In 2011, I left my home in the UK and traveled to Costa Rica (via a couple of weeks in Canada) to take up a house sit in the province of Guanacaste. I’d planned to be away from home for around 18 months and had decided to utilize house sitting stays to stretch out my meagre budget as I traveled around the world.
Never heard of house sitting? Long-term travelers often use house sitting to stay for free when traveling, and it was a key part of staying on budget.
This decision to house sit was the catalyst that led me to embark on six-years of long-term travel and benefit from a whole heap of experiences that would completely alter the direction my life was headed.
Having traveled infrequently during my childhood and teens, suddenly I was flying all over the world and immersing myself in cultures and communities far removed from the life I knew back home. I’d gone from a career in the arts to an aspiring travel blogger in the space of less than a year. It was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure, but I found each new adventure gave me the strength and confidence to continue my journey.
A Chance Meeting that Changed my Life
I’ll be honest with you, until I boarded a flight bound for the Caribbean island of St. Kitts (over five years into my life of perpetual and long-term travel), I’d pretty much committed to travel indefinitely. The flight itself was no different to any other, however it set me on a path for a chance meeting that would change my life.
At that time, I wasn’t looking for anything to change. I was relishing the freedom to travel and recognized that few people could join me on my adventure, so dating wasn’t really on my radar. What I hadn’t accounted for is the possibility that I could find myself reluctant to travel.
Prior to boarding that flight to St. Kitts, my plan was to complete the house sitting commitments I’d made in the Caribbean and then find a job working as a Divemaster in Micronesia. I’d been away from home for over five years and had already spent six months training for my Divemaster qualification in Costa Rica. I aspired to spend my days exploring pristine underwater environments and living a simple life in the Caribbean sun. This all changed when I joined the immigration queue in St. Kitts.
The Stranger in the Queue
Air travel isn’t something I particularly enjoy (edit: I hate it!), so when it comes to long haul flights I just plug myself into an electronic distraction and while away the hours pretending I’m on a train, (note: If you tell yourself you’re on a train every few minutes you really will start to believe it). I never engage the person next to me in conversation and usually don’t pay any attention to who I’m sharing the cabin with. That flight was a little different.
He was sitting a few rows back from me and caught my eye as I retrieved my packing cube of onboard essentials from my carry on. He smiled and instantly I felt my cheeks flush a little. I sat down, shoved my packable tote bag under the seat in front, and plugged myself into the onboard entertainment. Later I found myself looking for him as I walked the aisle to stretch my legs.
The next time our eyes met we were in the immigration queue (10 hours later) at St. Kitts airport and I spotted him just ahead of me, frantically searching for a pen to fill in his immigration card. Our eyes met and he smiled again so I offered him my pen to use, “you’re amazing,” he said, and then blushed as he added, “for lending me your pen.” Again, the interaction was brief—he was called to the immigration booth and by the time I reached baggage claim he’d left.
The Reason I Left a Life of Long-Term Travel
I wasn’t intending to write a love story, so I’ll skip through what happened next. It transpired that we were both headed to the tiny island of Nevis and were randomly introduced at a beach bar by mutual friends a few days later. A few hours of nervous chatter that afternoon was followed by a dinner invitation, and then 10 days of ocean swimming, hiking, scuba diving, and endless hours walking along the sand together.
It wasn’t until a few weeks after he’d returned home that I realized the impact of this chance meeting. Despite the time difference and him working a stressful 9-to-5, we spoke daily and talked of a future together mapping out exactly what it would look like. Suddenly the thought of disappearing off to Micronesia wasn’t quite so appealing, and the idea of exploring new destinations didn’t fill me with the same sense of excitement.
Long-Term Travel vs Long-Term Relationships
The first year of our relationship was mostly long-distance. I fulfilled my house sitting commitments in between short visits to the UK, and after a three month stint traveling through Thailand, I flew to Greece to explore the Cyclades with him before returning to England for good.
Fast forward almost five years and my daily life is far from the reality I knew before we met. Do I miss long term travel? Sure, some days. However, I feel that I’ve found a sense of fulfilment that I lacked as a traveler always searching for the next great adventure.
When I look back on my travels, I can confidently say that the years I spent abroad offered a better education than anything I’d received at school. The constant stream of challenges and life lessons have given me a real sense of self and helped to build confidence that I was desperately lacking in my early 20s.
Do I still travel abroad ? At every opportunity, whether solo or with him by my side I grab my bag and hit the road . As John Muir said, “The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”
Caldera™ Convertible International Carry On
Pack-It Specter™ Compression Cube Set
Related Links (from the Eagle Creek Blog)
7 Ways World Travel is Good for Your Soul
How to Have a Transformational Travel Experience
8 Reasons Why Travel is Better With a Carry On