Just a Few Months After Meeting, This Couple Decided to Travel for a Year Together
“Wait for me…” Who knew these three words said to a near stranger would start an international travel adventure?
A Year Off is one part travel guide, one part travel essays and photos, and one part memoir documenting the story of Alexandra and David Brown, a couple who decided to take a year off from their jobs and “regular lives” to travel the world together after only knowing each other for a few months.
With gorgeous photographs and actionable travel advice, A Year Off captures all the beauty and magic of the wanderlust spirit, guiding readers on how to take the same leap and showing them just how doable a journey this type of round-the-world travel is.
We sat down with the couple to ask them a few more questions about taking the plunge. Read on!
Chronicle Books: Tell us about your decisions to quit your jobs and travel for a year. What were the most compelling reasons to do so? The scariest things about it?
Alexandra: If I’m being honest with myself, David was the most compelling reason for me. Meeting him threw everything in my life into a new light…and I started to more clearly see how I wasn’t being as authentically me as I thought I was being. The trip seemed like a way to shake things up, connect with him, and reconnect with myself. And while many people would think taking off for a year with someone you barely know would be the scariest part, for me it wasn’t. Rather, it was a fear of failure and the unknown: that I wouldn’t be able to cut it out on the open road or that David would decide he didn’t want to be with me.
David: I put a lot of my energy into my post-grad schooling and career but felt little to no satisfaction from either. I wanted to do something that held a sense of personal meaning, but I was too caught up in chasing success to consider the bigger picture. So I took the most honest step forward toward pursuing a sense of personal satisfaction; it wasn’t really the travel as much as it was aligning who I felt I was with how I lived my life.
What was an experience that most surprised you while you were abroad? How did it change you or your perspective?
A: It wasn’t one experience in particular but rather a culmination of experiences. I had known generosity before, but the hospitality and generosity we were shown on the road was so humbling. It made me realize that giving can happen without expectation, and that graciously receiving a gift or offering is part of the generosity equation.
D: Generosity of old friends. I never could have expected my friends from years past to be so incredibly generous and inviting. This continues into our lives now as we try to be the most welcoming hosts we can be.
How often did you connect with friends and family back home? Was communication a struggle?
A: We regularly emailed, Skyped and texted with friends and family back home. Communication was actually a lot easier than one would think. Wifi is generally accessible in most places, and we got local SIM cards for our unlocked phone. The biggest struggle was that because communication was generally easier, I sometimes felt pressure to communicate more than I wanted to. I wanted to balance being present in our trip while also making sure the people back home knew how much we loved them.
D: Keeping in touch with home was sometimes an issue, but not commonly driven by a lack of technology. Connection speeds and reliability varied, but you could almost always get a message out from most anywhere. I often felt bad that we did not call home more frequently; it was not something I was good at while at home, and I did not get much better abroad.
Describe what it was like acclimating back to everyday life after you returned.
A: It was surreal. In some ways, it felt like we had never been gone. We went back to our old apartment, for example. But in other ways, it felt like we had been gone forever. Life back home hadn’t changed that much ultimately, but we had changed. It was surprising how easily we fell back into old routines though, and both of us worried the feelings of the trip would fade quickly. We had to actively hold on to them. Writing this book was part of that.
D: My days were a bit more emotionally dynamic at first. Ranging from a general bad mood and boredom to happiness and satisfaction all within a matter of hours. As I look back, the everyday life that I knew before never came back. The mundane is still alive and well, but we are making lots of small and large changes in our lives that mix things up significantly.
What is one lesson you took from your travels that has had a lasting impact?
A: Being present is an active process you need to embrace each and every day. It’s work that’s never done.
D: There is no real option than to be myself. Faking something is a waste of time.
What is one financial tip (or “hack,” if you will) that made a big difference?
A: Working the rewards/points systems with credit cards. We ended up saving so much money because of using points for plane tickets.
D: Live like a local and don’t move too fast. Moving is expensive and so is vacation. For us, we had the best times and spent the least when we chilled out and got to know everyday life in a new place.
You are new parents (congratulations!)—what are the challenges of traveling with a baby, and what have you learned?
A: We spent nearly a month in France with our daughter Emma when was she was only three months old, and looking back, it was so much easier than traveling with her now is. She was still so wee that we could wear her in the carrier all the time, and she would sleep for long stretches at a time. We tell everyone we know to take a big trip while their babies are still super young! Now she’s on the move more, although seeing how much more engaged in the world she is now outweighs some of the pain points on flights or during long car drives.
D: We like to create a sense of routine at home, but it is very difficult to keep that up while traveling. We have learned to just keep doing it so that travel becomes a bit routine itself.
What advice would you give to someone who has the desire to take a year off themselves?
A: If you can make it work, do it. The regret of wondering whether you could have done it will far outweigh any regrets you may have around taking the trip. And while a year seems like such a long time…it’s not. It will be a moment in the scale of your life, and taking that time to invest in yourself will pay in dividends later.
D: Do it if it feels like a step forward in your life… and if the reasons to stay are mainly fear and expectation, then it is likely a step forward.
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You can learn all about Alexandra and David’s life abroad in their forthcoming book A Year Off—coming September 11th, available for preorder now.
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