It’s beautiful here, I thought, lounging in a camp chair enjoying the warmth of a sputtering campfire in tiny Acme, Washington. In a rare moment to myself, my eyes surveyed my surroundings with a surprising exactness. Unlike Danielle, I’m not typically overcome with nostalgia, so my sudden need to etch such details into my memory was a curveball I wasn’t expecting.
In July of 2014, on our anniversary, I asked Danielle if she was interested in selling everything, and traveling the world. She answered in an excited squeak mingled with a sudden onset of joyous tearfulness. So we saved money, got out of debt, planned a wedding, saved money all over again, budgeted, and planned some more. Gut instinct told me (and still does) this journey was the right decision, regardless of jittery fears or overriding excitement. Are we adventurous? Yes. Are we lucky? Absolutely. Do we have all the answers? Nope. Nope. Nope.
Two years before we left, most people just said, “Do it before you have kids” or “Do it while you’re young and don’t have kids.” The NW populace were excited and extolled, “I’m so jealous! I wish I could do that!” Most of my family in the midwest are a little more conservative. “You guys have brass balls!” or “I just couldn’t leave a big empty space on my resume.” Both locations suggested we use Canadian tags on our backpacks or dress like Europeans or suggested we become fluent in a Scottish accent. Both also had wonderful suggestions of places to go or food to eat. Unfortunately, if you didn’t write it down we’ve probably forgotten most of your ideas. Hopefully, we’ll remember, but we probably won’t. If you do happen to recall your probably awesome advice, write to us and we’ll definitely remember! Overall, the general feeling from everyone: excited, yet concerned.
The support, however, was unwavering and consistent. We probably have the best F&F’s in the world (that’s Friends and Family for the uninitiated).
In the last six months, our preparations for our adventure became…real. Suddenly, we weren’t looking forward to an event in the distant future. Our goal felt more attainable, reachable. When traveling was two years out, describing our future plans to someone we hadn’t seen in a long time was difficult. They would ask what I was up to, I would grind out through my teeth in a cheerful way, “the wife and I are preparing to travel the world!” And inevitably the reply would be, “When are you leaving?” I would try not to appear too deflated and say, “Oh hopefully next March. Not this one! The next one.” I felt like an MC on stage building up the audience for the next act. And please welcome to the stage: The World Travelers! And then we, disgustingly saunter our way onto the stage…two years later.
But the end arrived. And for all our planning, we discovered we weren’t prepared for it.
Two months before we left, our ability to juggle tasks became strained. I always thought I was good juggler; the brother and I started the juggling club in high school. But here is a sample of what we were dealing with:
- Separating items to sell/give away, and which items we were storing. Boxes galore!
- Closing out the apartment: Landlord notification, cleaning of the apartment, and walk-through.
- Travel pack: balancing out “pack everything we need” with “MAKE IT AS LIGHT AS POSSIBLE.”
- Safety for Travel – locks, passwords, backup plans, medical stuff, copies of passports, etc.
- Rest of Travel stuff. Vaccines, destinations, tickets, rudimentary plans, etc.
- Oh yeah, we both had full time jobs until 5 days before we left.
- Saying our goodbyes.
Our goodbye tour began right around the time we bought our tickets, which was early January. While I knew it was going to be busy because of the jobs, the tasks, and the indeterminate amount of tiny details we needed to remember, I never considered saying goodbye would be exhausting. And emotional (I’m sometimes foolish. Shush.).
I don’t know, it’s not that I didn’t want to see people or that I won’t miss the dickens out of them. It’s just, three years prior, when you’re in a shitty job, you’re on your anniversary, and in a moment of searching for something more in your life, you turn to your then-fiance and say, “hey, want to sell everything and travel the world?” For some reason, whatever the reason, before leaving became real, the journey was still this fantastical, inconsequential, adventure! Then the goodbyes were upon us. To make the parting waves even more intense, we realized we probably won’t be returning to live in Seattle. Our departure is bittersweet indeed.
And so, every weekend for about three months, Saturday and Sunday were either travel prep days or get togethers. Sometimes it was during the week. Most evenings were spent doing a small amount of travel prep or at least having the same redundant conversation: what was left to do. We’ve become All-Star list makers.
The weeks melted away and by the time they were puddles at our feet, we waved farewell to countless friends and family members, handed our keys to the landlord and headed to Acme to stay a week with Danielle’s parents. A few spectacular friends were able to make the trip up giving us quite the send-off. And during a moment I had to myself, I looked around their yard, at the trees waiting for summer, at the squirrels and chipmunks already preparing for winter, at the sun playing hide and seek with shadows, at the wind sashaying through the branches, at a warm home kept at a cool temperature breathing its welcome in the shhhhk of a sliding glass door, and at a stone firepit with roaring flames encircled with enough chairs for friends and family. It truly was, and is, Beautiful here.
To our friends and family who made it out to see us, who flew, drove, carpooled, walked, and biked–and for those who couldn’t because of life’s little snares–we thank you. Thank you for being with us all these years and for watching our journey unfold before we ever left our shores. Til next we meet. Adieu, auf wiedersehen, au voire, goodbye.