Jim and Rhonda, long-term travelers, aren’t afraid to “jump into the void.” Here’s their story.
Tell us about yourselves. What inspired you to leave home and travel?
Back in 2007 we sold our house and backpacked around the world for 14 months, which made us hungry for something more. In spite of having really great lives in the USA, we wanted to open our minds to other influences.
The more you travel, the more you realize that the way you do something isn’t necessarily the right way. Even, such as in places like India, when we simply don’t always understand their way, we are at least able to stand back and say, “Okay, this is perhaps not the way we would have done things, but that’s alright.”
Can you tell us about a time you were in a situation you didn’t quite understand?
One moment that stands out starkly in my mind is when we were touring Rajastan. Jim had food poisoning and was in no shape to retrieve cash from the ATM before we headed into the desert for a couple of nights. It was up to me to get cash in a foreign land where women weren’t usually doing this sort of task.
The culture of personal space is very different in other countries. In America, we have very strong bubbles around us, but not so in India. People crowd. And almost only are men ever at an ATM.
Since I’d been in India for a couple of weeks, I knew what to expect. I felt my heart beat faster at the prospect of being crushed on all sides by the sea of men already in line. In spite of the coolish morning, the second I got near the ATM I immediately felt the sweat bead on my forehead as the overwhelming sea of humanity began to press in closer.
As we were near the Pakistani border, military men were abundant and several stood in line just ahead of me. As I waited my turn, I was pushed, leaned on, and stared at. It was the longest 20 minutes I could ever recall. Suddenly, the soldier in front of me noticed my presence and motioned me in front of him. He and several of his comrades surrounded me in a semi-circle so I could retrieve my money without a collage of faces peering at the proceedings over my shoulder—customary for the locals, but not something I was prepared to experience.
The men literally created a space bubble for me. I’m not sure if they had seen my rising panic, or simply were aware of how “fish-out-of-water” I must have felt. Regardless, it was a moment of totally unexpected kindness and human understanding, and one I will never forget.
Have you learned anything from your time abroad?
The road has shown us our authentic selves.
We simply did not feel fully formed before discovering that at our deepest core, our authentic selves needed the freedom to roam. Once we threw off the reins of social convention, we truly understood why we never felt like we truly fit in on the quest for the American Dream. The road has taught us that we are, simply, meant for other things.
Although we have both always had a bit of wanderlust, for many years our life was much more “normal.” Work, save for vacation, repeat. It was not until we experienced long-term travel that we realized how little we need a place to call home. In fact, we feel more at home while on the road.
A home base isn’t unpleasant. Modern comforts, friends, and family are great. But we learned we are home simply by being together. The road taught us that comfort, to us, is being somewhat uncomfortable. In spite of the difficulties and challenges, the high we attain from experiencing new places and cultures and food is unmatched.
The great debate: aisle or window?
One of each (for each of us!).
Best travel tips. Go:
1. If you’re going to travel the world, sell all your belongings.
We returned home to car payments, a storage unit full of stuff, and even a horse. If you leave and don’t think you’ll want to stay long when you return, leave it all.
2. Ask “Why?” when you see something you don’t understand.
Americans often have a strong view of the world and our place in it. There is very often a good reason why something is done differently than you might think it should be—you just have to ask.
3. Get over being picky about things.
Experiencing life outside your backyard is always going to be different. Be open. Experiment with new foods or a new way of doing things. You may just find out even more about yourself than you do about the people who’s country you are visiting.
Anything else we should know?
We firmly believe everyone should fight for their dream; whether that be for a steady job, a family and a house with a white picket fence, or a life on the road learning about the world around us. Because of traveling, we know that we love the unknown. Because of traveling, we know ourselves. Life is SO short, and we only get one shot at it. Live life like you mean it and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not a valid course to follow.
Where are you headed next?
We are beyond thrilled with our next big adventure: driving the Pan-American Highway with our two dogs, Aspen and Porter (they are excellent travelers). We’re planning for a departure sometime in 2015.