When I tell people I'm flirting with 30, they tell me I look like I'm in college and I have the energy of a pre-adolescent. Well, that's good because did you know there are 195 countries in this world? My goal is to travel to as many countries as my age. My current count? 14. Yikes. Better get jetsettin'! Read More

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Why We Decided to Stop Traveling Halfway into Our Adventure Year

November 14, 2016.happynfull.0 Likes.30 Comments

Why We Decided to Stop Traveling Halfway into Our Adventure Year

Dear Travel Diary,

After 18 months of planning and saving, Chris and I had finally done it! We had sold his condo, sold my car, quit our jobs, stored or sold all of our belongings, bought world travel insurance, packed our travel essentials into 60L backpacks, and hit the road with our US passports. (Read How to Prepare for Long-Term International Travel)

Our friends asked what route we were going to take. “We’re going to go up the entire west coast from Phoenix to Vancouver!” After that? Our itinerary was blank. Carpe Diem. Seize the moment!

Travel Break

Our empty California Home

Our Journey

Travel Break - Why we Decided to Return Halfway Through Our Adventure Year

Day one: Chris proposes at Big Sur. I can officially say I'm traveling the world with my fiance!

Since then we hopped over to our first culture shock city, Montreal. We took a plane to London and ate the best curry of our lives. Took a train to Hertfordshire, to see my pregnant Costa Rican cousin for the first time in over 15 years and to meet the wonderful English bloke she married. We trained it to central UK to a city called Nottingham where we ate at the oldest pub in England and saw Robin Hood’s statue.

A short plane ride later, we saw the infamous Red Light District in Amsterdam. We took a bus to see the amazing Eiffel Tour – one of the most magical things I have seen in my lifetime. Experienced rural French countryside living where we ate a baguette every morning. Admired the Atlantic Ocean at Ile de Re in France.

Then we took a bus to Barcelona. Fell in love with the Spanish culture and had the best and longest meals of our lives. We trained it up to San Sebastian and experienced our first hostel where we were the cool parents of the group, staying out until 3am with the college kids. We devoured everything in sight in Pamplona and headed over to Madrid. In Madrid, we decided 4-star hotel living was much more our style. We showered away the hostel grunge and enjoyed the Crystal Palace in the beautiful park. We took a trip with my high school friend to Toledo and walked the cobbled streets.

A bus ride later, we found ourselves in Lisbon, a city with strikingly similar characteristics as San Francisco, but more quaint, slow, and historic. We photographed Porto, a beautiful city to satisfy book lovers and coffee lovers like me.

All of that happened in 5 months and tomorrow we are flying back to LAX (Los Angeles). So… what happened?

We blew all of our savings. 🙁

Travel Break - Why we Returned Halfway Through our Adventure Year

In Barcelona - our most favorite city!

Just kidding! Throughout our travels, we’ve enjoyed seeing new parts of the world, meeting new people, learning new greetings in various languages. We love travel so much, we want to never stop traveling and visiting new countries!

Ironically, the more traveled you are, the more you realize how little traveled you are. The world is so big!

Admittedly, I don’t know if it’s because I’m flirting with 30, but traveling everyday is exhausting. It seems as soon as we’re unpacking our backpacks, we are packing up again, wheeling our bags to a train station, bus station, or airport.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Our momentum fizzled a bit as we hit month 3.

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The Reasons & The Lessons

Aside from losing momentum, there are several factors why we have decided to return to the states for an indefinite period of time. In order of importance:

1.) Health

Ironically, the one reason why I wanted to travel so much was because we were healthy. I figured as long as we were ailment and baby free, this was the time to do it! Unfortunately, my mom has been fighting an ugly disease over the past 5 years. When she told me her condition returned, I knew we had to spend the holidays with her. While traveling is awesome, family is even more awesome. There will always be opportunities to travel to new destinations; to celebrate and spend time with a loved one is limited.

On top of that, I am running low on medication and my refill from the drug manufacturer can only be administered if I have a US prescription. My previous doctor won’t refill it without a checkup and exam in the US, so there’s that. The meds, even the generic form, are too expensive to pay for out of pocket unless I go to a third world country. The risk of that is buying counterfeit, placebo drugs. This is the unfortunate healthcare reality we live in… but that’s a story for another day.

Plus, after visiting France and Portugal, I’m pretty sure I’m due for a dentist visit, too. I can feel the cavities forming from the hundreds of pastries I have devoured. Oops.

Christmas 2015 - My brother delivered my mom to celebrate Christmas together in California.

2.) Community & Friendship

It’s hard to build a community base abroad. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made a lot of great connections and still keep in touch via email, text, and social media with new friends. Seriously, the world is filled with amazing people. But we have found that each new dialogue is like a tape on repeat. Everyone wants to know if we’re just visiting. Intrigued by which cities we have been to. Where are we going next. What did we do before all of this. It’s great and all but after you repeat yourself over and over and never see that person again, it becomes old.

We were also really touched by my cousin who is best friends with her neighbor. To see someone actually speak to their neighbor, let alone go over and cook in their house, is really special. We also had several housesits where they gave the emergency contact info of their neighbors across the street. Wherever Chris and I call our next permanent home, we know we want to have friends in close proximity, and to build a network of like-minded people and support one another.

Travel Break - Why We Stopped Traveling

Friendship is incredibly important - as well are neighbors!

3.) Business

I have been really fortunate that my career coaching business, Cultivitae, is doing well. At one point, I even experienced burnout. All I wanted to do was sightsee all day and so I became a nocturnal career coach, writing resumes and giving interview preparation coaching sessions at night. It worked out, but I was starting to turn down a lot of clients along the way because of my bandwidth with balancing everything.

All of this travel has taught me that I love the flexibility of waking up to my own schedule. Perhaps the thing I am most grateful for is not having to wake up at 6am and sit in traffic. I can’t wait to take Cultivate and Happynfull to the next level. While it is possible to be a digital nomad, I have decided part-time digital nomad is more my speed. I miss having dual-screen monitors and an office with reliable wi-fi connection.

My ideal scenario is having a home base and travel sporadically when I want to. Fly to Bali and work out of coffeeshops for 2-3 weeks? Cool! 

Having a home base is so critically important especially because I want to return all of the hospitality everyone else showed us along the way!

Travel Break

Starbucks in Montreal, Candada - all of the signs and roads are in French!

4.) Planning for Our Future

I applaud those that have been traveling for 5+ years straight let alone one year! I’m not sure if this is my female instinct, or because again I’m flirting with 30, but I think a lot about my future and wanting a place to call home. We don’t want to have kids anytime soon, but if we ever do decide to have kids, I want to have a secure foundation for them. I want to decorate a personal space that can always be safe and comfortable. A place where we can have family and friends visit. A place where we can house swap in the future for long-term travel. A place where Chris can cook his curry that he has fallen in love with. A place that I can raise my furry boy whom I miss SO incredibly much!

Traveling has definitely opened up my eyes to so many beautiful homes in great locations! If anyone knows where Chris and I can put the rest of our travel savings into a down payment in a house with awesome neighbors, good weather, and a good walkability score… please let us know! 🙂

Travel Break

I seriously miss this guy everyday. I can't wait to suffocate him with cuddles. Kang Kang <3

Welp, there you have it. If you’re worried that means I’ll stop blogging, don’t fret! I will never stop traveling! If anything, this pause will allow us to travel MORE.

Plus, if I’ve learned anything while traveling around Europe, it’s that so many people haven’t visited the states and they all want to see New York, California, the Grand Canyon, and New Orleans. After traveling, even with learning how divided our country is post-election news, we do live in a great country and there are still so many states to see!

Really excited about hitting the reset button. Very grateful for the opportunity to craft the life we want to live. Where will we end up? To be continued..!

Always seeking out adventure,


Travel Break - Why We Stopped Traveling Halfway Through our Adventure Year
Categories: Travel Musings

Comments (30)

  • Josephine . November 14, 2016 . Reply

    Glad to have you guys back safe and sound 🙂 <3

    • (Author) happynfull . November 15, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks, Jojo! I can’t wait to see you. Definitely would love to have you as my neighbor!

  • Noelle . November 14, 2016 . Reply

    First off, I hope your mom gets better and it’s great you are spending the holidays with her.

    I don’t think you need to travel at all full time to be a travel blogger – besides you, I only know one other couple who is even doing so. Having a base in London and doing weekend trips has worked well for me, so doing the same thing on the US west coast I’m sure will work for you!

    • (Author) happynfull . November 15, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks, Noelle, for your comment. 🙂 I really appreciate it!

      Haha yeah I would like to do the same thing and travel on weekends, but the US is a bit different in that you can’t take a train or a bus for cheap last minute. We really have to plan in advance to get a good deal on airline tickets. I wish I lived in Europe because traveling to another country is so accessible!

      Chris is working on setting himself up as a digital nomad, too. This way we can have the flexibility to still travel whenever we want and as long as we want. For now, weekend trips will definitely do! 🙂 I am also inspired to cook a lot more (one aspect I missed when we didn’t have kitchens), and hope to share world recipes.

  • Julie . November 14, 2016 . Reply

    I think it takes guts to do what you’ve done – from selling everything and heading out on the road to making the tough decision to call it a day. To be honest, I couldn’t have done the multiple months of travel. Each summer I travel with my kids (and then my husband comes for a week or two) and I’m exhausted by the end. I think my threshold is about 3 weeks before I’m ready for my own bed (and summer is much longer than that!). That being said, have you thought about staying in places longer? It might change that burnt out feeling in the future. We have friends that did a year around the world with their 4 kids and they would set up a home base for 2-3 months at a time to use as their jumping off spot for their travel.

    • (Author) happynfull . November 15, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks, Julie! It definitely was a big decision that had a lot of doubts and bursts of fear come out but in the end, we have no regrets and are super happy we did it. 🙂

      Haha I can imagine traveling with little ones can take its toll as we only have ourselves to worry about and it can already be draining. We did stay in some places 2 weeks and 1 month would be ideal! We enjoyed living like locals and taking time to absorb everything.. but I think every place was so new and exciting that we kept wanting to see MORE cities.

      In the future we will definitely be looking at staying in one place for more than 2 weeks. That is really the way to do it! 🙂

      That’s crazy your friend travels with 4 kids for most the year… seriously. Kudos to them!!!

  • Melanie . November 15, 2016 . Reply

    Ok I love this post! So honest and real! Sometimes it can be so hard to find balance traveling and doing it all! And sometimes it’s not always glamorous! Great read! Good luck in your future endeavors ans traveks!

    • (Author) happynfull . November 15, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks, Melanie! It can be a struggle. But then I met a lot of 25 and under folks in the hostel stay and remember when I had their energy. Haha I could rally pretty good!

  • Juliette | Snorkels to Snow . November 17, 2016 . Reply

    Great, honest post. And good on you for recognising that you’ve had a great time, and now want to stay put for a little bit. I think that takes courage to change plans like that. All your reasons are so valid and I totally get it. Well written. I’m sorry to hear about your mother’s health – my dad’s health has made me think twice about being too far away from home as well. Family is so important. Travel will always be there.

    • (Author) happynfull . November 17, 2016 . Reply

      Thank you, Juliette, for your kind words! 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your dad, too. I suppose that is life and we have to make the most out of it because age and health are inevitable at some point. I appreciate you stopping by and can’t wait to hear your adventures no matter how near or far you are from home, too!

  • Lia @ Practical Wanderlust . November 19, 2016 . Reply

    We totally relate to this. We are on month 4 of our year-long honeymoon, and the magic has definitely fizzled. Traveling is SO exhausting. We miss stability, friends and family, a community, work, and health – just like you. We haven’t tossed in the towels yet, but we have cut part of our trip short to spend some time at home recuperating before going on a shorter jaunt through Europe and then, hopefully, figuring out how to settle back down (in San Francisco, as well! We miss our home so much!) Traveling full time is NOT the life for everyone. I’m glad we took the risk to find out that we didn’t enjoy it instead of spending our whole lives wondering what-if – now I know for sure what I’m missing out on, and that I actually prefer to stay in one spot and just travel from there!

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Lia! I know when you guys are celebrating your 30th wedding anniversary, you’ll look back at this moment of time and see how grateful you guys were for taking the leap!! I can’t wait to reflect on this moment of our lives when we had so many doubts and fears. I think we’ll find them funny. 🙂

  • Hannah . November 19, 2016 . Reply

    No shame in giving it a go and realising a permanent life on the road is not for you. 🙂 it’s tough and I too look forward to getting home

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      There are definitely pros and cons to both. Now that I’m home for a solid month I do miss being out on the road and sightseeing!! Haha. Yet at the same time I’m so excited to decorate and attend friend’s birthdays and weddings. When are they going to come out with teleportation devices?!

  • Sarah . November 19, 2016 . Reply

    Some great reasons for ending it! You’ll still travel and do so in a more enjoyable way for you. I think you learn so much about yourself around the 30 mark.

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Yes! 30 is the new 20!! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  • Amanda Tran . November 19, 2016 . Reply

    Loved your article and thank you for your honesty. My husband and I also packed up and left (for 15 months) and the number 1 thing we told ourselves was we could go home whenever we wanted – we don’t owe it to anyone to see out any time period, planned or not! Good on you guys!

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Wow, Amanda! 15 months?! *Fist bump! That sounds like an amazing experience. Hehe I know when we’re in our fifties, we’ll look back at these years and they will be even more amazing than one could imagine in the present!

  • Karen . November 19, 2016 . Reply

    I enjoyed this since you discuss both the pros and cons of traveling full time. I’m a worker bee myself, but honestly, even two weeks straight borders on too long for me as I miss my cat and the comforts of home. I still love reading about others’ adventures, but I love having a bed to come home to.

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Haha nothing rings louder than “Home sweet home!” Thank you for stopping by and leaving your message, Karen!

  • Melissa . November 19, 2016 . Reply

    I totally relate to this. I’m a part-time digital nomad… and I can’t even handle being away from my dual monitors and home office for even a couple of weeks. I love to travel, but I also love returning home. Now that I’m a mom, it’s even more important to have a home base and only travel part time. But it’s very cool that you traveled as long as you did. Thoughts and prayers for your mom!

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Thank you so much, Melissa! Wow. That’s amazing you are traveling even though you have kids. I always give a lot of props to those parents. What an amazing experience for you and your children!

  • Eva | Travel The Whole Wide World . November 20, 2016 . Reply

    Thanks for that honest post! I think it is braver to stop traveling than to keep on going even though you know you want/need to go home.

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks for the kind words, Eva!! Haha it did take a lot of courage to end our trip early but I’m glad we did because now we can invest our travel money so it can stretch farther and longer! 🙂

  • Amy Mc Colgan . November 26, 2016 . Reply

    I like how realistic this was! very eye opening – it would make you think more about travelling.

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks for stopping by, Amy! Hehe yeah travel isn’t always rainbows and sunshine but I wouldn’t ever stop! It’s one of my passions in life that allows me to continuously grow.

  • Jessika . December 14, 2016 . Reply

    I am so behind! I haven’t been connected with the blog community over the last month as I started working more full time hours and had a lot going on- but revisited your page today to get caught up. I can fully appreciate your reasons to return home. I love the ease of travel from London, it’s so much more central than Vancouver BC, but I am also grateful for a home base, for great neighbours, for coming home to my “own” bed in our flat after a trip away. I hope your next 5 months are just as awesome! Best to you and to your family xo

    • (Author) happynfull . December 16, 2016 . Reply

      Thanks, Jessica! Yes… we’re really happy we made it back. These past few weeks have been filled with mixed emotions but things are starting to look very positive for 2017 and I’m determined to be able to travel farther and longer with this new plan in action!

      Congrats on a new full-time job!! I hope you’re enjoying it. The 8-5 cushion job isn’t so bad. It’s comfortable and less stressful – the only downside is not being able to create your own schedule! But trust me, there are days being a digital nomad that I wish I had an 8-5. =P

  • Swathi . January 6, 2017 . Reply

    Hey Emily… I read this post long time back. But just found time to respond. I loved your candid posts, especially ones about your French country visit. Though this is not the end, your post made me realise that traveling throughout the year might not be for everyone. Good luck on your new venture and I hope I will continue to read your posts.
    And Happy New Year.

    • (Author) happynfull . January 6, 2017 . Reply

      Swathi, thank you so much for your kind response! I am so happy that you find these posts helpful. You’re right that it’s not the end – everyone travels at their own pace. 🙂 Thanks, Swathi for stopping by!!

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