Our Toothbrushes Are In:

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Apr 302013
Oct 202014

When you think about undertaking the grand adventure of world travel, you can easily get bogged down by the logistics: how (much) to save, what to pack, where to go… Particularly the money question can be overwhelming; in the course of everyday life it’s tough to imagine coming up with a RTW trip budget in a reasonable period of time. Yet attending to these concerns before shifting your entire thinking is like treating symptoms without addressing root causes. To make a life of travel happen, you must first change your entire outlook.

15119016281 4de37d9dae b Shifting priorities to make the life of travel happen

It’s a choice.

From teenage dreams to adult reality

As a teenager, I dreamt of living in a different country every year. I swore I’d never end up like the character in a famous Czech comedy How Poets Lose Their Illusions who charted his life on a graph, hung on a hallway wall, with milestones for wife, first child, vacation in Yugoslavia, car, promotion, house, and so on. Living a life prescribed by social pressures seemed antithesis to personal happiness.

In college I lived out of my backpack (my Serbian friends gave me an unprintable nickname that suggested the wind and I were more than good friends). I continued traveling in graduate schools abroad, in Hungary and Holland, while my friends were settling down with serious jobs, starting families, and buying apartments. Having traversed the U.S. and hitchhiked around Europe, I came to America after my third and final college graduation, married the love of my life, and soon faced the harsh reality of having to work full-time to pay rent and groceries.

Real life caught up with me. I worked my way from a day laborer to a nonprofit marketing director, the backpack found a permanent spot in the back of the closet, and the vast majority of trips I took were to visits to in-laws in California and vacations in Slovakia every three years.

Switching realities

Lindsay and I still can’t decide how and when we came up with the idea to take a yearlong trip around the world. But in late 2005 and early 2006 we found ourselves looking for a house with the intent of selling it in five years and using the proceeds to finance our world trip. It didn’t quite work out that way—the mortgage, remodeling, jobs to pay for it all, and the housing market plunge weighed us down like a giant anchor. Destinations, packing, or blogging were the last thing on our minds, if they ever occurred to us at all. But as much as we struggled, we were following our plan.

When the five-year mark came around, in early 2011, we thought we’d made it and would leave that October, as planned. But the realtor told us we’d lose money if we sold. Our hopes drained: we saw our dream slip away as we had to postpone the house sale and with it our departure date. We were living the greatest disappointment of our life together.

Then something changed. I am not sure I can explain it, even in hindsight. In martial arts you deflect the attack, absorb its force, and turn it back on itself—that’s how the switch felt. We’d worked hard for years to give up on our dream. We refused to stay down and instead scrambled back to our feet and kept fighting. Even though we felt defeated, we didn’t throw in the towel—we ditched it.

“Life gets in the way,” the saying goes. When that happens, you must move life out of the way and keep going after your dream.

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A whale of a dedication.

New life order

Perhaps our biggest mistake was thinking that making our dream of travel will be easy, that we could do it alongside living our regular lives. This was false. A life of travel, which for us means alternating trips with working to save for the next one, requires a major shift in values. In other words, traveling must become your first priority. This is a difficult change to make, chiefly because of the endowment effect, the human tendency to value what we have more than if we did not have it. Even a crushing mortgage and a soul-sucking job may seem more valuable than not owning a home and being unemployed.

The switch I described earlier happened when Lindsay and I realized we wanted to take our big trip more than anything else and were willing to do anything do make it happen. The epiphany was both liberating and challenging. We prepared to sacrifice the house, the car and 99% of our possessions along with our jobs and the comforts of our adopted hometown in order to lead a life of travel. We prepared to uproot ourselves and feel at home wherever our toothbrushes were, they way we used to in our respective backpacking days. We prepared to live a life uncharted by adulthood and its commonly-conceived responsibilities.

It was only sometime during the trip when I understood I was traveling not just in space but also in time—back to the life of cavorting with the wind.

The question to ask is: What do I want more? Once you shift your thinking and decide the thing you want is to travel long-term, the restpurging possessions, saving, itinerary—is logistics.

Oct 172014

The longer we travel, the more couples like us we discover or even meet. Like us they dreamed about traveling, like us they made the big trip happen, and like us they document their experiences online. In the Two Toothbrushes traveler interview series we introduce fellow traveling and blogging couples to share their story and draw inspiration from them. If you’d like to participate or know a couple who would, please visit the series page.

IndefiniteAdventure logo Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with Indefinite Adventure

Sam Wood and Zab Scoon are a British couple with insatiable wanderlust. In January 2013, after being together for seven and a half years, they flew to Buenos Aires on one-way tickets, and their blog, Indefinite Adventure, chronicles what happened next.

Where are your toothbrushes, where are they headed next, and why?

Right now they’re in London, our hometown, but we’re moving both of them to Berlin, to set up a base for ourselves there. Hopefully, once everything is settled there, we’ll be taking them to South East Asia by the beginning of 2015!

IndefiniteAdventure1 Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with Indefinite Adventure

Sam and Zab at the Salar de Uyuni salt flat, Bolivia.

What’s your definition of home?

I guess we don’t have just one way of defining it, but it’s wherever we both are and look forward to going back to. I once read a quote about this that I really like though: “Home is where the wifi connects automatically!”

How do you make yourself feel at home wherever you go?

We often rent apartments on our travels, which works really well because being able to get up in the morning and make breakfast without getting dressed really makes us feel at home! We also do simple things like get a local SIM for our phone so we can keep in touch with the local friends we make, and find where the best supermarkets are and create a basic daily routine.

Why this (or the most recent) trip, why now (then)?

We travelled for 10 months in South America from January 2013 because we wanted to go somewhere outside of Europe (where we grew up) but which might still be somewhat familiar, at least in terms of language (Sam speaks fluent Spanish, Zab is learning). Now because, well, why not? We’re not getting younger and we won’t always be able to do the things we’re doing now as we travel.

What were your greatest challenges in making the trip happen? How did you overcome them?

At the time when we were set to leave for South America, Zab was in the process of closing up his family business, and there were lots of unexpected hurdles involved with that. Because he was spending so much time on that, he didn’t get too involved in the planning stages of the trip, so Sam did most of that alone, which wasn’t a problem until we actually started travelling and Zab had no idea where we were going! After we realised that, we made sure to keep each other up to date about ideas and requirements we had for the coming days, weeks and months. As with many issues for couples, clearer and more frequent communication turned out to be the answer!

What do you enjoy the most about your traveling life?

Spending time together. Before we started travelling together long term, we hadn’t ever travelled together for more than two weeks, and of course when we were at home, we didn’t spend all day with each other, as we both had jobs in different places. Sharing the ups and downs, the mundane and exhilarating moments of every day was a wonderful way for us to connect and become a stronger couple.

IndefiniteAdventure2 Two Toothbrushes: A traveler interview with Indefinite Adventure

Sam and Zab at Lake Titicaca, Bolivia.

Share a moment from your travels that you will share with the next generation.

Standing hand in hand watching the sun set over Lake Titicaca.