By , January 6, 2012 5:36 pm

6 months. 9875 kilometres. 4 countries. Impressive Amazing Race statistics they’re not, but then again we’re not exactly “racing” around the world. We’re taking it nice and slow.

Six months ago today, Mike and I stepped foot on a plane to Cancun, Mexico without much of a plan and with little idea of what we were getting ourselves into. Today, we are different people. Here’s some of the changes we’ve made:

Physical Changes

Whether we like it or not, the first opinion we form of people we meet is typically based on appearance. And in six short months, I would say we’ve both altered our appearances fairly dramatically. Luckily, we have our pictures from our International Driving Permits that were taken two weeks before we left for comparison sake.

Check out the two couples… which pair would you say are happier, more energetic, and more interesting?

We’ve both lost a significant amount of weight from our healthier lifestyle (exactly how much is hard to say… weight scales are hard to come by here), our tans are darker than they’ve ever been, we rarely ever sunburn anymore, our hair is bleached from the sun (check out how blonde I am now!), and we’re stronger than we’ve been in a long time.

All is not perfect, however. With our divemaster program, we typically go diving 2-4 times per day. We start “work” at 7:00 a.m. hauling tanks and helping students collect and set up their gear. We help set up the boat, check people into and out of the hotel, and spend at least a few hours each day dealing with hotel business, and working on planning and scheduling for the next day. Often, we won’t really have time to ourselves until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. We have recently started assisting on courses, which adds an extra level of responsibility for the safety of the students around you. It basically equates to having a full-time job (we haven’t forgotten what an awesome job it is though), working 5-7 days a week. And because we’ve got an apartment, there’s housework to keep up with too.

I would be lying if I said that I’m footloose and stress free with all these obligations. Just before Christmas, I found myself with a 72+ hour migraine. Then I woke with an ass-kicking, back-flattening flu on the morning of New Year’s Eve that confined me to nearly a week in bed and is still keeping me out of the water (Mike woke up with the same sore throat that morning, and was fine by day’s end). I know that this is my body’s way of telling me I’m trying to do too much. Just like at home, as responsibilities get piled on and the perfectionist/over-analyst inside of me works overdrive to do everything to 150% of my ability, I lose the ability to keep my life balanced. I become consumed in the stresses of things that are beyond my control and my body starts sending out S.O.S. messages in the forms of headaches and unchallenged bugs that my immune system should be able to beat into submission without much trouble.

So I know I need to keep working at finding balance in my life.  This is a critical lesson for me, because at some point we may find ourselves with 9-5 jobs again and I need to learn how to keep myself from getting burned out.

Emotional Changes – How We Feel About This Journey

When we travelled to the Yukon the summer before last, we stopped and did a few day hikes in the mountains on the way. When we returned home, we were reviewing our photos and found some landscape shots, taken from the summit of a mountain, that surpassed in beauty what we remembered seeing. We put one of these photos on our Traveled Earth business cards to remind ourselves not to take any moments in life for granted. We have truly experienced each and every moment on this journey (the good and the bad)… not just with a snapshot to remember it by, but a true appreciation for everything we are seeing and doing.

It was only about a month or so ago that we realized this journey no longer feels like a mere vacation. It’s now our lifestyle.  I think getting an apartment on Jewel Cay (one of the Utila Cays in Honduras) for a couple months has really helped us reach this point.  Having a place where we could unpack for a while and put the backpacks away helped fight some of the homesickness we were starting to feel.  We still miss the people at home (a lot!), but we now see just how easy it is to start up a life somewhere new.  We have friends, neighbours, and people that feel like family in close proximity to us.

Intellectual Changes

As I reflect over the last 6 months of my life, I am blown away by how much reflection I have done.  Taking away the stresses of a job and a house has given me the time and the freedom to explore other intellectual avenues.  Instead of thinking about my lesson plans for the next day, I spend a lot of time thinking about topics that have always interested me, but have never been enough of a priority to spend adequate mental time and energy on.  I have had some great discussions and reflections on world politics and economies, religion, spirituality, morality, ethics, cultural norms and beliefs, and physics (string theory, quantum mechanics, and relativity), to name a few.

Changes To Our Budget

Our original budget goal was $100/day for the pair of us, including international transportation, accommodation, food, and all other expenses.

As of today, we have spent $10 642.48 CAD, which works out to an average of $57.84 per day, including the big ticket costs of 6 weeks of Spanish courses ($990 CAD), and all our diving courses in Utila (total cost = $2970 CAD) 1 open water course for me, 2 advanced open water courses, 2 rescue diver courses, 2 divemaster courses, 2 deep diver specialties, 2 wreck specialties, and 2 nitrox specialties). If you exclude these “big ticket costs,” but still include all the other excursions like swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling, ziplining, etc., our spending to date totals $6682.48, or $36.32 per day.

We now believe that a $100/day average for the entire journey is far too high. Because we don’t know how long we plan to spend in each country, it is nearly impossible to calculate a reasonable trip budget average, but we will try to use $100/day as a cap for the most expensive countries.

Changes To Our Packing List

Let’s be honest… this is a post in itself.  So look for it soon.  I will say, however, that I am currently typing this on our brand new, Boxing Day special, netbook.  After six months of sharing a single laptop, we realized we really wanted another one.  While we could keep getting by with one, we just didn’t want to any more.

Changes To Our “Rough Itinerary”

Six months into our trip, and we are already five months behind our “rough itinerary.”  Honduras, our home for the last two and a half months, wasn’t even included on it. Not too shabby, eh? We knew before we left that we weren’t going to stick to a schedule and we were true to our word.

Our immediate plan is to finish our divemaster course here in Utila by the end of January, head to Nicaragua at the start of February to meet up with my mom (can’t wait to see her!!!), and then maybe follow her into Costa Rica or head back up to see the parts of Honduaras and El Salvador that we missed out on.  In general, we are heading south… we keep saying we would like to catch a boat from Panama to Colombia when we finally get there, but we know better than to lay out a specific plan for ourselves.

We are definitely still planning to check out more of the world than Central and South America… but when?  Your guess is as good as ours.

11 Responses to “How 6 Months of Travel Have Changed Me”

  1. Kim says:

    I can’t get over how healthy and awesome you both look. I showed my husband and he said,”what happened to them?” I said they quit their jobs and are traveling the world and right now they are diving every day. What a difference six months, doing something you love and being with the one you love can make!
    When and if you get to Brazil, let me know, I got a great family you should meet there!

    • Ashley Lenzen says:

      Thanks Kim! It’s totally amazing the difference that six months have made. If we go to Brazil, we will definitely have to get that contact info. We love making new connections with great people as we arrive in new places!

  2. Pam says:

    Wow… guys look great. A very rested, relaxed look. No stress lines….LOL. Really you guys look awesome!

    • Ashley Lenzen says:

      Thanks Pam! You know what the funny thing is? I took the “after” picture of myself four days into my flu… when I was finally able to get out of bed. So that’s about as sick and pale as I can look these days!

  3. Justin says:

    Life changes in 6 months! So travel is the secret to life? I can live with that.

    It seems so long this six months. Wow. And $57 a day, that is what I wanted to hear. All the best, and I look forward to seeing your travels continue for much longer than 6 months!

    • Ashley Lenzen says:

      I think travel just may be the secret to life. It sure seems to be working for us!

      We’re always watching the budget closely and I think we’ve done a good job of balancing costs and wants. We don’t feel like we’ve missed out on anything because of money. We splurge when there’s something we really want to do (as you can probably see from the the fact that diving accounted for 28% of our budget thus far) and other times we talk ourselves out of that nice meal out or that licuado that we don’t really need.

      So far, this journey has really been an evolution for us. I know we’ll be at for a while and I can’t wait to see where it takes us!

  4. Delaine says:

    You two look wonderful, hopefully we will feel the same freedom some day although it may not come until retirement. Love the new blonde and the students still miss you and talk about you, especially the grade 11’s.

    • Ashley Lenzen says:

      Thanks Delaine! I can’t believe how sun-bleached my hair has gotten, especially in the last three weeks or so. Say hi to the grade 11’s for me!

  5. Kim says:

    WOW, this is my first time stopping by and I love it. What a fantastic post and that before and after picture is UNREAL. You do both look so happy and alive. My husband and I are four months away from stepping out into our own life of indefinite travel. It is always uplifting to see posts like this and envision ourselves in that position… it isn’t too far away. Thanks for the insight 🙂

    • Ashley Lenzen says:

      Glad you like our site, Kim. I wish you guys all the best in the last few months of planning. You’ll be stepping on that plane before you know it. I love that you have such an open itinerary… it’s the best way to travel!

  6. […] inspiration for this post was this brilliant blog post I read towards the end of a freezing winter when we were still planning this trip. I remember being […]

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