“Please, be in a hurry,” a kind-eyed man at the transfer desk told us, whisking us to the front of the passport check and on through security.
The flight from Madrid to Moscow landed at one end of Sheremetyevo airport and the flight to Hong Kong flew out of the opposite end. It looks like it’s straight across the way, but the airport has a slight curve to it, so it felt like we were getting farther and farther away from our destination as we ran.
My pack was bouncing on my back and my lungs were burning, but I was grinning ear to ear. We were on the road again.
It was in fact the second time we’d found ourselves sprinting through the Sheremetyevo airport in three months. We’d flown home to Spain at the end of September and we were on our way back to Hong Kong in early December.
When we first started talking about a long trip, we thought we would go around the world over a period of 18 months or 2 years. But it took me about two years to finally quit my job, and in the meantime A’s businesses were growing nicely, so ultimately we decided to prioritize the countries we really wanted to see for a 10 to 12-month trip. Asia in its broadest interpretation would be our focus.
We left in April of this year with a plane ticket to Delhi and no further plan. We thought we would continue on to southeast Asia and then to Nepal for trekking season in October, but cheap airfare took us off course to South Korea and Japan. Then we took a boat to China so that I could work on my Chinese.
We tried to travel mindfully, looking for business ideas, soaking up how people live in other countries and making a few friends along the way.
During all of this, we got some project work back in Spain for October and November, so we decided to interrupt our trip. We had a few days free before the project and did a quick trip to Morocco, one of A’s dream destinations. We drove 2,000 kilometers in 10 days (we’ll talk more about our Moroccan road trip in future posts).
Being back in Spain was a well-timed break. We were able to check in with friends and family, go to the dentist (one cavity for me, boo-hoo) and eat jamón. The end of our time in Spain coincided with Thanksgiving, so our families came together for a Spanish-American hybrid Thanksgiving that we have celebrated for several years.
The pit stop also allowed us to truly appreciate the decision we made to spend 2013 traveling. It took us – mostly me – almost the entire three months in India to fully disconnect from our productive-member-of-society personae. By the time we got to South Korea, I was no longer bashful about saying that I don’t have a home or a job. We’re not scared that we’ll be jobless and homeless forever but we also don’t feel guilty that we aren’t working full-time at the moment. We chose to spend our money and time in this way.
In Spain, the daily conversation – both privately and in the media – is still centered on la crisis (the economic downturn that has been with us since 2008). It’s true that full-time jobs with regular hours and a monthly paycheck are scarce, but having been away for a few months has opened our eyes to many opportunities. Maybe there’s another way.
“Part I” of our Asian adventure helped us realize that we don’t need to consider this sabbatical year as a last hurrah. We have very few material pretensions, so a bit of freelance consulting and a couple of small businesses or investments that provide a steady stream of income would be enough for us.
After so many years focused on “the big trip,” now we are focused on what comes next. Our dream, which seems very achievable, is to spend most of our time in Spain and travel for two or three months every year.
What Will Happen in Part II?
“Part II” of our Asian adventure began a week ago in Hong Kong, where we filled up on dim sum and took the longest escalator in the world, and we’re now in Thailand. We plan to travel through southeast Asia and head back to Spain some time in March. But of course, the best thing about planning is scrapping the plan and making a new one, so who knows where we’ll wind up?
As for the blog, we still have lots to post about South Korea and Japan as well as our road trip in Morocco. We’ll keep looking out for big ideas that we can share from each country where we travel.
When summing up our trip and average daily cost in each country, many of our friends remarked that the data was helpful and we should post it. Over the next couple of months, we’ll try to oblige and share what we spent in each country with details of the choices we make about how we spend.
We made some changes to our backpacks while at home. We were traveling with two laptops, a small Acer and a MacBook Pro, and we decided to leave the Mac behind due to weight. We were traveling with two Kindles, which we also reduced to one because, quite frankly, A. doesn’t read offline much. We have a Panasonic Fz-38 camera, which takes quite nice photos for its fairly light weight, but we decided to leave it behind, too. It’s bulky to carry around and often for a quick street shot, by the time we had dug the camera out, the moment had passed. We bought a new smartphone in Hong Kong with a decent camera for quick snaps.
We are not terribly consistent about blogging and we have all but abandoned Twitter (maybe we’re not following the right people or tweeting the right things but it feels like everyone is mostly talking to and about themselves). With the new phone we are more frequently posting photos on Instagram and Facebook along the way, so feel free to follow us there between posts.
Thanks for reading!