This months inspiring travelers are Shawn and Carmel from The Journey Itself. They started their Round the World trip about a month after us in September of 2013. Since they started from a different direction we were able to follow them and get tips on places we would visit in the coming months. We were impressed from the start with their love for food and a good craft beer! We found them inspiring from the get go with their honest writing, adventures in Mongolia and a several day motorbike tour through Vietnam. We hope you enjoy their responses and pop over to their blog to see more.
Tell us a bit about yourselves:
Shawn and I are an American couple from Portland, Oregon. We’ve been together for close to ten years and married for almost four. Prior to starting this trip, I worked as an executive assistant at a hospital and Shawn was a day treatment counselor for an alternative school for boys.
What made you decide to go on a RTW trip?
We both love to travel, but hadn’t done much traveling together. The idea started back in early 2007 and we managed to never let go of it, despite moving in together, job changes, life changes…and eventually we prioritized our dream and made it happen.
What has been your favorite place so far?
Thailand will always be near or at the top of our list for several reasons, but mostly because it was really the place where we felt like we finally started to get the hang of it. Not that travel has been easy since then, just we learned how to balance our needs with our desires and how to deal when things got tough. It’s so funny because I remember being so intimidated by Bangkok, but as soon as we arrived, we were in love with it.
Where are you most looking forward to going?
We’re getting close to the end of our RTW and we’re in one of our last countries – Spain. I lived in Granada for a semester in college and we’ve rented an apartment there for the month of June. I’m really looking forward to returning and showing Shawn around the town I called home for six months, as well as having a kitchen and some space to just enjoy our final weeks in Europe. We’re also really looking forward to returning to my uncle’s cabin in Idaho later this summer. Even with all the traveling we’ve done now, it’s still one of my favorite places on earth.
Tell us about your favorite food or meal you have had on your trip
If you ask Shawn, it’s probably roti – he has a bit of a sweet tooth. For me, it’s a little harder since I can immediately think of about a dozen things I’d like to pick. Although it was definitely not my favorite cuisine, I would have to pick our Christmas meal in Cambodia – food is always better when you share it with people you love. We were lucky enough to share a fancy meal out with my cousins and aunt in Siem Reap who visited us over Christmas. I still have to pinch myself to be sure that whole week was real – it was incredible.
What has been your best splurge?
No question – our five-day motorbike trip in Vietnam. We originally signed up for a three-day trip, but a half-day into it, our guides suggested a two-day extension and it didn’t take long for us to agree. It was a pretty major splurge for Asia, but worth every cent.
What do you find hardest about long-term travel?
It took us a long time to adapt to so much change all the time. When you’re setting off, you think it’ll be fun to have so many new experiences, but it takes a lot of energy to do the simplest things – stuff that you never think about back home, like feeding yourself or getting coffee. It gets to be exhausting and frustrating at times. We try to find a bit of routine where we can, like setting aside time for exercise (or at least stretching) and writing, both personal and creative. It helps maintain some balance amidst the change.
Other than family and friends, what do you miss most about home?
Good beer! We are so spoiled living in the Pacific NW – we have access to so many different kinds of delicious microbrews. We have treated ourselves to a few imports from home along the way and been able to find some microbrews here and there, but it’s definitely one of the things we miss most.
Any tips or words of advice for those dreaming about traveling?
Nothing about long-term travel is easy. Saving the money is hard. Planning and researching the trip is hard. Dealing with your bouts of self-doubt and your mental stability for wanting to do something like this is really hard. Once you’re on the road, dealing with your own fear and your partner (if you choose to travel with someone) is hard. But it’s absolutely worth it. I don’t think we’ve fully comprehended the ways it’s changed us or the lessons we’ve learned.
I just heard this quote today and I think it is absolutely fitting of travel: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” (Neale Donald Walsh)