Few people could say their best friend is also their spouse. But in our case, it’s true. We’ve been together since early 2001, through thick and thin. In the beginning, we explored yoga and dabbled in meditation. We were working in careers that focused on progressive causes and social change, only to discover it was often just as rife with human failure and bad behaviour as anything else.
In 2007, we spent eight months traveling in Southeast Asia. We explored Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and India. We ended up spending half our time in India helping to run a Vipassana meditation centre near Dharamsala in the tradition of mediation that we had already been practicing for a few years.
It all seemed to happen by accident, we hadn’t the remotest plan to do something like this when we left Canada. But it gave us a unique opportunity and the chance to develop a real meditation practice. By the time we left to return home we had really changed. We had quit drinking and smoking. We felt a lot clearer about life.
We began to question what we had assumed was the obvious path: advancing careers, buying a house, having kids, and planning for retirement. We’d never literally planned it out like that, but looking back it was clearly an unspoken assumption. After all, what else would one do?
Life’s key question is really about happiness. We all work relentlessly at a job to accumulate money. We buy stuff and then we buy places to store our stuff. Personal development, hobbies or voluntarism are squeezed into daily life around the hours we spend getting to, working at, and getting home from, a job. We raise and look after a family.
And we dream.
We dream of all the things we’d do now if we won the lottery. Or we dream of what we’ll do when we ‘retire’. Many of us don’t make it to retirement intact enough mentally, physically or financially to do much about all those dreams. We spend most of our years at work (or trying to sleep), instead of spending time with the ones we love. Sometimes, one of you doesn’t make it to retirement at all. The only certainty in life is that it isn’t certain. And it always ends in death.
We realized we had options. Life doesn’t have to be defined by the choices of others. Now in our forties, we decided we’d reorient our lives around understanding ourselves and our connection to others. Attempting to discern the purpose of what is, after all, a very short life.
We decided to live smaller. The money we would have spent on children, a fancier place to live, a nicer car or two, and annual beach vacations, is saved instead. Some for retirement, some for present day freedom. And we’re learning to live with less overall. We try to organize our life in a way that affords us more balance, more time to explore the world and ourselves, all the while figuring out the meaning of life itself.
Living your own life
In our final moments of this life, our thoughts will turn to the relationships we’ve had, and the actions we’ve taken, good or bad. The real accounting will be what we made of our life in real terms, not material ones. So in a way we are trying to live our life with that last moment in mind.
What will matter in our final moments? We want the end moments to be spent looking back on a life of joy, remembering the kindness and generosity we had for others, the adventures we survived. Neither of us want to remember that most of our life was spent working away in an office, socking away money, living for the weekend.
If you wonder if it’s possible to live life following a different path? Then you’ve found two friends in us. We hope others find this site entertaining, maybe even inspiring. Maybe you take six months of unpaid leave from your 9 to 5 job or maybe you simply pause to question what you might be putting aside for a future that may never come. Whatever your reason for visiting, we hope to leave you with something, if only just a break from life to enjoy a travel story from where ever we are in the world.
Funding a life of exploration
People often ask us how we afford it. We’re not trust fund kids and we’re not rich. But we’ve had pretty good jobs. We just don’t waste our money. We take our lunch to work. We usually live in a small apartment in a modest neighbourhood. We drive a used car. We invest our retirement savings. The rest of our money is put toward freedom.
We have small luxuries, but none of the big ones. We don’t feel like we’re sacrificing anything. We’re not concerned with our relative social location. So we don’t feel we need the external markers to show how successful we are. Scott is nerdy about mechanical watches. He has a couple of very nice ones and other gadgets. We indulge in other small things like well-made clothes, shoes and gear. We buy high-quality food. When we fly, we may pay extra for a direct flight. Flight comfort is driven by Karen’s hatred of flying. We also go overland a lot.
We save 20 per cent of our earnings for later retirement and 20 per cent of our earnings for these sabbaticals, 5 per cent of our earnings for emergencies and 5 to 10 per cent for charity and charity-related activities. The rest is spent on our daily living expenses. We take on zero debt.