Another bus, another destination on this life-altering journey. I have grown to love a good long bus trip though. I sit writing this on my way to Hong Kong to meet Liz. She had to do some visa stuff in Hong Kong for a week, so I’m heading down to visit; a rare and unusual solo trip for me. It’s ok though. It is good to sit, listen to music and reflect on how I ended up on this bus…the only foreigner coming from my home in Guangzhou, China to Hong Kong.
Wow! Just writing and reading that sentence is crazy to me.
I can still remember the day Liz and I sat in our living room in Atlanta. We had a blow-out wedding in Key West, and now we were wondering what was next for us. Do we go down this road or that road?
I think we both knew that we needed something different from the norm. For me, I like to change things up in life from time to time. And the same wake up, eat, work, eat, sleep routine day after day just didn’t seem to be right for the both of us.
We talked a lot about what we loved, and what we wanted out of life. While there was talk about family one day, we also wanted to travel and see the world together before it was too late. There is just that rush of putting yourself out there, seeing something new…and having no set end date. Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, wondering if we can handle it, and the immense pride felt once you accomplish it. There’s no describing that feeling. It’s a rush that’s almost addicting.
So we decided to take a leap to follow both of our passion. Travel.
And to sum up my feelings about our one year anniversary of being on the road, I thought I’d put together a collection of my top “Oh s#@!” moments — you know, the ones that leave you so surprised, so in awe, so taken aback that you can’t help but utter those words out loud.
“Oh S#@!, This is Really Happening… Let’s Do It!!!”
Oh how time flies. We began preparing for this adventure 1 year before we left, and it feels like yesterday. Before I knew it, I was sitting on my deck looking back inside at an empty house…knowing we were leaving the next day.
“Are we doing the right thing?” “Wow this is really happening?” These questions replayed over and over and over in my head.
But luckily, other thoughts shouted out over all the rest, “This is going to be amazing. I’m going to see so much of the world, that not a lot of people get to see, and to make it better…I get to see it with my best friend!”
“Oh S#@!, We Are Doing It!!!”
Fast forward to today, and it’s been exactly one year since we left our home in Atlanta. Oh geez! A year. It seems like yesterday we packed the car to set out for our cross country road trip, but at the same time it seems like forever ago. Liz and I have already had a lifetime’s worth of memories in our one year of living out of a backpack.
We got to drive cross-country, catch a fish at the famous Pike Market, meet some of our fans in Seattle at the Geocaching Block Party, island hop around Hawaii, explore Thailand, work and live in New Zealand, live on an island in Thailand, and even be a participant on a Thai game show.
We have ridden on airplanes, boats, ferries, buses, motorbikes, taxis, tuk-tuks, Songthaews, trains (including bullet trains), AND walk across the border into Burma. We have had so many great memories, it’s tough to believe it’s only been one year.
“Oh S#@!, That Was Unreal”
Swimming with the Manta Rays was literally my “oh s#@!” moment. We went out at night to go swimming with the manta rays on a traditional Hawaiian boat. Honestly, I really didn’t grasp what it meant to go swimming with manta rays at the time. We had gone swimming with sting rays in Grand Cayman before, so I just figured it would be something like that.
Well I was completely wrong.
This ended up being a moment in my life that I will never forget. Prior to getting into the water, our guide told us that the manta rays have a unique sense, and that if they come near you then your aura is strong towards them. If they touch you, it’s even more rare and special.
Well, the Mantas surprised me with an up close and personal experience! So much so, that Liz could literally hear me yell into my breathing tube. (If you listen closely to our video you can hear my “Oh S#@!” moment.)
This unexpected moment is one that will always stick me with me forever.
“Oh S#@!, That Was So Cool”
There have been so many cool moments during this one year on the road, but I have to say that our sit down interview with our friend Mahatna Koon Sura Phet is one that brings me chills just thinking about it. It was such a special moment that was unexpected.
Our Airbnb host, Mack, had asked if we wanted to meet his friend, who happened to be a monk. Well as you may imagine, not too many monks make themselves available for interviews. So of course we took him up on the offer!
Once we sat down with Manhatna, we knew instantly that he was a special person. He is so smart, and his positive energy is contagious. He works so hard with his non-profit school, as an Abbot for the Temple English School for underprivileged students in Bangkok; all while earning multiple post-graduate college degrees. The current degree he is working on is in Computer Science. A monk that can fix computers is a rarity, to say the least.
This moment for both of us will stick out because of how special Mahatna is, and how his personality touched us. Just thinking of that special moment brings smiles to our faces. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. We walked out of his school saying to each other, “oh’ S#@! that was cool.”
“Oh S#@!, That Was Crazy”
If you were to ask me right now, “what is the craziest souvenir you have acquired during this trip,” the answer would be simple. It would have to be my Thai Rath TV hat that I earned for participating in a Thai Game Show. Yep, I was a contestant on a Thai Game Show!
“Sir. Would you like to be on our show?” Without hesitation or a smart follow up question of, “what type of game show is it?” I said “YES!!”
I have found out while being on this journey around the world, that “yes” is by far the best answer you can give.
Without fully understanding what I was supposed to do, I was in a game show. It is crazy to think about it, but it was so cool. I don’t know if I won or lost, but overall I feel as though I had won.
I won lasting memories for Liz and I by putting myself out there and by saying “yes” without fully understanding what I was saying yes to. Also, I won a hat that I proudly wear and will boast as my trophy.
“Oh S#@!, I’m Completely Speechless”
Waking up next to a blue glacier lake in New Zealand is a moment in my life that I will never forget. Our New Zealand trip was so unexpected and spur of the moment that it made our first trip to the Southern Hemisphere that much more special. After a couple of weeks working in the beautiful wine country of Marlbourgh, we decided to take a tour of the South Island…and the best way to do that is by RV!
I have never felt more free in my life. Just Liz and I our RV, Bessie ,and the beautiful open road of New Zealand. Each and every turn was more beautiful than the one before. And never had we ever seen so many stars in our lives, than those we saw at night in New Zealand. Amazing.
My favorite moment of that trip was unexpectedly waking up to the most beautiful glacier lake I have ever set my eyes on. We were on our way to see Mt. Cook, but it was late at night when we found a camping spot just down the highway from the mountain. We could tell that we parked on some flat ground next to some kind of lake, but we couldn’t really see much. It wasn’t until the next morning when I woke up and looked out the window that I realized it was a crystal clear glacier lake — I mean, a color of blue like I have never seen in a lake!
Easily one of the best mornings I have ever had.
“Oh S#@! That Maggot Just Exploded in My Mouth”
We have encountered so many great people on this journey, and have even shared some pretty memorable moments together. Such as the time I made lifelong friends by sharing a bag of snacks…maggots and crickets.
Yep, I ate maggots with a side of cricket with our friends Mark and Max (Go Beaves!) from our TEFL Course on Koh Samui. You can really bond over a bag of bugs.
We bonded closely with our classmates, since we all shared the same floor of our hotel for one month. It was like college all over again, but on a crazy party island in Thailand. So you can imagine that some of the stories shared over coffee the next morning were pretty hilarious (and unbelievable).
The time we spent on Koh Samui is a time in our life that we would not trade for anything. We are so happy to have gotten our TEFL certification while having a great time with new friends from all over the world.
“Oh S#@!, This is a Geocacher’s Dream”
While we had used geocaching at home to help plan our weekend journeys around our hometown, we knew that geocaching internationally would lead us on some great adventures as well. Geocaching did just that during our trip to Sukhothai, Thailand and we had a blast exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Our trip to Sukhothai was supposed to be a relaxing detour on our way to China from Chiang Mai, but it ended up being more of a 2 day exploration adventure. We knew that Sukhothai was famous for it’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, but we didn’t know what else it had in store for us.
Once we arrived, we did what we always do when arriving in a new town…search for Geocaches and plan out our adventures. We were pleasantly surprised to see that there seemed to be an entire GeoTrial here!
A geocacher by the name of ‘thorshammer’ had placed a small GeoTrail in and around this UNESCO site. This made for an adventured filled 2 days of geocaching around the ancient city by motorbike. We learned about the history of the sites through discovering some great geocaches hidden at all of the temples and wats.
It made it even better that there was hardly anyone else around. So in many ways, it felt like we had it all to ourselves. It was everything we love about geocaching. History, Adventure, GeoTrails, and a sense of accomplishment.
“Oh S#@!, This is the Coolest Thing I Will Ever Do”
It is a special feeling when you are able to go to work everyday and, no matter how bad or good you feel, know you have someone there waiting to make you smile. This is a daily occurrence for me and my new job as an English Teacher in Guangzhou, China.
I am so happy that on this RTW Journey I get to live out another one of my dreams, being a teacher. And as if that wasn’t cool enough, I was first introduced to teaching in China by putting on a red suit and delivering gifts as Santa. Yep I got to play Santa in China for my first day of work.
I truly love my job as a Foreign English Teacher for First Leap in China. It’s a special feeling seeing my kid’s English get better, and knowing that I had a part in their growth makes me smile.
Discovering Yourself on the Road
Of course, we miss our friends and family like crazy. But thanks to technology, we are able see them and chat occasionally; so I like to think that you are not a world away. Actually, we’d like to think you are on this journey with us. You may be far in miles, but not far from our thoughts.
We knew that we would discover a lot about ourselves on this journey. And I think a big one is a sense of accomplishment. I mean, just a year ago I never would have guessed that I would be able to speak enough Chinese to get me from Mainland China to Hong Kong all alone. That would have just blown my mind! But you know what, I can do it…and more importantly, NOT get lost.
It is a really great feeling knowing that I sit here surrounded by Chinese locals, the lone foreigner on the bus, and I’m ok with that. It’s an indescribable feeling really. Until you have been put in that position, it is really hard to put into words.
Living abroad, without possessions, is such a free feeling. It gives us a great sense of accomplishment and makes us feel as though anything is possible. I honestly think that we can handle anything now. Small or big we can handle it. If we can live abroad in a far off foreign country for a long period of time, I feel as though everything else in life won’t be a problem.
That unsure feeling I had while sitting on my porch, wondering if we are doing the right thing, is long gone and is replaced with the feeling that anything is possible. Our one year has been filled with lifelong memories. And I cannot wait to see what year 2 brings.