Would you take six months off?

05 November 2015

My friends Maayan and Sam, both 31, have just returned home to Canberra after spending six months overseas. They road tripped up the coast of Peru, went snorkelling off the Galapagos Islands and found excellent pizza in Bolivia. They made it to the States too, to spend time with family and visit Harry Potter World in Orlando.

Today the couple share how they did it, from packing up their house to putting work on hold, along with a really cute ritual that helped them plan their trip in 10 short weeks.

When did you decide that you wanted to take six months off and go travelling?

We decided in January while taking a long overdue holiday in Borneo. We'd forgotten just how important travelling is for us. The holiday in Borneo was over New Year’s and about 10 weeks later, we were on our flight to Santiago! 

I feel like travel is something I always hope to do - how did you guys make it happen?

We love travelling, probably more than most, so give us any excuse and we're there. But it was also the right time - we'd had a challenging couple of years and it was time to do something different and nourish the soul. It was a great decision. 

A few pragmatic questions - what did you do about work, your house and your pup Charli? 

I think it helps that we both travel a lot for work and we'd previously taken six months off to travel. Don't get me wrong - it's not easy to organise but it does help if you've done it before. In less than 10 weeks we had to - finish renovating our home, rent out our home, sort out work stuff (both of our companies were really supportive and allowed us to take a leave of absence), sort out budgets, buy flights, check health - the list went on! 

Most importantly, we had to make sure our boy (dog) Charli could stay at his grandparents house for six months! If you're looking for a checklist, we have many and we used these lists to keep track of how we were going. We called these lists our 'pizza lists' and whenever we got to the end of one, we'd celebrate with a pizza as a reward. Of course, it was also motivating to know that we had a six-month holiday waiting for us at the end of all the lists!

I'd love to know how you picked the places you were going to go - were they bucket list locations?

Not really. We knew we wanted to go to South America but when we first talked about it we really only knew of a handful of places we wanted to visit - Patagonia, Galapagos, Inca Trails. Lots of our friends had been and loved it. When we left in April, we had a ticket into Santiago and the first night's accommodation booked, as well as a ticket home six months later. What happened in between was planned on the run!

What were some of the highlights of the trip?

Can I list them in dot points??
  • Seeing something new around every corner, every day for six months!
  • Seeing my first glacier!
  • Trekking through amazing places in Patagonia, Bolivia, Peru… we'd never trekked before but we are already planning our next trek here in Australia!
  • Hanging with sea lions in the Galapagos
  • Contemplating the amazing feats of humanity atop of Machu Picchu
  • Learning Spanish (from a wonderful teacher who would teach us in a new place of interest in Buenos Aires each day that also served coffee of course)
  • Volunteering at an animal sanctuary in Bolivia caring for animals rescued from traffickers
  • Meeting wonderful people
  • The lists go on!!!  

You had a few hairy moments too! Can you share one that really stands out?

At Torres Del Paine in southern Chile we went on a five-day hike, carrying our own food, tent, etc. It was April, so right at the end of Autumn down there - already quite cold. The first few days we had pretty good weather but then we got a very wet and windy day. We had to walk along a few cliffs, and the wind was so gusty (>150km/h) that it blew May off her feet a couple of times, and Sam grabbed onto her bag whenever we stopped to tether her. 

We had to dash between stumpy trees to have something to hold onto when the big gusts came every 30 seconds or so. The lake we were walking past had little cyclones constantly forming on its surface, and pretty big surf crashing on the beach opposite us. Then it started bucketing down rain, blowing straight through our outer layers, and it was very cold. 

We didn't want to stop anywhere because we were worried about hypothermia. So we just walked through the rain, forded flooding rivers and trudged up muddy hills all day, from about 7am to about 5pm, when we finally arrived at a refugio close to where we planned to camp for the night. 

We found out there that the rain had flooded the river upstream and washed away the bridge to our campsite. At the refugio, we stripped all our wet clothes off (which was all of them), had a warm shower and put spare gear on, then tried to dry our shoes out by the fire. 

The guy who ran the refugio let anybody use the fire in the dining room if they bought a beer or something but you could only use the fireplace in the back room if you were staying the night. There were so many people (by that I mean 12) that we decided to just fork out the extortionate rate for a bed in a dorm so that we could dry our gear off without having to fight for an inch of fire space. The whole park was shut down the next day because the weather was so bad, and we were evacuated. We had to walk out in groups, surf the mud slides, and then finally, get bussed out.

I have the greatest memories of travelling to France when you guys were on a uni exchange, was it any different travelling in your thirties?

It wasn't that different, although we were a lot more prepared for medical emergencies! We were a bit smarter about picking accommodation and travel spots - Trip Advisor was a fantastic source of information for South America. 

Finally - what's it been like to be back? 

It's been nice to get back into the garden and our house, and to see all our friends - everyone's been wonderful! We also just bought some baby chicks and we love hearing them chirp away inside at night. But we do feel like our lives are a bit too small for us - travel made us dream of doing bigger, more complicated things. 

Thanks guys! Maayan and Sam blogged about their six month trip and it's packed with pictures, stories of things they saw and learnt, along with some really practical tips too - like how to best get to the Galapagos Islands.

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