Time to come home

– first breakfast at home tasted pretty delicious –

In september last year, we started our midlifetrip. We often questionned ourselves, why we decided to go for 1 year? Why not 6 months? Or 2 years? And we actually never really figured it out… We just wanted to take a break with the past, and prepare for the future. 11 months later, we understand this was a good guess, and that the time is right to come home.

We wanted to travel the world

Travelling the entire world in 1 year is impossible. Even technically I don’t think you can manage with all transports from 1 country to another. But we made a complete loop. And we’ve travelled the far opposite side of the world. Never before have we been able to be so long so far away for home. We gathered 13 extra stamps in the passport, but more important we got to discover a lot of other cultures and environments.

We can’t say which country is our preferred one, or which one we would advise you to go. Seeing different countries in a row, made us see very well the differences between them. And understand that every country has beautifull aspects but also some boring parts in between. And what one finds interesting is not necessarily what someone else would like to experience anyway.

Conclusion however is that the world is a really big, magnificient place, with stunning nature and great people. With lots of history (old or recent), and many stories that can be told.

For the moment, our bucket of impressions is full. I don’t think we can truly enjoy a lot more. So from this aspect, we feel completed in our trip and don’t mind ending the travel, so we can create free space in that bucket again for some other time.

We wanted to unplug

Getting of the grid in this overconnected world is a challenge in everyday life. And so it seemed during this year for us too. There’s hardly a place in the world without wifi or people scrolling their phones. You have to go up high in the mountains to completely unplug. We spent a maximum of 5 days in a row being not connected. If at home I would manage to deconnect for 5 days, that would be quite something.

And being so far away from home, with little looking or being anything like what we knew, social media was at times that one thing that could create a comfortable cocoon because of all the familiar faces. Creating an active Instagram account proved to be very reassuring for the homefront too. As soon as we were offline for a few days, the worrying began…

So eventually, being plugged has its perks too. But 24/7 is definitely not needed, 1 hour every few days is just enough, all the rest is time we prefer to spend differently.

We wanted to go back to the basics.

And oh did we go back to the basics. If you wildcamp at 4000m in the Andes, it’s pretty basic. If you sleep in a hostel in a poor Cambodian or Nepalese village, it’s pretty basic. If you can limit your wardrobe for 1 year to 1 pair of long pants, 1 short and 1 skirt, it’s basic. If you eat at local food stalls in Laos, it’s basic. If your beauty regime is limited to sun screen and a bottle of shampoo, it’s basic. And if you always carry a roll of toilet paper with you, you know it’s basic.

Doing all this basic stuff during such a long time, makes you realise how little you actually need. But also lets you see what it is you truly miss. I will be so happy to discover my 2m wardrobe again, but will (maybe?) much better resist to impulse buys. I will also appreciate much more the beautiful home we have, with drinking water straight from the tap, and a toilet where you can actually flush your toilet paper. And a sofa to sit in, from where you can walk to a fridge to grab a drink. I also won’t mind that much eating the same food for 2 days. And how nice is central heating in the winter?

We’re spoiled little brats in the West. And we’d better realise that very very well.

We wanted to learn about life from the people we meet.

Over the course of this year, we got to meet so many kind people. Some of them randomly on the street, some hosted us for a night (often via the great Warmshowers.org network for bicycle travellers). With some we got to spent only minutes, with others at least a meal or more.

First thing to mention here is the importance of language.We struggled big time in Asia, as we didn’t speak any sanskriet related language nor could explain the most basic stuff. That’s also why we took time to learn Spanish while in South America. And potentially will decide next travels based on whether we speak the language of the destination (or learn it). You can have so much better and meaningfull conversations if you speak the same language. Oh what I would have wanted to be a polyglot this year.

But the people we got to conversate with, were all so sweet. It’s amazing how friendly people can be towards complete strangers. How they start with an attitude of trust towards you. How willing to help.

We’ve learned a lot about living a simpler life. Not that it’s simple, just needing less to be happy. Less expectations, less long term plans, and being completely at ease with an uncertain future. Everything always turns out fine, even when it doesn’t seem like that in the beginning. And if you don’t like the place you’re at, then you always have options.

Maybe all these learnings aren’t rocket science and you’ve probably read or heard them before. But experiencing them yourself, very consciously for a long time, helps in adopting the attitude. Seeing millions of people living that way, and smiling while you pass by, has been very inspiring.

We wanted to give back.

Our volunteering time in Ayacucho, Peru is defenitely a way to give back to society. And it was only a start for more to come. We both learned that we want to have more societal impact in the future too, professionally and/or in our private time. We have some ideas, and hope to be able to get started on some of them soon.

Besides that I want to make a small mention on fair travel. Even when we’ve been travelling on a budget too (no, we didn’t win the lottery to fund this trip), we tried to support the local economies as much as possible. So often we’ve seen other travellers negociating on everything, making the local taxi driver or hostel owner hardly making any money. At times it was really appalling, as prices are already really low in most of the places we’ve been. Potentially, these taxi drivers and hostel owners will end up disliking all those bargaining tourists (something we felt strongly in e.g. Vietnam). If you don’t have money to give fair prices to the locals, then maybe you shouldn’t travel.

We wanted to get inspired.

We cycled enough kilometers on less interesting roads that your head could wonder and ponder. We’ve read more books than in the last 5 years combined. We’ve seen different cultures, with different habits and challenges. We had time to take a street right or left, to curiously explore and discover. We talked and talked and talked. We had time to think, analyse and develop ideas in our head. We got to know ourselves and each other even better.

Having free time and space in your head, it’s really easy to get inspiration. And now it’s time to get all (or at least some of) those ideas into action. They’ve been maturing enough and are impatient to come out of the head and into reality.

So by now,

We’re ready to be home. We took enough break from the past, and are fully charged to start that second part of life.