Six months have passed, since we’ve left home. The first six months of our world trip, and the end is not even close. Incredible. What it does to you? A lot and yet we are still the same. More relaxed and careless but still Wouter and Nadine. We have not turned into travel hippies living an unconventional life. Nor are we reformed into wishy-washy types and we have not found enlightenment. Not yet, at least. Neither are we back in our twenties living on an extreme budget, partying all night long and hanging out in decrepit hostels. In fact, we’ve even managed not to buy one of those Aladdin pants, which seems to be the ultimate fashion item for real backpackers. And for sure we have not “found ourselves” or discovered our true calling and decided to save the world. We are still us. Around the world.
I could write about how traveling changes the way you view the world, how it gives you a greater perspective, how it increases your resilience, flexibility and all those beautiful things. But it’s just six months, we’ve traveled before and this is I think far more interesting to reflect on in a couple of years.
And yet, there is change. Not sufficient to write a book, but it’s change. I guess it’s more like a confirmation or deepening of certain things. We talk about it a lot. To be conscious of what we are going through. Where we stood when we started, what this trip means to us and what we want to get out of it. Our insights and beliefs are not new. What is new is that these are getting deeper rooted into our DNA.
Six months on the road. We’ve covered around 40.000 km by train, bus, plane, boat, foot, scooter, bike, tuk tuk, taxi, Russian UAZ van, e-tuk-tuk, mountain bike, jeep, camel, dromedary, metro, tram and bamboo train. 13 countries. 20 Blogs. 67 Amazing places we’ve stayed longer than 24 hours. ±80 Different beds… ok that’s something we better not think about too long… our travel sheets are indispensable items we carry!
>> The links go to short 360° movies, move your phone or mouse to look around <<
With 40.000 km under the belt, we have got the travel routine down. It’s team work. About 24 hours a day. We both tend to lean towards certain duties that fits us best. I’m the ‘finance manager’, keeping an eye on the budget and travel time, not a surprise for those who know me. 😉 Marketing is obvious also my favorite. It’s simple targeting: we are the only customers we need to satisfy. I love to explore the travel options and to make a high-level plan based on our needs and joint bucket list.
Wouter on the other hand is the ‘sales man’, he easily connects with people and often chooses with whom we do business and negotiates the price. Also, he is the ‘engineer’ and analyzes and design solutions. This can go from finding a way to kick people out of a slow Wi-Fi network (sorry…), put up the mosquito net when it is actually impossible, up to overseeing the stuff we carry to make traveling light, comfy and fun.
By now it has sunk in that this travel life is our new life and not a short break. Our new travel life feels wonderful and we enjoy it to the max. Of course, we have off-days and grmbl-moments, but either we master it better or it’s simply easier while traveling to just take it as it is. The coin will flip again. Sometimes we dream about the kind of life we fancy after our trip. We shall see. At the moment these are only vague dreams. Funny isn’t it? We live a dream and still we are dreaming. I hope it never stops. Without dreams, they for sure will not come true.
A big part of our joy of traveling sits in new experiences. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. We enjoyed the amazing views of the frozen Baikal Lake as much as our visit to a barber shop in Rajasthan. The sight of hundreds of pilgrims circumambulating the towering Potala palace in Lhasa was as impressive as the simple rural life in Cambodia. The beauty of traveling is that new experiences happen all the time.
Sometimes it’s scary. Like Wouter who walked through the tight Vietcong tunnels, while he can’t stand small spaces. And don’t blame him, with his length most spaces appear a lot smaller to him than to others. Still he did it! Out of his comfort zone. And also our first night train in India was quite thrilling up front, nonetheless it turned out to be safe and convenient. That is, as long as you bring that indispensable travel sheet.
Sometimes it’s terrible. Like the public toilet without walls in Beijing or the steamed momo’s in Tibet which tasted like sour yak. Jak! Or The driver who fell asleep in China and then try to keep him awake while the only word you both understand is ‘Yak’. Crazy. We pointed at so many yaks to keep the guy awake. Look, Yak. Yak. Yak! Or how, in the Gobi Desert, collecting animal poo for the fire goes hand in hand with cooking. Still, it’s all part of the game. Even the honking scooter madness in Vietnam and our grumpy night provodnitsa (wagon manager) on the Trans Siberian were all part of the experience.
Another part of the travel joy are the people we meet. Many life stories are so inspiring. Like an Indian couple who gave up all their belongings and jobs to travel long term around India. Similar to us, I know, but a lot of courage is needed to do this in the Indian culture. Unlike us they do not have the full understanding of family and friends, and still they choose to go for it. Live their dream. So cool! (Safe travel! @imswatchichandra).
We’ve met such diverse people. From New Zealand asparagus farmers who winter down in South East Asia up to a Hong Kong expat who scouts talents and then his wife. An Aussie who came to Hong Kong with nothing, fall in love with the city (totally understandable 😉 ), decided to stay and to become a journalist. She started to network, telling everyone she was a journalist (fake it before you make it), got some projects and eventually ended up with her own company. It’s possible in Hong Kong. Or the Argentinian family we’ve met in Thailand. Their company is the only one who imports Angus beef into China. That’s pretty unique, I think. Amazing family story how they ended up doing so. Or the guy who travels around the world to shoot movies how people live in remote areas. We even met a man during our Formula 1 watch addiction, who used to be a race driver and who competed against Carlos Sainz. Sainz jr. is driving in F1 today! It’s as if no one lives a normal life, if that exists at all.
But. Just traveling is not enough. This may sound spoiled, but everyday sight-seeing, activities, meeting people and going from A to B is too much. Ticking boxes. No matter how much we love traveling, it’s as if we need to have a ‘weekend’ now and then. To just live. Be where we are. Digest all the impressions. Do something else. It’s all about balance. Which was not easy to find, I must admit. We had our struggle in Vietnam and we even needed a break of a full month in Kata, to digest the ‘sell-house-finish-job-get-ready-pack-stuff-say-goodbye-and-go’ rollercoaster.
Extremely important turned out to be our hobbies. You have something at hand and it’s something private. Finally, I removed the dust of my reading list and it’s nice to take real time again to listen to music and take a trip down the memory lane. We also found ourselves some new hobbies. Wouter is nowadays our movie maker and I’m the writer and photographer. We even got a first assignment, ha-ha, and helped out a hotel manager with pictures of his new hotel, so he can promote it online. Just for fun and the experience. Plus we got a late check-out for free ahead of our night train. It’s wonderful to be busy and to develop ourselves in these new areas. And not only that, slowly a new plan is forming to give our traveling a little twist in a couple of months. A twist that will require to seriously wreck our brains again.
Six months traveling. When we think of it, we can only smile. We have seen so much. So many amazing experiences. We’re so lucky. Sigh…
Yeah, we have zero regrets of what we gave up back home. All worth it. Every second. Sure, we miss family and friends, but luckily the digital world is a big support to stay connected. And strangely enough, in some cases we are more connected than before.
On to the next six months! Where will we be? 🙂