It was two years ago this week that we pulled away from our suburban home for the last time.
As the sight of our home for four years faded in the rearview, I could have never guessed the rush of feeling that overcame me.
I had expected to feel lost without a place of to call home. Despite a few treasured things put into storage, all that we had to live on was piled in our wee car and we headed into the city for our first house sitting job. We had one month to wrap up our jobs, almost two months to jaunt across the country and visit family, and then we were set to board a south-bound plane and begin our vagabonding ways.
I had expected sadness to be leaving a house we had watched be built from the foundation up. I remembered rejoicing in the decisions over wall colors, light fixtures, and the style of carpet. Then came the fun of shopping for furniture, art and knick-knacks to fill it. And finally, we were excited to share the house with our loved ones – creating joyous memories from numerous parties and family gatherings.
It was ours. We had worked hard for every square foot of it. And it did provide some fabulous memories.
But remarkably, I didn’t feel sad to leave it all behind.
Instead, I felt joy. Pure and utter joy.
That morning, after handing over the keys and driving away, nobody could possibly have knocked the smile off my face. The windows in the car were down, the fresh spring breeze was on my face and uplifting tunes were cranked as I wound out of our former neighborhood.
We were free.
We were free of the arduous task of cutting the lawn and fixing that broken step. We were free of cleaning the 3.5 bathrooms we shared between two of us. We were free of having to worry about decorating those last couple of untouched rooms. We were free of having to work long hours at our stressful jobs in order to cough up ~$2,000 monthly for our mortgage, taxes, and utilities.
The world had suddenly opened up in a way it never had before. Our time was ours, all constraints had vanished. And we were committed to taking full advantage of it.
Two years later…
I’d be lying if I said there aren’t moments when I miss it dreadfully – when I want nothing more then to curl up on our soft, oversized sectional and watch a string of movies on our large TV, with a contented and purring kitty cuddled in my lap. I’ve definitely had times when I have wished for it all back.
But those are just moments in a string of 730 awesome days. It takes me just a few seconds to remember what that house cost us – and not just in terms of dollars – but in our time and livelihood. The biggest portion of it being work, spending countless hours behind a computer screen creating wealth for people other than ourselves. The irony was that we spent considerable time OUT of our precious house just earning the money to allow us to live comfortably IN it.
Instead, in the last two years, we’ve hiked up mountains. We’ve played with monkeys and swam with turtles. We’ve witnessed incredible festivals and kayaked in the snow, and been filmed for a web series. We’ve learned Spanish and taught English. We’ve taken advantage of our freedom, and spent every single minute creating a new way of life that we absolutely love.
And hopefully we’ve made a difference in the world in some small way – whether it’s helping a disadvantaged kid procure his or her birth certificate, or just giving a neighbor a lift – all the while, immersing ourselves and learning about new cultures in different corners of the world.
For us, there is no greater paycheck than that.
I expect there will be a day when this will all change again. Where we may tire of this nomadic life, and crave a space to call our own. Where I will agonize over the color of our walls or where to hang that beloved piece of art.
When that may be, I don’t know. But I do know this:
- We will not have 3.5 bathrooms and 5 bedrooms for the two of us. Ridiculous.
- We will not be a slave to our possessions. So what if our neighbor just bought the latest and greatest toy, it doesn’t mean we need it too.
- We will give back. Wherever we may be, we have learned that any effort of humanitarianism pays off tenfold in enriching life experience.
And above all, we will never develop a lifestyle such that we cannot squeeze the greatest amount of joy out of every single, short moment we have on this earth.
We will be free.
It’s interesting to me that the lessons you’ve taken from travel are similar to lessons I’ve taken from living in Chile. Even though my lifestyle now is very traditional.- big corporate 9-6 job, apartment we own, the comfy sofa and the dog (not a cat in our case) – just getting out of the US has challenged my ideas of what I want in a home. Living somewhere where homes are smaller has made me realize that I don’t actually want more space than we have because it would just be more space to fill and clean. The fact that I find it harder to find decently priced, good quality furniture that I like here means that we’ve gone slowly with our furnishings, thinking about what we really want and need rather than making one trip to Ikea or Pottery Barn and buying everything in the catalog. I’m not bashing the US, but for me I think it’s been a good thing to see another point of view.
Very good point Emily – learning this lesson doesn’t mean having to become homeless to do so. As long as you’re not a slave to your possessions and they serve a useful purpose, there’s nothing wrong with owning. It’s the battle to have more, have better, etc. that the North American lifestyle dictates that does the real damage to ones sense of freedom.
Congrats on your anniversary (of coming to your senses to pursue a life devoid of ever more “stuff”!)
I too once similarly had a 3 bedroom/2 bath home on 2.5 acres (on an island off the coast of Seattle) – just for little ol’ me, and…
Suffice the best thing I ever did was sell it along with most all my “stuff”, and instead happily rent a small (but sweet) apartment which…
Now allows me the freedom to dump the last remnants of my silly “stuff” in favor of moving (with only what I can carry) to some g-forsaken rice paddy on the other side of the world.
Ah “Freedom” indeed!
Thanks Dyanne! Amazing what a “freeing” feeling it can be, to unload so much stuff. And I think it was always “in” me somewhere to do this, even though I didn’t know it. Like with the unfinished rooms we had – we had a lot of opportunity to furnish/decorate them, but I just never wanted to. I always held back, and now I realize it was because I didn’t want to attach myself to anymore “stuff”. It took me awhile to realize I needed to get rid of the rooms themselves, too! But, now, here we are… 🙂
Congrats, guys! I can’t believe you used to live in a 5 bedroom house! Keeping it clean must’ve been a nightmare. It’s funny – we’ve been ‘homeless’ for only about 3 months now but the only thing that I miss is the ability to have pets – the other stuff, not so much.
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With a five bedroom house comes a maid, my friend (ever two weeks!) I wasn’t cleaning all that! Haha. We REALLY miss our pets, that of course was the hardest part, but like you said – the stuff? Not so much. 🙂
I love it!! Congratulations on your freedom birthday!!
Only *near tears*? Damn it! Gotta try harder next time. (Thanks love) 😉
Congratulation on your travel anniversary. It’s always amazing to look back and see how much travel has you as a person. From a big trip to a little one I don’t think it’s possible to travel and be the same as you were before.
“From a big trip to a little one I don’t think it’s possible to travel and be the same as you were before.” – Well said, and I believe you are 100% correct!
Congratulations on your trip anniversary. Funny enough, we just moved out of our house on Friday.
Unfortunately, leaving it was hard to do. Partly because we had to give up our cat Pi, and partly because we couldn’t start our own trip. We’ve still go another month before we are done work and can hit the road.
I’m hoping to live by your example in the near future, although I haven’t had the opportunity to try yet, I can completely see how rewarding of a lifestyle it could be when compared to what I’ve been doing for the last 7 years.
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Well Mike, we wish you many vagabondaversaries, and maybe we can even get together to celebrate one of these years! There was that one sad part to letting go, for sure, but that is ONLY because we had to give up our kitties too. That was THE hardest part, and the one thing that most makes us homesick. 🙁
That gave me chills. Congrats you two. I wish you many more vagabondaversaries to come.
Thanks so much Kim! Hard to believe it’s been two years already!
Congratulations! What an awesome feeling it must be to let go of possessions and be free. I’ve enjoyed reading about your journey, and I can’t wait to see where the wind blows you next!
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Thanks Sheryll!! It is a pretty awesome feeling, and even now, when we seem to accumulate too much “stuff” for our backpacks, it freaks me out. I have to purge!
I couldn’t agree more. I always tell people now that smaller is better. I had a huge house in San Diego and I spent so much time cleaning the damn thing! 🙂 I love having a small space because it forces me to keep my possessions to a minimum and I don’t have to spend all my time cleaning it or taking care of it. Right now Scott and I are also really enjoying being able to call our landlord every time something in our house breaks!
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Yeah, I’m not sure I could ever even “own” a place again. That may change…but right now it makes me nervous. Probably because it took us so long to sell it…I don’t ever want to feel “trapped” by it again! And you’re right…it’s also nice to turn the problems over to someone else! 🙂
Between 19 & 23 yrs of age, I led the life you currently enjoy, learned 2 different languages, lived in a variety of countries & cultures & my possessions I carried on my back. I was FREE.
Now at 55, I read your words & live vicariously through them. I look back on those times with longing & wonder if the ladder I was climbing is leaning against the wrong wall.
Every moment you spend doing what you are currently doing is worth 10 times any moment spent conforming to societal norms working 9 to 5 to own a house, a car, & stuff….for what? To be chained & a slave to it all… enjoy every moment. Thanks
Theode – SO nice to hear from you! And thanks for your kind words. Of course, it is never too late to get back to that life you loved, is it? 🙂
That does sound like lamenting, Theode. What is YOUR dream? X
My next place, which at this stage I still want to behold, will be 9x7m, a one-room studio. Even then, it will be spacious. Currently, my few pieces of furniture contain nothing, they decorate this large house for sale. I LOVE letting go of ‘stuff’, having worked as a Professional Organiser for years. Then, it’s off to France (again). LOVE travel, love simplicity. Thanks!
I felt very similar things when we left for our RTW and agree that we can get caught up in this world of wanting and needing like we need all these things that we really don’t need. We are about to move to a different area of L.A. and we are downsizing a considerable amount. We don’t need all this space and after living out of a suitcase, we don’t need all the crap we have accumulated over the last couple of years.
Cheers to freedom- that is definitely something I will smile about everyday!
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Awesome Jade – thanks! Cheers to freedom, indeed! How quickly travel can teach you what little you actually need to live on, hey? I get anxious when I have too much stuff around me now, or when I’m in a department store with all this “stuff” around me. Never thought this would be me, but, here I am!
Great post! I think the best thing you said was at the end, when you statd that you will NOT own a 3.5 house etc and crave all the latest gadgets.
Ant and I talk about that all the time now, saying when we do go back to Aus we wont be needing a bigger house-even when we do have kids. Same goes for all the latest gadgets etc…if travel has taught me one thing it is how comfortably and well you can live with so little.
Glad you feel free! 🙂
Thanks Elise! Common lesson for us all as we travel, how little we actually need to live on. When I think of all we used to have – GAWD, it’s embarrassing, really. Not to mention bad for the environment, etc. etc. There are so many good reasons to “live with less”!
I can’t tell you how much this resonates with me. In fact, I have the same picture as you. Okay, different house, but same (type of) picture!
I, too, thought I’d feel some feelings of sadness and regret at “walking away from it all.” Nope–nuttin’ like that. I feel nothing but liberation.
We left our 3 bed/2 bath home in March and haven’t looked back. There’s so much more interesting things to be done with the time that you’re not using to mow the lawn, vacuum the carpets and clean out the gutters!
Congrats on your location independent anniversary! You’re an inspiration.
Thanks so much Maureen! I’m glad you understand how completely liberating it can be. It won’t be long when you’re wondering how time flew by so fast as well – although it’s pretty awesome to have a mindful of memories about the time rather then a room full of stuff to stare at. 🙂
Beautiful post, Dalene. It’s amazing what travel can do for us, for the way we think about life and what we value. You learn so much from being out in the world, getting away from the consumerism and expectations to have the biggest and best of everything… There’s more to life 🙂
Thanks Steph! There is so much more to life then that, and at times I think I wasted in 20s in chasing that dream, but at the same time, at least the money made from the sale of the big house allows us to do this! As long as we’ve learned something, I guess that is all that matters… 🙂
Okotoks? AND a cat? Christ…no wonder you left. 🙂
Hee hee — congrats guys!
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TWO CATS, even! And they are the only reason that I would ever go back… 😉
Congrats, you guys! It’s fantastic that you are housesitting so you can enjoy all those comforts of “home” and then hand it all back at the end of your contract. Love it – great post =)
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Yes! We do get to enjoy it, and also get to deal with the problems (!!) reminding us that we do not want one of our own right now! 🙂
This hit home with me! Isn’t it strange how suddenly material possessions lose their pull? When I came back after only one year, it was hard for me to buy ANYthing. I just didn’t care! Even now, I have so much empty space in my house. I only got a three-bedroom because it had the bigger yard for my two rescues I picked up along the way. I literally have so much empty space and feel almost zero attachment to furniture, my house, etc. Loved this post. Free, yes, definitely!!
It is strange, and awesome, how suddenly material goods just no longer matter. It IS so freeing. And a cheaper way to live! 🙂
I have two things to say about this post:
sam kelly recently posted..Who Am I
Good for you but for my wife and I, we love our two homes which together have a total of 7 bedrooms. Love suburban living with our 4 cars yet we are still able to travel where we want when we want and I do all the maintenance, upkeep and cleaning myself. Different strokes for different spokes I guess.
I have never said that our lifestyle is for everyone. If you and your wife can say you are truly happy with your life choices, then all the best to you!
That’s a similar story to my own. That house was brilliant, but a noose around my neck. The reality was that the mortgage was going to take a lifetime to pay off and we were going to be bored in the meantime. I’m glad the mortgage is gone and I’m coming up to 2 years without a proper job and 2 & a half years with no house. It’s been a wild ride! Some good, some bad and all of it part of an interesting life!
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And that 2 years of interesting life is so much better than the same 2 if you were bored, staring at your walls, right? We’ve had our downs too, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
They are better yes. But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. Otherwise the downs wouldn’t have felt bad at the time – they would have passed in the knowledge that everything is going to be OK. But coming through the other side of the downs makes the ups contrast beautifully. That’s what makes it great. You begin to appreciate stuff. And it’s exciting and that’s what everyone wants.
Adam @ SitDownDisco recently posted..Gowalla as a Tool for Travel
Very well said, Adam. 🙂
Ah the delicious taste of freedom! There will be nothing more in your life anymore that you will want more. Going back to the burbs is painful. I can’t wait for us to break free once more.
Good on ya guys for reclaiming your life and spending it in joy!
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Thanks Caz! I’m so completely scared of being trapped in a situation that is hard to get out of again (it took us over a year to sell our house). Even though we’re still working out the details on how to continue this lifestyle perpetually, we can’t slow down now. Even 6 months sitting in Honduras was too long for us! This freedom is toooo good. And I’m sure you’ll reclaim that again real soon. 🙂
Great reflection. I can relate, especially to the working to just live in your apartment or house. It’s something so many of us do for so long before other passions confront us.
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Thanks Suzy! And thanks for including it in your round-up!
Thanks for putting this into words. Sometimes I wonder why I never saw it before: I just never noticed the rampant consumerism in my daily life until I set out to travel. The stories and memories that are happening every day are worth so much more than stuff! I still value a few material things — but mostly just the photos I’ve been taking!
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I wonder the exact same thing, many times. Now, when I look back, I do notice things that made me a bit uncomfortable – like I never finished decorating a couple of rooms because I just could never “find” the right thing, although now I know it’s because I didn’t want to attach myself to any more stuff. It just took me awhile to put all that together.
What a great post! Traveling has a way of exposing how much useless stuff we have come to rely on at home. It also shows us how easy it is to live unencumbered by all the crap-most of the rest of the world does it, why shouldn’t we?
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Exactly! Lesson well learned from us within the first couple of months of being on the road, and realizing that what we had in our backpack might even be MORE then what some people had to who lived in poverty where we were (in Bolivia). And we could live on just that…just fine!
I love this post! How awesome. I can’t imagine giving up that entire house and just driving away. Mostly because I don’t have a hosue to own, hahaha. But I’m so glad you’re happy, and that it was all for the right decisions.
Ran across your blog a few weeks ago and have been eagerly devouring it ever since… I absolutely love reading about your adventures! You guys are such an inspiration!
Happy travels! 🙂
Welcome Lisa, glad to see you here! 🙂
Freedom, utter joy, happy – Very well said my fiends. I really enjoyed reading this post as it gives me the motivation I need to keep on trekking. I totally understand how your felt 2 years ago as I too was suffering from the same plight. It is unbelievable how little we need to survive and be happy while traveling. I have only been on the road for 2.5 months now but I don’t want to stop my vagabonding ways. It feels like I am going through a metamorphosis and hopefully in a year or TWO I will be able to transfer all of the things that I am learning about life (or should I say ‘living’) to the next phase of life.
Good luck on your travels – keep writing, sharing & motivating.
Thanks so much for your comment Joel, and how exciting for you that you are just starting out! I think these kinds of metamorphosis’ can happen without travel, but are much faster when going through the types of experiences that we have. Good luck on your travel as well!
Love this post. Freedom is priceless.
What makes people hesitate the most the insecurity of how they’re going to sustain themselves financially. If one is creative and open to ideas, it is certainly cheaper to live abroad. Less is required, but income is still necessary.
What do you recommend or advise to those worried about how to finance a “vagabondish” lifestyle?
Thanks for your comment Rich!
I wish we were at the point in our travels where I could say we are completely self-sustaining (in terms of having income to cover our travels), but we are not there yet. We are starting to make some money off our blog and are working hard on a new business idea that we hope to launch this fall, but we are still living off of the money we made off our house when it sold. BUT…my philosophy is that there is ALWAYS money to be made somehow, and we are really just starting down this path. We WILL get there someday, because in order to keep going, we HAVE to! There really is no other choice.
Plus, for example, with our 6 month house-sit in Honduras, we spent a whopping total of $6,000 (including flights to/from). We plan to continue to use housesitting as a way to keep our costs very low, until we start to earn.
It’s allllll possible! 🙂
Thank you so much for such a thoughtful reply!
Wishing you the best in your travels!
i love the concept! Fortunately I have a gov’t job and have managed to live abroad since 1998… !!! I’ve lived in Germany, Austria, Kuwait, and now Belgium… Also traveled with my job to almost all of the European countries doing various conferences… I am sort of a “stable nomad” I suppose…. I don’t know how to categorize my lifestyle 🙂 i do not own a house, but i do have somewhat large amount of “stuff” which I dream of paring down… I have approx 6000 lbs of stuff to be exact. lol. enjoy reading the traveler blogs … i am too lazy to write my own 🙂 heheee…
no plans to buy a house anytime either… i have no idea where it would be located. currently no desire to be permanently located!
i do especially like that you guys made a conscious decision to make a change in your lives/ and the point you make about those countless hours behind the computer screen… I crave a job that gets me out from behind the desk… currently on the look-out!!! we just cant imagine giving up our 3 cats right now, so must continue to work! LOL! 🙂
If you love your job, then you have the best of both worlds really – being able to travel and earn a living is what many people aspire too! You’ve been to some really great spots!
Oh boy, giving up our two cats was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. And I still believe that if I really think about it hard enough, I’d go running home, steal them back from my friends, and hole myself up somewhere with them…Pete can join me if he wants – ha! So sad.
I just found your site as I was searching for house sitting opportunities. I love your post about freedom! We went through the same thing a little more than two years ago as well. After a trip around the US by rv, and a stay in the Florida Keys, we headed to the United Arab Emirates for a teaching job that was too well-paid to pass up. The stay here is indefinite, but we’re intrigued by the idea of long-term house sitting. The catch is- we have a ten-year-old daughter. We love the education international travel is providing her. Do you know of any house sitters with children?
I personally don’t know of any house sitters with children. But, when I think about all the home owners that we have worked with for longer term sits, I can’t imagine any of them saying “no” to having a kid as well!
I think that is so cool that your daughter is getting to see the world in this way…I am always in awe of families who travel! If you ever have any other questions about housesitting, please let me know! 🙂
We, too, are trying to work towards a lifestyle with more quality and more time and less stuff, though we are going about it in a different way…we would LOVE to have a simple house with a piece of land to call our own someday…something that we can afford and pay off so that we can have the freedom to travel and do what we want without being slaves to our job. Kudos to you for following your dreams and thanks for writing such a great post!
Thanks for your comment Shanna – that simple house on a piece of land sounds good to us too. If/when we ever do sit still, that would be a nice thing to have! Good luck!
I love your post, but i love this the most:
And above all, we will never develop a lifestyle such that we cannot squeeze the greatest amount of joy out of every single, short moment we have on this earth.
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I have just begun embarking on a similar journey myself. Right now I´m in Ecuador volunteering at a hospital for two months, trying to absorb the culture. Less than a month ago I broke my lease on my adorable city apartment to move in with my mom in the suburbs and save money for future travels. How have the two of you afforded your traveling for such a long time? Is there a way to do this sustainably? How do you hope to transition when you return? Just discovered your blog but will try to keep following! Buen viaje!
Hi Mariah – congrats on your travels! Quick answers to your big questions 🙂 : We do have some savings from the sale of our house that we use, but are also making money from the blog and have new online businesses in the works. We also housesit to keep our costs extremely low. And as for our return…we have no current plans to do so…so we don’t worry about that! 🙂
I really love this post. You two are an inspiration for wanderlusting souls who can’t stand the thought of being confined inside walls of any sort.
That’s very sweet Haiku, thank you.
There is many levels of freedom. Congratulations for finding some of them. Happy travels!