I suppose I should finally introduce myself. I am Adam and I just married my best friend and the love of my life, Rachel. She has been much more active on here so far, but I am actually excited to share some of our experiences myself.
Our world is about to get a lot bigger…or smaller depending on your perspective. We are embarking on a 10 month journey around the Earth. But before I reintroduce those plans on this blog, I’d like to frame the rough size and state of my world to hopefully give some context to the decision to pause life as we currently know it.
I graduated from University 10 years ago, and since then I have lived in Fort McMurray, Alberta, working in the oil sands. Actually, let me rephrase that…For 10 years I have lived at work in the oil sands of Fort McMurray. Yes, that sounds more accurate. And while it may sound regretful, it is not. With a genuine enthusiasm, I focused most of my energy on my career, which gave me rich experience, afforded me many luxuries (including this mid-life retirement) and left me with much to be proud of and even more to be thankful for.
Nevertheless, about 3 years ago, something in my life started to suggest there may be more to this existence than my career. Funnily enough, it was about 3 years ago that Rachel and I exchanged those awkward emails, which were the subject of her first post on this site. Those were exciting times for us and after she agreed to let me cook her dinner (I made palak paneer because nothing says romance like home made cheese and spinach), we shared an amazing summer together.
Of course it was not without some drama, for which I’ll take most of the credit. I stubbornly refused to commit. As annoyingly cliche as that is, it’s true. We parted ways and immediately realized what we had given up, but it still took what seemed like an eternity to correct it. Fortunately, we did get back together and never looked back.
The reality of the year or so that followed is that I continued working ridiculous hours with that same heavy focus on my career. Rachel and I were madly in love but we only had meaningful time together when we were out of the country, or at least out of cell phone reception, which wasn’t very often. I was brain dead after work and as much as we both enjoy the zombie genre, this just wasn’t as entertaining.
That year really opened my eyes. I began to realize the path I was on would always demand long hours. It would always consume me. I began to ask myself if I love my job enough for that. This wasn’t my ambition fading, but rather my priorities shifting. I wanted more than this job alone was offering. I wanted satisfaction worthy of the effort. I wanted to truly make the most of this life and, more specifically, to share that with Rachel.
A new position came available that promised to move us in the right direction. It was a development role (good for career!), but with fixed hours (good for sanity!). The catch was it was shift work. Three 13 hour days, followed by three 13 hour nights, and then six days off before the cycle repeats. Most people would think that’s an awful schedule (they would be right), but the day I accepted the position marked 5 weeks with a single day off. In fairness, it had been an especially busy stretch, but with all things being relative, the shift sounded fantastic at the time.
I started the new job and as horrible as the night shifts were, I was learning a ton and had more time off than I had had in the 8 previous years. Oh and no more phone calls in the middle of the night! Rachel somehow shifted roles to align our schedules and we suddenly enjoyed every other 6 days off together. The best part was that 6 days of vacation suddenly meant 18 days off! We travelled more than ever.
It was around this time that we got our beautiful daughter, Sophie. Sophie is a tiny Yorkie with a huge personality that lights up any room she enters. We also took the opportunity to explore life outside of the small town of Fort McMurray. We bought a condo in downtown Edmonton and made it more home than our actual home in Fort McMurray. It was shortly thereafter that I proposed to Rachel.
Life was improving but the bizarre schedule was certainly taking its toll on us. The constant switching was tough on our bodies, not to mention the 5 hour drive back and forth between Edmonton and Fort McMurray. In addition, we weren’t feeling as challenged in our new roles. Finding the right balance was proving difficult.
Although we often fantasized about travelling for long durations, it wasn’t until August 2015 when we first considered seriously the notion of a full year off of work to travel the world. We realized we are young, have very little tying us down, and could probably bounce back even if we lost our jobs. We could rent our properties to cover those expenses and we have enough family and friends that would likely be willing to give Sophie a safe and happy home for a year. All of a sudden it seemed possible. Why not do this now when we can sort of afford it, before we have kids, and when we are healthy and young enough to do all the things we’d want to do? Why wait for retirement when our options could be limited by health, mobility, or otherwise? Why continue feeling generally unsatisfied with the risk of turning our ambition into resignation? I don’t think either of us had any illusions that an extended vacation would reveal the meaning of life, but it would certainly provide adventure, excitement, challenges, new perspectives, inspiration and hopefully renew our motivation. If nothing else, it would be amazing.
Still, 3 more months rolled by before we made up our minds and worked up the courage to request a leave of absence from work. By this point we had already chosen May 2016 for our wedding so it simply made sense to start the year leave just before the wedding. We submitted the request and then we waited. Finally we received the approval in January. What a relief!
The next few months flew by faster than we ever expected. We planned our wedding, our travels and set up to put our lives on hold for a year. We hired property managers, got about a dozen vaccination injections, arranged insurance, and countless other tasks that seemed to preoccupy us from planning our actual trip. Our plans came together though and thanks to the immense generosity of our good friends, Pam and Paul, we found a loving home for Sophie for the year. We were also extremely fortunate to come through the Fort McMurray wildfires almost entirely unscathed. The evacuation happened just as we were supposed to head back for our final few days of work, so our leave started a bit early. When we later returned, our home was just fine. Again, we were very fortunate.
Our wedding was absolutely perfect and having our families visit was such a treat! May and the first half of June are a bit of a blur now as we were so busy with the wedding, family, and finishing up the final logistics before the start of our travels.
So as of about 6pm on June 15th, we are finally done. Even if we did miss something, we are about to board Icelandair Flight 692 to Reykjavik, so WE ARE DONE! Sad to be leaving our baby Sophie behind, but eager to explore.
Without further adieu, our rough plan is as follows:
2. England & Scotland
3. Europe by rail, starting in Paris and ending in Rome.
4. South Africa
12. Sri Lanka
13. South East Asia
14. Australia (most likely)
15. New Zealand (hopefully)
Plans are loose but our minds are set. Let the adventures begin!