As our stack of plane tickets gets thinner and our passports get more and more inked up, we've started thinking about what we're going to do next year.
A repeat? Take some time off? Some combination?
This sort of travel is self perpetuating. If I had ten places I really wanted to visit before leaving on this trip, I now have twenty. Most people we meet are travelers, and they all have crushes on cities that then get transferred to us.
Living life with almost no possessions, only experiences, stories, and friends is amazing. You feel free. We can go anywhere on the globe at the drop of a hat. We've met tons of new friends that offer couches, beds, or places to put our cots.
Taking time off isn't a real option. There's so much out there to see and do, and so little time to do it. I now speak four foreign languages, with skill levels ranging from "barely functional" to "passable". I've got to get them all down.
But at the same time, I have to admit that Life Nomadic isn't without it's drawbacks. I miss my family and my friends. I'm not at a loss for friends, especially with Todd around, but my friends in Austin are amazing and I miss spending time with them. My family is really important to me, and I don't see them.
When I left the US I had a strong anti-American sentiment. Not that I wished harm on the US or anything, but I've come to realize that although it does have many serious flaws, there is a lot there that you don't find elsewhere. Austin is an especially great town.
There are other small inconveniences as well. When I'm in new countries I am distracted and I want to go see the place I'm in. Austin is comfortable - I could sit in my RV for a week and focus on work.
I still get a lot done, but some of my best work has been done when I lock myself in for a week and just crunch.
I don't say all this to complain, or to take away from the trip. If you followed us around, most days you'd see Todd and I in some strange tourist-free neighborhood high fiving each other with huge grins on our faces, saying, "Man. This is the life."
And it is the life.
But Life Nomadic 2008 is a rough draft. We didn't base it on years of experience, ours or someone else's, but rather on what we thought would be fun.
Now we have a bit more insight and can make some tweaks to make it even better in 2009. I started writing a different post and had a revelation, which I typed out as I thought of it. Instead of rewriting it, I'll paste it here.
The toughest decisions are decisions where both options are so good that you don't want to give either up. At least for me.
If I had all of the money in the world I'd do three months in foreign countries, and then three weeks or so back in Austin. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Actually, now that I think of it... I CAN do that.
I've gotten really good at figuring out fares. I can easily beat AirTreks and even Kayak.com a lot of the time.
Let's see. I spent $2900 in airfare for approximately 6 months. It actually covers a bit more than that, but leaves me stranded in Europe. I have actually probably spent another $500 or so in miscellaneous flights through SE Asia, but that's not a regular charge.
So let's say $6k a year doing it the way I'm doing it now. Manageable and already accounted for.
I can find a round trip to Japan for $1000 (on a bad day), a round trip to South America for $700, and a round trip to Europe for $800. Those are roughly peak season rates.
That's only $2500 a year. Add in another $500 for flights to nearby countries per trip and I'm still under what I'm paying now.
I have no desire to get an apartment or a house but I could either stay with family and friends OR get an RV! There is a model for $20k that gets 20mpg and is a little smaller than my old one. Then I would have no expenses other than food when I'm in Austin.
PLUS I've been wanting to spend some time in LA. At 20mpg I can go there for one of my three week segments.
I have several people in Austin who have land and offered to let me keep my RV on it when I'm gone. I'm sure I could work something out. Ooh, and I could get an electric skateboard again. The RV and the skateboard are the only two possessions I miss.
So, I've had this idea for about 12 hours now. It was so exciting to me that I wasn't able to sleep. As soon as Todd woke up to go to the bathroom I blurted it out to him and got him onboard.
Who knows if it's what we'll actually do, but it sounds like a great way to have our cakes and eat them too.
I was telling Todd earlier today that I have a very distinct method of making decisions.
I think of some idea that sounds fun, then whip myself into a frenzy thinking about all of the positive sides of the idea and ignoring all of the negative sides. Within half an hour I convince myself it's the best idea I've ever had, and I pull the trigger.
That's how I moved to LA, that's how I bought my RV, and pretty much everything else I've ever done.
Here are some of the awesome benefits I've thought of:
1. I get my skateboard and RV back. I asked Todd, "do you know what the very best part of this plan is?" He replied that it was having skateboards. Exactly what I was thinking.
2. We can pack selectively for different areas. Going to Africa? Probably don't need the rain pants. Going to Tokyo? Bring that skateboard!
3. We can take more trips with other people. Tons of my friends travel, so I can consider where they're going and plan to meet them. When planning a year in advance this isn't really possible. PLUS maybe some of our friends will come for three months stints since they're a lot easier to commit to than a whole year.
4. We can be in Austin for the best times of the year. Skip the three hottest months and the three coldest.
5. We will spend more time in NYC, LA, and SF because most good travel deals come out of those cities. Get a Jetblue or Southwest ticket, stay in the city for a week, and then head out.
6. We can wait around for good deals. In our three week down periods we'll scour the travel deal lists. Good price on a flight to Morocco? Let's go there and check out Africa. This will add more adventure and save us money.
7. Todd and I become independent. Maybe I want to go to Europe and he wants to spend some extra time in Japan. No problem... we'll just meet up for the next chunk. A year traveling alone is expensive and not entirely appealing. Three months is cake.
The one downside I see is that it may be easy to just sit in Austin. I don't want to ever think "I'll skip this trip... I don't want to spend $700 right now."
I'm overwhelmingly happy with what I spend my money on, but the one area that I've never had any regrets is travel. No one ever regrets traveling, no matter how much it costs.
My solution will be to have a rule that if I'm in Austin for 4 weeks, I have to buy a ticket SOMEWHERE out of the country on day 28 for the next week.
I'm really excited about this new plan. What a life. We're on a plane right now and will have been to four countries in the span of 7 hours. Vietnam, Thailand, Macau, and Hong Kong.