It all started with a Banks beer. Well, more specifically, my passion for travel all started with a three-week jaunt to Barbados right after I graduated from the U of S. Sure, I’d been to the States a few times as a kid (isn’t Disneyland a rite of passage for any lucky Canadian child?), as well as Mexico (and what teenage kid hasn’t spent time browsing leather jackets on the streets of Tijuana?) but it was that June in Barbados with three university friends that really ignited my somewhat surprising new loves of both travel (which endured) and calypso music (which didn’t).
After that the trips became more frequent, eventually leading to a seven-month “honeymoon” in Southeast Asia that introduced us to both culture shock and traveller’s diarrhea. Upon returning home we rejoined the Saskatoon workforce and set our minds toward the ten-year plan of giving it all up to travel once again. Since much of my job as a financial planner involved retirement planning, it wasn’t long before I had meticulously mapped out our own version of “retirement”, albeit one that would start at 35 instead of the more customary 55+. Fast forward to 2008 and thanks to some good fortune – a position with one of the more successful financial advisors in the city, some profitable returns in the real estate market – and our ten-year plan had been whittled down to seven. For the second time in our short careers we were leaving behind jobs that seemed too good to quit for destinations unknown and even more uncertain futures.
Being a financial planner and certifiable numbers guy, embracing transience and unpredictability doesn’t come naturally. However, over time we’ve learned to be as financially responsible as possible in the way we structure our annual travel schedule, while still allowing us to do things such as gaze at the world’s tallest mountain after spending an entire morning vomiting in a frigid Nepalese guesthouse, or learn just how heavy a Kazakh hunting eagle is when perched on my arm, or enjoy the view of a Balinese rice harvest from the comfort of our bed. Now, almost a decade later, we have visited all seven continents and over sixty countries, and are still spending most of each year travelling (summer in Saskatchewan is still too much fun to pass up, and missing Christmas at home is obviously unthinkable), thanks in varying parts to careful planning, cooperative financial markets, trips favouring good value destinations and steadfastly resisting any urge to invest in foreign vacation property. Recently we have also been saving money by spending two to three months of each year ensconced in an apartment on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala (same great rental apartment, same morning swim routine, but at least one new fly-swatter annually). I have also taken these twin opportunities of time and topic to spend more time writing travel books, articles and blogs, both documenting our travels and providing some supplementary income.
Maybe the clearest lesson we’ve learned over these years of wandering is that travel bucket lists are impossible to complete, as we can’t seem to stop adding new destinations. Plus, these days we spend much of our time returning to places we’ve already been, but enjoy so much we can’t help but keep going back. Bangkok isn’t everybody’s cup of tea but can be terrific in short doses between long stretches on one or another of Thailand’s sublime islands. Our devotion to hiking can be traced in large part to three separate trekking visits to the breathtaking Nepal Himalaya. Incomparable, and one of the cheapest destinations on earth. Morocco offers all the exotic splendour of the Middle East without the inconveniently deadly conflicts. The list is long and constantly changing. A languid afternoon spent sipping Pacífico beer on an endless Mexican beach. Patagonia. Bruges. One specific hammock on one specific lake in Guatemala.
Some people will love these places as much as we do, while others will question either our sanity or our sobriety. Ultimately that is the true beauty of travel, however, the fact that it is such a personal experience. Every journey is coloured by the circumstances and experiences of the moment, from a new friend who completely changes your perspective to weather luck to chance encounters with a naked man offering free massages and tarot readings. The important thing is to pack your bags, hit the road and find out for yourself.