We never set out on this trip to ‘find ourselves’ or have some sort of profound spiritual experience, we simply wanted to experience different cultures, see some amazing sights and above all else – have a great time. For us, the emphasis was on having fun rather than discovering some deep new meaning to our lives, shallow but true!

That said, I can safely say that long term travel has changed me for the better and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.

 

Today marks the 365th day of our adventure and I feel like a completely different person to the one boarding that plane to Calgary in 2012.

 

Sleeper Train Thailand

Paul takes a pew on one of our many sleeper trains/buses in Asia

Appreciating the small things

I’m incredibly grateful for the small things in life now and I cringe at how I used to behave when it came to hoarding the dreaded ‘stuff’. At my worst, my shopping habit ran into 3 or 4 outings a week (it’s dangerous when your office is 5 minutes from the town centre!) and I still remember how the spare room was covered in bags from stores that I’d not even opened when I got home.

Tons of clothes with labels still on that I’d bought to fill the soul hole and just forgotten about.

Saving for travel purged me of this and the only piece of clothing I bought in the year pre-travel was a pair of jeans because mine had gotten a hole in them. Since we’ve been traveling, this has grown in a way I didn’t think possible. I absolutely love that all my worldly goods fit into a couple of bags!

 

I appreciate tiny, ridiculous things that we take for granted as westerners.

 

The toilet having a flush rather than a bucket and ladle or the shower having a tiny trickling stream of hot water. The wonderful feeling of picking up freshly laundered clothes after declaring that you simply can’t wear that t shirt another day.

Camping Banff National Park, Canada Two Jack Lake

Cooking dinner on our 1st camping trip – Banff National Park, Canada

I’m really hoping that after a few years of this I can avoid slipping back into my old ways. Don’t get me wrong, I will be overjoyed to see my comfortable home again but I really hope I don’t get the urge to buy every unnecessary new thing that the great powers of advertising put in my way!

I had to seriously resist slipping back into my old ways in the shopping mecca of Hoi An in Vietnam recently but was actually sensible and stuck to a pre-written shopping list for things that we actually needed, the only concession to my old ways was a new (and ridiculously cheap) winter coat.

 

View of the world

I now realise how truly ignorant I was about world events. I made an effort to watch and read the news every day but those stories felt like they were happening a million miles away and the people almost didn’t seem real.

Spending extended time in a number of countries lets you appreciate how their people see things and makes the stories you’ve read about come to life.

Wall of Remembrance - Canberra, Australia Poppies

The beautiful and moving Wall of Remembrance – Canberra, Australia

Talking face to face with people that have grown up under the Chinese Communist regime or the lovely Iranian geologist we met who has spent his life travelling for work and is now met with visa restrictions or absolute rejections because of his government’s actions.

Heartbreakingly, talking to the many people we’ve met that were affected by the devastating Boxing Day Tsunami and learning about how Laos and Vietnam suffered horribly through what we know as the Vietnam War.

 

All of these experiences have made me realise that instead of it being background noise in my little bubble, I need to pay a hell of a lot more attention to what is going on a around the globe.

 

The pied piper of Asia – Paul making friends in Vietnam

The future

I’m far happier and far more realistic about my future now. I’ve always been a dreamer and that absolutely won’t change when it comes to certain aspects of my life. Those dreams have led me to achieve an awful lot from fairly humble beginnings, including this trip and for that I am very grateful.

However, the main question that has been hanging over our heads this whole trip is “what are you going to do when you get back?”

Sadly, it was the most asked question before we’d even left and pretty much every person we met in the U.S was concerned that we’d be out on the streets after quitting our jobs!

Maddie Deaton hiking on Athabasca Glacier, Canada

My 1st bucket list item – hiking on Athabasca Glacier, Canada

My completely honest answer throughout has been “I don’t know”. I didn’t know if we’d want to open a beach shack bar in Thailand or if we’d be desperate to get back to a normal 9 to 5. What I do know now is that none of things I enjoy doing as hobbies will become my career.

I’m ok with being alright at photography and being able to string a sentence together for this blog but I’m not passionate enough to pursue either as a career.

 

I’ve realised that I enjoy my hobbies as they are, something you do for fun in your spare time.

 

I’m comfortable with the thought of ending up back in an office but I do know that I want to feel like I’ve achieved something every day and really made a contribution to whatever I’m working on. The rest will just have to wait and see…

 

Self reflection

I’m really making a concerted effort to recognise my faults and do something about them, travelling allows so much thinking time and that inevitably leads to self reflection.

I still get stressed over unimportant things and am a massive hot head, it’s one of my biggest flaws. You have to learn to be patient when travelling, you can’t get angry every time something is late or the price isn’t what you expected, hopefully this will bode well for my return!

Halong Bay, Vietnam

A sunset swim in Halong Bay, Vietnam

I’m still very opinionated but am really trying to not get wound up about it, everyone is entitled to an opinion and I’m learning to just shut up and listen.

It’s been great meeting so many different people and learning about their views of the world and the differences in opinion make for the best late night chats.

Paul Deaton Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand Sea Kayaking

Sea kayaking in Abel Tasman National Park, New Zealand

Health

I’m fitter and healthier than I’ve ever been, despite consuming a vast quantity of Asian food! We eat so much better now, fresh and healthy foods are the norm and I’m not constantly poisoning my body with takeout.

 

When we were enjoying the hiking portion of our trip we spent 7 months doing quite strenuous exercise every day. Now, I’m still walking or swimming every day and quite often lugging 17kg on my back!

 

I’m also really looking forward to getting to the South American mountains and pushing my physical limits as far as they will go with the culmination of the 25 mile rim to rim at the Grand Canyon in the United States.

Maddie Deaton Rock climbing in Virginia, United States

Rock climbing in Virginia, United States

It’s made me realise that when I do get home and if I end up sitting at a desk again, I need to make a concerted effort to exercise in my down time. Easier said than done in the cold winters but just the memory of how I feel right now should help.

 

The big thing

This is the big thing I was looking for. I remember having a really depressing conversation with my brother-in-law and his fiancé back in 2009.

They had been travelling for around 5 years by that point and I said that I was worried about getting to 40 and wondering what I’d done with the last 20 years.

We were all talking about travel and Paul adamantly stated that he would never want to do it, I remember being horrified that I might never get my big adventure that I’d always dreamed about.

Paul ready to do the highest bungy over water in New Zealand

Paul ready to do the highest bungy over water in New Zealand

 

Now, I’m so incredibly grateful to have spent the last 12 months seeing more than some people will see in their lifetime.

 

I’m satisfied for the first time in a really long time and it feels great! I’m actually really looking forward to having a home again, this has been the greatest experience of my life but we’re at a stage in life where our priorities are changing.

There are still tons of places we want to visit (unfortunately the list just gets even longer the more you travel) but I know now that when we return home in October I’ll be happier doing shorter trips and I also realise we have many other exciting things to look forward to.

It’s been a great gift having the opportunity to see some of the greatest wonders of this world and experience some of the most interesting cultures, I have to pinch myself sometimes to remember that we really have seen and done all of these magical things.

It’s something I will never take for granted and I will treasure for the rest of my life.

The open road - Colorado, United States

The open road – Colorado, United States

 

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6 ways travel changed me - Two for the Road

37 Responses

  1. Kim

    Congrats on a year. I can relate to say many of these things, like on being so ignorant of the world before traveling, on appreciating the small things (warm water! napkins!) and learning to be more patient (I am the least patient person in the world). Cheers to you guys.
    Kim recently posted..Look upMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Kim, it doesn’t seem like 5 minutes ago we were all waiting not so patiently to leave on our trips! Best decision EVER!

      Reply
    • Maddie

      Yeah we’ve got loads to offer a child, what with being unemployed… 😉 Not so fast with the child rearing!

      Reply
  2. Laura

    Happy one year! Don’t change too much now… your pretty lush just the way you are!

    Reply
    • Maddie

      And you are the bestest friend a girl could want 🙂 The biggest thing is just being a bit more grateful which can only be a good change.

      Reply
  3. Jelsey Barnes

    Hi Maddie, just having a Sunday evening catch up on face book and saw this and had a read! I could have kept reading and reading and reading!! I found this really interesting and you have written this fantastically! Looking forward to the next chapter! Ive always had a little niggle about not going travelling, this has just resurfaced after reading this! Say hi to Paul and enjoy the rest of your travels xx

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Hey Jelsey, so nice to hear from you! The one thing I will say is it’s never too late. We got laughed at so many times, Paul is the grand age of 36 now!! but when we really put our minds to it the saving wasn’t actually that hard, especially when you have such an amazing goal at the end. Hope you and Mark are doing well and thanks for reading xx

      Reply
    • Paul

      Hi Jelsey. Great to hear from you. You can still do it, you know you want to! Even if you don’t do it all in one go, get yourself to some weird and wonderful places as part of a longer holiday. We started off with a 3 week road trip in America a couple of years ago and loved it so much we decided to go the whole hog and go on this crazy adventure. I look forward to reading your blog about your adventures in a year or two 🙂

      Reply
  4. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Congrats on the milestone & I am so happy that we got to celebrate with the two of you last night! Just think: a year ago, we didn’t even now the other existed and certainly couldn’t have predicted our paths would cross in Cambodia. Just goes to show the world is a wonderful place with plenty of surprises and delights for those brave enough to go in search of them! 😀
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Sunday Sketchup: Cambodia, We Knew Thee WellMy Profile

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    • Maddie

      Beautifully put Steph 🙂 We were so happy to celebrate with you too, there is nothing better than good food and a few beers while sharing hilarious travel stories. You certainly livened up Phnom Penh for us!

      Reply
  5. Guido

    Hey Maddie & Paul,

    Don’t know you, but stumbled upon this blog. I travelled a year abroad as well about ten years ago and I recognize a lot small things you write about. And especially that: appreciating the little things in life so much more, like having a fresh bed, a refreshing drink, and so on. I recommend everyone to have a good look abroad.

    I do want to pre warn you for the “returning travellers disease.” I and many around me experienced this when returning back home after long travels. You tend to feel a bit displaced. Bringing back so many new ideas, while friends hold the same. Returning to quarrels about work and love, instead of having deep conversations about the state of the world with fellow travellers. A lot of new ideas and plans I had seemed to unrealistic when returning back home, be prepared for it. You also really get back into your ‘old’ life quite quickly. Worrying about things you once thought were not worth worrying about, it appears everyday life is hard to avoid. And taking in the same social place among friends as before.

    Just wanted to inform you of this minor note, so you are prepared, and if it happens you know it is quite normal. Having said that, a lot of lessons do remain. Being able to put things in perspective. Still mainly drinking healthy tap water. Got rid of some bad habits, and all the worldly knowledge you hold of a great year.

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Hi Guido and welcome! Don’t worry we’re very much (unfortunately) aware of what it will be like when we get back. We’re in equal parts really excited to have a home again but also completely aware that it will be incredibly hard adjusting. I’m weirdly looking forward to routine and normality but am very nervous about finding the right job.

      Reply
  6. Suzanne Rogers

    Thank you for an enjoyable respite while I was reading your reflections of the past year. The photos are beautiful, and the writing is humbly reflective. It would be lovely for students to see the world (at first) through your lenses. It is heart wrenching to realize that some people never see beyond the confines of their own town/city/state.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Suzanne 🙂 One thing we have realised during our travels is how very lucky we are to have been born in a country where we are able to travel pretty much anywhere and where taking a long term break from work is a very real possibility. We’ve met so many people during the trip that will never be able to leave their home country and it’s incredibly sad and humbling.

      Reply
  7. Jyoti

    Enjoyed this post on your travels. I feel that one of your many achievements of this year is hearing from people far and unknown like me–I’m in India and in my 25 years of married life, I’ve done many short travels and always returned home relieved to the old and familiar–with a renewed resolve to enjoy what I have. I’ve also always looked forward to my 6-monthly getaways–mostly within India. It’s a trying and diverse country and offers many learning experiences…as also this realization that I’m fortunate to be able to see beyond my own neighbourhood and familiar experiences. Travelling isn’t everything–having interests, good friends and a caring family is–but travelling makes what one has seem so much more precious. Cheers.

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Jyoti 🙂 One of our favourite things about travelling has been meeting so many people from every walk of life. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that appreciating what you have is a real product of travelling, we are now very grateful for what we have and won’t take it for granted again.

      Reply
  8. Lucy

    Congratulations on your travel anniversary! I’ve been thinking about how travel changes you recently as it’s 10 years on from me doing a big 16-month RTW trip. A lot of those habits I gained on the road – not spending too much, investing in experiences not things, trying to have a flexible work-life balance – are still a big part of my life. I might not travel full-time at the moment but it’s seeped into my life much more deeply than just when I’m actually abroad.
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    • Maddie

      Thanks Lucy 🙂 So good to hear that you’ve continued your good habits. People keep telling me that it’s so easy to slip into exactly the same ways as before but I’m determined to use what I’ve learned to change my life at home.

      Reply
  9. tyrhone

    Great post, its funny how you have said your hobbies wont work as a career. I have tried in the past to do so and inevitably I just ended up hating my hobbies! Now though I seem to have found a middle ground with web design, its not the art I love, but it requires art.
    Sarah and I can definitely relate with looking forward to the comfort of home. Home for us is a little studio in mexico at the moment sure, but having a reliably comfortable place to relax every day where the toilet flushes, the shower is hot and the bed is comfy makes all the difference. Having said that I am longing for the road again.

    Congrats on your adventures 🙂
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    Reply
    • Maddie

      Thanks Tyrhone 🙂 You’ve hit the nail on the head, I don’t want to end up hating what I do for fun. Finding a middle ground is exactly what I’m hoping for, I love to write but know I can do that to a lesser degree in a marketing job. It’s just finding the right job! You guys have it completely sorted, it we were travelling indefinitely then your approach to travel and the combo of home and travel would be perfect.

      Reply
  10. Sarah Somewhere

    Congratulations guys! I love your pragmatic approach Maddie, a breath of fresh air for a neurotic like me, always looking for the deeper meaning in everything! Maybe that’s why I like your writing so much! I’m happy for you that you know what you want, and I guess we do too, though we don’t want to go back! You never know though, things change, nothing is for certain, so enjoying the present is the only way to go 🙂
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..This DressMy Profile

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    • Maddie

      It’s ironic that I didn’t set out to find any deeper meaning to my life and yet somewhere in the midst of it all something just clicked with me and I suddenly felt extremely happy and thankful for what I have. For someone who has constantly been searching for something better her whole life this was a huge step for me and is such a weight off my shoulders. If there’s anything I’ve learned from the last few years it is that nothing is certain and your dreams and wishes can change in a heartbeat, you’re completely right about just enjoying the present 🙂

      Reply
  11. Michele

    May I suggest you get involved in hosting couchsurfers when you get home It might fill the void travelling leaves, we find meeting travellers on their journies is a great substitute when you can’t travel yourself at the time. Only found your blog today but enjoying reading it.
    Michele recently posted..Plans, budgets and departuresMy Profile

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    • Maddie

      Hi Michele and welcome 🙂 Great minds think alike! We’ve never done couch surfing but have spent a huge amount of time in Air Bnb properties on this trip and the best thing about them is meeting like minded people. We’re going to list our guest room when we get home and see what happens. We’ve been worried about not meeting travellers every day like we are now so hopefully that will go some way to helping us out.

      Reply
  12. Carmel

    How am I just reading this??

    We are currently dealing with the questions of what we’re going to do when we get back and if we’ll be returning to Portland. It’s hard to say.

    I really admire that you recognize you won’t be turning any of your hobbies into a full-time career. I think that’s what I’m facing right now. It’s not that I’ve already decided, but it’s refreshing to hear that there is some satisfying resolution for you to return to a “normal” work environment. I am still considering it (despite my desire currently to NEVER have to do this again) because…well, never say never. 🙂
    Carmel recently posted..SAYING GOODBYE TOO SOONMy Profile

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    • Maddie

      I feel like I’m going to be one of those people that never has a burning passion to do anything as a job, it will always be work to me and I’ll do the things I love in my spare time. The change in me is that I now want to feel like I’m really achieving something even if it is in a traditional job. Like you say, never say never, I might choose to do something else later in life but for now…

      Reply
  13. Nathan

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on what it’s like to be gone for a year and what that does to your outlook on life and also as a human being. How interesting that you feel after all this travel you could see yourself in a 9 to 5 job. I guess it’s true that some people really do have an itch that simply needs to be scratched. I only just began my own one year journey and although I hope to gain some greater perspectives on my life’s meaning/purpose, your post is a humbling reminder that there is still a bigger picture beyond the bigger picture! Cheers!
    Nathan recently posted..Wandering Ile de la Cite on 0 Hours of SleepMy Profile

    Reply
    • Maddie

      Hi Nathan and welcome 🙂 I suppose the thing I’ve learned is that as much as you might want it to be, travel doesn’t necessarily end up pushing your life in some new direction or provide you with a new purpose. It can just be about having fun and exploring new cultures, giving you a new perspective on how others live. I’ve had no great epiphany about what I want to do with the rest of my life but that’s fine, not everyone will and we can’t all be shining stars. However, travel for me is my life’s great passion and it will continue to be so regardless of what I do as a job, it’s an itch that will never be scratched! Enjoy your trip 🙂

      Reply

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