life in a profound and lasting way. It also feels good to give away physical items we’ve enjoyed to others, especially friends and family, so that they can enjoy them now, too.

Well, I’m off to live in the moment by soaking up one of my last workouts in the comfort of my living room!

Until next time,
Elena 🙂