It was 2007. I was a 21-year-old who had done lots of exotic travel—you know, California, Oregon, Mexico, Canada. Far-off, distant lands, right?
To be fair, I wanted to travel. I wanted to get out and experience the world . . . or at least take two-week guided tours through parts unknown. My version of travel was cruises and luxury resorts, and the farthest off the beaten path I’d gone was one sketchy alley in Victoria, Canada.
And then I met my husband.
At the time, he was a 24-year-old, I-just-returned-from-backpacking-through-Southeast Asia kind of guy. The first time we talked at length, he showed me photos of his trip, told me engaging stories about places like Angkor Wat, and said things like, “When I’m done with college, I’m going to Asia. I might never come back.”
Fast forward a few months, and it was time for him to start making plans to leave. He deferred his travels to wait for me, and instead of leaving as planned, he went to grad school while I finished my undergrad. While he hustled to do his two-year program in one year, I completed my bachelor’s. Soon, we had finished our final classes and began our international job search. After a couple of months and dozens of e-mails to schools around the world, we landed jobs in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where we would be teaching at an international school. We arrived in the capital city in August 2009.
Living in the Dominican Republic opened me—it cleansed me of the hesitation that had enveloped me for most of my life. How could it not? Suddenly, I was thrust into a new country where few people spoke English, and as a white, blond girl, I was the minority. Having grown up in Boise, Idaho, where it seems like 85% of the population looks like me, the feeling of “otherness” was new and needed.
I wrote about my experiences while I was there. Here’s one entry from August 16, 2010.
Every Sunday evening around 7:00 p.m. in the Colonial Zone, there is a free concert called Rinconcito, located in Las Ruinas de San Francisco. The concert is set amidst centuries-old ruins, up steeply inclined cobblestone streets, and is lively with bachata music, dancing, and, most importantly, loads of Presidente and Ron Brugal, rum and beer that are made on the island. Although it’s too crowded to spend hours there, or at least it is for expats who aren’t quite used to bumping up against drenched t-shirts, it is definitely worth stopping by for a Presidente or two.
(If you can’t tell from that excerpt, I was hoping to become a travel writer.)
Fast forward again to late 2010, when my husband and I boarded a plane to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Within a few weeks, we were in love with the country. Vietnam is truly a special place to live and travel as an expat. Here’s an excerpt from a January 11, 2011, blog post written during a trip to Mui Ne, Vietnam.
From a distance, the white of the Buddha was visible through the thick coniferous trees of the mountain. Its massiveness can only be described like this: imagine that you are looking at the horizon and, instead of blue sky, you see alabaster white. That is the Buddha’s presence: overwhelming in its sleep, smiling at nothing, a communist emblem on his breast and a jewel on his forehead. Laughing in a sort of mockery of everything that we admire and despise, chuckling at our human pettiness, our anxiety, our inability to just be. Around us, Buddhists bowed, prayed, smoking incense at their foreheads and freshly placed fruit at the altar in front of them.
We left in a sort of reverie, silenced by the quiet of prayer, the stillness of the jungle, and the sanctity of the Buddhist religion. Quiet and reflective, we made our way back the way we’d come, boarded our bus, and returned to Ho Chi Minh City.
From Vietnam, we moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, for graduate school (mine this time). Then back to Boise, Idaho, in 2012.
Fast forward yet again. This time, to today, in 2017. We’ve accumulated two kids, two cats, and nearly ten years together. And it’s been six years since we’ve engaged in long-term adventure. Sure, we’ve taken trips. I travel all the time for work, and we’ve gone a few places as a family. But we really haven’t done anything adventurous.
That will all change in June 2018 when we relocate to Phuket, Thailand, for a year.
You see, adventure is essential to who I am and how I function in the world. It’s true that living in Boise is full of its own kinds of adventure. We have trails, mountains, and rivers, but we don’t have Buddhas and centuries-old ruins and jungles.
Adventure, to me, is paramount to living by one of my personal values: bravery.
When I adventure, I develop new parts of myself. I expand my worldview beyond self. I develop empathy and perspective. Those are things I desperately want for myself, but more so, I want them for my kids.
Right now, we’re in the planning stage. It involves spreadsheets and Pinterest and lots of doctor (and vet) visits. Less than a year from now, we’ll step off a plane and enter into adventure. My hope, my plan, is that Thailand is just the beginning. There’s so much of the world to experience—so many adventures to be had, people to meet, sights to see.
How about you? Is adventure calling? Are you ready to answer?
Maybe your adventure won’t last a year—perhaps it will be for a week or even a day. Where will you go? What will you do? What adventures will you have? I’d love to hear about your dreams and plans. And I’ll keep writing about mine.
P. S. The most frequent question people ask me is, “What will you do over there for work?” My answer is simple: exactly the same thing I’ve been doing for the past eight years. My business is completely mobile, and we’ll be in a city with an airport, so I will be traveling back to the U.S. to work with clients.