As soon as I can, I’ll update you on my one year trip. I’ve decided to leave everything behind and spend real time with the people that matter the most in my life: my wife and three children. This is my story, I hope it will inspire you to create yours.
You can read my previous “On the road” articles:
- On the road #1
- On the road #2
- On the road #3
- On the road #4
- On the road #5
- On the road #6
- On the road #7
- On the road #8
- On the road #9
- On the road #10
- On the road #11
- On the road #12
- On the road #13
- On the road #14
- On the road #15
- On the road #16
- On the road #17
- On the road #18
- On the road #19
- On the road #20
- On the road #21
- On the road #22
- On the road #23
I haven’t written about my trip for over a month. I am writing this article after having arrived back in Quebec. I’m not in my home yet (that will happen on July 1st), but it feels good to get back and start working on other projects.
I didn’t write about my last month of traveling because I thought you have probably seen these kinds of pictures and heard these stories a thousand times. I mean, Disney, The Great Smoky Mountains, Washington DC and Boston are all great destinations, and they are a little bit more common. Here is how I felt about the last days of my trip anyways.
This is the last On the Road of my marvelous adventure. It hurts to write this line. I cried a lot when I realized that this trip was over. For a year, I lived a dream. I was doing pretty much everything I wanted whenever I wanted and, most importantly, with the people that matter the most in my life. Today, I’m offering the best of my trip in a series of six lessons I’ve learned.
Lesson #1 People are kind
When we announced our project, many people thought we were a bit crazy. Beyond the fact, we were quitting our jobs and leaving for a year, the destination we chose was the thing people had the most problem with. After all, if you look at the homicide per capita, we visited 4 countries in the top 10. And to be honest, the 2 countries where I will most likely return to in my life are on this list.
- Are you really going to travel across Mexico? Isn’t that dangerous?
- I never been on the mainland (Mexico), but I would never go.
- People get abducted there all the time, be very careful!
- Oh, you are going to Guatemala? Be cautious about those tattooed guerillas with their guns, they are everywhere!
The reality is far more complex. I’m not going to deny there are major problems in those countries. I remember that each front page in Guatemala I read about the “shooting of the day”. As a side note, they are quite graphic over there as they use the police photos.
However, this is only one side of the story. The other side is being written by the most generous and genuine people I have ever met. I remember being stopped by total strangers in the streets to chat about our children and where we come from. They didn’t have anything to sell or didn’t ask for anything. They were just super proud of seeing us in their village.
Each time we were unsure about where to stay or which road to take, there were people to help us out. Each time we were in trouble, our “neighbor” up and out of his “house” and ran over to help us. We’ve been offered meals, we’ve been invited to celebrate birthdays, we’ve shared so much with so many people. Everywhere we went, there were good people to share precious moments of our trip with us. We never felt in danger and we truly enjoyed this pure generosity of heart.
Lesson #2 Money is not an excuse, it’s a flow
Once our entourage passed the point that our trip was dangerous, the second topic on their “you-should-not-do-this” list was money. Oh… the things we do or don’t do in the name of God: Money! Many people disagreed with my choice. To illustrate what they said, I’ve picked one of the best comment I received on this very blog:
To all these people, I’d like to ask you a simple question: “what does retirement mean to you?”. Because over the past 12 months, I’ve been living a pretty awesome life. In fact, I can tell you that I retired at the age of 35 and lived it like there is no tomorrow. “Do yourself a favor and invest the $ and retire earlier”? Dude, you don’t get it, I have retired from this life already!
If you want to put it in terms of money, I’ve already lived your next 26 years of vacation (assuming you have 2 weeks per year where you can go and travel). I spent more time with my three children and my wife in the past 12 months than I spent with them over the past 10 years combined. If this is not what life is about…, please tell me, what is it about?
The best part is that I’ve lived these moments already and I’m still 35 and have plenty of time to live other experiences. Will I make it to 45 to retire early? I don’t know, you don’t know. But I know I have already lived the life I want NOW, not in 10 years or in 30 years, just right now.
But what about the money? Honestly, I’m doing just fine. I had to borrow $19,000 to complete my trip. Seriously, what is $19,000… it’s a brand-new car? Would you trade a $19K debt to live the dream of your life? That’s an easy choice for me. In fact, even for $100K of debt, it would have been easy choice.
Money comes and goes, it’s a flow. Now that I’m back home, the flow will be redirected into my pocket and I will quickly pay off these debts. And you know what? I’ll make sure I make enough money to go on another one month trip in 2018!
Lesson #3 Fear is not real
During our trip, we continuously pushed ourselves a little bit further. The concept of fear and danger slowly shift into some abstract ideas.
“It’s only dangerous when you think it is.”
Fear is what you have in your mind when you are about to face the unknown. Nothing more, nothing less. It doesn’t really exist and it won’t hurt you. The only thing fear can do is to prevent you from realizing your dreams. Each time we were scared, we recognized that it wasn’t too bad after all. But when your back is against the wall and the only way is to go forward, you have to learn how to embrace the fear, understand it and control it. Once you do that, you become invincible.
It’s not that we are not afraid anymore. I’m still afraid of things. The difference is that I do not let fear dictate my thoughts and actions. I take a moment to understand what I’m scared of and define it. Once this step is done, I simply make sure I overcome it by taking the proper actions.
Throughout the same day, I’ve faced a Tsunami alert (where the real Tsunami hit the coast 20 km north of our position) and a Hurricane that passed 75 km south of us. This gave me perspective on what I have control over and what I don’t. Once you can accept that “things happen” even to the most prepared of us, everything becomes easier.
Lesson #4 The World is a beautiful playground
One of my friends once told me this about traveling:
“Traveling is like reading a book. You could stay on the cover page and appreciate the image and feel content with it. Or you can open the book and discover a whole new world”.
I have obviously decided to open this book and devour each page. There is something special about each and every place you visit. Sometimes it will be breathless landscapes, sometimes it will be the people you encounter and sometimes it will be what you do there. The point is that there are so much to discover, it would be a shame to leave the book on your shelf.
Lesson #5 Everything is Possible… Really
We keep reading these catch lines about “living your dreams” and “achieving the impossible”. But it’s far beyond being “a catch”, it’s real. When we started to think about our project, we had a complete list of very good reasons why we couldn’t leave:
- We didn’t have the money;
- The kids were in school;
- We never had an RV;
- We didn’t speak Spanish (and my wife had very basic English speaking skills);
- We had a home, a mortgage and other debts to take care of;
- I work in the financial industry – it’s impossible to do this trip without getting fired;
- We were scared (of border crossings, murder, abductions, etc);
- I didn’t know anything about mechanics;
And the list goes on and on. However, instead of working on the list of reasons why we can’t leave, we started to pretend all these obstacles didn’t exist. As we started to work on how we would do our trip if all was possible, each obstacle fell off one after the other. Solutions to our problems simply appeared in front of us as we were working on what was possible. 2 years after making the decision to leave, we were ready to live the most amazing year of our life. I’m telling you, everything is possible.
Lesson #6 Retirement is overrated
This whole idea of retiring has become quite a phenomenon now. Some work to “live the life” at 65 while other become budgeting ninjas and save enough to retire at the age of 45 with a maximum of savings. But what about living today? If there is one thing I’ve learned while traveling, it is that life is happening now. Are you that convinced you will make it to your retirement? That you will be in good enough health to do what you dreamed of doing? We all know someone who has been hit with cancer and wasn’t “old”. I don’t want to become a fatalist, but I can tell you that if I’d die today, I could leave this earth in peace. I definitely want more, but I know I’ve achieved enough of my dreams already to call my life a “fulfilled one”. Instead of thinking about retiring, I started thinking about living.
Now that I’m back, I’m taking some time to put everything in perspective. I am taking the time to look at what I’ve done and what are the outcomes of it. What comes out of this experience is a life full of adrenaline. It’s a life where I get to spend most of my days with the people I love. A life where I do what I want most of the time. It’s not like a vacation that is filled with breaks and activities. It’s more like a simple life where waking up by the sea and working in a café is part of the daily routine. It’s a life where I continuously get out of my comfort zone that makes me appreciate everything I have. I don’t know yet what the future will bring me, but I’m working on having a whole different kind of life now. A life where the status quo is optional. A life where I’m excited about today…everyday!