The Married Road Less Travelled

My wife Erica and I moved abroad together last year after quitting our jobs in Atlanta. Eight months and six countries into our travels and we are still going strong.  We set up shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand and use it as our home base to travel to Cambodia, China, and Mexico, along with most of the other main cities in Thailand. We chose Chiang Mai because it is a low-cost hub for digital nomads and expats who want to live in SE Asia with reasonable comfort and affordability. Now we are on a popular backpacker trail that began in Laos and has taken us down the coast of Vietnam. We will finish out the rest of Southeast Asia in time to hit Europe in the spring. Needless to say this has been the trip of a lifetime and I couldn’t have done it without my wife by my side.

We’ve been traveling together for eight years. She’s been flying since she was 5 years old whereas I didn’t get on my first flight until my 19th birthday. With her. Needless to say, she has been consumed by wanderlust from a young age and it rubbed off on me not long after we began dating. Being married to a woman who travels can be difficult; the constant lifestyle and habit adjustments that come with frequent relocation add another dimension that’s not present in every relationship.  But it definitely isn’t impossible. I’ve survived this long though and this is how:

I make sure to find Wi-Fi.

Even in the most beautiful of countries, it’s possible for me to get on my wife’s nerves, and vice versa. To help prevent this, a strong Wi-Fi signal is crucial. Even though the phone plans here are ridiculously cheap, we’ve gotten by this far without needing a local SIM card. Surprisingly the availability and strength of the Wi-Fi network in Southeast Asia surpasses that of the States. There’s always a signal around when I need to talk to my family and friends or to check for travel deals. My wife always manages to find Wi-Fi when she needs to get elbow deep in social networks. So it works out for both of us.

I’ve realized every trip doesn’t have to top the one before.

My one year anniversary was spent in Paris, France. I knew once I booked that ticket that I would have a hard time impressing her on anniversaries every year after that. So I stopped trying. We’ve been to so many places that I’d have to book a cruise to Antarctica for her birthday just to keep the surprises coming. Nope. Instead of trying to book a crazy destination every time, I just book a regular one and make it memorable by creating a special experience  specific to each destination. Anything from climbing waterfalls in Laos, to visiting war museums in Vietnam.  Her travel bug is insatiable and our pockets are finite, so we’ve learned to mix it up.

Image: Coredelle Smith
Image: Coredelle Smith

We don’t let money determine our future travel plans.

There are many different ways to make a dollar stretch while traveling abroad; opting for the bus instead of a plane, sleeping in a hostel instead of a hotel, eating street food instead of at a restaurant, ordering beer instead of cocktails, etc. etc. We’ve got a firm handle on spending the minimum amount of money in a place but having the maximum amount of fun.  During our travels we’ve seen our accounts fluctuate wildly but that has never taken us off our vision to continue traveling.  Just two weeks in Laos set us back what we would have spent in Thailand in six weeks but we weren’t discouraged. We are confident that our hard work towards our goals of financial independence will continue to pay off so no matter what the account balance is, high or low, it doesn’t sway us too far in one direction or the other.

I still take her on date nights.

Back in Atlanta, we would make sure to take at least one night out a week to go on a date. I thought since we were moving abroad that every night would be date night and I could cease this tradition. Nah. She still wants to get dressed up and go out and all that stuff even though we are already in a beautiful environment. For her and now myself, it creates a familiar experience that we used to have back home. So when we are still getting used to a place, this tradition of ours makes the transition a little easier. This also makes for a great time to put the devices down and plan for our future endeavors, so it’s two-fold.

I stopped hovering.

When we first went abroad, I was skeptical of everything, so I didn’t trust the international community with my wife. I believed some of the misguided myths of the inherent dangers that awaited Americans in Asia.   Over time I’ve learned that people are inherently good and foreign countries aren’t always dangerous for women. So we agreed that she should get to explore the cities we visited by herself and I stopped insisting that I always be near to protect her in case of danger. We had become accustomed to being around each other all the time and venturing out alone was an adjustment for both of us. Having to come up with a whole day’s agenda without someone to bounce ideas off of was my biggest challenge. In turn though we’ve had some good times separately and that actually makes us closer. This exercise proved that even though we are traveling as a couple, we don’t have to be together all of the time. In fact, she has a lot in common with the coalition of single black women she has managed to find in Thailand.

I keep a different mindset.

Being abroad isn’t always the euphoric experience that others might make it out to be. Sometimes the unknown situations, immigration offices, foreign languages, and different ways of life that come along with infiltrating someone else’s country can be overwhelming. Some of the most important changes I’ve had to make to adapt to these challenges are being willing to talk to strangers,  keeping myself abreast of local immigration policies, and being open to changing circumstances that I have no control over. THE most important change though is that I learned how to  keep a positive attitude and an auspicious outlook on our endeavors no matter how much the present situation seems to support the contrary.   My wife can always lean on me for the confidence and support she needs in those instances. For my efforts, I have her to motivate me to continue to be the best version of myself, have someone to share these experiences with, and remind me that even dark-skinned guys need to wear sunscreen.

Csmith_Resort_Chiang Mai
Image: Coredelle Smith

Join Us!

A few minor adjustments to our existing relationship and we are making this living abroad thing happen successfully. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. I couldn’t see us doing anything else right now. Right now Erica is launching her online business which helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses online using PR and marketing, and I am focused on writing computer code so that we can continue our travels indefinitely. Some of you guys need to make those “I just want to get married and travel the world” tweets come true so we can have other couples to hang out with out here!

 

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