When we meet people on the road, sometimes we’ve struggled with what to call this anomalous year in our lives. Questions like “Are you working as you travel?” and “How can you afford to do this at this time in your lives?” often come up and as we define for others what exactly we’re doing. There’s just not a perfect phrase to explain it.
A recent post I read here talked about a family’s “gap year,” and I liked the phrase, but hadn’t ever thought of it as a way to think about our trip. I’ve heard the term used when young adults take time to travel between finishing high school and starting college. I guess they usually know what is on the other side of the gap, and we’ll likely be going back to exactly where we were (with a little less money and a whole new world of experiences).
Sometimes we’ve thought about it as a mini-retirement or a temporary retirement, and it’s easy to do so when many of the people we meet are often traveling in their retirement heyday. It feels like what retirement would feel like, the freedom to do what you want when you want it, and we totally get why travel is what people often want in retirement. The biggest difference between retirees and us, however, is that they typically have their financial house in order and have worked hard for many years to establish the nest egg that keeps feeding them in their travels. Since we are operating primarily on our savings, we have a set endpoint. We can’t continue indefinitely, and eventually need to rejoin the masses and bring in income once again.
So far, the most succinct thing to tell people is we’re on a year-long road trip even though it feels like more than just a vacation. Vacations in the past have typically been a chance to splurge on fancy accommodations, turn your brain off and forget about life for a while. In reality, this has been our chance to get closer to our real lives and our real selves; To re-acquaint ourselves and re-examine life. It’s almost like hitting the pause button then zooming way out. You can see so much more from that perspective, instead of the zoomed-in and hyper-focused view where every little detail looks big and important. From the zoomed out perspective, it’s easier to see what’s important and what really isn’t.
When we came up with the name The Great Curiodyssey, we liked it because it gave the sense of an epic journey where you fight a few monsters and travel great distances, and along the way it shapes you. We were curious about what it would be like to leave life for a little bit just as much as we were curious what made each National Park so special. It has been and continues to be an epic journey and the best part is we’re not even done yet. No matter what we call it – gap year, mini-retirement, extended road trip – we’re entirely grateful that we dove in and took the chance, risked our discomfort and went for it.