Reader Questions

Wow!  It’s crazy to think it’s been six month since we pulled away from our home in Chicago to follow this dream of ours to travel the world.  In some ways, it seems like a lifetime ago, in others, it seems like just yesterday.  As you know, we’ve been posting our adventures along the way and getting our feet wet in this new blogging world.  We try to cover a lot of our adventures in our videos and posts, but we know there are some things that we haven’t covered yet, so we wanted to address some of your questions about our adventure. Have more questions? Put them in the comments below and we’ll be sure to answer.

What made you want to do this and how did you make it happen?

Brenden:  We both love to travel and broaden our horizons about different cultures/people, new cuisine and adventures while witnessing beautiful scenery along the way.  Julie has had this dream for many years and I have been open to doing it with her.

As a Physical Therapist, I have always asked my patients what they would do differently in life given the opportunity. I’ve found that over 90% of them said they never traveled enough.  Many would say they had worked to save all their money and now they don’t have the best of health to travel as easily.  These comments always had me thinking about life and how I wanted to see more of the world.  With that said, there is never the perfect time to take that step into the unknown, you just have to do it.

As we started to realistically consider this trip, there always seemed to be a reason to postpone the trip, whether it be our careers, fear, or just life in general.   Thank goodness we have both been on the same page about our whole trip/planning process because that constant determination is required to keep the dream alive.  Since we are both relatively healthy, this is the perfect time to travel before we settle down.  Also, what an amazing experience to be able to travel and see the world with your closest friend and partner, priceless.

Julie: For me, the love of travel had a big part in why I wanted to take this life break, but more so, to live for today.  In my mid-20s I took my first career and life break, a trip I affectionately call my Quarter Life Crisis.  At that time I walked away from it all….my boyfriend at the time, my window office overlooking the Chicago River, and my steady paycheck.  I wanted to be true to myself and follow my heart.  That decision led me to Australia where I worked as a hostess at a beachfront restaurant for four months, then traveled around Oz with my best girlfriends from my time studying abroad there during college.

That trip was ten years ago. Still today I think back to those six months and realize how much I changed and grew from that experience.  It was one of the best decisions of my life.  That bold move taught me that as daunting as it may seem to walk away from my small safe bubble of reality, the opportunities and possibilities that are just outside my bubble are limitless. 

How long did you plan financially for the trip and will your jobs be waiting for you upon return?

Brenden: Julie and I have had this dream from early on in our relationship to travel around the world together sometime in our lives.  While we couldn’t guarantee when or IF we’d ever make our dream reality, when we started dating nearly seven years ago, we also started to diligently putting money aside into savings.  Once we were engaged we would put more savings away, spend less on apartment rentals, limit coffee spending and expensive dinners.  We were also aware about what we spent our money on and if we really needed it.

Our jobs will not be waiting for us when we get back and we will have to start over.  We are both committed to our decision to travel and we are both flexible upon our return.  Who knows, we may also find something on our travels around the world.

Julie: Taking this trip has been a dream of mine since as long as I can remember.  I had always hoped I’d find a partner that would share my passion for travel. Shortly after my ‘Quarter Life Crisis’ in 2005 I returned to my life in Chicago and started to earmark all of my bonuses and pay raises to my travel savings.

I also do not have a job to return to after this trip.  It’s scary to not have that guaranteed income to step back into, however after talking to several past employers and friends in recruitment, I feel confident that a future employer will view this life experience as an asset to my resume/skill set.  The determination required to save, plan, and execute a life and career break in your mid-30s is not an easy task.  None of us know what tomorrow will bring, and while it’s important to prepare for tomorrow, together we (Brenden and I) chose to take a risk on our tomorrows so as to not sacrifice our todays.  Whether it’s a good decision or not for the long term is yet to be seen, but from where I stand today, I wouldn’t change our decision for anything.

Since most people traveling abroad have only about 2 weeks, what would your top destination be based on your first 6 months?

Brenden: My top destination, if you haven’t been to Africa, would be to travel to the Chobe National park, specifically staying on the Zambezi Queen for three nights and then if you can visit Victoria Falls for some white river rafting for two days.  After that fly to Cape Town to enjoy the rest of your vacation.  See our blog on what to see and do in Cape Town.  For me all the countries have a special place and it really depends on what you are looking for in your journey.  If you want more suggestions, give me a country or activity you would like to do/see and I will help with the planning.

Julie: This is a tough one to answer.  I have so many favorite destinations for different reasons.  I loved South Africa for the incredible wine tasting, beaches and festivals.  I loved Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia for the chance to see one of the Natural World Wonders – Victoria Falls, White Water Rafting, and the incredible animal viewing along the Chobe River.  I loved Istanbul for the energy, food, markets, friendly locals, and shopping.  I loved Santorini for the most romantic and relaxing stay.  I loved Morocco for putting me totally outside of my comfort zone.  Morocco had me on sensory overload, but by the end of the two weeks, I had fallen for its allure.  And finally, Thailand is one of our favorite places in the world.  The beaches, sun, people, food, and relaxing atmosphere make this an easy place to settle into for a while.

So, as you can see, it’s tough to pick just one from my list of favorites.  I guess if I were forced to pick one, I would answer it this way…..If you have 10 total travel days or less, visit Santorini with a stopover in Istanbul.  If you have 11+ travel days, head for South Africa with side trip to Botswana and Vic Falls.  

Do you have any scary stories? Pick pocketing? American haters?

Brenden: Throughout our trip we have been pretty lucky and have not had many issues.  We did however feel somewhat unsafe in Marrakesh at times. For instance, since we stayed in the Medina (the oldest part of the city, but most vibrant), while walking back to our Riad after dinner, there were many dark alleyways and often teams of young men lurking around. With that said, we never had any negative encounter, we just felt a heighten level or awareness. For the most part however, people have been very friendly in the countries that we have visited.

Julie: No, we’ve been very blessed to have not had any bad or unsafe situations on our travels to date.  As an American, I haven’t felt any hostility or negative attitudes toward us thus far. 

Has the military coup in Thailand had any effect on your stay?

Brenden: The military coup has had no effect on our stay at all.  We had planned on going to Bangkok at the end of our stay, but we are going to take a pass and remain in the islands.  Thai people that we have spoken with are grateful for the coup as there has been so much unrest for months.

Julie: No, we haven’t noticed any difference in the areas we’ve visited.  It’s low season here on the islands currently, so everything is kinda quiet anyhow. 

Are you worried about adapting back into 'normal life' and it being so boring when you get back?

Brenden: This has been a question that we have brought up multiple times by our families.  While we like the craziness of some of the countries, we also miss some of the Western normality.  I feel as long as we settle in an area where we can perform more outdoor activities and stay busy, we will be fine.  Traveling more often wherever we end up will also definitely be necessary to keep things interesting.  Always be honeymooning is the most important thing to do.

Julie: No, not at all. I think we are very adaptable. As Brenden mentioned, we hope to settle somewhere where we can enjoy the outdoors.

Finally.....are there ever times you just want to go home and sleep in your own bed?

Brenden: I am not too concerned about the bed being my bed so long as we have a comfortable bed wherever we are in the world.  Don’t get me wrong, you do miss staying in one consistent place and having familiar things around you.  Picking up and packing all your belongings into one small roller bag every few days can wear on you.  The biggest excitement when packing up is that you are getting to travel to a new destination and meet some interesting people along the way.

Julie: Yes and No.  When we are enjoying the luxurious surroundings of one of the many five-star hotels we’ve stayed, going home to my own bed is the furthest thing from my mind.  However, when we are sitting at the airport waiting out a five hour layover as part of a 30 hour transit, then yes, I dream of crawling into the comfort of my own bed or lounging around on my own sofa in front of the TV.

Otherwise, I’ve been pretty good about not missing home too much, though I do miss my cat immensely!  With that said, I will admit that since hitting this six-month mark, I’ve definitely felt a shift toward wanting to slow down and allow us to find a place/hotel to stay more than 2-3 nights.

Brenden and my travel style is to wait and see what opportunities open up.  As we talk to locals and other travelers, we learn of places to see and what direction to head next.  The benefit to that is we are flexible and can make changes to our schedule at any time.  The downfall to this way of travel is that we never really know where we will be three days from now.  For the first time since we started traveling, we actually have CONFIRMED travel arrangements for the next seven weeks!  While we’ll still be on the move, it does provide me with some level of comfort to know where in the world I will be so that we can make more firm plans (hotel, activities, etc.).

So, what’s next?  We have one more week in Krabi, Thailand, then we are flying from here to Kuala Lumpur for two nights, then on to Bali for a month!  From there, we’re headed back to Thailand to explore Chiang Mai and the Gulf of Thailand!  Yipee!