The idea of taking a year off and traveling to South America came out of an instinct Karl had soon after we got married. I was gearing up to complete my master’s degree program and begin a new career. He was nearing a decade and a half at a company that was now changing directions.
For him, it was the birth of a calling. For me, it felt symbolic to a miscarriage. However, the writing was on the wall with almost 50 years in his making. It was clear this was a monumental moment and opportunity in his life. He supported my own calling for several years and I felt it my duty and desire to support him in his own.
So, we pressed pause, and set out to make this a collaborative journey of self-exploration. Overall, the goal was to seek out amazing adventures and explore the kind of life we wanted to build together while we aimed to drive to the southern most point of South America, Ushuaia, otherwise known as “the end of the world.”
One of the bigger questions we chose to wrestle with was, how do we live a quality life pursuing our passions and contributing to the greater good? Is it possible? Or must we sacrifice one thing over the other? Further more, what was our definition of a quality life, and how fine a line existed between simplifying and sacrificing?
To many, traveling for over a year is a long time. We thought it was. And not surprisingly most people were dumbfounded and outright confused at the thought. To our surprise, as we met more and more overlanders (we met many) we discovered that the vast majority were traveling far longer or forever. Many were retired; some with vehicles to live in, others without. However, many had sold everything in order to travel and/or live off a fixed or low income.
Not only was privilege even far more glaring, I began to see how retirement in the sense of the Western World was largely one afforded to the more privileged, and a rapidly disappearing one at that. I continued to think about the vast percentage of the world that are quite literally working to death just trying to keep their heads above water, or jobless and homeless, and/or not afforded any options – let alone travel.
One of the big takeaways from our experiences that helped me grapple with the great many disparities I struggle to contend with, was a stronger ability to step back from my own projections to look at life more objectively. Only through the eyes of my own experience do I see the world, which at best is narrow. As a result, I came to understand at a deeper level that it’s more helpful not to assume anything. Further more, I can’t save the world. At best, I can be present and become curious.
Another take away was learning the distinction between a sacrifice and a trade-off. There are pros and cons to every situation, and situations are often shifting and evolving. The difference is perspective. Often times we lose sight of this and can’t see the forest through the trees… and we’re off! A sacrifice is losing something. A trade off is a choice in return for, or in favor of something else.
We met many people content living a nomad lifestyle over the alternatives they saw for themselves in their home countries. Those retired wanted to fulfill their dreams of travel, live a better life, or both and could only do so by leaving everything behind. Those not retired saw their only alternatives to work in a job, or career that held no meaning and brought no joy – and to spend the rest of their lives doing so. Each made adjustments to create an acceptable trade off.
We also met many people that no longer saw the trade off. The thrill of new people, places and experiences wore off, novelty was stolen from passion and they missed their friends, family and routines. As one Overlander described this, “a series of one-night-stands where we kiss and tell through Instagram and leave in the morning.”
For me, the trade off of our nomad life was freedom, adventure, travel, seeing my husband happy and quality time with each other creating our lives together. All of these core values. However, with no concrete direction, eventually the freedom became formless, which became boredom followed by a flavor of depression born out of a neglected purpose.
There are pros and cons to every story, road, and circumstance. What might seem ideal to one person, may not be to the next. There is no right or wrong. There is only finding one’s way in the pursuit of happiness. The beauty of pros and cons is the contrast that can teach us to discover and appreciate what we do have and to take inventory of the trade offs verses sacrifices. They can help us become clear on what is most important and also help us on a path to create more balance.
The reality is, the grass is never greener on the other side no matter what pasture we are sitting in. We know this, because every time we jump the fence, over time we eventually become with the same cow minds: wishing we were in some other pasture, or the one we just came from. The dilemma is that often we cannot be in two pastures at the same time, or have our grass and eat it too. However, what we do know is the grass is green where we water it.
There are no words to express the gratitude we feel for the opportunity and experience we had to travel in the way in which we did. We covered a lot of ground and overcame many obstacles. Day after day, place after place, adventure after adventure, we experienced the richness of building community together and learning from others.
What followed was a deeper bond with ourselves, each other, and the planet at large. While the people, places, and cultures we experienced were amazing, the real rewards for me came from navigating the challenges of overlanding as a couple and integrating our similarities and differences into a shared vision.
So, did we find the answers to the questions we stowed away with us in our nap sacks as we traveled to the end of the world? One thing is certain, we became clear on what makes our hearts beat, gives us a pulse and lights us up inside and outside of our love for each other. We also dusted off our old road map and updated it to a newer version; one to guide us in making sure no stone is left unturned or treasure forgotten as we navigate this big adventure called life.
Sometimes it takes driving to the end of the world to discover what the heart already knows, but the head can only understand through experiencing from a different perspective. And sometimes it takes driving to the end of the world to build a website and blog about it 🙂
The Happy End… of the World
“Mystery is not about traveling to new places. It’s about looking with new eyes.” ~ Esther Perel