We’ve finally made it!! Welcome to Day 1! We’ve been planning this trip for about three years now, and it’s always been something “out there” in the future. Now it’s here.
It’s been a whirlwind of emotions for us, especially over the past month. This is what it really feels like to completely uproot your life and take the leap into the unknown.
By the time you read this, we’ll likely be in the air, just beginning a 38-hour journey to a continent rich in life – the source of humanity and home to some of the most fascinating and majestic animals on the planet. I’ve always wanted to visit Africa. I can’t wait to see all of the photography opportunities: wildlife, dunes, tribes, landscapes, trees, sunrises, stars – squee!
And that’s only one aspect. Then we’ll have the people and culture, the food and hikes. It’s unlike any place I’ve visited; I can’t wait to discover it all.
And that’s only one country! Europe will be entirely different: cities and architecture, history and art. Then South America: sweeping landscapes and breathtaking mountain ranges, ruins and llamas! Southeast Asia: people and beaches, food and scenery. And finally, to Australia and New Zealand (a second visit for me and new territory for Aaron): unique animals, coastlines, reefs.
This all lies ahead of us, and we’re excited for every moment of it.
But at the same time, we’re worried about all the little things. Do we have everything we need? Will we be able to get the things we don’t? What if something goes wrong?
We could drive ourselves insane with worrying about all the unknowns, but in the end, we recognize we can only plan for so much. Not everything will work out according to plan, so we have to be willing to be flexible. And some things will inevitably go sideways, but we try to anticipate what might happen, and protect ourselves as much as possible.
Safety is a legitimate concern, so we’re doing what we can to not make ourselves look like targets. We’ll try to blend in with the locals and avoid anything that makes us stand out as “rich tourists.” We’ll protect our valuables with “pickpocket-proof” pants and slash-resistant backpacks. We simply aren’t bringing our (sentimentally) valuable wedding rings (and we got placeholders, instead).
We’re also checking, double-checking, and triple-checking that we have all the items on our packlist, that we have all necessary cords for charging electronics, and that we don’t accidentally bring something out of habit we didn’t intend. In places where we might not have cell service or even an outlet to charge our gadgets, we’re bringing hardcopy backups.
I am also extremely protective of my pictures. I’m going to be carrying them around with me for the entire year we’re gone, so I have to do whatever I can to make sure they survive should something happen. I am taking with me two hard drives. They will be duplicates of each other, and they will never be stored in the same place; if I lose one, I’ll still have the other. I’ll be backing up to the cloud, as well, but that will only work when I have internet access. And my camera has dual SD card slots, so my camera will save pictures to both. After every shoot, I’ll remove one and keep it on my person. If my camera is stolen, I’ll still have the pictures.
We can only do so much, and in the end, we know we can’t worry about every little thing. Life will come as it comes.
We are leaving a lot of things behind. We love our lives in Portland. We love the food and the quirkiness, as well as the outdoor opportunities and beautiful Pacific Northwest environment. We’ll miss the trees and waterfalls we know so well.
We’ll also miss the friends and family with whom we discovered them. As a military brat, relationships are very important to me. For someone who has never missed it with my family, Christmas will be very different for us this year. However, we hope some of our friends and family will come travel a bit with us. And we know the time will pass quickly and we’ll see them again soon.
The hardest separation, though, is from our kitties. They are our children, and we love them to pieces. Leaving them is very difficult. We’ll miss having them meow at us for breakfast each morning or having them snuggle with us with purrs at night. I’ll miss Holee lounging in my lap.. or Mochi rolling around on the floor.
But I also worry for their happiness. They won’t have us around anymore – to pick them up or brush them, to give them pixie kisses or butt scratches. Sure, they are in amazing hands, being fostered by my parents. But they’re still different humans to the kitties. Our girls have been adjusting pretty well, but Holee still can’t stand the other resident feline (Dolce), and Mochi is out-of-her-mind terrified of the puppy (Elee). I wanted to see them get more comfortable with their new environment before we left, but it takes time.
Who would have thought there’d still be so much to do even after we moved out of our apartment? Believe it or not, we’ve been a flurry of activity here in this final month.
We had to order the last remaining pieces of our travel gear. I was missing a shirt here, a hard drive there.. We needed our collapsable water bottles and our Namibia map. And then we had to pack it all. And weigh it. And make some sacrifices. And repack. And reweigh…
We wanted to make copies of our passports and laminate them. We had to finish the signup process for Servas. We had to look into travel health insurance and get our last travel rewards credit card.
Aaron has been planning the next phase after Africa (how does Latvia sound??) and making Couchsurfing requests. I’ve been sprucing up the website. We now have a customizable packlist you can download when you sign up for our newsletter! And did you notice our adorable new logo?? I’ve also been signing myself with a software freelancing agency so we have an income option while abroad (though I hope we don’t need it).
Digitally, I’ve also been making sure I have access to all my most important (and pretty) photos. That all necessary backups have been made, hard drives are appropriately stored, and software updates have been made. It’s a lot to think about!
And we’ve been settling the kitties in their new home. Encouraging them out into the rest of the house, despite the other animals in the household. Rescuing them from under the couch.. and from behind the washer and dryer.. and from on top of the cabinets.. and from inside the pantry…. Establishing them at a local vet and acclimating them to new household mealtimes. Poor kitties have been through a lot.
Speaking of getting used to things, even though we’re literally in transit, we still don’t believe we’re doing this. It’s always been something we’ll do “someday.”
Honestly, aside from all the hype we’ve been placing on this thing (and aside from orders of magnitude more planning involved), this has been just like any other trip. Book flights, pack bags, plan activities… none of that is different. We’re just planning many little trips back-to-back…-to-back-to-back-to-back.
We haven’t quite grasped the fact that this will be our new life. I suspect it still won’t really sink in until at least two or three weeks in, when we finally realize we’re not going home anytime soon… when it passes the point of a normal vacation. I also think we’ll treat the first few weeks much more like a vacation – going out to eat more, packing in activities, go-go-go-go-go-go-go… until we just wear ourselves into the ground and force ourselves to slow it down a bit. There will certainly be an adjustment period before we settle into a rhythm.
Regardless of the other emotions we’re feeling right now, we can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment that we’re actually making this happen. We’ve heard so many people say they wish they could do what we’re doing (and we believe if it’s something you really want to do, there’s nothing stopping you!), but few actually do it.
We took the leap – as scary as it is – and we put it into motion. That’s the hardest part!
Now, we love sharing our story with others, and we can’t wait to share this journey with you. It’s all ahead of us. It’s a new beginning. It’s just getting started.
We are excited, nervous, a little homesick, overwhelmed, surprised at ourselves, and thrilled.
“It’s a new dawn; it’s a new day; it’s a new life…. and I’m feeling good.”
How do you feel leading up to a big trip?
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