I consider myself to be a homebody. But I also consider myself to be a wanderlust. Possible to exist in both states? I do. I like my routine. I love my community, my friends/family, my house and the neighborhood conversation in our cul-de-sac. I love my scheduled workouts and workout groups of friends. My perfect weekend is one where I get some good workouts in, get to hang out with friends and/or family, commute on my bike to run errands, am outside as much as possible when the weather is nice and we actually really like attending our church to worship God with others in community.
But I also like to travel, see new places, meet new people and see new things, particularly if they are historic or beautiful. After Brad and I paid off our house, we had a goal to travel somewhere new each year both internationally and domestically. For Brad’s birthday one year, I got him a huge framed world map where we put little flags of countries we have visited (red flags), places, both domestically and internationally, that we have raced in (white flags) and a flag of where our next trip is (the coveted blue flag). We have a minimalist home and décor but that is shared proudly on our wall both as something fun to share with others as well as a way for us to dream about and plan our next trip.
Travel isn’t always easy, especially internationally. People see the picture of you on Facebook in front of the Eifel Tower or in front of the Colosseum and think ‘I wish I could do that’. What we didn’t post was the yearlong that we’d been saving for the trip and making sacrifices by not buying a bunch of stuff, the long connecting flight we had so we could get a good deal on the tickets to ensure that we could do this each year, the sandwich that we bought from the grocery store to save money on meals, the 36 hours that we haven’t had a shower or slept much or the third day I’ve worn a T-shirt because we thought we were going to have a laundromat but we didn’t.
So why do we love to travel so much? We love to travel because of the adventure it brings. You realize that they way you live your life is just one possible way of many. You realize you live in a big world with a lot of people and that those people act and think differently than you and if you take the time to talk to them, you can understand their perspective better. You realize that God created some pretty amazing pieces of landscape in this world and it’s amazing to see that beauty. You realize when you hit ‘pause’ on the busyness of life and slow down your days, you’ll see things you might not have seen before, you’ll develop a closer relationship with your travel partner because you are sharing that experience together and even your food tastes better because you slow down enough to actually taste it and aren’t in front of a TV or screen. Your mind and memories are so sharp when you travel because everything you see and do is new. It is a shared experience with the person you are traveling with (if you are traveling with others) as well as you can connect to others back home if they have traveled there before. We love to have conversations with others about places that we’ve traveled to. It’s an instant connection.
Whenever we travel internationally, we try to travel like a local and experience the place as if we lived there. My goal is to have flights and lodging figured out before we go. We also try and connect with someone we know locally as well as find a race for us to run (we’ve done a trail half marathon in the western coast of Ireland, a night half marathon through Luxembourg and a 10K that started and ended at Buckingham Palace in London). These are never ‘A’ races for us. We just go and enjoy doing something we love to do with other people who love doing it too, all in a new place. We also try and find a local church to experience worshipping God in another place. Other than that, we figure the rest out when we get there. We typically use a Rick Steve’s guidebook to get info on some local highlights and speak with other people who have traveled there for the ‘can’t misses’. We like to do some touristy things (it makes a good FB profile pic ?) but our favorite thing to do is just walk around, explore and get ‘lost’. (which we literally did in Venice because it’s about impossible to follow a map. We walked around all day and when we wanted to get home, we went into a local shop, communicated in our non-Italian and had them point out where we were on the map and then made our way back to our hotel). We’ve met people at meals and joined in with them and spoken for hours learning about their story and where they are from. We met an older couple in Rome, who were from Germany and the wife told us about visiting East Germany as a young child when Germany was divided for a field trip. They then told us about their country and what it’s like to live there now. We’ve spoken to many people in our travels and our favorite questions are just “What is your life like there”. You can only learn so much by reading ‘culture’ books. The good stuff comes from having in-person conversation with someone who lives in that country. I remember these conversations and consider them to be as big of a highlight of the trip as the famous ‘sights’ that we may see. We also love staying at B&Bs and sharing breakfast and speaking with others staying there about where they are from and why they are visiting.
We are more open to trying new things, are more self-aware of our surroundings and just appreciate life more as we see it lived differently when we travel internationally. The same can be true for domestic travel too. The United States is a landscape of very diverse climate, scenery and people. I love beautiful things so you can imagine how much I love the mountains of Colorado or the Grand Canyon. But it’s also fun to visit big cities and live life like you were a Chicagoan or a New Yorker, even for a brief period of time.
I highly encourage you to discover your inner wanderlust. Travel is all about taking a pause from your everyday life (even if you really like your everyday life) and giving yourself the opportunity to experience something new. You never know what new insight about life or a solution to a challenge you are working through might come to fruition when you give yourself the time to think clearly without distraction. It is a lot easier than you think. We are definitely budget travelers who travel simply. We did our last trip to Europe with one backpack each and for less than $3500 for both flights, six nights of lodging, transportation, food, activities and even our house/dog sitter. Domestic travel can be much cheaper and there are all sorts of ways to be creative to save costs on travel. Even traveling to stay with friends who have moved away or camping allows you to pause and explore and see new things. Our thought process is one that we’d rather not have the fancy meal or stay in the fancy hotel during the very expensive ‘once in a lifetime’ trip but instead save on costs to ensure within our budget that this is something we get to do often.
I wrote the beginning of this post as we headed to San Francisco, CA for a work conference that I had recently. When the location of the conference was announced, I looked on a map and noticed how close we were to Yosemite National Park. It didn’t take much convincing to get Brad to travel with me and we visited Yosemite for three days of hiking after the conference. It was awesome! We now have a new adventure on our travel lists – National Parks and getting to see America the Beautiful. I can’t wait to plan our next adventure – Beautiful things to see, people to meet and memories to be made. I hope you are planning your next adventure soon too. (And make sure you save up for your trip and pay for it in cash! You’ll enjoy your vacation so much more if you aren’t making payments on it for months after you return home.) If you have any questions about travel, particularly how we budget travel or travel light, I’d love to answer them. Please comment below.