I quit my corporate job in NYC around 3 years ago and started traveling with my husband. Even though I had lived in several different countries growing up, I was still apprehensive about leaving all the comforts of the US. But we decided it was time for some adventure and to get out of the rat race.
Instead of backpacking, we decided to travel slow, which basically means that we would often stay for several months in one location exploring it in depth. This gave us more time to discover amazing food and coffee spots. And it also meant we didn’t have to eat out for every single meal or lug our luggage around with us all the time.
Instead of backpacking, we decided to travel slow – exploring a location in depth.
These are just some of the memories I shall always treasure. In Myanmar, we ate fermented tea leaves and drank fish soup for breakfast! In Scotland, we enjoyed haggis (along with haggis stories…) and in Portugal we discovered that barnacles can not only be eaten but are actually really delicious.
We’ve also been lucky in that we’ve been able to time many of our visits with major festivals.
For example, we watched more comedians than I can count in Edinburgh during their annual Fringe Festival, which is the world’s largest arts festival. We enjoyed the magic of the Yi Peng and Loy Krathong (lantern festival) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. And we ate a ton of grilled sardines at the Santo António festival in Lisbon, Portugal.
And I still recall vividly the night Portugal won the Euro Cup. We were in Lisbon and got to celebrate with the friendly crowds at Marquis de Pombal. Impromptu (and not very safe) fireworks flew in the air as children and adults danced and cheered.
I’m not sure how long we’ll keep on traveling as we’re both focused on growing our businesses more, which is really hard to do from the road. But I will never forget these amazing experiences I’ve gained and the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years.
I’ve been told many times by friends and strangers that I’m “living the dream” and while I definitely still have many days filled with frustration and weariness, I am also supremely grateful for the life I live. Honestly, if you saw the view I see from my balcony of the São Jorge castle up on the hill, you’d feel pretty grateful for your life too!
This has also made me more appreciative of the life I had back in the US. There’s something nice about same day Amazon deliveries, Whole Foods Market and being understood by people (because they also speak perfect English).
But perhaps the most useful lesson I’ve learned is the ability to pack in 30 minutes and fit all my belongings into carry-on luggage.
The first few weeks after landing in a country would always be chaotic. We’d have to find somewhere to stay that was furnished and clean, figure out where to go to work out, where to get internet, and most importantly where to find good food.
But after that initial settling-in period, things would dramatically improve. I love searching for great cafes, and I’d always end up finding a few favorite places. In Chiang Mai, I found an amazing café opened by an American and a Thai – they served organic produce from local farmers and some of the best Third Wave coffee I’ve ever tried! In Taipei, I found a cute small café with 2 cats that roamed around. And in Lisbon, I have many favorites.
What’s great about staying for a while in one place is that you get to think of yourself as a local (and often treated as one too). The barristers at the cafes get to know me (most know my order by heart), we make new friends (often expats who are also traveling), we start picking up some of the language, and we stop having to look at Google Maps every five seconds for directions.
Some of my closest friends now are expats I’ve met while traveling!
My husband loves searching for the best food, and so we’d also start trying food that’s both exciting and delicious.
I have to say, my favorite countries for food have to be Japan and France! If you’ve never had beef that literally melts like butter in your mouth, then you’ve got to go to Japan and try real wagyu (it’s way better than that stuff they serve in America and charge you a fortune for).
And in France, some of the best food I had was in small towns in the Loire valley. The produce was so fresh and local, and the cooking was simple but done to perfection. We had a seared foie gras that was phenomenal!
But one of the best parts about visiting new countries is also discovering foods that I didn’t know about before.
For anyone wanting to experience the world, this is one of the best time – start traveling.
I didn’t realize my life would turn out this way, but I’m glad it did. And I’m excited traveling to new countries and foods that the future will bring.
About the Author
Louise and her husband, Jeremy, are currently in Lisbon, Portugal. They run digital businesses while they travel for fun and to support their lifestyle. Louise Hendon is the co-founder of Paleo Flourish Magazine and her husband does consulting and writes about business, travel, and food on his own site.