“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
It was 2013, and we were your typical, 30-something American couple. In respectable, 9-to-5 desk jobs, we were climbing the professional ladder, saving for a house, and talking about starting a family.
Instead, we quit our jobs, put everything into storage, and left our home in Washington, DC, in search of adventure, personal fulfillment, and good eats.
For us, giving up everything we knew for a life on the road was not a spur of the moment decision, nor was it something we just lucked into. It took almost four years of soul searching, hard work, saving, and planning before we finally embarked on our journey.
The story of this journey really starts with the story of us. We met at a bar in DC on May 2, 2007, and, despite H.J.’s awkwardness the night of our initial meeting, we went from zero to 60 in about three seconds flat. Shared passions, values, backgrounds, and attraction will do that people. About a month later, I met his family (at their 35th wedding anniversary party, no less) – three months later, he met mine.
It wasn’t long before we were planning our first trip together. Normal people might go to NYC or a little countryside B&B for the weekend – you know, ease into things as a new couple. Not us. We decided to visit the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, which is nowhere near tourist hot spots like Quepos and Tamarindo further north. In fact, the only other person on our puddle-jumper from San Jose was a guy from the Peace Corps.
The weekend went something like this: slooooowly bumping down muddy “roads” better suited to ATVs, rain, no TV, more rain, no phone, even more rain, not ONE restaurant nearby, rain … again, all manner of bugs and critters hanging with us in our open-air casa, and more than one canceled flight on account of, you guessed it, rain.
What might have been pure misery for some was a total adventure for us. That trip pretty much sealed the deal: we were engaged less than a year later.
After we got married in 2009, our wanderlust only became more insatiable. We honeymooned in Nicaragua, frequented Paris, road-tripped to Maine, tackled Alaska and British Columbia, and survived a canoe trip with our dachshund on the James River in VA that landed H.J. in the hospital (long story). Like so many people, our vacations/trips were the highlights of each year, and they were neither long nor frequent enough. The list of things we wanted to see and do was expanding exponentially as the years flew by.
Along with this wanderlust was a rapidly growing sense that there was something missing in our lives. For one, DC was just not the place for us in terms both geography and culture. We wanted (and still eventually want) a big garden, a workshop/studio for H, a little orchard, some chickens, and maybe even a creek nearby. Oh, and some mountains for hiking, climbing, biking, and skiing wouldn’t be bad either. And, we’d like to live in a place with some diversity, and I’m not talking about superficial things like skin color or gender. I’m talking about REAL diversity – of lifestyles, passions, opinions, and beliefs.
For another, it became increasingly difficult to escape the feeling that sitting behind a desk Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, was just not enough. Don’t get me wrong – there were things that we enjoyed about our previous office jobs, security being one of them. But, somewhere along the way, we traded financial and professional security for true passion. Ultimately, we knew we would never find professional fulfillment in our current jobs or personal fulfillment in DC, so we decided to do something about it.
That brings us to today, in the middle of a grand adventure exploring the world, starting with six months of motorcycling through Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and ending who knows where. I’m not sure we’re any closer to finding new careers than we were when we left DC. What I can tell you is, we have a much better sense of who we are individually and as a couple, what truly matters to us, and what we do and don’t want out of life.
It may not be an exact recipe, but it’s something.