Our Travel Evolution

Paradise Bay Malta - View from BalconyWe started with all-inclusive resorts. Sometimes we went twice a year even, and would rarely venture farther than the pool chairs. We were happy to just let the sun and sight of palm trees do their magic and alleviate the built-up stress of our corporate lives.

Then, a group trip around a few countries in Europe. We piled into a bus with a couple dozen strangers who became our best friends for two weeks. We raced through three countries, sometimes even running through the streets to try to fit in as many sights as possible on our tight schedule.

Finally, our first adventurous trip! Two weeks around Costa Rica without any sort of guide to follow, we planned our own itinerary and felt oh-so-brave by taking public transportation. It was then and there that we discovered how travel could be so much more, that it wasn’t just about seeing the sights, it was about overcoming challenge and immersing ourselves in more local experiences.

That trip (unknowingly at the time) served as the inspiration for our South American journey which began in 2009. And as life-changing as that journey was for us, as amazing as it was to see such celebrated sights as Patagonia and the Galapagos Islands, our travel style was set to change again.

We realized that there had to be more to it, we still wanted more. We no longer wanted to just mingle among the locals and buy our souvenirs from them, we longed to get to know them. We wanted to immerse ourselves in many foreign neighbourhoods and thus get a better understanding of cultures and history around the world.

Living-Like-a-Local-Berlin-Riverside

 

Enter our love of housesitting, as the ultimate way to live like a local (and travel very cheaply I might add). But, as much as we would love to bounce around the world to destinations of our choice via these opportunities, it’s not always possible.

Living-Like-a-Local-Berlin-CollageThat is why we were excited to be invited to take part in Go With Oh‘s “live like a local” challenge in Berlin. We settled into one of their cozy apartments for our last week in the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg, and got a very brief taste of what it would be like to live there. We loved frequenting the organic bakery around the corner, hanging with the locals on the banks of the river outside our door, and repeatedly indulging in the popular Turkish döner shop up the street (Turkish döner is the number one fast food in Germany). In fact, two of my more “local” experiments collided as I tried to use the little Turkish I know in that shop. The server looked at me quite quizzically – yes, I am a Canadian girl in urban Germany trying to speak Turkish. Local immersion at it’s best!

 

Living-Like-a-Local-Berlin-bridge

 

While one week in one city does not make for a deep local experience (especially in Berlin, with its complex, divisive history and its dozen of distinct neighbourhoods that each deserve a deeper understanding on their own), it was a satisfying micro version of it. We weren’t stuck in a hostel dorm, we weren’t just running around to see the main Berlin attractions, and we weren’t crammed in a bus full of other tourists. Instead, we trudged towards the public transportation with Berliners on their way to work. We shopped in the same stores, and jointly complained about the snow as we all stepped carefully on frosty sidewalks.

We were kicking it la vida local, if even for a short time.

I do believe that all forms of travel have their time and place – I definitely wouldn’t say no to another glorious week of drinking fruity beverages pool side – but this lifestyle, of sampling new cultures around the world by deepening our experience within them, brings us the deepest satisfaction of all.

But it does make us wonder, what is next on our evolutionary journey?

 

*****

Many thanks to Go With Oh for the lovely apartment in intriguing Kreuzberg. As always, all opinions are our own.

 

27 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    April 8 2013

    On our trip we have generally been very DIY, but every so often we’ve done some organized tours & all-inclusive things, and I have to admit they have been a huge relief for us! It gets really tiring trying to micromanage everything on your own, so I definitely sympathize with the people who just want to go somewhere pretty or interesting, but turn off the planning part of their brains!

    We haven’t really been anywhere long enough on this trip to housesit, but we did do an apartment stay while we were in Shanghai for a week and I definitely think that gave us a different taste of the city than we would have gotten if we’d stayed in a hotel. Berlin sounds like another great place to breakfree from traditional lodging options!

    • April 10 2013

      Organized tours and all-inclusives can sure give a nice break to DIY travel. Planning, planning, planning all the time can sure get tiring! It’s nice to have someone else do it for once. And YES, Berlin is the perfect place to do an apartment rental. It’s a city you have to “feel”, and I think this is one of the best ways.

  • April 8 2013

    Fantastic to see the evolution. Collectively, we’ve done everything from a horse-back trek through Morocco with 9 staff, to roughing it for a year across Australia’s outback in a van. Now, with our carbon footprint concerns, we’re attempting to see more of the North (& Central) American continent. Hiking the Grand Canyon was amazing (as was the little-traveled Baja peninsula). We’re keen to do more!
    S & Y recently posted..Spring Flowers Bring Hours of Mountain Fun

    • April 10 2013

      That is one thing that Pete and I must do one of these years, make our way around our own continent. 🙂

      • Jackie
        April 13 2013

        Well, if you want to fish in Manitoba, I can definitely help with that, not that much different than AB but I’m sure it is a little different

  • Sam
    April 8 2013

    Really interesting! Indeed, it makes you wonder…what’s next?! I absolutely love the style of travel you describe here in Berlin, and it’s not infrequently that I have that I have the same feeling described when you say “yes, I am a Canadian girl in urban Germany trying to speak Turkish”. Except for me you might substitute British guy/Argentina/Mandarin!

    • April 10 2013

      Mandarin in Argentina!! I betcha that goes over really well. 🙂

  • April 9 2013

    It is indeed a perpetual evolution, isn’t it? When I look back on… 30+ years of travel it seems I’ve dabbled in every-which-travel-way there is.

    Though I’ve never been much of a long-term RTW traveler (just seems like I get over-loaded after about 3 months – can’t imagine constantly moving from world-wonder to world-wonder, it all seems to blur together after awhile), I’ve dabbled in 5-star hotels with room service to flea-bitten hostels, to pissin’ in the wind and sleeping in gers in the wilds of Mongolia.

    From running my own small group tours to Belize, to reviewing all the first class hotels in Costa Rica. To going to school in France, to fam trips to China and the Azores. Quick 4-day jaunts to Angkor Wat, a week in Bali, 3 in Sumatra. To hopping among the Greek isles (with 2 youngsters in tow) to living in Italy for 3 months. In short, everywhichway of skipping ’round this wide and wondrous globe.

    And now? I must say, this permanent expatting suits me to a tea. I too, favor s.l.o.w. travel, getting to know a place well, truly mingling with the locals on a day-to-day basis. Indeed, I dare say it might seem that I’m bordering on not even being a “traveler” anymore.

    But nope. I mean with 7 new countries under my gossamer travel belt in just this past year or so, I hardly think I’ve lost my nomadic edge. Just based myself on the other side of the World, with a part time job that allows me to truly “live like a local” while also enjoying short forays to the many corners of Vietnam, as well as toddling off to distant lands every few months…

    Seriously, for a lifelong wanderlust like me, this is the best of all travelin’ styles.

    But you’re right – likely this evolutionary travel phase too, will eventually give way to… Who knows?

    • April 10 2013

      For all the great reasons you described, “expat life” would be the next step, I guess? But at the same time, as we get older, maybe the pendulum will start to shift back the other way towards still continually traveling, but just more comfortable (tours, all-inclusives and the like)! I’ve visited my share of flea-bag hostels as well, and my willingness to do that now is disappearing. 🙂

  • April 9 2013

    I love that your travel evolution seems like the opposite of most people’s: I feel like the majority start out as young adventurous backpackers, and then gravitate towards group and package tours as they get older.
    Jessica recently posted..Sunday Snapshot: Saint-Maixent-L’Ecole

    • April 10 2013

      I never thought of it that way at all! I guess it’s because as young adults, we hardly knew of anybody that went off adventurously backpacking, it just wasn’t something that people did. We never really considered it, or we probably would have done it! We were just so focused on career, etc.

  • OMG There must be something in the water! I wrote a post last week (I’m going to publish it tomorrow or Thursday) along the very same lines!

    I akin the “three ages” of life to the “three ages of travel”, and I also discuss the travel blogging industry and how it has evolved as well.
    Very timely!

    As for your evolutionary journey in travel, I think you’re in the third age, along with me. But we still like to frolic in the first two stages from time to time… 🙂

    • April 10 2013

      Haha! My sista from another mista.

      Looking very forward to reading yours! And, you still consider yourself in the third stage, now that you’re kinda sorta living an expat life?

  • April 9 2013

    Up until your housesitting stage, this mimics my own travel evolution almost exactly. Growing up surrounded by people who had never left the country, those first few all-inclusives and group tours felt so exciting! But when it came time to plan our honeymoon, I knew I didn’t want to be stuck on a bus with a group of strangers or doing the same old thing on the same old island. So I planned a three-week adventure around Greece, taking planes, buses and ferries and, not-surprisingly, we had the time of our lives! I’ve been doing all our travel planning ever since.
    cosmoHallitan recently posted..Afternoon Tea at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai

    • April 10 2013

      Did we grow up in the same place? 🙂

  • April 9 2013

    Perhaps your next step is moving someplace overseas permanently? Well, maybe that’s a little too permanent!
    Amber recently posted..The Temples of Bagan, Myanmar

    • April 10 2013

      Expat life would be the next natural step, I guess. But you’re right, too permanent. The thought of that gives me the chills. 🙂

  • April 10 2013

    Interesting to see how some many people’s travel evolutions differ despite ending up in the same place in the end. I can’t say I’m at the perpetual nomad stage yet but am always learning new things and working towards that goal! Getting out of your shell and comfort zone is a massive part of the travel evolution and it looks like you and Pete have been very successful in doing just that (and inspiring others to do it). Whether its learning a difficult foreign language or travelling to places that are increasingly less familiar, I think its important to stretch our personal limits to enhance our travel and life experiences.
    Ryan @Treksplorer recently posted..What Classic Rock Can Teach You About Travel Photography

    • April 10 2013

      You are absolutely right Ryan, and I suggest to everyone that they learn a few words of the local language wherever they travel. It’s a great ice breaker (so that they can laugh at you when you butcher the words), and has opened us up to some great experiences in more exotic places!

  • April 10 2013

    I love this! My evolution happened the same way, but I haven’t quite reached housesitting yet. That’s next on the list!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Life here is like camping 24/7.

    • April 10 2013

      That’s a great next step!

  • April 10 2013

    It’s funny how our travel style can change so much over the years, completely as a result of travel itself. It leaves you wanting more and needing to get more out of the travel experience. It’s definitely important to get in with the locals when travelling. Couldn’t agree more.
    Dean recently posted..Travel News April 10th, 2013

    • April 10 2013

      And it’s funny that when we set out backpacking, I never expected such dramatic changes either. I thought we could roam around the world, stopping for only 2-3 days at a time – FOREVER! Haha

  • April 11 2013

    I think the wondering what is next on the evolution of travel is the best especially if you can act on it.
    Which you can and will of course.

    I have never loved RTW travel, i have been more of a set up a homebase and travel out especially now with a family of 5.

    we live in France and travel out a month at a time. I absolutely love travelling this way with the kids because you get to set up a routine just long enough to get to know the area but then you get to leave for somewhere new or go back home.

    when We used to get 2 week vacations during our corporate years, vacations were so stressfull.

    Trying to fit it all in, staying at expensive places. All i wanted to do was sit by the pool to unwind from work then it was time to go home.

    With slow travel you get to relax because you have the time.

    Anyways, I loved Germany. we stayed in Berlin for a month with the kids. They were amazed by the wall and the history of the Nazi”s. You can’t get that in a text book.. :O
    Annie André recently posted..Top 10 Clichés And Stereotypes About The French: True Or False?

  • We travel very differently now compared to how we used to when it was just ‘vacations’. I love becoming a local through house sitting too, but I get itchy feet quickly and I don’t usually last in a city longer than 6 weeks. But its still enough time to experience life as a local, enjoying their customs and way of life.

    And I will admit, I do not mind a little bit of resort luxury every now and then too! Like you said, there are many ways to travel and its not a bad thing to travel in various ways, seeing the world from various perspectives.
    Nicole @ Suitcase Stories recently posted..Our Adventurous Road Trip Through The Beautiful Costa Rica – Part 1

  • Berlin is one of my very favorite cities in the world–and Kreuzberg my favorite neighborhood in Berlin–so if I were given such a chance, I’d probably pick that very spot, too! Glad you guys loved it.

  • November 26 2017

    Thank you very much for the history of our travel evolution. Certainly, an eyeopener and many aspects of travel are well covered. A great read.
    Sharon recently posted..2017 Seiko Automatic SKX007K – The most affordable divers watch!

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