29 Jul

Dream. Save. Do.

When Jason and I were first looking to step out of our comfort zone in 2008 there was little information out there about leaving a ‘regular’ life behind to travel. Sure there were people who were doing what we wanted to do but blogging was in its infancy and we just couldn’t find them. We didn’t need much encouragement though; we found as many travel blogs as we could and devoured their archives as quickly as possible.

Turns out that Betsy and Warren were on the same path at just about the same time; figuring it out, working through their fears, and stepping into uncomfortable.  They are still out living in the world and have written an ‘action plan’ that will help anyone who wants to make a big change but feels completely overwhelmed by the thought of it.

I had a chance recently to ask Warren and Betsy some questions about their decisions, the outcomes, and their book.

1. Dream Save Do is very much a retrospective book in that you talk of what you did, how others can now learn from that and hopefully move forward without making the same mistakes you did. Did you have such a plan when you were dreaming, and saving, and doing? Or did you just stumble through it blindly, hoping for the best?

One of our best traits is enthusiasm. We’re both quick to jump in and try something new even if we don’t know how it will turn out or all the steps to make it happen. That being said, we’re both oldest children and high achievers, so we do match our actions with a bit of planning. It doesn’t always go the way we want it to, but when you make it a habit of continually moving forward you can easily recover from any wrong moves. You don’t have to be a type-A go-getter or a fearless wonder to do big things as the best indicator of success is simply the willingness to keep moving forward and figuring it out along the way. This is what we learned as we took action on this dream of ours.

2. What are the most common ‘excuses’ people give as to why they can’t achieve their dream?

Time is the biggest excuse of all. People say they don’t have enough time to devote to their dream, but the truth is that we all have the same amount of hours in a day. It’s how we choose to use them that is the differentiator. And that comes from putting yourself on your to-do list and making your dreams a priority in your life. People often use the caveat “some day” or “I’ll do that later”, but there is no guarantee of some day or later. Time is not a renewable resource. You can’t save it or make more of it. And once you realize how precious the commodity is, you’ll find it impossible not to start taking action to create the life you crave.

The second big excuse is money. People blame their lack of money for not following their dreams while spending that precious resource on things that have nothing to do with their dreams. We meet wannabe business owners who buy a new car every 2 years, or out-of-shape people who say they can’t afford a gym membership when it is absolutely free to take a walk outside every day. Money is typically an excuse, not a reason. We travel on $25,000 per year, using long-term rentals, slow travel, and house sitting as a way to make it affordable. We found an unconventional way to make our dreams of seeing the world come true. Many money concerns can be lifted by simply looking for a cheaper way to do it. You don’t have to spend what someone else did or do it the way they did. Your dream is fully customizable, you know!

Third, we’ve seen again and again people using others as an excuse. “My kids need me.” “What will he do if I go off and do that?” It’s a way to make us feel valuable to other people and take a martyr role, but it’s a false vanity. What better gift to give your kids than showing them that dreams are important? What better way to be a good partner than to satisfy your biggest dreams? We often use other people as an excuse when we’re scared to move forward — it’s easy to put it off on others.

3. I think sometimes people are scared to dream. They see you, or me, doing something adventurous and state how they ‘wish I could travel like you but I have kids/a mortgage/job’. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction to my dream rather than a studied response to what they might want to do themselves. What is your reaction to this inevitable response?

You’ve hit the nail on the head. One of the best lessons we’ve learned is that a person’s reaction to our news or decisions is more revealing of them than it is about us. It helped us let those negative reactions just roll off. But before we had time to get all high and mighty about it, we took the flip side and realized that OUR reactions to other people had more to do with our own fears and beliefs than it did them. It was a head-spinning moment when we finally learned to analyze our own reactions. Why did some people’s decisions make us uncomfortable? What was scaring us…really? Once we began analyzing our fears this way we got to the core of our fears and began to work through them. It’s never about what you think it’s about on the surface, and getting to the bottom of it will greatly help you in whatever you do in life.

4. One piece that resonated with me was the idea that you should stop seeing your dream as a full blown idea; that it’s really an infant that will grow and evolve over time. When we were first thinking about moving overseas we had in our mind that we had to take this life and recreate it there; great jobs, fabulous apartment, close friends etc. It became overwhelming and too big to manage. Somehow we made the leap and realized that we just need a job, a home, etc and that the rest would fall into place. Small steps, just open the door and put a foot in, that’s what we needed. It was an epiphany. Do you think this is a common barrier to taking the first steps to realizing a dream? How can someone over come this and make the mind shift?

To some degree we all have this faulty way of looking at the future. The college graduate imagines sitting in the corner office or driving the luxury car, not the years of working in a cubicle and driving a beater while renting a room in a house with 3 other people. The wannabe traveler focuses on the grand experience he or she will have, not the prep to get there or the inevitable days of travel that aren’t glamorous, like doing laundry or battling diarrhea on a long bus ride. We focus on the end result and gloss over the process to get there. So when we can’t immediately get to corner office or step into a perfectly organized traveling lifestyle, we think it’s impossible. We leave out all the middle steps from start to finish. Once you realize this and anticipate those middle steps, you’ll be a lot closer to getting to the finish line and enjoy the process along the way. (Let’s face it; for most of us the dream morphs as you do it, so having your eye on a “perfect finale” is a sure way to miss the great opportunities and diversions along the way).

5. I think the ‘saving’ part can be the most overwhelming. As you note it can be difficult to imagine this $10 or $20 making a dent in the $50,000 that needs to be saved. What’s the one piece of advice you would give that would have the biggest impact on someone feeling overwhelmed in this way?

Our favorite saving strategy was the Phrase to Save. We stopped thinking about our overall number because it was just too mind-numbing. Instead, we broke it down to a smaller goal. In our case, it was $100/day. This was the budget we projected for our travels, and instead of thinking about tens of thousands of dollars needed to leave, we simply focused on how to make or save $100 at a time. Every $100 saved was a day on the road. Every time we spent $100 we were giving up a day on the road. It made our goal immediate and relatable every single day, and it kept us from feeling like we were giving things up because we could immediately imagine what that $100 would give us. Anyone can do this by the day like we did or by components of their dream (for example, square footage/meters for a house you want to build/buy).

6. I remember, when I was younger, looking up to women who seemed to be living their dream (whether it be travel or something else). I admired and respected them but didn’t seem to know how to be like them. My life has evolved since then and I remember, quite recently actually, driving down the highway and suddenly realizing that I now am just like those women I looked up to. It was an amazing revelation and left me with a massive swelling of pride. Is this the case for you also? Do you think you now live the life of those that you used to look up to?

For us it has always been about freedom. Not necessarily freedom to see the world, but freedom to be who we wanted to be, to hang out with the people we liked, and to spend our days doing the things we wanted. That seemed like the ultimate dream, and today we’re living it. We still pinch ourselves a bit when we realize how perfectly this life suits us and how many of our dreams we get to experience because of it. It’s the small things every day (rising with the sun instead of an alarm clock) and the big things achieved over time that remind us we’ve “made it” in terms of personal goals. We haven’t done everything we want to do in this world – not by a long shot – but we have that confidence and experience to know that there is not much out of our reach. Achieving your dreams gives you that mindset and guarantees you’ll keep dreaming and achieving til the day you die. And we can’t think of a better way to live than that.

At its heart, Dream Save Do is about not letting roadblocks get in the way of realizing your dream. Instead it’s about planning your way through them, being realistic, and taking small steps toward that dream every single day. The steps and advice outlined in this book mirror our own experiences very closely; if they, and we, can do it then you can do it too!

Dream Save DoAuthors Warren and Betsy Talbot help people turn their life dreams into reality. After 20 years of playing by the rules, they charted their own path to achieve their dream of traveling the world. Their books include Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers. Visit www.marriedwithluggage.com for more information.

22 Jul

Monday Moment: Family Compound, Bali

Family Compound, Bali

We stopped into this family compound while on a bike tour outside of Ubud on the island of Bali.

It was raining dreadfully hard so, instead of learning about the compound and how the family all works together, we all huddled under the eavesas best we could.

This old man was sitting looking terribly amused. When I motioned to ask if I could take his picture he insisted on standing to pose.

15 Jul

It’s Time For A Road Trip!!

Road Trip

Like all things, road trips evolve as we grow older. What starts as a handful of college buddies stuffed into an old Honda Civic after a late night, Bud Light infused, dance party turns into a ‘we can still do this’ marathon driving session to a friends cottage in between work assignments, followed by the inevitable family-in-a-can journey where pee breaks are secondary to gas fill ups and every Dad gets to utter the infamous phrase: Don’t make me pull this car over!

I love the ritual of road trips.

Poring over maps marking the best route possible. Our goal? No major highways, plenty of small towns, cheesy roadside attractions, and out-of-the-way must sees. A sampling of the country beyond 4 lanes and truck stops; a chance to see the heart of a place and gather out-of-the-ordinary stories.

Not being campers means looking for the elusive ‘Vacancy’ sign at the end of each day.  Finding the perfect, Mom and Pop run, motel with cute little balconies and flower pots is like hitting the jackpot. It doesn’t always work out, of course, and we have stayed in our share of dull rooms with orange bedcovers stinking to high heaven of cigarettes and god-only-knows what else.

Music can make or break a trip. In the past, I have spent hours and hours creating the ‘perfect’ mixed tape (you know, those things we had before we had playlists). During a long ago road trip to California all songs had to reference the Golden State in some way – California Dreaming, I Left My Heart In San Francisco – or be by bands from California – The Beach Boys, Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Bangles. Our rule is always that the driver gets to choose what’s playing…so choose your road trip mates carefully…

My absolute favourite part, though, is just sitting quietly and staring out the window watching the world go by. Crossing Canada a number of years ago, we witnessed the landscape slowly evolve from lush western rainforest, to sweeping river valleys, over mountains into prairies and through the rock-tree-lake-tree-lake-rock-tree-rock pattern of the Canadian Shield. It’s this slow reveal that I enjoy so much; seeing how one part of a country is connected to another.

This week we set out on another road trip that will almost complete our cross Canada route that we started over 10 years ago. On that trip we journeyed from Victoria, BC to Ottawa, Ontario. This time we’ll start in Toronto, Ontario and reach the eastern shore in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia; not quite all the way across yet but pretty darn close!

Our goal? A wedding. An energetic east coast wedding filled with friends and family, love and laughter, music and dancing. A chance to welcome a new member into the fold and shine some light on a family that has had its share of struggles the past few years.

I’m looking forward to both our time on the road and the scent of the salty air at the end. I’m making the perfect playlist right now…

The Global Bookshelf[box border=”full”]Looking for some great road tripping inspiration? Check out The Global Bookshelf for great road trip books that will have you planning your own open road adventure in no time!

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08 Jul

Monday Moment: Kathmandu, Nepal

Marigold Strings, Kathmandu, Nepal

Much of Kathmandu is a haze of pollution, tangled wires, narrow alleyways, belching cars, aggressive touts, and overwhelming noises and smells.

This closed up shop hung with a marigold ‘torana’ offered some visual peace; a sense of calm in a city full of calamity.

01 Jul

The Pros, And Cons, Of Slow Travel

Good Morning Chiang Mai

Our favorite breakfast spot. You should go.

When we came up with our plan to live in the world at a very slow pace we were pretty sure that we were going to love being able to settle in a little more and really get under the skin of a place.

Our first stop, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, proved that we are, indeed, on the right track. We loved being able to live in an apartment in a regular neighborhood, find our favorite restaurants, and generally live a regular life in a non-regular place.

We definitely found that there were many pros to slow travel but, interestingly, we also found that there are some downsides.

PROS Of Slow Travel

One of the main benefits of slow travel is that accommodation gets cheaper as you amortize it over months rather than days. Finding short term, furnished, apartments was super easy in Chiang Mai and the longer the stay the cheaper the monthly rent was. I’m not sure if it will be that easy to find a place every where we go but I suspect that if there is an expat community there will be some kind of short term accommodation options available. I’ll let you know when we get to Mexico (yep, that’s a hint…not sure when yet but Mexico keeps coming up in conversation).

Having an apartment means that we can eat at home much more often. We didn’t have a full kitchen this time (although it’s definitely on the criteria list for next time) but we were still able to make coffee, have a light breakfast, bring in take out, and have a cocktail at home. This definitely makes life not only easier (I hate going out for breakfast every day…I’d prefer to lounge with my coffee and take my time) but also much less expensive. It also means we have to visit the markets regularly. I love markets and going every few days means that we get to find our favorite vendors and they get to know us also.

In fact getting to know the area is one of the biggest pros of slow travel. We weren’t always seeking a place to have lunch, or dinner, or coffee, or a beer because we got to know the area and regularly visited our favorites. We would still experiment and try new places but returning to a place meant that the staff would get to know us and we could feel more comfortable. It can get tiring to always be looking for somewhere to eat and to guess what’s good on the menu. This way we knew where to go if we wanted khao soi or steamed buns or nam prik or just about anything (in fact, if you’re ever in Chiang Mai drop me a line and I’ll tell you about my favorites).

Staying in one place for a while meant that we had plenty of time to explore the area and yet still had lots of time to relax and work. We weren’t always racing to see a sight or do an activity; we could schedule out what we wanted to do or see over weeks at a time. This made for a very relaxing time and we were able to get lots of work done (I told you about The Global Bookshelf, right? Have you checked it out?)

But, by far, the best part of slow travel was meeting people and making friends. We met the most amazing group of people during our time in Chiang Mai. It is a motley crue, to be sure, with varied backgrounds, differing goals, various travel schedules, and lots of personality but we really got to spend some time, share plenty of laughs, help each other, and really become friends. I looked forward to our workouts so I could chat before and after, we would have work sessions in local coffee shops, and share potluck dinners almost weekly; it’s a real community that came together because people were committed to staying for more than just a couple of days.

CONS Of Slow Travel

One of the biggest downsides to slow travel? Meeting people and making friends. I know, I just said that that was the best part of slow travel but, once you make friends and connect with people, it’s that much harder to leave and say good-bye. Just like leaving friends back at home the first time was hard, leaving new friends is just as hard. Although our time together was relatively short I had really grown to feel like part of the community and relied on my new friends for advice, companionship, and some kick-ass dinner parties. I’m sure we’ll find a new community wherever we end up next but that doesn’t make leaving any easier.

Having so much time to explore a place often means that we don’t explore as much as we should because we get into a routine. Workout in the morning, have breakfast, do some work, have lunch, do some more work, have dinner, relax and maybe hang out with friends. Probably sounds a lot like your days, eh? We found ourselves in a bit of a routine and would have to make time to explore a little farther afield. This is when meeting new people was good; they would come into town, be interested in seeing something new, and we would tag along. But we really should have made more of an effort.

And I guess that’s one of the biggest cons in my book. The extra-ordinary starts to seem ordinary. It often felt just like home, which is good of course, but we would often have to pinch each other and remind ourselves that we live in Thailand. Monks walking down the street? Ordinary. Gassing up the scooter in the shadow of an ancient chedi? Regular. Frogs stacked in the market? Everyday. I think this is good though. It made me see people as people and not as ‘Thai people living such a different life than I could ever imagine’. And that’s why I love travel; to find the ordinary and compare it to my own.

We stayed four months in Chiang Mai and it went by in the blink of an eye. We’re looking at 6 months for our next destination and I wonder if that will be long enough. I like to see the seasons change, notice how a neighbourhood evolves, and this time I’d like to engage more in the community. It’s a grand experiment and I’m happy to be able to do it.