“When are you guys going to return home to Australia and be ‘normal’?”
It’s a question my husband Tim and I get asked all the time. I always choose my words carefully but I’m often tempted to retort, “Why on Earth would we want to do that?” But I don’t. That would suggest we think there’s something wrong with how the majority of our friends and family choose to live. And we don’t believe that at all. Each to their own. But we decided long ago that a 9-to-5 job, a house and the occasional holiday when we’d finally saved the time and money weren’t for us.
We are pretty normal, we’ve just chosen a lifestyle that presents us with different sights, sounds, challenges and experiences every day. I am so thankful we broke out of the rut we were once in.
In our late 40’s and early 50’s, we were just like any other hard-working couple in Australia, trying to pay the bills. We had a seven-bedroom house, with lots of lovely things. But the price for that was a daily grind.
In 2000, after returning from our first long trip, we started exploring how to make travel a long-term lifestyle. By 2010 those plans had become a reality. I took a three-year career break from my job, Tim worked out agreements with his clients and we took to the road with the aim of seeing as much of the world as we could before we got too old to enjoy it.
We figured we would start in Asia and take it from there. We had a general idea of where we wanted to go but left the day-to-day details to evolve as we went. Our only real limitation was the weather—neither of us likes the cold.
Six years later, we’re still on the road. That three-year break just kept getting longer. We compare our lives back then to our reality now and there is no contest as far as quality of life is concerned.
Even though we’ve now been to more than 130 countries, our enthusiasm for exploration and making new friends is still as strong as it was when we left.
We still earn an income to supplement the money we make from renting our home back in Australia. A fulfilling mix of opportunities on the road includes teaching English and writing. We budget, we save and pay our taxes. Every day we do normal things, just in a different way.
Simple things, like choosing what to eat, have become an adventure. We’ve tried everything from delicious local cuisine to the more exotic fare like bubbling hot pots, roasted goat’s meat, warthog and even deep fried grasshoppers, frogs and spiders. Grabbing lunch has taken on a whole new meaning!
Convenient transport no longer means jumping in the car or waiting for ages for the local bus to take us to work. From the super quick subways in Japan, China and South Korea to tuk tuks in Thailand and India and even camels in Mongolia, we chose what worked best at the time.
We’ve slept in tree houses, caves, yurts and on a Bedouin carpet under a star-studded sky. Everything we do feels more exotic and exciting than back in Australia.
Many of the people that we’ve met on our travels are living a similar lifestyle. We’re certainly not the most adventurous people we’ve met. We have friends who’ve cycled hundreds of thousands of kilometres around the world by themselves and we know solo sailors who’ve circumnavigated the globe more than once.
We’re not the oldest or youngest either. We’ve met people in their 70s and 80s and families with infant children. We’re not as rich as many of those we’ve met, but we’re not the poorest either. And, we are definitely not the fittest. In fact, as of right now, we both need to lose some serious kilos.
People find it incredible when we tell them it costs us less to travel the world than it did to stay at home and be “normal.” But the reality is that Australia is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Almost everywhere else is cheaper. And we don’t slum it either. While we love to go wild camping on our cycling adventures, most of the time we choose to stay in cosy apartments giving us all the comforts of home.
Both of us love a beer and discovering new places to sample the local cuisine. Most of the time we travel independently, but we’re more than happy to spend big on tours and experiences when it’s something that’s on our bucket list.
The key to success is knowledge. We needed to learn how to set up our life back home, find the best value destinations and work out different avenues to fund our adventures. Accessing that know-how is one of the reasons we’ve been subscribers to International Living for years. We’ve also picked up some tips and tricks of our own along the way—experience is the best teacher.
Now we have a new kind of “normal.” We worked hard to make it happen and it took quite a bit of effort. But, we’re both 100% convinced that effort was worth it. So when are we going to return to Australia and be ‘normal’? Not anytime soon if we can help it. We’re rather enjoying our lives, just the way they are.
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