September 7th, the anniversary of our return to the US, passed about a month ago so I figured an update 13 months after our return to the US from a 13 month trip is in order. It’s crazy to think an entire year has gone by because it seems like yesterday we were running around the world soaking in the sights! Looking back on the year it’s evident we landed on our feet and it’s actually hard to find a way our travels hurt us. I can still remember all the pre-departure comments like it was yesterday:
What about your job?
What about your career?
I don’t think people will understand.
Your travels are going to be held against you.
What about your family?
Do you realize you have to spend every day with her?
What are you going to do if you get sick?
How are you going to protect yourself, are you going to carry a knife?
When are you coming back?
People don’t like Americans.
What if you die?
I developed stock answers for those comments and questions since they were very common but we knew our grand trip was quite the risk, I knew my career was over at the company I spent the last seven years at, we speak only English, we could actually die, and we were the only people we knew on the continent pretty much everywhere we were going to visit. It’s easy to imagine the worst and have doubts; staring into the abyss gave no comforts and we had no crystal ball to help sooth our doubts. With all the doubts, the worries, and the fears, we still decided to proceed and a bit over two years ago in 2014 we left the US with only our backpacks. We did our best to develop plans and contingencies to point our lives towards planned happenstance but it was still our big bet that we were going to be OK and that it was going to be worth it. I am happy to say nothing bad happened to us and our return to the USA was extremely easy. That’s not to say nothing bad happened, there were lots of tragedies around us during our travels that I’ve wrote about, but nothing bad happened to us other than run of the mill food poisoning and mild inconveniences. We never had a run in with law enforcement, we never had to evacuate, we never missed transportation, we didn’t die, we didn’t run out of money, we were never robbed, and so on. Our travels went very well for us.
We each returned to the US about 25lbs lighter. The biggest change we have had in our life is around food. We sought our old favorite places to eat and found out that a lot of our old favorites weren’t actually that good – our tastes had changed! We didn’t enjoy fried, sugary, or salty foods as much so we put our cooking classes from around the world to use and make most of the foods we eat. Over the last 13 months we both lost around 25lbs more each so we are both now at lower weights than we ever have been in our adult lives. Who knew limiting sugars, fried foods, and eating tons of vegetables would do that!? Leaving the company meal plan and going to homemade meals made from fresh produce and from scratch has certainly had a huge impact in our overall health and well being. Once again, who knew!?
Our daily life is pretty similar to our daily life before traveling – go to work, do the things we enjoy outside of work, rinse and repeat. I think our perspective on living an enriching life has changed. We make sure to spend plenty of time doing the things we enjoy and we are constantly looking on how to improve our own lives. In the past, we were both focused on managing and maximizing our careers. While we both behave in an appropriately zealous manner for our employers now, we no longer make needless sacrifices for the good of the company and instead act on what is good for us. Taking a break from work and understanding that we can have a long break in our employment really changed our thinking about working for an employer. While we were never at the level of living to work, we definitely did spend a lot of our free time supporting work activities with no compensation for our time. That doesn’t really happen anymore and it’s nice to have work stay at work :).
On the topic of work, we both were pretty picky about where we wanted to work. Not only were we looking for jobs that met our needs in terms of type of work but we were also looking for work that fit our work:life balance. I landed a job with an awesome small company that meets all my needs – I work with great people, work on awesome projects, and have fantastic work life balance. Jac found a great job too. I don’t really know what else could be said about work; we are both quite happy!
After being home for 13 months I can still stay that I love the USA and all the opportunities afforded as an American citizen. Taking a 13 month breather from the USA helped visualize and crystallize all the reasons why being an American is awesome and why the USA is a fantastic place to live. When we set out, I had been looking for areas of the world to move to because I though that there had to be a ‘better way’ of living. Now, I don’t think I really ever want to move out of the US – there’s so much opportunity, so much diversity, so much to take advantage of, we can make the lives we want. It’s odd to think how burned out I was at the beginning of the trip and realizing it was simply because of the life choices and prioritizations I voluntarily made. We’ve prioritized the accumulation of experiences, the time to be free from work, and a healthy lifestyle and it’s thanks to taking 13 months off. We are incredibly lucky we had the wherewithal to make the trip come to reality as it’s certainly sent our life on a different path.
So, all-in-all, we landed on our feet and hit the ground running. We are very happy nothing bad happened to us during our travels, nothing bad happened to us upon our return to the US, and we both were able to get back into the swing of life better off than before we left. We’ve made time to travel around the US and explore some of our old favorites, like the North Shore or D.C., and find some new places to go, like Eastern California. I’m not sure how all of this could have turned out better. Planned happenstance and immense amount luck allowed us to get this far and we’re very fortunate.
I did add a few photos of our travels around the US since our return because the US is pretty awesome.
Enjoy the photos!