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Trading Stability for Travel

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By Geraldine Hellery

The people we meet are generally divided into two groups. The first group is the ones who have called us brave. Every time I hear someone say that, I have to stop myself from laughing. I don’t consider what we have done to be brave. Doctors and fire fighters, they are brave. The other group are those who consider us incredibly foolish and it’s with these people, I agree.

What is it we have done which has divided so many strangers who we’ve talked to?

We gave up our normal lives. That’s right, we had the apartment, the car, good jobs, weekends at the beach and nights out with friends. We had credit cards and mortgage payments. We had the big TV and the ever-growing collection of DVD’s. We had luxury furnishings and the social pressure to buy more. We had getting up early to make a good impression on the boss before collapsing into bed at night, then doing it all again the next morning.

We gave all that up.

This is the story of how we started. Matt and I had met way back in 1996 while both working Saturdays at a supermarket. We had taken the obligatory trip ‘down under’ in our gap year, with stops in Singapore, Bali and the UK. While our time in Australia and New Zealand was incredible, it was our time in South East Asia which left us with the deepest impression. We continued enjoying travelling but with the effects of ‘life’ we only took short holidays, generally to places in Europe and only for one or two weeks at a time.

However, something in our lives didn’t feel ‘right’. We had everything society told us we needed to be happy and had ticked all the boxes for what was expected of ‘normal’ people. We had the house, stable relationship, the good jobs, the car and a DVD collection to rival HMV, but we just didn’t feel happy. We investigated emigrating to Canada, but the resulting family discord ended that idea before it even started.

We got married and our dreams of travel seemed even more unattainable than ever before. I got a job as a Project Manager for a Building Society and Matt was in a good job with IBM but the nagging unhappiness and desire for travel remained.

I can’t remember exactly when we decided enough was enough. Neither of us liked our jobs and they were not the careers we had studied for, nor wanted. We had entered the inevitable circle of life: continuing to work in jobs we didn’t like but were terrified of losing because we needed to maintain and pay for a lifestyle we couldn’t afford. We didn’t spend quality time with each other because by the end of the working day we were both too shattered to have anything other than a basic conversation about the weather before we ate dinner and went to bed in order to wake up early and do it all over again. We had had muttered conversations about going travelling again, but with a flat and a mortgage how would it be possible? Could we really achieve our dreams and just go?

Eventually we took the plunge. We booked one-way tickets for Brazil, leaving the 19th of February 2006. The situation was put to our family that we wanted to visit South America on a, for want of a better term, fact finding mission. We planned to volunteer as teachers, to see if this was a viable career for us when we returned to the UK. We also wanted to learn a language to make ourselves more marketable to potential employers and help improve our careers. The decision made and the tickets booked, the Dream took over.

An article in the Travellers Handbook 2006 discusses the reasons people travel. They want to expand their horizons, try out new things and not be constrained by the compulsions of life at home. The author suggests that we are all born with the wandering instinct but few pursue it. To quote Vinnie Jones, ‘you’ve gotta have balls to change’. And balls we had as we decided to leave the UK for a simpler life, sampling a multitude of cultures and experiences while settling nowhere. We wanted to try out new ideas and careers, sample food we had only seen in expensive restaurants but which cost pennies in their native land, see strange creatures and learn funny languages. We wanted to try and ‘give back’ to those who had less that we did.

We wanted to Live.

And that’s what we did.

However, one thing we learned while Living the Dream is that once you realise one dream, there are a world of others which take their place. After over a year in Latin America we decided to not want to return to the UK as planned. We had always loved the idea of living in Japan and so we applied for jobs as English teachers and were lucky enough to get two positions in Yamaguchi. A year of working long hours proved rewarding but we needed another change and so spent eight months in South East Asia, sampling the delights of Thailand, seeing the orangutans of Borneo, making friends in Vietnam and so much more. Unfortunately we had a little too much fun in South East Asia and with money running low, the only option for us to to head for Australia. The thrill of seeing kangaroos and koalas as well as getting exciting jobs with Cirque du Soleil made it a memorable year. The desire to be closer to family brought us back to Europe and we took jobs as English teachers in northern Spain. We were again lucky to be living and working in La Rioja, wine capital of Spain and with a growing number of friends we sampled the delights of the region from vineyards to historic towns and bustling metropolis

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