When is the right time to travel? Is it when you’re young? Is it when you have your career underway? Should you wait to find a travel companion or is solo travel the way to go? In short, how do you answer the question: should I stay or should I go?
Everyone needs to balance living in the present with preparing for the future. We don’t all think about how best to do it.
A poignant example of the challenge this question can pose comes from Janice Waugh from Solo Traveler. Her article moved me so much that I asked for her permission to talk about it over here.
In case you are left wondering about balancing excitement and opportunity, risk and reward, read this. She says it so much better than I.
How does one balance the importance of living in the present with the need to prepare for the future?
Some people don’t contemplate this issue. They simply do what comes naturally – sometimes suffering the consequences of favoring one over the other.
But, if you are one who does consider how to balance the two, where does the answer lie. And, what is the question? If you love travel, the question is: should I stay or should I go.
We chose to go.
Late in 2000 my husband and I decided to go.
We could finally see our way clear to living our dream of long-term travel. Having sold our business and with two sons out the door, one entering his last year of high school and the youngest going into grade six, it all seemed possible.
To others, it may have made more sense to wait, at least a year, but we planned and went. We bet on the present over the future and, as you’ll see, we won.
Our trip of a Lifetime
My husband had traveled a year through South America when I was just entering high school. (He had seven years on me.) I had taken many short trips since I was 15 – a few weeks here, a month there. Together, as we blended our families, started and built a business – we lived a very busy life – we also planned to travel. In 1995, we managed six weeks with kids in France, Scotland and Ireland. But that wasn’t enough. We had bigger plans in mind.
Then in 2000 it seemed right. Our number three son could do his last year at Neuchatel Junior College, a Canadian school in Switzerland, and I would homeschool our youngest. We could rent our house for income (we made $25,000 in ten months) and rent a VW Pop-up camper for transportation and accommodation. Yes, it could all work. We fit the pieces together and left at the end of August 2001.
Over the next 10 months we covered a lot of ground. My mother joined us for a few weeks. The older sons each came over for a time. It was a free-flowing trip of a lifetime. When we needed to feel settled, we stayed. When we’d had enough of a location, we simply moved on.
Life Without Regrets
We came home in June of 2002 which is a perfect time to return. The summer is slower than most times of the year and gave us two months to prepare for the real new year, September.
However, while the kids and I settled back into our home life, my husband became less settled. Was it the culture shock of re-entry? We couldn’t tell at first but his life, our life, got very complicated. And it became even more so over the next few years.
In 2006, my husband was finally diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP), a very rare neurological disease that first shows itself in personality changes and later with debilitating physical changes. He passed away later that year on December 9th.
While our choice to take an extended trip at that particular time of life may have seemed odd to some, it made sense to us. At least, we made it make sense. We put our present and our future on a scale and chose to live in the present for that year. And, at the time, we had no idea that it was our last chance to do so.
Should you stay or should you go?
Janice Waugh is the author of the Solo Traveler’s Handbook, publisher of Solo Traveler, the blog for those who travel alone and moderator of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. The blog offers solo travel stories, tips, safety advice and destination ideas as well as a couple of free ebooks, including Glad You’re Not Here – A Solo Traveler’s Manifesto.