Jimmie and I quit our jobs in June of 2014 gearing up for an amazing adventure around the world. We sold our cars, stored our things, and said our goodbyes to family and friends. We spent 7 months traveling around North America and Europe, with the last 3 months spent living in Prague. It was a whirlwind trip full of excitement, emotional highs and lows, adventure, and constant learning. In December, though, we decided to head home for several reasons:
- I learned that while I love traveling I don’t necessarily like the nomadic version of it. I tried to just relax and enjoy the ride, but in the back of my head (and often times annoyingly out loud to Jimmie) I was constantly stressed about where we would go next, how we would get there, where we’d stay, how we’d afford it, how would we make money, etc. I was terrified that I actually didn’t like traveling as much as I thought I did. Thankfully, I realized that I just needed a home base and some security to be able to fully enjoy travel. Spending 3 months living in a foreign country? No problem. Setting out for an extended nomadic trip with no set plans and no place to call “home”? Lord help me. Also, I HATE backpacks. I know that goes against every travel bloggers mission statement, but they are just not me.
- We learned about the world of Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) during our time in Prague, and in October we decided to get our TEFL certificate and send our fingerprints off to the FBI** to prepare for future job opportunities. We learned that South Korea’s main hiring season is in February so we decided to go home to see our families before heading out for a year of teaching.
**If you’re living outside the US and need to send your fingerprints to the FBI – I hope it’s easier for you than it was for us in Prague. We couldn’t find anywhere (including the US Embassy) that would take our fingerprints and essentially had to buy an ink pad, a jar of ink, and print off the fingerprint form from a Czech printing shop (an experience in itself) and hope for the best.
I was constantly stressed about where we would go next
So with everything we’d learned from our past 7 months of traveling, and the intention to teach English in South Korea in February, we headed home.
Isn’t it funny how we constantly try to plan out our lives even though things rarely work out as we plan?
Needless to say, it’s June and we aren’t in South Korea. Our fingerprints WERE approved (somehow), but the process took nearly 4 MONTHS and by the time our background check was cleared we had missed the major hiring deadline in Korea. Our recruiter assured as that while more rare, there were possibilities for jobs in the off season and she would submit us to anything she saw that fit our requirements. We were a bit picky in that we wanted more than a studio apartment to live in, and to be at a school with other foreign teachers. We had several interviews which didn’t end up working out due to various reasons such as timing, they didn’t like us, we didn’t like them, or they only offered a tiny apartment where Jimmie and I would eventually want to strangle each other. I was also struggling with where I would house my four-legged best friend, Dakota, for the year. Either way, it was looking like we would be home for much longer than we anticipated.
Dakota: practicing yoga or watching for squirrels?
When reality set in, I was having a tough time being “stuck” at home. I’d just spent the past 7 months experiencing new cultures, new ways of life, and new environments. Yet here I was, back home, living in the town I went to high school in. I was disappointed that our plans didn’t work out the way we wanted them to. We didn’t have cars to easily get around, and public transportation is a joke in Texas. Jimmie and I were living 200 miles apart in two different cities. I didn’t enjoy living off my parents. I had a bad attitude and didn’t want to be seen as a failure.
Finally, after throwing myself this long-winded pity party, I realized I was doing it all wrong. Something just clicked.
I had an opportunity. I was home with my family, with more time on my hands than I wished for, and a computer that gave me access to an entire world of prospect. Over the next few months I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, get my act together and buckle down on things I could make a conscious effort to change.
These are what I focused on:
Health & Fitness
In February I decided I needed to do something about all the food I had indulged on during our travels that was stubbornly sticking around. I began with a 30 day yoga challenge (Yoga With Adriene – she is amazing and based out of our favorite Texas town) and eventually stumbled across a fitness program on Instagram called the Bikini Body Guide by gorgeous Aussie Kayla Itsines. The results from some of these girls were unreal. Essentially it’s a 12-week circuit training program and I decided to take a chance. That turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life and flipped my entire lifestyle upside down. In April, however I realized that working out wasn’t enough and I had to take control of my eating habits as well. I’d already limited my alcohol intake, but chocolate and Chick Fil A are far harder things to give up in my opinion.
I’ll be dedicating a whole post to Kayla Itsines and the BBG program in the near future but for a glimpse of my results and how it’s affected me, follow my fitness account on instagram: @travelingbbg
Work and Education
While we at first had our sights set on teaching English in order to continue traveling, it isn’t something we wanted to do for the rest of our lives. Our goals are to eventually find something we are passionate about that will allow us to work and travel from anywhere in the world. This is OUR key to happiness, and yes it may sound a tad unrealistic, especially to us Americans who grew up believing 9-5 was the only way to make an honest living. But what’s life without taking a few risks? We don’t like being tied down to one city. We have this wanderlust running through our veins that we can’t ignore. Yes I was stressed out being a nomad, but I will forever want to travel and explore – just in a different way. So we used this extended period of down-time to figure out what exactly we could do that would allow us to live out our dream life. We began reading Tim Ferris’ “The Four Hour Workweek” (HIGHLY recommended), learning new skills (skillshare.com), and researched different digital nomad fields. Jimmie grew fond of photography, and I decided graphic design would be a fun and challenging trade to learn. We’re still in the process of figuring it out and are constantly learning new tips and advice for freelancing but I think we’re on to something.
I also began a partnership with the beauties behind The Bucketlist Bombshells and am currently taking their 6 week long Work+Travel course. Exciting things to come and I can’t wait to share my review with you all!!
(*Update – thanks to this course I finally began my own business focusing on web design and digital marketing! If you’re in need of either of those things, I’d love for you to visit me over at Dakota & Co.)
Jimmie and I weren’t sure if we should mention our Christian faith on this blog, but this isn’t just your ordinary travel website. Occasionally it’s a place for inspiration, both travel and personal, and we want to be open and honest with all of our readers. I was struggling with my faith while traveling. I prayed, yes but otherwise that was about it. I didn’t trust God to lead me, I didn’t give my worries and frustrations over to Him. I thanked Him for the good things, and became angry when things didn’t go my way. I foolishly thought I could fix everything myself. When I returned home, I was ecstatic to get back to my church, Ecclesia, in Houston. I’ve never fit in with a church or related to how the Pastor spoke more than I do at Ecclesia. I didn’t grow up in Sunday school, and I admittedly don’t know many of the foundational stories of the bible. Pastor Chris preaches in a way that makes everything so easy for me to understand. On days I couldn’t make it to church, I would listen to the podcasts and consistently feel inspired and loved. While moving things out of my old roommates house, I stumbled across a small book titled “Jesus Calling”. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a daily devotional with inspirational memos rooted from the bible along with bible verses that support that day’s message. It was exactly what I needed to be reminded of how I should live each day and to just relax and trust in our loving God. I learned to thank Him for both good and bad things, to give my problems to Him as I knew he would fix them eventually, and to trust that I am where exactly I am supposed to be at each moment in time. I immediately felt at ease.
I love my family. Did I want to spend 7+ months living back at home with them like a teenager? Not so much, and I can assure you my parents were equally as thrilled. It was a tough transition at first – I was used to my freedom and they theirs. I didn’t have a car and my mom graciously allowed me to borrow hers when it was available, but scheduling made that difficult sometimes. I brought my dog home to their house where he chased their cat every chance he could get. It took time, patience and love to finally just accept I was back home and learn to cherish that time with my mom and step-dad. I can’t speak for them, but I’m glad now the way things have worked out. I’ll look back with fond memories of playing darts, getting ice cream with the convertible top down, finally training my dog to ignore the cat, daily walks with my mom, watching wheel of fortune, and making and enjoying dinner together each night.
It also turned out that I was home for a tragic family event that I can’t imagine having been gone for. My grandfather on my Dad’s side of the family suddenly passed away one evening in late February. It was a shock to all of us, as he was in relatively good health with no major issues that we should have kept an eye on. I flew up to Buffalo where that side of my family lives and spent the week with my New York relatives. As hard as it was to experience that, I can’t even imagine how upset I would have been if I hadn’t been able to fly home to say a proper goodbye.
So even though Jimmie and I aren’t traveling at the moment, I needed this time back home. I needed to lay this foundation in so many different aspects of my life. I needed to learn to live and enjoy each moment instead of constantly worrying about the future. I needed time to explore different career paths until I landed on something that would allow me to continue traveling. I needed this time to grow my relationships with God, family and friends.
I didn’t want to be home this long, and honestly am constantly itching to go somewhere with more excitement but I’m learning to ENJOY my time here. I’ve finally realized that I need to live in the present and let God take care of the rest. Regardless of your beliefs, I challenge you to accept where you are at this exact moment in your life.
Ask yourself what you can do today that your future self will thank you for.
Whether that be changing your eating habits, mending a broken relationship, or simply waking up 30 minutes earlier than normal. Small positive changes, and constant self-awareness and improvement can have a tremendous impact. And as for our next move? Well, we’re thinking of heading to Mexico or Central America, bringing my adventure dog along, and building up the courage to navigate the freelance life. Will that work out? Hard to say…but we won’t know until we try.
Has traveling had a major impact on your life? Has NOT traveling affected you? Let me know in the comments below!
Shelly & Jimmie
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