People We Meet on the Road
BRAZIL | Friday, 4 January 2008 | Views 
Over the past year we've met a ton of people and made some really cool friends along the way. Most people we meet are either from Europe, Israel or Australia. From Europe we have met many travelers from Switzerland, Holland, France, Belgium, and a handful from the UK and Germany. Those few that we've met doing 1 year plus round the world trips have been mostly from Switzerland and France, with the average duration for our European travel friends being between 2-4 months. Israelis we've met are on a mission. They're all young, just finished up their military service and are now on a 4-6 month tour to see the world, many focusing in either South America or Asia. Australians we've met are traveling for an extended time, most out here for at least a year, and some having combined a work stint in the UK with their trip to augment funds. Many NGO and other non-profit workers we meet are from Belgium, Holland, and occasionally from another country but now residing in Switzerland working or the UN, Unicef or some other meaningful organization contributing to making the world a better place. What has amazed us the most is the number of single women we meet, traveling for long periods of time alone. We wonder why this is, are women more adventurous than their male counterparts, more courageous to just leave it all behind and go? They end up making other female friends along the way, and traveling for short stints with their female companions from all ends of the world.
We've met just a few North Americans from the states, mostly in Central and South America, and all on their standard "1-2 week" corporate vacation, although a couple people we've met have taken a school term abroad to study and volunteer. The North Americans we've met from the states out here in some far flung places, are open minded and free spirited, experiencing life vacation to vacation, keeping their dreams alive. It's refreshing to see our US compadres out here traveling and helping to dispel the "ugly American" image, loving life and digging into the culture. Most of the people we've met on the road are also younger than us, or retired... it's rare to find mid-career couples or individuals out here with us... but we're on a mission to convince others that it's possible! When I first told professional colleagues we were doing this sabbatical, they thought we were crazy, "You're at your peak earnings potential and career stature, do you really want to lose your momentum and give it all up... give up your dual income for over a year, possibly two years as you start a new job search when you return and live off your savings for retirement? Are you crazy?" Reflecting over the past 12 months, we're intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually richer than we'd ever have been sitting still in our former jobs for that same timeframe. I recently was treated to a snippet of BBC on TV and there was an interview with Dr. Martin Selgman, psychologist and researcher from the University of Pennsylvania who had released findings of his happiness study, and concluded that at certain points, more accumulation of wealth, versus taking time off for family, friends, self and lifestyle has diminishing marginal returns for a person's overall happiness. In fact, we see the poorest people in some of the least developed countries happier than upper middle and upper class North Americans. They have the richness of strong family bonds, deep friendships and faith that create a happy and fulfilling quality of life, despite having sub optimal supply of food, water, whether, education and access to medical and health services. But the key is that they're happy and living life to the fullest. Breaking away from societal pressures, thinking, expectations and judgments is really hard to do and probably equally as hard not to fall back into the trappings when returning home, but we're determined to live a fulfilling, balanced, meaningful happy life, as so many others around the world have managed to strike the balance and strength to sustain. We look up to and respect the open minds and free spirits of those we've come to know on the road, and intend to keep their passion and commitment to living, burning strong inside us.
All the more reason this gives me to write a book about my mid career gap year so others throughout the US can see it's possible to step out of the daily grind and follow their dreams... if others throughout the world are doing it, why can't we all break the viscous work cycle back home and enjoy our travel dreams as well...