April 18, 2018

How Travel Helped Me Change My Life

Taking a step back from routine to travel the world and learn to live with less.

When I left my job last summer I entered a strange state of loss and lack of direction. After four years at my school I had made good friends, taught fantastic students and my teaching was becoming pretty solid, and what’s more the job was getting easier. All the pieces of a good life were in place; I recently married my best friend and business partner of 10 years. I had a great group of friends and the financial stability of a London mortgage. I could’ve continued with my nice life but felt it wasn’t right. I worried about endless work, 30-year debt and wasting away the creative passions of my teens—it seemed inevitable this would be my life. Or so I thought. After a life-changing trip to Patagonia in 2015, I decided on a new plan to make big changes. I’m still in the process of making that plan a reality but it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.

Leaving school last summer wasn’t just leaving a job but leaving the life that I expected to grow old living. I stepped off the treadmill and into the unknown, free from work, routine and a normal stable life. My wife and I saved as much cash as we could save in a year, combined with gift money from our wedding and boarded a flight to Norway in July 2017. It’s been a rollercoaster of unforgettable experiences, cool people, foods, sunsets, and ideas. As the end nears I have found clear motivations on how to continue this free, happy, and inspiring way of life. But how will I achieve this?

Traveling the world on $40 a day for two people means you’ll need to live like a local person. That means queuing up to use the same transport, eating in the same restaurants and shopping around for a good price. It’s fun, once you get better at haggling and putting on a front. I learnt that to be happy I didn’t need all the luxury we were used to at home. If I could scale down my spending abroad then why not do so the rest of the time? The first part of my plan to balance my lifestyle is to cut spending to what I need rather than want. This reduces my day-to-day costs and ultimately I’ll have to live with less. In comparison to the majority of local people I met traveling, I could see that life at home in London was not balanced, quite excessive actually and sometimes wasteful too. So living minimally is one of my goals.

Next, I want to be more creative in my daily life and return to London and start using my creative skills. I have developed this attitude by meeting many makers around the world who work hard at their passion. I left our website Studio Mali open to grow and so I feel driven to make creative projects the centre of my new life by making objects that I hope people will enjoy. This goal could have only come from having time to think about it, talk about it and gather the confidence to actually do it. Traveling has given me that time and led me to people making beautiful products in all corners of the globe. It’s not about becoming mega rich by selling products, but about proving to myself that I can survive independently doing something I love.

I setup our Studio Mali blog with my wife because we wanted a project to keep us busy on the road—an output to remember our trip by. In just seven months of traveling we feel like new people, excited about what’s next and driven to inspire others to think about changes they can make to their lives. It might be that you want to work less, or explore new places, develop a skill, start a new hobby, or return to a sport you once played. These little changes or activities can help you to be happy, live in the present, and grow as people. Is a full-time, debt-laden life worth the money that you’re paid? If the answer is no then what can you do to cut down your spending and live with less?

With two months until our return day, I’ve been considering what returning to a structured life will be like. Ultimately, I don’t want a five-day working week so my plan is to work three days supply teaching. I’ll be planning to spend less, enjoy free fun like nature more, cook the foods I used to get takeaways of, and be active and healthy. We hope to sell our apartment and find something smaller, which is perhaps the biggest irony of our mortgage debt. The apartment we purchased four years ago seems to have grown in equity in that time. I may be able to buy something small without a mortgage. I may be able to live a low-cost, debt-free life where I can concentrate on doing things I love, building a balanced lifestyle in the process.

Published by Mark Fowler in Lifestyle, Travel

Photography by Jenner VandenHoek

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