This week marks three years since we have been on the road. There are moments when I am surprised that we made it this long. But, considering we escaped our prior corporate lives in a way that did not allow for a return to the States, I am glad we are making it work. We don’t have another choice.
I’ve been keeping folks up to date on our current whereabouts, and our plans for coming months in our newsletter (not getting the newsletter? sign up here!). I don’t want to rehash what we are up to. Instead, I thought I would share some of the most common questions we get about our lifestyle on the road, and try to answer them as honest as I can.
I will get the negative out of the way first.
Why Did You Leave Bali?
We were in Bali six years ago when we heard that Eric’s father was ill. He passed away a week later. We were in Bali last year when we heard Eric’s cousin died in a freak accident. When we returned to Bali after the funeral in Ireland, things just weren’t the same. We had over six months left on our lease, and were committed to being there. But, there was a part of us, particular in Eric, that felt the negativity of the island.
This negativity was compounded due to the relationships that we had with people in Bali. And, those people were expats, not the local Balinese. Many of those relationships just unraveled as we began to see people in a different light.
For many people, Bali is paradise. For us, it seemed that way for awhile. In the end, we truly did not fit in there. And, many of the expats who lived in Ubud made sure, consciously or unconsciously, that we knew we did not fit in.
I grew up in a Republican family, and I was the naive liberal daughter. I went to university and ended even more of a liberal. I embraced my liberalism while in big law, where most partners are Republican and conservative. The granola, “enlightened,” hippie lifestyle in Ubud made me feel as conservative as Newt Gingrich.
I recently read the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Harris talked about Sedona, Arizona, in a way that eerily mimicked Ubud. Swap out dramatic red rock cliffs for verdant green rice fields, and otherwise the descriptions were identical: “a mecca for spiritual tourists who were catered to by a legion of self-proclaimed healers, mystics, wind whisperers, and intuitive counselors who offered such services as ‘soul-retrieval,’ ‘energy healing,’ and ‘aura photos.’ The downtown shopping district echoed with the sounds of wind chimes and the low hum of didgeridoo.”
So, no, we did not fit in. It just took us some time to really figure that out. After writing my final Bali post, offering up the last 5 things I learned living in Bali, many people asked, via comments or direct messages to me, what was the real story.
I wrote that I was disillusioned with yoga after our time living in Ubud, Bali. Even now, I’ve all but given up my yoga practice. I wrote that yoga teachers are humans. They are “judgmental, hypocritical, insecure, and even deceitful” no matter how enlightened they consider themselves to be.
I don’t know that I will ever tell the stories in great detail. Part of that is because the wounds are still raw. Part of that is because I don’t want to drag peoples’ names through the mud. That would make me no better than they are.
I will say, though, that we had a yoga teacher copy our business idea, right down to the marketing materials, without giving us a head’s up or a warning. They considered themselves a friend to Eric. That’s not how friends treat friends. Another yoga teacher, who we were very close with, let their insecurities take over and ultimately destroyed our friendship. This over a misunderstanding, all of which was in their head. They refused to speak with me about the misunderstanding before we left. All of the time and effort we placed into the friendship was wasted. We valued our relationship with them, but obviously they did not feel the same. We were hurt.
I feel very confident in saying we will never step foot back on Bali again. We have very bad memories of our last few months there. It doesn’t help that so many people ask us about Bali, assuming it is a paradise, and opine that we are crazy for leaving there feeling the way we do. But, there is no such thing as a paradise, as every person feels differently about a location. For us, Bali brings up bad memories, and that is unfortunate.
Now, for the more positive!
How Can You Spend ALL Your Time Together on the Road?
I don’t know the answer to this. We do spend ALL our time together. When living in Bali, when we both had our own motorbikes and our own friends, we had a lot more independence from each other. We didn’t HAVE to do everything together. But, generally, yes, when on the road we spend all our time together.
We’ve been married 14 years now. That’s a long time to get to know one another. It also means we know what our triggers are. We can always tell when we are about to get angry with one another. Generally these are the times where one of us says to the other “we are not on the same page here, let’s take a moment.” We take the moment, communicate, and work through it.
Do we fight? Of course we do. But, our fights are more like tiffs, are way fewer and far between, and a lot less intense than when we were living our prior lives.
How Much Is Enough To Quit Your Job to Travel?
I wrote about this topic of how much is enough to quit in great detail before. Generally people don’t ask for our specific number, the amount we had in savings and retirement accounts before leaving the US. Occasionally, though, people do ask and I will share the information if appropriate.
More often we end up in conversations where people assume that we come from money or we inherited money, which allows us to live this lifestyle on the road. But, that is far from the truth. Neither of our families are wealthy. We worked hard to save money, and we made choices that led us down this path.
How Do You Make Money on The Road?
There are umpteen ways to make money on the road. I’ve talked a bit about the business of blogging. We often get asked if I make good money as a travel blogger, most recently by a ten year old trying to decide on her future career. I always answer honestly, no, I don’t. I hope to some day, and continue to work at it, but this blog is not our primary source of income.
Eric started his online business, selling massage balls on Amazon. This covers almost all of our expenses. We would, however, feel more secure if we could launch a second product. That way, we could start to rebuild our savings a bit.
There are so many ways to make money on the road, and websites are dedicated to this topic. We chose selling on Amazon, and the blog, and we will continue to work on those businesses until it no longer works, or no longer makes money. If that happens, we will find something else. Of that, I am entirely confident.
Don’t You Get Tired of Being on the Road?
When we first moved to Bali, we were tired and needed to slow down. Towards the end of our time in Bali, I had itchy feet. We’ve learned that staying two nights here, three nights there, is too quick for us. Spending a month someplace sometimes feels too long. I recently realized that 12-14 days in a single place is just about right for us, but not economical, as month-long rentals are better on the budget.
Yes, we do get tired. Often this comes during work trips, when we work with tourism boards, or when we otherwise move from place to place too quickly. Then, we find some place to rest for a bit, we recuperate, and then we move on. It’s a constant struggle this year to find balance, but we hope to soon.
When Will You Go Back Home?
I recently had a bit of a tussle with an immigration officer at Belfast airport. I was interrogated about my travel plans, my job, and how I make money on the road. I’ve never been more upset coming out of immigration as I was in Belfast. I realized this is how many people are treated when arriving in the USA. For me, though, it was memorable. And, the whole thing started because I don’t have a home.
He asked about my travel plans after Northern Ireland, continuously asking when I return home? I do not have any ticket to travel to the US any time soon, and couldn’t produce one if asked. So, I didn’t lie. When I ultimately told him I don’t have a home to go to, I thought his head would explode.
But, it’s true. Most people assume the US is our home, a country we will ultimately return to. We will not. We now tend to consider Ireland more home than the US, especially because we have returned home to Ireland twice as much as we have to the US in the last three years. It’s possible that we may find another home, like we did with Bali, but the chances of that home being the US are quite slim.
When Are You Going to Settle Down (Or Grow Up)?
Having just spent a month in Ireland where many people ask the question “how long are you home for?” this seems to be a popular follow-up question. The conversation often starts with “are you still on the road?” and ultimately ends with “when will you settle down?” Although at least one family friend asked when we are going to grow up, a question laced with typical Irish humor more than disdain.
Our definition of settle down is a lot different than other peoples’ definition. For most people that means buying a house and having kids. That is not our plan. Instead, at some point next year we hope to slow down. We would love to find a place that can be our home base, some place to come home. But, chances are, that will be a year-long cheap rental some place, with little responsibility. A place cheap enough that we can walk away for a month without feeling like we are losing money on rent, or worried about having too much house, like our house in Bali. That, for us, is settling down.
As for growing up…we were grown up. I had a pretty grown-up career and financial situation. I didn’t like it. Besides, being a grown up is so overrated.
If You Knew Then What You Know Now . . .
This is an interesting question, and different from the question do you have regrets. Everyone has regrets. Instead, the question is more nuanced. If you knew at the start of your adventure what you know now, would you still have done it?
Every once in awhile, I wonder whether we should have stuck it out in the US for an additional 6-7 months, to wait for one more bonus check. That would have put us in a better place financially right now. It would have been enough to put us in a place that I would feel okay buying a cheap property some place. But, then I think, I don’t want the responsibility of having a place overseas anyhow.
But, when I hear from my friends who are living the life I used to, still working the hours, still unable to take a vacation for more than a few days, still totally stressed out, I know we made the right decision at the right time.
And, there you have it, the most popular questions we get about having a life on the road. If you’re curious about any part of our life, just ask…I might just answer. Here’s to another year out on the road. Thanks to all of you for being loyal readers!