Last week James and I celebrated our two-year anniversary, and we spent a good hour or two walking down memory lane… and it dawned upon us: WE HAVE PASSED THE HALF-WAY MARK OF OUR ROUND-THE-WORLD TRIP!! Today will mark six months on the road, five of those months having traveled internationally! It has been quite an adventure, full of wonderful moments and memories, and also not-so-great moments and memories… but all MEMORIES nonetheless.
Hitting the half-way mark really makes you reflect on your past adventures and wonder how the second half will compare. The beginning part of a trip of this magnitude is a whole LOT of learning and adjusting: figuring out how to get from point A to point B, methods for saving money and staying on budget, prioritizing the places and sights you both want to see or could skip, learning to schedule and deciding how long to spend in each city or country, setting routines and manners for keeping yourself safe and avoid being a target for pickpocketers and theft, dealing with extreme sickness and occasional depression from it, learning what is or is not appropriate behavior or dress in different cultures, fighting homesickness and trip discouragement, and on top of it all: working together with a partner and compromising every step of the way. Yes, it’s a LOT.
It’s full of small daily triumphs and failures, a lot of ups, and a lot of downs. And traveling around the world as a couple forces you to face a LOT of conflict together, a lot of really high highs, and experience more stress together in a short amount of time than most couples will experience in their entire relationship. On average, when you go about your daily routines, work, and life, there really aren’t HUGE conflicts that come up on a day to day basis, and people don’t consistently stop and think deeply about their life, have discussions about if they are truly happy or not, or what to do about it all… those types of things probably would only come up less than two or three times a year, and usually ONLY if faced with a crisis or argument with a spouse or coworker.
But when you travel, it forces you to face those types of things almost daily or weekly. So now imagine pretty much every joyful and sad situation and feeling you’ve had in the past five years of life crammed into half a year!
In the past six months, we both have learned a LOT about traveling, cultures, countries, and most profoundly: ourselves. Anybody who has done a great deal of international travel will always tell you that they embarked upon their traveling adventure to “see the sights,” experience other cultures, and see as much of the world as possible, but most of the time the REAL adventure ends up being a lot more about their personal self-discovery.
For both of us, it has been all of the above and more! I know that this has especially been the case for James, as this is the first time he has ever really embarked upon an international trip like this before.
I know that half the readers of this blog are James’ family, friends, colleagues, and supporters, but regardless, there are some things you may not have known about him. Did you know that before this trip, James had only been out of the country on two trips before? As a high schooler, he experienced harsh working and living conditions when he volunteered for two weeks in a small town in Southern Mexico. Then, in college, he spent six weeks in Italy, filming a documentary on gypsies. Both trips were eye opening and learning experiences, but he hadn’t really gotten the chance to fully immerse himself in one culture, and both situations were already set up for him in advance, so there was a lot less planning and instability involved.
So I have to say, personally, when I brought up the idea of this around-the-world trip awhile ago to James, I wasn’t really sure if this would be something he’d be interested in. Nor did I know if it was something he would truly enjoy, once we were in the middle of it all. See, I have traveled quite a bit in the past and had already gone through a LOT of the soul-searching, sickness, culture shock, and life-confusion that more serious travel often generates. And I have learned a LOT along the way about the logistics, patience, and planning it takes to try to make it all work. In addition, once all the hard work and trip excitement has passed, you learn how reflective and helpful these good and bad travel experiences are, how much better and well-rounded of a person you become because of it, and MOST IMPORTANTLY: how it is SOOOOO worth it in the end, looking back, despite the hardships you may have faced to make the whole trip work.
So, with this said, I wasn’t sure— “Is this going to be something he truly enjoys and sees value in?” I knew we would have a ton of fun together, I knew we would see each other at our best and worst states ever, but I knew no matter what that we would work together and come out successful. But I wasn’t sure if it would all be worth it to him in the end to follow something that was mostly MY dream… and I really yearned for him to experience and learn just why I LOVE traveling so much.
So, number one…. I have to first give HUGE kudos to James, for having the COURAGE to take this huge PLUNGE into world traveling in the first place!
Let me take a moment to brag about my boyfriend . . . sorry, gotta do it, James. 🙂 We decided not to spend any money on each other for our two-year anniversary, so this is my gift to him. I know he won’t be thrilled about being put on the spot in this post here, especially because he’s often a man of personal privacy, but for right now… tough, he deserves it. 🙂
In his everyday life, James is a man of hard work (he LOVES his work!), consistency, and normalcy, and is a follow-the-rules type of guy. So, to COMPLETELY put his work and career on hold and take a spontaneous and CRAZY trip like this, many things unplanned, traveling to foreign places with NOTHING familiar around you, surprises around every corner, is WAY out of his comfort zone. I feel that only a brave and strong man would even consider a feat like this, and yet HE DID… he took the opportunity and ran with it.
In the time prior to taking this trip, James had only taken TWO WEEKS vacation time within FOUR SOLID YEARS of working, as he moved from one dark editing room to another (he’s a television editor for those of you who didn’t know). He has totally EXCELLED in his field, gaining his first editing credit and full time editing position by the age of 25 . . . which is impressive, since most editors don’t usually move up from assistant work until after the age of 29 or 30 or so. Since his line of work is moving from one TV show to the next, essentially one job to the next job, it’s a world where you constantly need to be on your toes, hold on to your connections, prove to your colleagues how talented and driven you are, and always need to be seeking out your next job. And this is definitely what he did for four years: working on one interesting TV show to another, jobs overlapping, and never really taking time off. In addition, he started his own visual effects company, working for many major studios, touching up shots and creating special motion graphics.
So in a world of go-go-go, how do you just completely STOP and take a break? For ONE WHOLE YEAR? That’s the question we both had as we started this trip. For those of you who are workaholics and have crazy 40+ hour workweeks, some of you often YEARN for time off . . . but if you were able to take a whole YEAR off, would you really be 100% happy? Or would you go stir crazy? Stop and think about it for a moment.
As we’ve been traveling along, we both have managed to stay somewhat creative and James actually has a few freelance projects he’s been working on his laptop as we travel, but it’s also been a great thought provoking, life changing, and soul searching journey as well when you’re COMPLETELY removed from the workplace and everything you find comforting back home. And because of this all, I am proud and excited to see the positive changes in James as we go along, and I think he has even surprised himself once or twice as well!
I knew before this trip, James encompassed all the major qualities that really are necessary for world travel: patience, open mindedness, intelligence, always up for trying new things, easy-going nature, and being able to let go to some things beyond your control and just see what happens. But an amazing thing happened as we moved day to day, country to country, city to city, hostel to hotel to house . . . I discovered SO much more about him!
Here are a couple James highlights and stories I would like to share about some wonderful discoveries I’ve made about him in the past six months of traveling:
- James has REALLY become a lot more forward in social situations, often starting up conversations with complete strangers out of nowhere, and really putting himself out there when we’re completely surrounded by people we don’t know. He has always been somewhat social in the past, but primarily with friends and acquaintances he’s close with or has met before.
At one point in our trip, in China, I was feeling especially homesick … and in addition, I had come down with the WORST stomach sickness that had me put out for a few days, and it unfortunately all happened to revolve around my birthday. Well—Never fear, James is here! James had actually gone WAY out of the way and secretly contacted a bunch of my family and friends and asked them to submit a video of themselves, saying a few words to me and wishing me a happy birthday. He edited all the clips together in a really fun and creative way, along with his own narration, and gave me this wonderful birthday video as a gift! I was overjoyed with the outpouring of love from the videos submitted, and it really gave me a HUGE emotional boost and strength to keep going! In addition, that day James scoured the whole city for cake (not easy in the city we were in) and surprised me in our hostel common room with candles and birthday music from the staff. He truly made me feel amazing, and I was SO appreciative for what he did for me. [In case you’d like to see this birthday video James put together, click here to see the video—it’s a special edit James made that includes a small video box of me reacting to watching the video. Ah-maazing production by James!]
- James is now an avid driver of a motorbike! This may not sound like a HUGE thing, but until we arrived in Vietnam, James had never stepped foot onto a motorcycle of ANY kind before… and he never really planned to or wanted to. However, he jumped right into it, learned quickly, and we drove all around Cat Ba Island and Hue in Vietnam, and all over our current Island, Koh Phangan, in Thailand. Oh yea, and might I mention: I LOVE to sit on the back and wrap my arms around him! 🙂
- One of the things I have really adored about James, overall, is how great he is with children. Not only is he a natural with them, but kids just seem to be really drawn to him. When we were in Nha Trang, Vietnam, we visited a local orphanage, and James had a couple children who were clinging to his hands, leading him around to different parts of the room. And as soon as he took a “break” and sat on the ground, the kids scrambled to take turns, sitting in his lap. His warm and inviting nature just seems to draw attention and trust from children, and it was really lovely for me to see this up close and personal with kids from other countries. [See photos from the oraphange and Nha Trang here.]
On a similar note, when we recently visited Trat, Thailand, we participated in a volunteer organization for two weeks, teaching English to Thai children. James has NEVER taught before in his life, but yet he was REALLY great with the kids! It was endearing to see him in the classroom, working with a large group of kids and really holding their attention. And when we worked more one-on-one with older kids in private sessions, there were three high school girls who really came out of their shells when working with James and definitely learned a lot and benefitted from his patience and energy.
James has always been a pretty confident guy, but I’ve been pleased and surprised (and amused at times) at the level of, “Who cares what other people think?” he has applied towards this trip. In Tahiti, a Tahitian dancer pulled James up onto the stage, and in front of the WHOLE crowd, he shook his hips and danced away, without a worry in the world with 50+ people watching his “act.” In Kyoto, Japan, in a fun night out at a Karaoke bar with a HUGE group of Norwegian guys, James actually got up and SUNG A SONG!!—which, if you know James well, he WILL NOT sing in front of anybody! And in Trat, Thailand, with the volunteering we did with the kids (that I mentioned above), there were many fun and crazy moments with James, as he always got out there and danced with the kids, played games, and showed them fun tricks, without a worry about how goofy or silly he was being. [click here to see a fun video of James goofing around with some of the Thai kids we worked with.]
Haha… this note might not be something that James personally DID, but more reflects on his good looks 🙂 — All throughout Japan and China (and a little bit in Vietnam) we were often approached by Asian people wanting to take photos WITH us!… but the majority of the time, they just wanted a photo with James (hah, I guess I’m chop liver?). And this actually applied to women AND men!! There is just something about him being tall, having curly hair and facial hair, and wearing a pair of sunglasses that just attracted the masses. A young guy in Guangzhou, China approached James and told him, “It would be my great honor to take a photo with you. You so handsome!” – and then after the photo walked away hand-in-hand with his girlfriend! Another time when we were in Japan, a group of 15 year old giggling girls gushed over taking a photo with him. And as soon as one person took a photo with him or us, then others around got the courage to approach us as well. It was flattering and amusing at the same time!
Finally, in general, it’s been really wonderful and great to have a guy who I can count on, trust, and who really has my back as a protector. When you’re traveling in different countries and unfamiliar places, it’s very settling to know you have a great partner to go through it all with. He’s been great with helping figure out logistics, translations, money transactions, and just overall taking care of any “issues” we have with hotels or hostels. It definitely helps take some stress off me when planning and executing travel plans and such.
I really don’t know HOW in the world I would have EVER done this trip on my own. I really don’t think I could have!
I commend him for all his has done, for the level he has stepped out of his comfort zone and taken this leap of faith with me, and I have to say I am one LUCKY girl to have a partner like James in travel and in life.
As we reflect on the past 5-6 months, and move forward with the second half of our trip ahead, we have vowed to each other that now that we’ve gotten more in a groove, we’re going to make the second half even better than the first!
Onward and upward travels ahead!!
**Note** If you have any kind words, compliments, or praises to add about James, please do so in the comment section below.
Yep, James, it’s not going to end here. HAH!! 🙂