Friday, 15 June 2012


Yesterday was the day I had been dreading.

I started anticipating its approach about a month ago, bracing myself against its onslaught. I expected the realization of its significance to hit me like a ton of bricks, forcing me with its arrival to acknowledge my deepest feelings and doubts.

Well, none of that came to pass. Like a minor birthday or anniversary, this seemingly-important day came and went with an anti-climactic "wah waaaaah".

Yesterday, you see, was the half-way point of our trip. In exactly six months, we will have taken the last flight of our round the world ticket. In six months we’ll be back in Europe. Back home.

In six months, it will all be over.

So you can imagine that we expected to feel some profound emotion about the passing of that milestone: pride, dread, relief, I don’t know, something.

But really, the only thing we felt was acceptance.  We realize that we have as much time ahead of us as we do behind us; that there is as much opportunity to experience the world as we have already experienced in the last six months.

And we can accept that.

We have no regrets, no bad feelings about the passing of time, no real desire to slow down or speed up the clock. Looking back, we have done a lot since the start of the trip. On one hand, it feels like the time has flown by, but on the other hand, we feel like the start of our trip was years ago.

For example, I was thinking about our jungle tour the other day and what we were wearing during certain parts of it. It was an unexpected shock to realize that the clothes in our backpacks back then are the exact same clothes that are still in our backpacks almost six months later. The jungle feels like another trip completely, something far off in our pasts. It’s as if traveling has become our normal, everyday life, and each new place we go is a separate mini-vacation that has nothing to do with the previous destination.

People keep asking us how we are feeling now that we are half way through our trip: Are we still liking it? Are we sick of travelling? Have we started thinking about what we will do when it’s over? The short answer is yes, no and kinda.

The long answer is that we are (still) loving this trip. Seriously, I don’t know how better to express it. This has been the best decision of our lives and we are having an absolute blast. Every new place we go and new experience we have teaches us more about the world, about each other and about ourselves.

And it’s fun. Whether we are visiting a chaotic market in Bolivia with dead sheep opened up on the sidewalk, having a heated political discussion with one of our volunteering hosts or road-tripping around New Zealand in a giant camper van singing George Michael songs, we are having a fantastic time and making memories that we will never forget. I don’t know how better to explain it without sounding like a Hallmark card.

And no, we are not sick of travelling. For that, I thank our decision to volunteer along the way. Staying in one place to work for a few weeks every three months or so gives us a much-needed break from the little stresses and discomforts of backpacking that can wear on you after a while. Volunteering gives us a break from hostels and bus rides, from spending money and constantly being on the move. By the time we are finished with a volunteering assignment, we are ready, excited even, to get back on the road. This little respite, in addition to the invaluable learning opportunity working abroad provides us, makes volunteering one of the best parts of the trip.

Before we started this year-long adventure, we were worried about the things that we would have to live without, the comforts of “normal” life that we would miss along the way. Highest on that list was our own space: our own glorious, comfortable, solitary place that we could call our own. Surprisingly though, we haven’t really had a problem finding that, even on the road. We had it in our tiny cabin on the farm when we were volunteering in Argentina, when we rented an apartment in Chile, when we had our camper van in New Zealand. Sure, it’s not our own couch in our cozy apartment in Switzerland, but we quickly adapted and realized that it is possible to find our own little space in the world, no matter where we are.

There are a few things, however, that we do miss. Before I get into them, let me preface it by saying that these are tiny, insignificant little holes in our comfort. They are puny nothings and do not hinder our enjoyment of the trip in the least. I always feel like the biggest a-hole complaining or talking about what I don’t have when I am in the middle, literally, of an incredible life experience that few people are lucky enough to have. So, please, take this with a grain of salt and forgive me for being an insolent, unappreciative brat, especially after you hear what I'm about to say.

I miss looking good. There, I said it. It’s lame, I know, but it’s true. I miss dressing up and wearing heels.  I miss picking out an outfit, doing my make-up and then looking in the mirror and loving what I see (and yes, I said that too: loving it). It’s been over six months since I have used a hair dryer, since I’ve worn heels or perfume or lipstick. It’s been six months since I’ve worn jeans for god’s sake. And I actually miss all of that. I find myself looking at pictures Vincent took of me to test his camera before the trip with a kind of nostalgic longing that one normally reserves for a someone who has passed away. I mean, look at the “before” pictures:

RIP, hot stuff.

And now look at what I’ve been reduced to after six months of zip-off pants and sports bras.

Oh, the androgyny!

At first, having a minimalist beauty routine and wardrobe was liberating. It felt good not to care. But, damnit, I do care. And I’m not the only one.

Vincent has admitted as well that he’s fed up wearing the same convertible pants every day. He’s sick of having only one option when he wants to dress up, which happens to be exactly what he wears when he dresses down. He too longs for his old wardrobe of nice clothes and something other than hiking shoes to put on when we go out.

And it’s not just us. Other long-term travelers we talk to say the same thing. I remember one Swiss guy we met who had been traveling for five months and said that he couldn’t wait to get back to work simply because he wanted to wear a suit again. I wouldn’t go that far, but I do understand the sentiment.

Beyond our wardrobes- and this too will induce serious eye rolls- we also miss working out and having a routine for staying in shape. Yep, we are those assholes, the kind who actually miss exercising. True, we do quite a bit of walking and hiking, but I miss running so bad it hurts and Vincent yearns for his daily (well, every other day) hour at the gym. Yes, we can do make-shift exercises in our hostel room or I could run in my hiking shoes, but it’s not the same. Neither of us miss having any other routine- our jobs can suck it, for example- but not working out, really working out, has been much more difficult than we expected.

And it shows. As Vincent says, we are both a little “soft” these days…

But other than those two tiny complaints, we really don’t miss anything else. Sorry, that sounded douchey: of course we miss our friends and families too, but we expected that.  And honestly, with our friends and family spread out all over the world, we often go six months without seeing many of our loved ones anyway.  

The last question we get- do you know what you are going to do after the trip?- is one that I can’t even begin to answer in any way that isn’t flaky and noncommittal and confusing. But of course I’ll try anyway, mostly because I love the sound of my own voice.

We have had a lot to consider between the different places we have been and the kinds of volunteer work we have been doing. I personally have driven Vincent crazy with my repetitive assertion nearly every place we go that “I could live here.” It drives him insane, but it’s true! Buenos Aires, Auckland, Sydney, the countryside inland from Byron Bay; I could totally live in any of those places. Or I could happily go back to Switzerland.

See why this makes Vincent want to throw things?

Really, we are still so open that the only tentative plan we have for when the trip is over is that we are going to look for jobs in any of the places mentioned above (and any other we love in the coming six months) and see what comes up. If that's not flaky and non-committal, I don't know what is.

So that is our half-way checkup: what’s good (pretty much everything), what’s bad (lookin’ like a dude all the time) and what’s to come (most likely more places I’ll want to live in).

To wrap this up, I’ll tell you a little story to illustrate my previously expressed woes. I was looking through the “cute” pictures of me from before the trip when Vincent asked me what I was doing.

“Oh, I’m looking at pictures of myself before the trip.”

“Back when you were skinny and tan?” Vincent asked.

With a look that I hoped would turn my husband into a smoldering pile of ash, I responded, “Back when I was skinny?!”

As if correcting me, Vincent added, “And tan." 

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