All That You Can't Leave Behind
We meet new people all the time since we are constantly on the move. If you have met us along the way you will know that we are a gregarious pair and love chatting to pretty much anyone and everyone who crosses our path. When the conversation inevitably gets around to being asked where we are from, we have to explain "it's complicated". When we reveal that we travel full-time people often say "you're so lucky", "you're living my dream" or "I wish I could do what you do".
How to respond? Yes, we are undoubtedly lucky for all sorts of reasons. We have the fortune of good health. We also had many years of economic opportunity working for companies who valued us enough to pay us decent salaries that allowed us to squirrel away some cash. We are lucky that (at least on the evidence of the last 23+ years) we each chose to marry someone we can stand to be with... all the time! Frankly speaking, we both dodged bullets on those decisions. Ultimately, we were lucky to have been born into circumstances that allowed us to flourish.
But when people respond with "I would love to travel like you do" I find myself wondering if they really mean it. Do they know the choices that this lifestyle entails? Yesterday, in a field somewhere in Belgium, while Iain was washing the dishes in a tiny soapy bowl and I was drying them with a soggy cloth, I said "do you remember when we had a swanky dishwasher?"
That led us on a trip down memory lane to reminisce about some of the other possessions we once owned. Remember when we had a washing machine and a dryer, a big ass TV, a Viking stove and gigantic fridge with an ice maker. Ooh, ooh, did I mention we had a second fridge just for wine. What about when we had a choice of shoes to put on, and a wardrobe full of outfits for every occasion. Today, it is impossible to call anything I own an outfit. That implies they are clothes designed to go together rather than a bunch of T-shirts that all pair with jeans.
Remember when we could sit in different rooms from each other when we were grumpy, when we had endless water and unlimited high speed internet. Remember when our house didn't shake when it was windy. Remember when we flushed the toilet and didn't give a thought to where our business went. These things, these conveniences, these luxuries are some of what we gave up to travel full-time.
We actually have zero regrets, we have gained so much more than we left behind. Not least of which is the complete freedom to do what we want wherever we want to do it. We miss very little of our old life, and what we do miss are certainly not home appliances and clothes (OK, maybe just a tiny bit.)
Some people choose to have a home base that they return to regularly. One day we might do that too if we find the right spot. We miss having a town and community that we can spend a few months in that feels like home the way that San Diego did. Sometimes we miss having a house. Last weekend we were at a flea market in Antwerp and they had the most amazing mid century modern chairs that would look fabulous in our non-existent living room.
Generally though, there is very little that we yearn for from our old lives. We are certainly grateful for not having an obligation to the corporate world. But we also enjoy the lack of possessions and appreciate living simply. You know how there's always a Scandinavian or Japanese word that doesn't exist in English for certain emotions. I want one of those, I want to find a word for the feeling of satisfaction of doing everyday chores. I experience great "schmooggye" when I am doing laundry, the sensation of "imisikai" when sweeping the floor is very pleasing to me.
We feel very privileged to be living the life we do. But make no mistake, it was a choice. We are able to live the life we do BECAUSE we gave up the comforts of home. We couldn't have afforded to have both and that's why I wonder, when people say they would love to do what we do, whether they really would. Because, let me tell you, there are fleeting moments when we think constant WiFi, modern plumbing and a dishwasher would be pretty sweet.