On feeling trapped: the many meanings of freedom

In July, Brian and I had the questionable luck of arriving in London fifteen minutes before the polls closed for the Brexit vote. Having plenty of information on the political situations in Europe, the rise of the populist right and the vote itself, I said “Hey, do you guys want to look at the news? Are you worried? It’s a close race isn’t it?”

“Oh no,” our friends said, “just some British politicking. Nothing to fret about, it’ll never pass.”

The past few months I’ve been haunted by the memory of that morning. We woke up and our friend greeted us with a grim expression: “So, I’m really sorry, but the world went to hell while you were sleeping. Brexit passed and no one knows what’s going to happen now. Maybe you should go hit an ATM.” In a state of disbelief, we walked around a London deeply in shock. Strangers on the street came up to us and asked, “was it you? Did you vote for this?” It was like no one could look each other in the eye. Everyone had this thousand mile stare, like they woke up in a terrible trip they couldn’t understand. There was an eerie radio silence from leadership and a massive vacuum as everyone stepped out of the way of this grenade that had the pin pulled. Almost instantly, campaign promises were revealed as falsehoods. Whoops. Too late now. Theresa May took leadership, frankly, because no one else wanted the hot potato. Then she celebrated by appointing Boris Johnson (Britain’s Bush-Trump combo who heavily promoted Brexit and was immediately stabbed in the back by his own party) head of Foreign Affairs.

That day I had a premonition. The more I studied what had gone wrong (a vast underestimating of a heavily uneducated rural population who had completely missed out of the benefits of globalization, a nationalistic movement with liberal interpretation of “facts”) the more I saw the echoes happening in my own country. Even in Britain during Brexit, people kept asking “what’s going on over there? You’re not voting for Trump are you?”

And then it happened.

And here we are, about 50% of the country, a much larger percentage of the younger crowd (also like Brexit) feeling like we woke up in a different country than we did yesterday.

There are innumerable psychological benefits to traveling. Travel makes you more self-reliant, more empathetic, more culturally aware. Travel makes you more interested and understanding of world affairs and less susceptible to media biases. Travel makes you more resilient, flexible, more confident and mindful. But travel has less lofty benefits as well.

When a situation is poor, whether it’s a relationship, a job, a living situation, a terrible boss, or grief over the loss of a loved one, feeling trapped can make an enormous difference in how you cope. It can make you helpless, hopeless, and make it hard to distance yourself from the destructive emotions you feel. When you feel terrible, sometimes it’s hard to imagine a time when you’ve ever felt good, or imagine that you might feel better. While it’s true that much of our emotional toolkit we carry with us (which is why so many people who go on “vacation” can never seem to relax) being in a new and different location can give us something else to think about, feel like a fresh start, or just distract us from pain. While meditation is an excellent way to give yourself psychological distance, there is a very real component to physically removing ourselves from a situation.

Several times in my life when I felt intense despair, I literally couldn’t find peace until I left the country. Some may think of this as running away. I think of it as running towards.

Even temporary, nuisance things are easier to bear when you know you have a choice about staying in your location. How much easier does winter in a harsh New England climate seem when you have a trip to Miami scheduled in February? Even if your choice is not to go anywhere, even if when you leave it’s temporary, knowing you have the choice matters. And you have a choice. We all do.

Do you feel trapped? Has change of location ever helped you in crisis? What makes you feel stuck where you are, literally or figuratively? What’s the worst that could happen if you tried to leave? Tell me in the comments.

How to not kill your spouse

and make sure they don’t want to kill you either



Ah, the joys of traveling with a friend or partner! Although going solo is a pleasure in itself, having someone to share memories with for a lifetime is fantastic and can be safer and more comfortable than starting out alone.

However, we’re all familiar with the problems that can come from traveling with others– Maybe they want to take things slowly and you’d rather run around. Maybe they prefer traveling at a higher level of luxury than you can afford or aren’t interested in the kinds of activities you are. Maybe they’re not as fit or adventurous and may hold you back from doing things you’re excited about.

Small nuances like someone who talks all the time when you want quiet aren’t even noticeable until you’ve spent 48 hours with a person and can lead to vicious blow-outs.

I get surprised when people ask me how I can spend so much time alone with my husband, Brian. After getting used to our life, I forget that it’s not the norm- We’ve spent months traveling as just the two of us when some partners and spouses I know barely get to spend 24 hours in a row together. Brian and I got our travel lives started early- two weeks after I asked him on a date, Brian asked me to come to Las Vegas with him for a week. In fact, it was on that Vegas trip I knew we were destined for great things because Brian, terrified of heights, offered to go on the zipline over Old Vegas with me.

When I realized how white-knuckled he was when it was our turn, I asked him, “Wait, why are you doing this if you’re so afraid of heights?”

And he answered, “Well, if we’re going to have adventures together the rest of our lives, I figured I’d better start now!”


But I digress:

How do you travel with a partner and avoid wanting to kill them?

Much of the prep of a good trip happens long before you get to the airport. Good research and solid communication sets you up for a good time before you get there. Many of the questions are the same ones you should ask yourself when planning any trip, even if you’re going alone.

Questions to ask yourself and your travel partner:

  1. What do I want out of this trip? What are my biggest must-do experiences?
    Are you going to Italy for the food? Are you really into art museums? Has it always been your dream to sit in a hot spring and watch the Northern Lights over Reykjavik? Being real and honest about your top priorities makes sure they won’t be skipped. You may need to trade and negotiate with you travel partner to make sure you both get some of what you want. The earlier in the process you do so, the happier everyone will be. Of course, some flexibility is still key!
  2. Which areas am I most likely to splurge on? Which am I okay saving money on?
    Maybe you have an enormous budget and can do whatever you want. More than likely, though, you’ll have to set priorities. Which is more important to you: a fancy hotel or some amazing dinners? Do you want to spend time shopping in flea markets and boot sales or on the Champs Elysee? Be realistic about your budgets and always give yourself some wiggle-room in case of emergencies and unexpected costs. Are you two okay with splitting meals? That can be a great way to try a wider variety or higher quality of food than you might otherwise.
  3. Am I an early bird or a night owl?
    This one is easy to forget about but can lead to significant frustrations. No one wants to be sitting around, waiting for someone for hours. Also, if you know you snore, do your partner a favor and grab some nose-strips! Avoid the temptation: sometimes going full-day-early-morning-up-all-night is doable, but only for a short while. Any trip a week or more is going to require some down time if you don’t want to crash (and you may want to account for some jet lag)!
  4. What’s my “activity level”?
    Some people have an entirely different idea of what the word “vacation” means. I am one of those crazy types who loves exploring cities by foot for days upon days (and miles upon miles.) Only recently (as we go for longer trips) have I learned the value of taking it easy now and then, for Brian’s sake as much as mine. Some mornings we sit in a cafe and read. Some afternoons we lie on the beach in the sun. Most days, we explore as much of the city as we possibly can, usually by foot or by bicycle. Some people on vacation want nothing more than to be fed mixed drinks through a straw poolside for a week. There is no wrong way to travel, but understanding expectations in advance will avoid bumping of heads later.
  5. How flexible am I?
    Some people are planners
    : they want to know exactly where they’ll be staying, what they’re eating for dinner, and which museum they’re going to see when they get up every morning. Some people fly by the seat of their pants and do whatever looks good that moment. If someone gets panicked about not knowing where they’ll be staying in advance, book a night or two ahead. No matter which style of planning suits you, to avoid conflict, plan on where you’re going to eat before anyone gets hangry. Food rage is a very very real thing when traveling in groups of any size!
  6. Keep talking!
    No matter what happens on the road (and anything can happen on the road) be prepared to listen and communicate clearly about your needs. No one is a mind reader and learning to be patient, to explain yourself in a nice way before tempers flare can save whole vacations. Remember your partner is relying on your to have a good trip too!

Do you travel with partners or friends? How do you choose who to travel with? What have you enjoyed most about traveling with others? Do you have any horror stories? How did you deal with them? Tell me in a comment!

How do I travel so much?

Here’s a hint: it’s not because I make a fortune. I don’t have a trust fund or a secret sugar daddy (though I’m sure my mom is still waiting for me to get one of those). I don’t “know someone” in the industry to get great deals. So my great secret? I’ve learned to make travel a priority and I know that the first step out the door is always the hardest.

This wasn’t always who I was. When I was eight, budding artist that I was, I drew tons of pictures of exactly how I envisioned my future self: an awkwardly busty blonde in a slinky red dress, taking my fancy friends to Paris and London and New York (which was equally exotic at that point) in limos, probably by 17, at which point I’d have two kids and live in a yacht by 22.

Well, firstly, I’m a brunette and maybe I don’t prioritize limo rides nearly as often as I should. As for busty: well … at least I can buy those at Victoria Secret when I need to, am I right?
But I am wearing a pair of pants I love from Spain, a copper bracelet from London, and comfortable sweater from Paris. I have friends all over the world and I know any time I put a few hundred bucks aside, I can hop on a plane and go pretty much anywhere. I know that I can go to any cafe on the planet and figure out how to order a coffee the way I like it. I know that if something happens in a country halfway around the world, I can ask someone nearby for their perspective.

However, this didn’t happen for me at 17. It didn’t even happen at 22. I was deep into my twenties before I started reading and studying and understanding what was out there, before technology caught up in a big way to make travel easier, faster, and cheaper. I had a suspicion that something wasn’t right in how I was arranging my life, that this couldn’t be all there was. After falling down the rabbit hole of “The Four Hour Workweek” and discovering the wide world of lifestyle hackers, I found my tribe. Even after all that, however, I still had to work up the courage to step out the door.

Now, as my life becomes more flexible and digital and as I meet more of the thousands of digital nomads and long-term travelers around the planet, it becomes easier and easier to call myself a citizen of the world. People are totally amazed when I show them just how cheap and simple travel really can be!

The more you travel, the more you travel. All it takes is that first step with itchy feet- Maybe you start by exploring your own city, then take a day trip to the larger city nearby. Next, you explore the state, the neighboring states, the country – (or you can just skip this, and go further. Some people need baby steps!) But remember, if you can figure out how to get around in Boston, you can figure out New York. If you can figure out L.A. and Chicago, you can understand London or Sydney. Paris and Hong Kong aren’t much more difficult. All cities, to some extent, are alike, and once you learn to “play charades” in a language you don’t know and the basics of protecting yourself in urban touristic areas (both of which I will be writing about) you’re all out of excuses.

So where have you always wanted to go? What has made you put it off? If someone gave you a free ticket tomorrow to your dream destination, what would you do there? Tell me in a comment!



So who are we?

We are Brian and Mary, two world wanderers and adventure-seekers who are always looking for the way to live a better, more fulfilling life, whether that’s through mindfulness, better efficiency practices, or new technology. Our unusual lifestyle has lead us through twenty years of freelancing and project management, a 9200-mile road trip around the US (with a two-year-old), two and a half months backpacking Europe, and many other wacky adventures. The people we’ve met, places we’ve been, experiences we’ve had, and things we’ve learned have transformed us into who we are today.

We are so excited, so inspired by the things we discover that make our lives richer and more interesting, that we want to share them with others. After fielding hundreds of questions, we’ve  decided to start a blog to share with all of you and to show you how easy it is to completely transform your life.

One Thousand Golden Highways

It’s not easy being thirty these days.

Late twenties into early midlife is when the people in our lives begin to make deep shifts– some are living with parents and never really left college life, some are heavily focused on career and going out every night, some are overwhelmed by new families, some are starting over, and some have found themselves going to bed early and telling kids to get off their lawns.

It seems like the market is shifting beneath our feet, as though the world we grew up in of bleeping modems and corded telephones, of stable vocations, predictable career paths and pensions, is gone forever. As those older than us start calling it quits and those younger than us get hired as cheaper, faster labor, we have to start asking ourselves:

Are we getting left behind? Can we ever actually catch up? How can we save for retirement, something our parents told us to start doing when we were twenty, when we’re barely getting by now? How can we start a family when we can’t afford to buy a house? How can we make a million dollars when the only way to negotiate a real raise these days is to quit and get a new job?

I am here to tell you there is a better way. After seeing the suffering of those around me and questioning myself and my own struggles, I found the truth:

The world we live in has changed. By putting blinders on and ignoring it, by faithfully using the same tools and following the same paths our parents did, we will never get beyond the treadmill. The game has changed and there are new rules. I am here to find them out, to show you the people who are discovering the new rules and how to use them to your own advantage. The key here is not “keeping up with the Joneses” but to have the Joneses spend all their time speculating on how you can possibly afford to always be in Tahiti anyway. You could tell them, but would they really believe you?

-M & B