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. The Two Toothbrushes interview series is a new space here introducing fellow traveling couples.
First up, Carmel and Shawn Montgomery who blog at The Journey Itself, where they “share our victories, fears, adventures, odd encounters and maybe even a little life philosophy as we live out a long-time dream to travel the world.” Carmel and Shawn lived about 3 miles from us in Portland, Oregon, but we only met them in Bangkok, Thailand. They set out on their trip in September 2013 and plan to travel for a year. Carmel shared their story.
Where are your toothbrushes and where are they headed next?
Currently [as of March 12, 2014], our toothbrushes are residing at my cousin’s house in Perth, Australia. We are 3 weeks through our month-long visit to Western Australia. We head to Singapore next.
What’s your definition of home?
Home is more of a state of mind to us, hence why we chose The Journey Itself as our website name. The original quote [by the Japanese poet Basho] it came from is “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is my home.” We’ve chosen to spend this year making our home on the road. The first time I traveled, my brother told me to take everything that was really important to me and leave the rest behind. I was 19 at the time, so it took me awhile to figure out he didn’t mean my CDs. But seriously, home is really more about the love we receive from our families and friends than a physical place to us.
How do you make yourself feel at home wherever you go?
One of the best things we brought with us are our packing cubes. We each have 3: small, medium, and large. Just pulling them out of our packs makes us feel like we’ve “unpacked” and are a little more settled. We also have our friend Steve Squatch with us—he gets a spot on the bed almost immediately.
Why this trip, why now?
I spent a lot of time trying to chase down other “dreams,” like owning a house or becoming a personal trainer, but long-term travel was always my real dream. I was too scared I wouldn’t be able to handle the challenges of it, so I kept trying to deny I needed to do it for years. Finally, right before we got married in 2010, I told Shawn I was tired of being scared—we needed to take action. We were both in careers that were unfulfilling and needed a way to shake things up. It took a lot of discipline and we had some major roadblocks, but I knew it was important to both of us because we worked through them and now here we are almost 6 months later.
What were your greatest challenges in making the trip happen? How did you overcome them?
I had this idea first in early 2007, but I was in debt and had no discipline with my money. Shawn was always good about saving, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I made paying off debt and saving a priority. Once I had a clearly-defined goal, saving became the easy part. Of course, at the time we decided to start working towards this goal, we were just about to get married and I was unemployed. So, first things first—I had to get a job.
We, of course, had the usual financial challenges, like a sick cat, car repairs, and so on, but we had a major personal road block when my brother died in 2012. It was the most devastating event of my life. As much as I wanted to give up at times, somehow I didn’t. Honestly, fulfilling this dream gave me a lot of strength through such a dark time. It gave me something positive to focus on and a reminder of the importance to live life to the fullest.
What do you enjoy the most about your traveling life?
I love the flexibility. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that if we don’t like a place, we can leave it. This was our struggle in the Philippines, but once we realized we didn’t have to like a place and we could go somewhere else, it was very liberating. I also enjoy the luxury of spending an afternoon reading or writing just because I want to read or write. Does it get any better than that?
Share a moment from your trip that made you laugh out loud.
While on our Gobi trip back in September, our group was told we would have a chance to ride camels. We envisioned this lovely afternoon touring the dunes surrounding us on camel-back, soaking up the sun on a cool afternoon. After a rather entertaining 30 minutes of getting everyone up on the camels, which are very temperamental, we set off on what was the worst ride of our lives.
Here were the 6 of us on the tour, each holding on to each other’s camel’s rein in one hand and gripping the fur or hump of our own camel, about 6 inches away from each other. Meanwhile these smelly animals are having a bowel movement or peeing every minute. Our feet were getting crushed as we swayed along for a half hour along the desert floor being led by the owner who was on his cell phone the whole time. After reaching the “halfway” point (i.e., a half-hour into our hour-long ride), he took our picture, which I’ve included. We look a lot happier than we actually were. It was ridiculous and all of us couldn’t wait to get off, especially the girl whose saddle had poop in it when she sat down. Don’t ride a camel—they are vile things.