Friday, March 31, 2017

the joy of a staycation: one world traveler's thoughts

Traveling is the thing to do these days, or at least that's what it seems like to me. It could be because I am an expat living in Taiwan surrounded by other expats, but I don't really think so. Much of my generation was stymied by the recession as it tried to enter the workforce, and a lot of people were left wondering: well, what now?

Half of my good friends from college ended up overseas teaching ESL, and the other half travel extensively because they sure cannot afford to do much else with their money like make a serious savings or purchase a house (and believe it or not, long term travel can be quite cheap-- we lived off $2,000 for months while backpacking through Southeast Asia when I was unemployed).

Travelling has been my thing since I was 17 years old.
I have been to Rome.
Paris.
London.
Florence.
Venice.
Edinburgh.
Reykjavik.

I have been to Bangkok.
Chiang Mai.
Krabi Town.
Kuala Lumpur.
Ipoh.
Buttersworth.
Singapore.
Ubud.
Siem Reap.
Hanoi.
Ho Chi Minh.
Seoul.
Hong Kong.
Osaka.
Kyoto.
Taipei.
Oh boy have I been to Taipei.
I have been to Christchurch.
Auckland.
Queenstown.
Dunedin.

I have been to Vancouver B.C.
Victoria.
Seattle.
San Francisco.
Boston.
Las Vegas.
Portland.
Minneapolis.

I have been to Loch Ness.
The Scottish Highlands.
Milford Sound.
Ha Long Bay.
The Bokeo Nature Reserve.
The Pacific Ocean.
The North Sea.
The Adriatic Sea.
The Atlantic Ocean.
Whistler.
Mt. Shasta.
Mt. Cook.
Mt. Baker.
Mt. Rainier.
The Olympic Mountains.
The Cascade Mountains.
Guys, I have been to a lot of mountains.
I have been to the movies in Singapore.
I sailed on a boat in Thailand and America and Indonesia.
I have trekked through caves in Vietnam and Taiwan.
I have camped under a starry night sky in New Zealand and America.
I have zip lined through rugged forests in Laos and Canada.
I have had romantic dinners in Italy and France.
I have explored shrines in Japan and temples in Cambodia.
I have scooted through the mountains, countrysides, and cities of Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Canada.

I guess I can summarize all of this by saying that I have seen a lot of the world. 

But in all the hype surrounding the word travel, I think it's easy to forget-- especially wrapped up in the lifestyle of being an expat-- that there is far more to life than travelling.

Things that are equally, if not more, rewarding and fulfilling and important.
Things that cost no money.
In fact, things that money cannot buy.

Like laughter with friends.
Like having a job that leaves you feeling tired and drained, but in a good way, because you had a busy but great and meaningful day.
Like playing with a dog.
Like connecting with your family.

Over dinner with friends last night, we talked a lot about travel. And it is absolutely true that travelling still gets me pumped and excited. Just last night, I started going on and on about our travel plans for next year when Ruby will be old enough to soar the skies with us.

Our grand plan?

Thailand in winter and Iceland in summer, plus a lot of the Pacific Northwest and Taiwan thrown in the mix.
And even though the friends we dined with had a more travel packed winter break than us-- one just got back from Japan and Hong Kong and the other Cambodia-- staycations are lifestyle choices I have learned to embrace wholeheartedly.

Last winter break, we didn't leave the island so we could pay off our debt. In less than a year, we paid of $45,000 USD of student loan debt. This year, we decided not to leave the island over winter break mostly because I am pregnant and all of the locations we actually wanted to visit posed serious health risks to me and Ruby, mainly in the form of Zika or other mosquito borne diseases.

This choice also allowed us to save nearly $25,000 in a very short period of time.

And even though we didn't "go anywhere" over winter break and have no plans to over summer break, we have still managed to have a great time.
We've played with Bubu so much. It's seriously been a blast. We've hung out with dear friends and relaxed. I went on a perfect scoot adventure up into the mountains with a dear friend. We hopped on a few slow trains to explore more of Taiwan. We've taken care of some business regarding school, life, and preparing for baby. We rented youbikes and pedaled all over Hsinchu and Taipei. We drove and hiked through Taroko Gorge and Longdong. I had a sleepover at a friend's place and stayed up way too late talking and watching cartoons. And don't even get me started on all of the naps I took.

Years ago, I would have looked at three weeks spent in Taiwan over winter break and eight weeks over summer break as a waste of time. I would have preferred to travel, travel, travel. And while the desire to see as much of the world as possible still exists within me, it is not quite as urgent as it was in my 20's.

I know that we will never be those people who wait until our kid is 18 and in college to live our lives. Heck, we live in Taiwan for crying out loud! However, I also know that with all of the changes taking place, our travels will likely slow down and become more intentional and meaningful.

I sincerely hope we make it to Thailand and Iceland next year, but I also know that if for some reason we don't, we will still be having a great time together doing whatever.

Because the staycation has taught me that rarely do you need to get on an airplane to have a truly amazing vacation. 

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