Responsibly Irresponsible

18.January 2011

Our Journey

How do you define irresponsible?

We’ve been back for almost eight months now…and we’re more than ready to leave again. We came back knowing we weren’t going to settle back into our old lives. It’s next to impossible, really. I don’t know how I could return and sit at my desk day after day after day after day, knowing that this time last year, or two years ago, or five years ago, I was in Chile, or Nepal, or Turkey, or Vietnam. I know it seems as though some people step out like this and then return to normal, but they must be plotting in some way. Maybe they are going to step out and start a family, or try out a new facet in their career, or quietly plan further travel…but I’m sure they are plotting!

We knew that travel was going to be a spring board for us; the whole plan stemmed from the idea of moving abroad but not knowing how to do that. And we realized as we traveled that, what seems so huge and incomprehensible at first, was more than manageable once it was broken down into digestible pieces.

And so we are going to move forward with our original idea of moving abroad. But it seems irresponsible to up and move to Europe after gallivanting around the world for a year. What about working and saving….and retirement? After all, we’re not getting any younger! It would be irresponsible to not think about our future and plan accordingly. I don’t need a lot to be happy but I would rather not be living in a cardboard box in the park when I’m really old.

Well, we’ve come up with a plan. I call it being responsibly irresponsible. We will move to Europe…but not quite yet. However, we also will not stay here and settle in again; there is too much of a risk of losing momentum and never leaving.

Operation Responsibly Irresponsible involves moving elsewhere in Canada, saving money and researching how to make the big move. Moving away from Victoria will keep us challenged and still give us a chance to save the money we feel we need to continue. We’ll use the time also to figure out where in Europe we can emigrate to and what we’ll need to do to get there. A roundabout way to get to Europe perhaps…but our way none-the-less.

Where in Canada would we move? Well…anywhere. We’ve been job searching across the country; the first place that offers us a (comparable) job will be our new home. Yep, that open. We may end up in a large city or a small town; in the mountains or on the prairies; near east coast ocean or mid country lake. Wherever it is, it will not be here and therefore will be a challenge. We won’t know anyone; the weather will be different; the jobs new.

It’s exciting and we’re looking forward to it.

Remember, OneGiantStep is often made up of many small steps. What are you doing to take a small step towards a big dream?

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56 Responses to “Responsibly Irresponsible”

  1. Keith Says:

    Good luck guys! I agree you can never become complacent or you risk being boring and more importantly unsatisfied with your life and choices. While I am now 2 days back into the professional work force, you are right in saying that you never stop plotting. In my case I wanted to have a career more focused on the the business of Sustainability. Now, largely because of the work and experience from our trip, I now have a great job, with one of the top Green companies in the world (as ranked by Newsweek)!

    I am interested in why you are set on a move to Europe? If anything I took away from our trip that the opportunities seem so much greater in the non-Western parts of the world. That does not mean you need to move to the bleeding edge of the developing world (Cambodia for example). But Europe seems so first world, and with limited opportunities for growth. What about Singapore, or Thailand? Or even Australia? Just want to keep pushing your thinking.

    • Gillian Says:

      Keith, I’m so impressed by the way you’ve been able to marry your value and belief system with your career…a great example!

      As to why Europe? Well, in reality the move could be anywhere as you suggested. We throw Europe out there as a concrete example but really it could be anywhere! We plan on finding a place outside of Canada in the same way we’re looking inside of Canada…could be anywhere that we find employment (whatever that will look like by then) and that will have us. The world really is our oyster!!

  2. Mike Lenzen Says:

    Living near Regina, Saskatchewan, I can say that it’s still a fairly hopping economy. Jobs are relatively easy to get and reasonably high paying. The unemployment rate is still low.

    Housing prices have really come up in the city, and rental property is hard to find and expensive $800 – $1,000 per month for a basement suite. My suggestion would be to look at a cheap house in a small town within a half hour commute. You can still pick something up for about $100,000. I’m selling by the way.
    Mike Lenzen recently posted..Becoming Unfettered

    • Gillian Says:

      Hi Mike. We have applied in both Regina and Saskatoon! I love the prairies and think it would be a fun place to explore. Our goal is not to own a house…although we realize that in some markets it may be the most prudent thing to do. Good luck in selling yours!

  3. Asa Says:

    Move to Montreal or Quebec City! It has the French thing that makes it seem foreign and it’d be close enough to us so we could visit you on a weekend!! Or, I hear Toronto is quite nice and has a lot of diversity. Your idea of moving makes a lot of sense. I couldn’t imagine coming back from our trip and living in Seattle again. We’re loving living in Boston; it satisfies our sense of adventure and desire for newness, while as you say, allowing us to plot our next adventures…

    I’d also agree with Keith’s comments about thinking of Australia as a place to live abroad. We loved Australia and the economy is quite good there now. Although I can see the appeal of living in Europe, especially if you guys have family in Germany. Regardless of what you decide I’m super happy for you both and excited to hear about the next developments in your amazing lives!
    Asa recently posted..New Years Report and Kicking it in Boston

    • Gillian Says:

      Wow, couldn’t go wrong with either Montreal or Quebec City!! They are both beautiful cities aren’t they? We are hoping for a Boston/Philly road trip in 2011 so you and Jaimie and Keith and Amy better get ready!!
      Thanks for the kind thoughts!

  4. Adam Says:

    Wow, are we the same people? So much of what you wrote rings so true with us. We have been home from our trip for well over a year now, and while I’m trying my hand at a career change, my wife unfortunately is back at her old career as an attorney, and she’s miserable.

    We have definitely been plotting this whole time, but we still don’t have a plan. Like you, we had thought about moving abroad before our trip, but didn’t know how to do it. Now since we’ve been back, we thought we’d start to save again (after taking several months to find jobs again) and see where it takes us. But now, after 15 months home, we’re about to reach our breaking point. We’re in the same house as before our trip, driving the same cars, my wife’s doing the same work, we’re doing the same things, and we’re really risking falling back to our exact same lives as before we left and being “stuck” here.

    Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE home, and we have a blast here. All our friends and family are here. But even before we came up with the idea of the trip, we always knew we wanted something a little different. A house in the suburbs and a gaggle of kids just isn’t us. We want kids, too, at some point, but not yet. And we’re both afraid that if we do have them soon, then we’ll really be stuck.

    So we talk and dream, daily, about what’s next. We haven’t come up with that plan, yet, but we haven’t taken any steps towards tying ourselves to St. Louis either. Every time we talk about maybe buying a house and settling down, we veer off course and start talking about traveling again, or moving, or doing something else.

    Here’s to hoping that we, too, can come up with a responsibly irresponsible plan. And when we do, we’ll be sure to let you know. Great post as it really does ring so true for us and what’s going on in our heads.
    Adam recently posted..Photo Friday-Tayrona National Park-Colombia

    • Gillian Says:

      I hear ya Adam! It’s hard to talk about leaving when, really, there is nothing wrong with here. A great life, great friends, good job…but I just want to do something different…and I don’t know why. It’s a struggle but you’ve been stepping out and working on writing right? Don’t undervalue the steps you’ve taken! Remember…small steps all add up to the OneGiantStep!

  5. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World Says:

    How exciting! You know, we haven’t left yet and we’re already wondering if we ever can go back to ‘this’ life after a year of travels… I like your plan to be ‘responsibly irresponsible’. Life’s too short to play it too safe all the time.
    Jill – Jack and Jill Travel The World recently posted..Clarion Alley- A Mural Lover’s Playground

  6. Theresa Says:

    I like this idea. It’s very fun. We did something similar, moving to a brand new city when we returned, and we’ve had a fun time exploring a new place while still being “settled.” There are many things we love about this life, but I think there’s something to the idea that once you’re a traveler, you’re always a travel. Our five year plan includes both more extended travel as well as moving abroad.
    Theresa recently posted..What a Ride! Around the World and Back Again

  7. Geoff Says:

    I think it’s a feeling we all share after coming back from a big trip…the secret I think is to act on it before you become *too* settled and that big trip slips further and further away and it gradually becomes easier to deal with the status quo (while never being quite happy about it) – I know a few people in that position.

    I’m in a similar state, although my plan of escape is somewhat different – I’m working hard and saving frantically to buy a flat in London – which paradoxically will be what I need to escape. Once I own somewhere here, I will have more flexibility and security (I can rent it out, knowing it’s always there to come back to should I want to, plus a flat in a city like London is always likely to be a good long-term investment). Once that’s done, I’m thinking of relocating to one of the big South American cities to improve my Spanish, work out there, and get to enjoy my favourite part of the world even more. In the meantime, I keep my little travel gremlins happy by feeding them regularly by making good use of my holiday allowance!
    Geoff recently posted..How to get down a volcano the easy way

    • Gillian Says:

      It’s all about identifying what makes us happy and moving forward towards our goals…it’s not about the goal, or the path to it…just that you have one and are moving forward!!

  8. Andrea Says:

    Good luck, Gillian! How exciting…I agree that sometimes a big step requires incremental progression. I look forward to reading about how you go =)
    Andrea recently posted..Bungas’s Beer of the Week- North Island

  9. Heather Says:

    I felt a huge burden/call to be responsible and wrestled with ways to be just that while still breaking away to live the year in Oz I’m currently enjoying.

    I’m already wondering WHAT IN THE WORLD I’ll do when I get back home 6 or so months from now. Because I can’t imagine having an 8-5 job indefinitely again. I need to travel more than 3 weeks ever year. How can I make enough to travel, save enough for retirement, spend time with friends and family back home, and still actually travel?! I don’t know yet, but I really like the term “responsibly irresponsible” and hope I can figure out what that means for me in the coming months.

    Glad you two are discovering what that may mean for you :-) GOOD LUCK with the job search!!!
    Heather recently posted..No Macaron Left Behind- 38-46

    • Gillian Says:

      Heather, don’t spend too much of your time away worrying about being back! Mark the time when you return to worry about that…there will be plenty of time, believe me!! I hope things are well in Australia.

  10. Lisa Says:

    Your post really hits home. I feel like I wrote it word for word. How can life ever be the same after coming back from such an adventure? I see my future very differently than I did before our trip. I especially agree with Geoff that it is best to act while it is all fresh and you are not too settled.
    I know now that it is possible to do these things, to move to Europe, to decide to change careers, etc. Heck, I travelled 12 countries with my husband and 2 teenagers. You just need to move forward. I took my giant step and it wasn’t so bad. But who ever just takes one step?

  11. Matt Says:

    I’ve wondered how I will view things after coming back from our 1 year sabbatical. I suspect much the same way that you speak about in this post. I hope that if I gain anything from the experience it will be to never become complacent with the way I live my life. In some ways it’s comforting to know that you haven’t returned to “normal” as it affords me hope that if I return I’ll have a new outlook on how I want my life to be lived.

    Your plans sound exciting! I love the name you have given them. We’ve been working on the small steps to get to our giant leap.
    Matt recently posted..The Changeup Pitch

  12. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures Says:

    Responsibly Irresponsibly…I LOVE it!

    I’m rapidly nearing my one year mark for having departed on my own epic travel adventure. A mere month from now, I’m sure I’ll be sitting here in my boring old life doing exaclty what you said…thinking, “one year ago today I was in _______ doing ______ amazing thing.” And I’m sure it’ll get my really depressed and probably light a great big fire under my ass!

    In the meantime, I’m certainly plotting. In fact, I have my next 3 trips mapped out! Now I just need to make them a reality! But what to do about my travel fix in the interim? Moving to another city isn’t as good an option for me as I absolutely adore the city I live in (NYC).

    Instead, I’m making an effort to do what I haven’t really done in my 3.5 years here. Take advantage of what the city has to offer! I’m awful about sitting at home and commenting on blogs and not going out and experiencing the wonder as to what’s actually here! And there’s certainly plenty of wonder!

    That, and weekend getaways have become my new best friend!
    Aaron @ Aaron’s Worldwide Adventures recently posted..“We’re Getting Married Tomorrow…At a Thai Buddhist Temple”

  13. John Says:

    A plan for North Americans to settle in Europe, Asia or Africa is essentially a responsible one. The most irresponsible travel entails hopping on long haul flights to go everywhere. By setting up a base, in say Europe, for an extended time, you can travel with a low carbon footprint by rail, bus, bike or foot. You also get less of a Top 10 tourist “must see” view of places.
    As for sitting at a desk each day dreaming of where you were last year.
    This happens when we are not in control of our careers. If we work at a job that we feel is imposed upon us with a few weeks travel as the only escape, we are a travel marketer’s dream. One way to address it is to go home and write a post about how you now feel about shopping in the local market somewhere in Vietnam compared to the local WalMart. There is great emphasis in blogging, on recording travel in real time. The downside is that the time spent documenting the experience as it happens inevitably changes that experience to be a journalistic experience as opposed to a travel experience. The main reason it is done in real time is usually to provide income by monetising a blog.

  14. Caz Makepeace Says:

    There is nothing fun about being responsible!! I absolutely hear you on this post. When Craig and I first came home from our 5 year honeymoon, we went through a terrible period. We knew we couldn’t settle, we couldn’t give up our travel life. Nothing else made sense to us. And we felt so irresponsible.
    And then our daughter came along! Boy did that add to the pressure and guilt. We ended up packing up and moving back to America, with her in tow. We are now back in Oz. Talk about irresponsible. And doesn’t everyone like to make us feel that way!! And don’t worry, we are already plotting our next responsible irresponsible move!
    I think it is irresponsible to not follow your dreams and your passions. You will find a way to make it work, and we can’t let our fears about the future stop us from living our dreams and our true potential. If you are doing what you love, then the rest will naturally sort itself out.
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..The Bill- Keeping London safe

  15. Iran Travel Guide Says:

    I’ve taken one such giant step in my life. If it’s based on spending from what you’ve saved without generating more revenue, you’ll be doomed to lose, period!

    If you’re too young or haven’t accumulated enough to lose, go experience it!

    If you think you can calculate all the consequences of the step you take, wait and you’ll soon find out how huge this step will be.

    Rahman Mehraby
    Destination Iran Travel & Tours
    Iran Travel Guide recently posted..Best Skiing Opportunity in The Middle East

  16. Jaime Says:

    Oh i love this idea and LOVE the new term you gave it “Responsibly Irresponsible”. That is very catchy and makes a lot of sense. Funny that you bring this up because I have thought about doing just this. You are probably thinking wait a minute aren’t you about to leave on a RTW trip. Well yes I am the reason I have thought about this is because anytime someone new finds out about my trip one of the 1st questions they ask is “What are you going to do when you get back?” I always answer with “well I really have no clue but if & when I come back I will probably just pack up and move somewhere else in the country.” They look at me like omg you are crazy but in reality it is the smartest thing to do. It will be nice to come for a while but then you would be itching for the new & well why not find that new in a new city in your country while you plot your next adventure.

    Where in Europe do y’all plan on moving too???
    Jaime recently posted..Shit I need to get done before I leave…

  17. Lisa E @chickybus Says:

    Great post. I got excited reading it…made me long for a major move or a long-term trip! I think that if I were not an ESL professor here in the U.S., with the freedom to travel every summer, I would be planning and plotting similarly.

    As for small steps toward a big dream….I’m writing my travel memoirs and hope to publish them/hit it big someday. :) I’m 75% finished, but have not made a lot of progress lately. :( I need to take some small steps that would help me jump back in and your post reminded me of that. Perhaps if I keep the steps small now I’ll be able to keep the bigger picture in mind and make things happen.

    Meanwhile, I like the way you’re thinking. Sounds like an awesome plan and I wish you the best of luck with it. I look forward to reading more about it here! :)
    Lisa E @chickybus recently posted..Morals and Ethics of Travel Photography—When Shouldn’t You Take That Photo

  18. Lisa Says:

    Responsibly Irresponsible. . . perfect!

    I got so excited reading about what the future holds for you two. . . probably, because that’s exactly what we intend to do once we’re back from our trip! But, it’s so encouraging to see that you guys are following your dreams & actually making it a reality!!! Can’t wait to see where you end up living in Europe & Good Luck!!!!
    Lisa recently posted..5 Things our Mini-Vacation Taught Us

  19. Liv Says:

    Hi Gillian

    I love the concept of Responsibly Irresponsible. Very clever! But I love your spirit too. The idea of living somewhere new, even when you’re not officially on ‘a trip’ It’s inpiring stuff – keep it up!

    Liv.

  20. Ayngelina Says:

    Love it, after all small steps lead to one giant step :)
    Ayngelina recently posted..Would you buy a 500 turkey AKA Have you met Andres

  21. Jillian Says:

    Congrats! I love your operation name- responsibly irresponsible. We’ve only been home a month, but we’re going through the same thing, where do you settle without being “settled”! Can’t wait to see where you guys end up!!! Best of luck!!!
    Jillian recently posted..Photo of the day- Tibetan Prayer Flags

  22. Kim Says:

    OMG, so this is the next big step!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow, I’m so excited for you guys. Moving from the mid-west to the west coast with no friends, no family, no place to live and NO MONEY was a huge, formative step for me. Now that we’ve mastered that, we’re off to our next adventure. I was so wondering what your next big thing would be. Good luck to you guys and I cannot wait to follow along. Yay!
    Kim recently posted..RTWsomanyplaces- RT @toddwassel Build your Brand- Be Yourself and Be Everywhere http-bitly-g6e6LE

  23. Akila Says:

    Good luck Gillian! This is awesome. We hope y’all make it out to Europe b/c we’ll be there for the next year and a half and we’d love to meet up. We are working on taking small steps, too, and I know how hard it is. Bravo for being willing to make this change!

    • Akila Says:

      You know, I just had one more thought which is . . . what about moving to somewhere cheap in Europe? Croatia and Slovenia are generally very inexpensive. If y’all have jobs that can travel with you, that’s a good way to go because Canada is not much less expensive than western Europe.
      Akila recently posted..an elephant family

  24. Erica Says:

    I would love to think that far ahead but I think right now I’m content in taking my baby steps into my extended trip. :P

    I want to find our “home” abroad so I’ll continue to look until I’m old and gray.
    Erica recently posted..Risks in the Game of Life

  25. Dalene Says:

    Have you considered looking for work in the second largest city in Newfoundland (Fort McMurray, AB?) If you can put up with some months of menial labour, you can make a TON of money up there, fast. It wouldn’t be the most fun time of your life, but might get you out faster!
    Dalene recently posted..Division of Labour

    • Gillian Says:

      Hee hee…too funny Dalene! I have friends in FtMac and, yes, we considered there also but they wouldn’t have us!! We work in IT (I in healthcare) and head offices are mostly located in Edmonton and Calgary (which is likely where we’ll end up). But FtMac definitely had the money draw and would have shortened timelines considerably!! Cheers!

  26. Gillian Says:

    Wow!! I knew there was plotting going on…but you’re ALL plotting! I’m definitely in good company then. Cheers to all of you and good luck!

  27. Cathy Sweeney Says:

    Sounds like a good plan to keep the momentum going. So exciting to be making changes, whether small steps or big ones. Good luck in your job search!

  28. Tracy Says:

    Good luck! Your post hit home with me. It’s so hard not to fall back into the “settled” way of life when everyone around you is doing it and it’s expected of you. Ultimately we do what we need to do to be happy and there is nothing wrong with that! I think it’s more irresponsible to deny who we really are. We finished our 2 year RTW trip this past summer and we’re working towards becoming digital nomads! Our goal is to have a home in the US but to live 4-6 months of the year somewhere new each year while working remotely. While my husband is occupied with finishing his degree we have to be content with summers only though so this summer will be our first tiny step on our new path! It will be 2 more years before we’re ready to take the next big step (or leap)! It gives me time to build up my business and by using summers as a jumping off point we’ll have a good idea (I hope) of what we’re getting into. Anyways, good luck with your job search and move. I have enjoyed reading your blog in the past, particularly your articles on India!

  29. Amy Says:

    Love the operation name, and love that you are plotting! I can sense your enthusiasm through this post – it makes me just as excited as you to see what your future holds! And can I just say again, it is fantastic that you are continuing to write about your return. In some ways, that’s when the journey REALLY begins.

  30. Nick Laborde Says:

    I love that saying, “Responsibly Irresponsible” The thing that I always need to keep in mind is that I am responsible for my own life.

    To answer your question. I’m paring down my possessions and responsibilities so when I make that giant leap, it won’t be that giant.
    Nick Laborde recently posted..Why everyone shouldn’t like you

  31. Ali Says:

    It’s so awesome that you’re doing this to make sure you don’t settle into your old life again. The path of least resistance is often too easy to pass up when it’s right in front of you. So exciting that you’re planning on moving to Europe! Keep pushing!
    Ali recently posted..My Twitter Love Story

  32. Scott Says:

    I grew up in Los Angeles and in my 20′s I came to the realization that I’d never be able to travel and afford the rent. I made a tough decision to move to a more “affordable” location and took a job offer in Texas. Fast forward about a decade and a half and I recently visited my 66th country with several RTW trips – something I could never have done living in LA. Do I miss the beach and the warm weather? Sure. But it was a choice and I’m glad for it (and so is my retirement account because there is still $ leftover after travel living where the rents are low).
    Scott recently posted..20-000 hits

  33. Claire Says:

    I like this post-after all, isn’t variety the spice of life? I love travel from the depths of my heart, and as I have gotten older, I have realized that it does not always need to be some big grand trip. Travel is a new experience-whether it’s in my backyard or on the Great Wall of China.
    Claire recently posted..My Dirty Little Secret

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