In the spirit of 5-years together with this one spent at home, I wanted to share the many other places we have called home for the past 5 years.
Sophie and I first met in Melbourne, Australia as two solo travelers. A friendship was formed but with neither willing to give up their freedom of travel, life called us to different places. I went off to live in a van in New Zealand for 3 months while Sophie traveled Australia. As fate would have it, I flew back to Aus a few months later to finish my work/holiday visa in a city called Cairns where Sophie happened to be living. Shortly thereafter, we finally decided to give things a chance.
At the time, we were both staying in the public dorms of a hostel in Cairns. Within weeks, we would be living together as it was actually cheaper to do so then to continue renting a bunk bed. It must be the fastest two people have ever started living together, and the spaces would only get smaller.
My visa was expiring in Sep 2017 and the plan was to take what I had saved working at a camera store in Australia and travel to Indonesia nearby. As fate would have it, Sophie’s visa also expired in Sep 2017 and she too planned on going to Indo next. Things were going well, so we kept it going and rented a very small place in Bali.
In Bali, it was tiny cabanas and scooters. Things were still working out when those visas expired so she asked if I had any interest in seeing England. We stopped by Singapore for some time, then went back for my first time in the UK. From there, I was ready to go home for a bit to find out what was next; Sophie’s family didn’t do much for Christmas so the two of us went back to Oregon for the holidays – her first time on the West Coast of the US.
Within months of dating, we were accidentally living together and meeting families, yet we still barely acknowledged our status of boyfriend and girlfriend… old habits die hard.
At the border to enter the US, Sophie was required to purchase an exit ticket. We knew this might happen and also knew they would not accept a ticket to Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean. We decided that if they made her buy a ticket somewhere, she would buy two tickets to Iceland for Feb 2018.
Just like that, our space got smaller. We lived in a small camper for 30 days in the middle of a brutal Iceland winter, living off of dry pasta and hot dogs.
Just before leaving for the trip, we got an invitation from a start-up company willing to provide us with an apartment for a month in Valencia, Spain in exchange for social media exposure and photos. We flew from Iceland to Spain but by then, the money was gone. I went to Taiwan to teach english online, an opportunity I had been made aware of and was debating for some time, while Sophie took advantage of a paid opportunity to go to New Zealand and Australia.
We decided we would go separate ways for one month and then decide who was in the better situation. The short answer is that Taiwan did not work out as promised and Sophie had made an incredible friend who offered us a cheap room on the South Island of New Zealand. We lived in Timaru for 3 months and fell in love with New Zealand all over again, but had to leave when the visas expired once more.
We flew home to Oregon for Christmas once more and once again had to figure out an exit ticket. We found cheap flights to Australia but realized we could actually save money by first flying to Hawaii… then we realized how cheap flights were between the islands. So, on New Years Eve, we landed on the Big Island to welcome 2019. The next 6 weeks we spent exploring all of the major Hawaiian Islands on less money than anyone has ever spent in Hawaii, staying with friends, living out of vans, or Couchsurfing on an exchange basis and eating mostly at Wal-Mart.
From Australia, it was off to SE Asia where we lived in Thailand for what we hoped would be our new home, but it turns out we couldn’t even afford to live there. Before leaving, we worked out a deal with AirAsia and were able to explore Laos and Cambodia, then flew back to our respective homes in summer 2019.
At this point, we knew things couldn’t continue how they were going, but we had no idea what that meant in the long run. For now, it meant me going home to get a job where I could legally work.
Before starting the job hunt, mom and I went for a 2 week road trip up to Vancouver Island through Washington – one last chance to get some great photos and see about making a livelihood out of this photography thing… but income was scarce and inconsistent. Sophie had already secured a temporary nannying job in the UK, having had a Skype interview while we were in Thailand so she was straight to work back home.
After a few months, I flew back to the UK and we stayed with Sophie’s family there. We explored Scotland, Wales, and England’s countryside while we were there, again exchanging work for camper van rentals.
However, we were soon out of money once again and knew we had better figure some things out.
Then, the unthinkable. Sophie applied for a Visitor Visa for the USA rather than the standard ESTA (visa waiver) she had traveled on previously so that we would not have to book an exit ticket this time and so she could stay for 6 months instead of 3 while we saved up money and figured things out. She was denied that visa because her ties to the UK were no longer strong enough due to years of travel and they considered her too high a risk of staying illegally. Suddenly, her visa waiver and all means of traveling to the US were taken away and so began years of battle.
In 2020, Covid happened. But also, Nowise Comet happened. Suddenly, I was furloughed from my job working graveyard shifts as the night auditor of a hotel and broke out of a depression thanks to that one little celestial miracle hanging out in Earth’s orbit for a month. Suddenly, my work was being seen everywhere and things were changing… then, we won the Michelob contest… then we joined a class action to get Sophie her visa. All the while, putting in endless hours and energy into getting our travel blog going.
Finally, 5 years later, after scraping pennies and nickels and co-existing in spaces smaller than some people’s closets, we were sipping craft beer with take-out Thai food in the dining room of our own little home without wheels. Is it any wonder that is the only place on this Earth we wanted to be?