Six Years on the Road: A Journey Becomes Life


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We just celebrated. An anniversary. Six years. On the road. Why am I addicted to sentence fragments?

Anniversaries, they help mark time. They remind us to remind ourselves to admire our arc, our path through the world in time. No, not to admire it in some self-satisfied way, but to admire that there’s a process of growing, changing, evolving, and continually understanding that our lives are portions of an unbroken circle connecting all the dots of who we’ve become. Anniversaries invite us to step back to view the path we’ve helped to unfold — a path that takes us from where we’ve been to where we are, all peppered with hints and imaginations of where we would hope to go.

Celebrating our 6-year anniversary
Celebrating our 6-year anniversary on the road in Nicaragua — with a break, a bench, a sunset.

This particular anniversary of six years passed almost without notice. “How could that happen?!” you ask?

Our response? Life. You find yourself putting together a workshop on a Nicaraguan beach, and believe it or not, you can get a little lost. Then you look up from your cup of coffee one morning and think, wait a minute, didn’t we leave a pork butt behind in Prague six years ago yesterday?

Yes, six years. Sometimes it feels like just a few days, sometimes it feels well beyond several lifetimes. You know how that feels, I’m sure.

Audrey and Dan having Drinks
The salad days of our journey: Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand in December, 2006

When we set off, we’d imagined 12-18 months. You could say we miscalculated, just a spec. We’ve made decisions, had discussions — some might even call them arguments (yes, we are human) — and our approach and the “why” is continually reaffirmed from within and from without.

What does that mean?

I suppose the inner compass, with all its confusions and magnetic pulls in occasionally unproductive directions, always brings us back to making our way through the world in a manner that brings meaning, meaning that is continually and surprisingly reflected back to us by others.

A Little Perspective in Three Stories

Story #1

In Nicaragua, a colleague and newfound friend commented, “When we die, when we leave this Earth, we can’t take our stuff with us, we can only take our experiences, our memories.” You might say there’s no checked bags or carry-ons when we leave this life. Thank you for your spirit, Selena.

Story #2

On our flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam, around hour 14 of a monster travel day, we had the good fortune to sit next to a retired career American serviceman on his way back to Afghanistan as a private contractor. He would be away from his wife and children. This was profoundly difficult, I can only imagine. It’s Christmas after all.

In any event, he’d seen so much, yet still so much struck him wide-eyed. We told him of what we’d seen and felt during so many of our trips. But when we mentioned visiting Iran last year, his eyes really opened and his jaw dropped ever so slightly. He almost hesitated to ask, “How was it? What happened?”

We shared a few stories, from the continual invitations from ordinary Iranians we met on the streets to the incredible kindness we experienced on the train from Iran to Istanbul. I even pulled out my iPhone and showed a few photos of the architectural jewels of Shiraz and Esfahan.

The world is sometimes not as we’re told it is,” he said, continually tilting his head in wonder, shaking his head in disbelief. Thank you, Will – for your service and for reaffirming for us so much about what can be right in this world.

Story #3

Finally, on just about every turn of this journey, thanks to the unnamed many who shed continual light on our good fortune with sentiments like this: “Six years, you must have been everywhere.”

Well, no. We haven’t been everywhere. And even if we had, there’s always something left on the table, notwithstanding all the changes undergone by places we’ve visited since we’ve visited them.

We thank every one of the people who echo this sentiment and remind us that there’s always more to explore and learn. They reaffirm that it’s always a good idea to unpack, if only to take a moment to take stock of what you have and what you’ve done, what remains and why you’re doing it all.

Perhaps most importantly, they imply that we should never take anything for granted.

Looking to Year Seven

Six years ago, words like “digital nomad” and “professional blogger” weren’t really in our imaginations, much less our lexicons. So our “journey” has become more than one of just travel; it has become our life, our lens, our business. Our imaginations are stretched by what is and what could be. Honestly, it can feel intimidating at times.

So what do you do when a journey and its various pieces come together as one? Recently, we took a private look back to the very beginning and reflected on why we got started on this journey in the first place to guide us — to the themes of exploration, continual learning, stories, meaning and creativity.

The world and all the things we learn, they all take time. They are delivered to us at their own pace. And if we rush too much, we run the risk of missing the little things.

Likewise, if we just wait for things to happen, they may never do so.

Independent of the results, life as a process is pretty fascinating.

And just in case you are wondering: I am addicted to sentence fragments because sometimes you have to unpack and take apart what you have in order to understand what you’ve built.

It’s with this spirit that we begin our seventh year of this journey. A year we hope is one of continued surprises, shared lessons and good stories.

Thank you for being part of it.

About Daniel Noll
Travel and life evangelist. Writer, speaker, storyteller and consultant. Connecting people to experiences that will change their lives. Originally from the U.S. Daniel has lived abroad since 2001 and most recently has been on the road since 2006. When he's not writing for the blog you can keep up with his adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about him on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

33 thoughts on “Six Years on the Road: A Journey Becomes Life”

  1. Congrats guys! u guys are really inspiring… i don’t travel very frequently… but i do love seeing the world via ur blog… keep going! it’s said that to spend ur life with a loved one.. u don’t need to look into each others eyes… u only need to look in the same direction…and i think that’s so true!

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  2. Congratulations! It’s an inspiring journey and I hope to look back in the same amount of time and see that I’ve achieved the same amount as you. Perseverance and hard work can make anything possible and your journey is proof of that.

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  3. Congratulations and happy anniversary to one of my favorite traveling couples!! Enjoy… and thanks for sharing your journey. Was such a pleasure to travel with you — the path you’ve chosen and how gracefully you navigate through it together truly inspires me!! Safe travels… 🙂

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  4. Yall are remarkable. Really love this post and your take on life. You must be very well disciplined and balanced people, traits which I aspire towards. It’s been great reading your blog. To another 6 years?? 🙂

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  5. Congrats on six years on the road together, and six years of sharing stories, photographs, and your journey. I’m looking forward to following the next six too! 🙂

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  6. @Navina: “You only need to look in the same direction…” — love that sentiment. Thank you.

    @Marco: Indeed.

    @Amy: After a couple weeks amidst the warmth of the Nicaraguan coast, we are back in Berlin to enjoy Christmas with friends.

    @Lindsay: Great traveling with you, too! Thanks so much for the kind words.

    @Leif: Well-disciplined? I suppose we could be a lot better. Balance is a function of continued effort, I believe. I’ll take another six years. Here’s to some more discovery, regardless of the length!

    @tom: Thank you for the kind words and your comment.

    @Sojourner: We understand. We took so many photographs of that beach and sunset. Is a powerful combination if you happen to be in the, um, more northern latitudes.

    @Shannon: Thanks! Let’s see what we can do!

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  7. Happy anniversary! I recently had my 5th with my partner, although we both forgot about it ha ha, only realising a couple of days later.

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  8. Many congratulations you two. What your friend Selena said really touched me actually. It is so true. Keep going, so that we can enjoy reading your posts!

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  9. I agree with the balance between waiting not to miss, but the need to make things happen. I think patience is a huge part to traveling. Happy 6 year anniversary!

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  10. Wow, that’s awesome! Congrats! I love the story of how you two met and after 6 years on the road together, glad you haven’t killed each other! 🙂

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  11. Loved the serviceman’s quote “The world is sometimes not as we’re told it is,” too true. Thankfully we’re able to travel and see for ourselves just exactly how the world is.

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  12. What an amazing post! I love how deep you dug and how you’ve really taken the time to reflect on what the past 6 years have meant. Really inspiring content & the writing was fantastic too (sentence fragments & all)!

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  13. @Mark: Thanks! And congratulations to you!

    @Tammy: Will do. Glad this resonated with you.

    @Jesse: Was a nice moment and a beautiful spot. Am glad the feeling comes through.

    @Stephen: Patience is indeed a virtue.

    @Auds: Thank you.

    @Jeremy: We’re glad, too. But we’ve had plenty of time to get to know one another. 15 years together, 12 years married, 6 years on the road. A lot of experience to draw upon.

    @Debbie: Exactly. Sometimes we need to set out to see for ourselves.

    @Suzzane: Thank you! It wasn’t quite a wedding anniversary (we just celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary in September), but the 6 year anniversary of setting off on our current around-the-world journey.

    @Steph: Glad you enjoyed it, most especially those sentence fragments.

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  14. Congratulations and SO inspiring. I’ve been following along on your journey for the last couple of years as my husband & I work towards getting back on the road as the sort of nomads you two embody. Thank you for the inspiration and reminders that we, too, can make our life what we want it to be.

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  15. Just recently found your blog whilst looking up Bangladesh in preparation for a trip we are taking there soon. Love your blog and am truly inspired. Together with my husband and daughter we are planning to do some long-term travel (aiming for 1 year to begin) – so the fact that you guys have managed 6 is wonderful! Travel is a huge part of my life and I’ve just very recently started blogging – in fact, I’m so new that my blog is really a vehicle for me to play around with rather than do proper posts. we’ll see how it turn out.
    Congratulations on your anniversary and I look forward to following you on your next adventures. All the best – you are certainly living your lives!

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  16. @Katherine: Funny that you characterize your blog as a vehicle to play around with. That’s essentially how we got started. Our blog was meant to be a repository of experiences and observations, a portfolio of expression. Now here we are.

    Thanks for the comment, the compliments and congratulations. Glad we could be of inspiration. Glad to hear of your adventure.

    Have a great time in Bangladesh! Any questions, let us know.

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  17. I have never travelled far from home, but hope to one day, in some form or other, your jounrey your experiences are amazing and I hope this year brings you more wonderful stories which I can read along with you

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  18. @sarah: Thank you so much for your comment and well wishes. All the best to you in the new (emerging?) year. We’ll keep the stories coming.

    Regarding not traveling far from home, I’m sure you’ve already discovered that Curiosity Begins At Home

    Reply

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