You asked, we answer — 2nd Edition

Why did you decide to leave? I’d like to understand what you guys expected to find on this trip that you couldn’t find at home.

Miguel:

I would say the reason came from a mix between our passion for travel and our desire to live abroad, which both of us felt for years. And something else we have in common is that we both take great joy in exploring new and unknown places, in witnessing the way people from different cultures and backgrounds do the same things, and in comparing the new with what to us is already just normal.

So because of that I think the decision came quite naturally, to pack and leave in a long and slow wandering that allows us to experience a different way of travelling — deeper in every way and far less limited when compared to the usual two to three weeks of touch-and-go tourism — and which also lets us explore other ways of living, be it the life on the move we adopted since leaving Portugal, or the different lifestyles of people we meet on the road (both locals and fellow travellers).

By the way, to those who asked me if I was running from anything, or if I had enough of Portugal..
#1 – Nope, it was definitely not a question of leaving a place where I didn’t feel okay (I was doing pretty well, I’m happy to say), but more of a yearning for new experiences and a chance to go a bit beyond where I was then.
#2 – Please someone explain to me how can anyone have enough of a country where every semi-respectable restaurant has Bacalhau à Brás or Alheira com Ovo a Cavalo on the menu?

Mariana:

Since a young age I had a huge curiosity about life abroad, I really wanted to experience other places and to live surrounded by other cultures. Short trips were exciting/rewarding. But not enough. I wanted to be able to emerge myself in the culture and to me it didn’t feel doable on such a time constraint.

For a long time, the way I envisioned it was moving to a different country and live there for a couple of years. And the idea of slow traveling came from my inability to pick a single country.

Why didn’t I do it before? A combination between laziness, disorganization, not thinking I had it in me and being too comfortable and happy with my life in Portugal. This mix prevented me from joining the erasmus exchange program, apply for international internships or doing a serious abroad job search.

Why did you choose to travel to that part of the world, and not other?

Miguel + Mariana:

Those who know us are probably well aware of how much we like Japan, and though it’d be kind of a stupidly “blankety” statement to say that we “love all of Asia”, we do feel pretty strongly about far east culture.

Adding to that, when we made the decision to travel long-term, in the beginning of 2016, we still had our recent trip to Vietnam, Siem Reap (Cambodia) and Bangkok quite fresh in our memories.
So, we already knew that was a region we liked for its nature, climate and food, while also being a part of the world were we felt safe. We also knew the relatively low cost of living (comparing to Portugal) would allow us to stretch our budget in a way that would never be possible in other similarly alluring destinations (such as South Korea or Japan, for example).
Other factors such as relatively easily obtainable visas and good health care infrastructures acted as added boosts, making deciding for Southeast Asia even easier.

How did your families react when you broke the news to them?

Miguel:

Well.. let’s just say their reaction wasn’t exactly to grab for the fireworks..
I am very well aware of the opportunities on the seller side in today’s real estate market, but strangely enough I saw no happy faces when I said I’d be vacating my room.

To be honest, my family reacted with the expected sadness of one who sees a son/brother/cousin/nephew who is most dear to them leaving with no plans of coming back, plus the uneasiness of someone who doesn’t know exactly what might happen in the other end of the world.

There’s a lot to be said about the way in which most media outlets depict a world where the borders of our countries and continents hide boogeymen waiting to kidnap or otherwise harm us instead of smiling local folks eager to invite us into their homes and treating us to their typical foods (without secretly plotting to eat us afterwards).
But still, and even with the shortened distances of nowadays’ world, who can blame a mother for wanting to share some delicious grilled fish with her son, every Saturday? Or a father whose only wish is to get his butt kicked by his little boy at table tennis, every weekend in the Summer? (eheh.. butt-kicking might happen the other way around)

Mariana:

Sister: “I wanna go, too!”

Mother: “Actually, I always wondered how come you haven’t left the country yet.”

Father: “You leave me so worried..”

Cousins: “But you’ll be back home for Christmas, right?”

Do you keep using the same brands of shampoo, toothpaste and tampons? Or the ones you used back at home aren’t globalized so you had to go for local products?

Miguel:

That’s a good question!.. I guess.
One of the things that we kind of suspected but which ended up becoming very clear after the first few weeks was this: people on the other end of the world have kind of the same basic needs! 😮 I know, it’s shocking.
However, that being said, in Vietnam it’s not that easy to find that shampoo with Cristiano Ronaldo’s face on the bottle, so my consumption patterns had to suffer some minor adjustments.

Mariana:

This is how I go about it: having more than one option, I go for the cheapest one, as long as it looks trustworthy (trustworthiness is inferred based on color, typography and graphic elements present on the packaging, since usually we can’t really tell what’s written on it).

If there is only one option: that option it is.

Has anything made you feel like coming back home?

Miguel:

Sometimes while chatting or doing video calls with someone back home, the whole thing just backfires and I end up missing them even more and wanting to be at home just for a few minutes.
This counter effect happens especially when said video calls include my family’s most recent members, since a major part of my generation only now has started to spread its seed of love, which means that at this exact moment there’s a whole series of new mini-people blossoming in Lisbon and Sesimbra, Portugal x) (New AWESOME mini-people, I might add.)

So that means the holiday season becomes once again an even more special time back home, which is why last Christmas was definitely the occasion in which I most wished I could just close my eyes and be back there again with my loved ones. That’s also the reason why we’ll be going back to Portugal next month, well in time for Christmas 2017 🙂

Mariana:

There are moments when I feel sorry for not being there, but I don’t think it has reached the point of making me wish I was back home.

However, we decided we wouldn’t want to spend Christmas twice in a row away from Portugal. So we’re coming back next month.

And I feel extremely guilty about leaving my cat. He possibly (probably) believes he was abandoned. And that breaks my heart over and over again.

How’s it been, to travel as a couple?

Miguel:

I’d say it has been surprisingly easy, but the truth is: it’s not that surprising.
I’ll explain what I mean: since we’ve been together (something like.. 6, 7, 8… yes, 8 years. Wait a minute, hold the phone… WHAT! EIGHT YEARS!? MARIANA, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN PUTTING IN MY FOOD ALL THIS TIME?!), and having spent a lot of that time living in the same house, I think it can be said we have quite a positive track record as a couple, regarding tensions and jealousy and other kinds of crap every couple has to deal with in the course of its lifetime.
And I think that happens because of our relaxed and balanced approach to what is the time and space of one another. Oh, and I guess you could say both of us are pretty patient people, which is indeed a valuable virtue to have (and I’m not being sarcastic at all — patience rocks!! (hm.. and now I need to go and listen to Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience”.. oh well))

Well, by the looks of it, the new and different circumstances of having been travelling for over a year and moving from place to place every two or three weeks (even spending almost 24/7 together) didn’t seem to have much of an impact on our dynamics. Which means at least so far, things have been going about as smoothly as when we were back in Lisbon. So, pretty chill.

Of course, we also benefit from the fact that we share some interests (or at least have interests with enough overlap to put up with whatever nonsensical taste the other one might have *cough* *cough* mechanical pencils fetish *cough*).
This includes having similar expectations about what we want from this trip and what kind of experiences or places we want to have or visit.

Mostly, I believe what’s important in a relationship back home is also important while travelling. And in my opinion the most important is respecting each other’s space, staying flexible and knowing how to compromise.
And of course, having “a little patience” 😀

Mariana:

Honestly, easier than I expected. We’ve lived together for quite some years now and we had traveled together many times. But the time we spend together on this trip took our coexistence to a different level altogether. There are some weeks when we literally spend 24/7 with each other.

It’s been so natural and easy that I can’t even think of anything more to add.. -.-‘

Arguments, close to none. Sulking and pouting, occasionally. Crapy disposition, very few and far between.

What was most difficult moment you’ve lived on your trip so far?

Miguel:

Difficult moments…
Actually, I’m pleased to say that, after almost a year on the road and tens of locations in over 5 different countries, I cannot remember any particularly complicated times.

I mean, there was this one time in Thailand when, some hours after arriving in Surat Thani on a bus from Phuket, we noticed that, during that trip, someone had forced open my suitcase… (probably someone from the bus staff, getting into the luggage compartment through a “secret hatch”. Shit you not.) Fortunately, I never noticed anything missing , so all that story ended up giving us was a good scare and a negative balance of 10 Malaysian Ringgit (2€) I paid an awesome grandpa in Georgetown to fix my suitcase’s busted zipper.

And sure, getting on top of a scooter in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City’s motorcycle-flooded streets enough times is bound to take away some years from your life on stress alone, but thankfully nothing happened (though we still sometimes agonize over the many kilometres most of our Vietnamese friends ride every day in those city streets…).

Mariana:

The first few months were very unstable ones for me. Before we left, I didn’t have a very clear idea of how our “new life” would be.
On a trip with a definitive return date we know we must make the most of it. But this time I didn’t see it as much as a trip, but more like a whole new life.
This made me compare obsessively my life back home with my new reality.

I enjoyed my life in Lisbon. I liked the place I lived in, my work and how and who I would spend my time with.
I adore my cat.
None of those were things I wanted to let go of. To run away from.

In the beginning of the trip I would compare every single moment. The new place I was living in. The food. Even the tiniest of interactions with what surrounded me.
Constantly on the lookout for something that would confirm it had been worth it.
My emotions were like a rollercoaster. From excitement to depression several times a day.

Did the decision to leave and travel the world just come to you on a bright flash where everything suddenly “clicked”, or was it something that slowly came to the surface over the course of time?

When are you coming back?? Are you already considering it, or you’re having such a great time that it’s not even on your future plans?

Miguel:

It’s in our plans alright! It’s so much in our plans that it’s already on paper as well.
Well.. internet paper, but you get my point.

In fact, we have booked flights to Lisboa for the beginning of next month, with stopovers in Oslo (to freeze our asses off a bit) and in Brussels (to freeze our asses off a little bit less. You’re aware of how little clothes we’re carrying right now, right?).

As much as we’re loving this trip, and as much as we want to see this go on as long as possible, it would be very hard for us to spend two holiday seasons in a row away from home and from all our loved ones (also, Christmas pastries and sweets!).

Let’s wait and see what happens next year… for now, we’re quite happy looking at what’s ahead of us.

Mariana:

We’ll be back next month and staying for Christmas. We just can’t promise we’ll be around for long. No concrete plans yet but thinking of heading east (or south, in Miguel’s case) in January/February.

(accepting pals for a road trip)

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