2.5 Years Abroad

Every once in a while, it’s wise to step back and assume a bird’s eye view of one’s own life.  Over the past few months, I’ve struggled with a lot of big questions:  What the hell am I going to do next?  What the hell have I been doing?  What the hell happened to my savings account?  Etc.

It’s easy to get mired in the devilish details of everyday life, and to compare your success to others’.  I’m the queen of “the grass is always greener,” even though I know how that sounds coming from someone who has graduated from Harvard and traveled the world for the past two and a half years.  Actually, after rereading that last sentence, I want to punch my own face.

I’ve reached a point where my long-term travel and life as an expatriate might be coming to an end out of necessity.  I’m not certain about this yet, and I don’t want to rule out the possibility that I might move to another hemisphere next week.  But it’s very likely that I will settle down in the United States for some time and return to the corporate world.  Naturally, that idea makes me a little sad.

But looking back at the past two and a half years makes me realize how very lucky I am to have had all of these experiences.  On an average day, putzing around and filling out job applications, memories of La Paz and St. Petersburg feel very distant.  I often have to remind myself: “Yes, this all really happened.”

Compiling these photos has been a bittersweet experience.  I feel much more than two years older than I was in my photos from Peru.  I miss the euphoria I felt in Cartagena.  I’m less naive, I’m more aware, and I’m more comfortable deciding what I believe, what I won’t tolerate, and who I want to spend my time with.  That may just be a consequence of aging, but I’m sure that living abroad has accelerated the process.

Here are some of my favorite photos from many of the places I traveled to over the past two and a half years, in chronological order.  Thank you for following me on this journey, celebrating my happiest times, and picking me up when I’ve been low.  This blog has been a source of encouragement and community for nearly three years of my life, and I hope you’ll continue to visit.

2011

Lima, Peru - 2011

Lima, Peru

 

Punta Sal, Peru

Punta Sal, Peru

Cuzco, Peru

Cuzco, Peru

Inka Trail and Macchu Picchu, Peru

Inka Trail and Macchu Picchu, Peru

Potosi, Bolivia

Potosi, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Traveling through Bolivia

Traveling through Bolivia

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Salta, Argentina

Salta, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

Iguazu Falls, Argentina

2012

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem, Israel

Akko, Israel

Akko, Israel

Yaroslavl, Russia

Yaroslavl, Russia

Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia

Return to Cartagena, Colombia

Return to Cartagena, Colombia

Parque Tayrona, Santa Marta, Colombia

Parque Tayrona, Santa Marta, Colombia

2013

Tbilisi, Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia

Sighnaghi and Akhalsikhe, Georgia

Sighnaghi and Akhalsikhe, Georgia

Kazbegi, Georgia

Kazbegi, Georgia

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic

Paris, France

Paris, France

2014

Rural Ireland

Rural Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Dublin, Ireland

Home

Family

My infinitely patient parents. Love you.

113 comments

  1. Hi Meghan, thank you for sharing your story! I wish you all the best with the job applications and hope you find a job you like! Corporate world, or another. And when you do, just consider yourself ‘in between travels’. 😉

  2. James

    Inspiring stuff Meghan! Love your pictures, really paints the journey well. I’d love to read more about the people you’ve met along the way and the many amazing experiences I’m sure you went through!
    I’ve been traveling for over 6 years now, myself. I am starting to write articles about my adventures and discoveries everywhere I’ve been. You should check out my most recent post about the mango farmers in Taiwan that saved me during Chinese New Year when my scooter broke down in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere:
    http://mytefl.net/blog/teaching-in-taiwan-farmers-saved-us/

  3. Some wonderful 2.5 years to look back on. I am about to start my own journey and looking for advice and other success stories to get me through the “Can I really do this?” moments.
    You are beautiful!

  4. Meghan, what beautiful photos! You’ve really made the most of your 2.5 years abroad and you’re such an inspiration. Best of luck to you returning to the corporate world and I hope you’ll still be able to make travel a part of your life 🙂

  5. You’re amazing, Meg. That’s so much to fit in in just 2.5 years. And actually you’ve made me realise that it’s been 2.5 years since I started this world journey too.

    No matter what you decide, I do hope you’ll keep on blogging. You’re one of my favourites and everyone seems to stop blogging when they head back home!

  6. Sarah le belga

    waw Meghan! Always wonderful to read your blog and see those beautiful places you have been. And – vain as I am – awesome to see myself in some pictures 😉

  7. Denise [But First, Live!]

    Beautiful 2.5 years! And you are right! — you are so very lucky to have been able to experience everything you did 🙂
    Some of us are still only dreaming about doing the exact same, as we sit typing at our desks of our corporate job 😉

    Cheers to the next experiences, whatever they’ll be!! ❤

  8. Hello Meghan, remember that life is THE journey, there is no destination. My home for now is France, but my home, which is deep in my soul, is Australia, always was, always will be. There are no limits to how and when we leave our homeland for a new adventure. This will be my 3rd adventure of living abroad, the hardest, but the most rewarding. Enjoy your time back home and your next destination will emerge….thanks for sharing the wonder of your life.

    • Yes, I’m trying to look at it that way, Shelley. I hate to ever use the words “settle down”, or– the worst– when people say “well you’ve finally got it out of your system!” I don’t think I ever want to get wanderlust out of my system, thank you very much. It’s not a virus!

  9. Dear Meghan, as a fellow traveler, I hear your dilemma. But regardless of the choice you make, even if you return to the corp world to repair your budget maybe and grow roots for a bit, it does not have to mean that this is it. Maybe it is just something you need now that will make you feel more settled after so many adventures, to gather all those stories into one basket and let them marinate for a bit. Sometimes our souls need variety, which is what spurs lots of adventures. Sometimes that variety comes in form of a life that is more routine/pattern oriented. For me, each of journeys I’ve taken changed me deeply. I remember when I travelled to Belgium, Poland, Holland and Hungary almost two years ago. How I wanted to continue! But I needed to return and gained such experiences that now will make my ultimate dream of living in Santorini a reality. Anyways, I just wanted to wish you all the best and congratulate you on living an unconventional life. Whatever you decide to do next, I am certain you will be a great contributor. Beautiful pictures, by the way! Maybe you could write an autobiography next!? (BTW, I’m the same person who contacted you on Goodreads recently. Loved your reply. Thank you!) Cheers, Ewa
    http://dare2begin.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/carbonated-consciousness/

    • Hello, beautiful Ewa! Thank you for the very kind message. I couldn’t agree with you more… “our souls need variety.” I’m so glad we connected, I feel like we are kindred spirits. 🙂 I wish you lots of luck and happiness on your journey toward Santorini. Can’t wait to read about your adventures.

      • No Meghan, it’s all you. I wish you much happiness and success in this new trek.

        Every season has its reason, and if you are to continue to travel, that will come.. I know you will be fine… That’s the only way it goes.

        Thanks for sharing and please continue to share with us as you continue your evolution…

        Peace and happiness.

  10. I plan on taking at least a year between college and the corporate world to travel with no worries and I too have wondered what it will be like to come home. I know my trip is four years off but I wonder about what its going to be like to settle back into a ‘normal’ life again.

  11. The problem with traveling when you’re young is, it gets into your blood, and you don’t ever get over it. I spent a year abroad as a college junior (many, many years ago), and it was a memory that felt like a longing. I was able to travel some–but not much–during my “working and family life.” But after I “retired,” I was able to travel and work abroad for a few more years. This was nice, because I was getting retirement income while traveling and didn’t have to deplete my savings. By then, my children were grown and my husband was married to someone else. You have to keep your body in fairly decent shape to do rigorous traveling when you get older, but lots of folks do it..

    • You hit the nail on the head, Joanne. It does burrow its way into your blood, and once you’ve experienced living in a new place, it’s easy to get addicted to the adrenaline, the stimulation, the novelty. I don’t think I have any other option but to keep traveling, even if its just a yearly vacation! Thanks for sharing your story with me, Joanne, and for your constant support. 🙂

  12. I really love this 🙂 I’m feeling much the same in the “where is my life going” respect; it’s so good to see what can be achieved when people set their mind to something and just keep at it like you have with your travels. Gorgeous photos and the sparkle in your eyes in every one of them is obviously a testament to how life changing the last few years have been for you. I hope your adventures continue 🙂

    • Thank you for these lovely words, Jess! To some extent, I think all of us feel that “where is my life going?” thing. I’m not sure it ever really goes away… and maybe that’s ok. If we embrace not being sure, we can focus on enjoying the process and the journey. Wishing you lots of adventures of your own!

  13. Wow you have done so incredibly much Meghan! While you may be settling down here it does by no means mean you won’t be a traveler still. I look at the last 20 years of my life and how much I’ve traveled and I’m amazed!!! So kept the spirits high and dream big! Seeing the world is a life long adventure that never ends!!!

      • Good to know! I will never ever stop traveling and if I add up the amount of travel I’ve done over the last 20 years it adds up to well over 3 years worth including living abroad twice! 🙂

  14. I don’t know what the future holds for you, but I hope that, whether abroad or at a desk in some office building, you’ll carry that spirit of adventure with you.
    It’s a flame and you have to work at not letting it get snuffed out.
    XOXO

  15. This is amazing! How did you find the courage to travel alone? Did you plan a lot in advance or just wing it? How much money did you start off with? I want to do the same thing. I know how great traveling is and how much it can teach you about yourself!

    • Hi Elizabeth! I always enjoyed traveling alone, because I met so many great people along the way. I rarely felt lonely, especially if I kept moving. At first, I did plan a lot (based around volunteer trips with Cross Cultural Solutions), but after I while I just kept going back to the places that made me happiest. I used my savings from working in banking for several years, then I ended up working full time abroad. It’s a struggle to keep everything balanced and budgeted, but my priorities are more focused on experiences than accumulating stuff, so I’m happy with my decisions.

  16. Auntie Kay

    Great post Meghan! Loved out you organized all your pictures, you can see the awesomeness of your travels 🙂

  17. lauxjordan92

    Question from a girl who really wants to do the same and just graduated from college. How did you afford all these travels? I work and work and work and my savings on seems to creep up! I love reading your blog 🙂

    • Hi lauxjordan! Great to hear that you are interested in traveling and possibly living abroad. It’s not an easy path to find (in fact, you might have to forge it yourself), but it’s worth it. I was lucky to start my career without any college loans, and in a very well-paying industry (finance). I traveled without working (except for some freelance writing) for the first year and a half, and for the past year, I worked in microfinance for a company called FINCA. So you’ll really have to find a combination of savings and working on the road. I am going to write a post soon about how people can find creative ways to fund their travels, so stay tuned! 🙂

  18. Really nice retrospective and lovely photos. My heart ached seeing some of them – we have a lot of travel destinations in common and I miss them! 🙂 Good luck with the job hunt. I’m doing the same. It can feel a bit sad to just stay in the US but I’m sure good things will come of that too, if that’s what happens. I just hope we both are able to keep traveling at the same time! Also, I do really hope you continue to blog even if you’re not traveling as much. I love seeing your updates!

    • Thanks, Leah. I had a little heart ache action as well. And I know what you mean about staying in the US… It’s not the most thrilling idea, but I’m already planning a few trips around the country to see what is still “foreign” to me in my homeland. And I will be taking full advantage of my vacation time! 😉 Thank you for reading, I will keep the updates coming!

  19. What wonderful memories! I’m now back in the corporate world after several large trips over the past few years. What I’ve realised is that for those of us who have a passion for travel, there’s always opportunities to explore new places sparadically alongside the ‘day job’. If all else fails, we will always have our ‘happy places’ to mentally escape to on a bad day at the office!! All the best for your future adventures 🙂

    • I agree, Rachel! I’ll always be looking for ways to go abroad again… And I can’t imagine not living abroad again for some passage of my life. And who knows, maybe this job search will send me someplace new. 🙂

      But yes, the happy memories are very important… the challenge is enjoying them without always comparing your current environment to those places. I don’t want to be like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, always living in the past.

  20. Wow! Great photos, and I’m sure great memories. I hope someday I can leave this corporate world and travel 🙂 Sometimes a return to normalcy is good, though; it helps us appreciate the special memories so much more.

  21. A few comments, if I may. 1) Will you stop blogging? I hope not (2) I quite understand the need to go back to the corporate world. I am in a similar situation, where I need to figure out if I stay with the path of my heart or, go back to the corporate world (3) I am sure you’ll be back to the path of your heart! (Keep travelling!

    • A few answers. 🙂 1) No, I will definitely keep blogging. I’ve got plenty of things to say, usually! 2) Yes, I thought about doing the whole ascetic monk or penniless nomad thing, but I think I enjoy buying new shoes too much. 3) I’m not done, that’s for sure. More adventures in store one day! Thank you Rajiv. 🙂

      • It’s good to hear that! I can quite understand the desire for new shoes! My desire extends to upgrading my camera gear, and so I wonder if if should return to the corporate world myself..

  22. writingnewstories

    Very inspiring! I hoped you don’t have to give up traveling. I am the other way around, I wish living the 8-5 work day, I wish I could travel full time. I am incorporating traveling more in my regular life but still is something that I can’t do full time anytime soon. I hope that if you have to go back to the regular work life still take time to keep traveling and inspire others like you are doing right now. Good luck and blessing to you!

  23. it looks like you’ve had an awesome experience over the last few years and your pictures are amazing! even if you go back to the corporate world there’s always room for travel and adventure 🙂

  24. Stunning shots – just added Georgia to my own ever-expanding itinerary. Nothing will ever take these epic adventures from your heart; good luck with the next chapter Meghan. I enjoy reading your posts.

    • Thank you, Ben. You’re right, these memories are secured firmly in my heart, and I will revisit them often. Enjoy Georgia… it’s a very special place, for better or worse. 😉

  25. Loved your retrospective – some wonderful pics. I’ve always enjoyed your blog, wherever you’ve been located, and wish you many more happy travels and adventures.

  26. You clearly have a talent for writing and photography, so whether you keep traveling around the world or you stay more local in the US, please continue sharing your writing and your pictures. I have really enjoyed your images and insights. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Niki

    What a beautiful compilation of photos and what a journey it clearly has been for you. While I find it hard to believe that you’ll manage to stay away from the joys of travel for too long, an occasional break does put a lot of things in perspective and helps us reboot, if you will, only to prepare for new adventures and experiences down the road. As mundane as a return to the corporate world might seem to you now, it may actually open up new doors… Keep your mind open to the possibility.

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