The Ebb and Flow

We’ve been offline for a while. Did you miss us?

These past few months have been surreal, and they’ll perhaps go down as the highlight of all our travels.

We spent a week in April motorbiking from town to town across northern Thailand. We took cooking classes in Chiang Mai and Penang. We explored the bustling urban centers of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. We enjoyed visits from our families and kicked back on the beaches of the Andaman Sea. We learned to scuba dive (!) and found ourselves face-to-face with a massive whale shark one morning – a moment I will absolutely never forget.

Thai sunset

Thai sunset

We trekked sixty kilometers through primitive hillside villages in the Shan State of Myanmar, stopping in locals’ homes for tea and bathing with ice cold rain water scooped out of earthenware pots. We spent days riding a junky little electric bike on dirt roads around the ancient temples of Bagan. And today, I’m relaxing on the patio of our hotel room in northern Laos, listening to the birds and watching skinny river boats glide down the Ou River.

Shan State, Myanmar

Shan State, Myanmar

One of the greatest joys of this “semi-retired” lifestyle has been our lack of routine. Unconstrained by a fixed schedule, we’re experiencing the ebb and flow of life.

Some days, we’re out and about from sunrise till sunset, logging 35,000 steps and working our way from attraction to attraction. Other days, we lounge in our hotel room, hardly going anywhere except perhaps across the street for dinner.

Some weeks, we’re learning as much as we can about a place, or a culture, or a people – devouring Wikipedia articles and racking up museum visits. Other weeks, we’ve been content to just explore leisurely on foot or claim a regular spot on the beach.

Some months, I’ve been active online and reading all my favorite blogs for hours each morning. Other months, like these past two, I’ve hardly wanted to open my laptop. It’s been a while since I read anything about personal finance. But I’ve read more books in the past six weeks than I had in the past six years. (I wish that were an exaggeration!)

KL car wash

KL car wash

It’s been sixteen months now since my last day of work, and I’m finally starting to feel like balance has been restored. After spending most of my twenties working non-stop, I needed this break desperately. I needed some adventure in my life. I don’t know how people pull it off for decades with only an occasional two-week holiday.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve found myself missing home. It’s the first time I’ve felt that way since our maiden voyage in the van last March. It’s definitely not homesickness (we’re still loving traveling and intend to continue through at least early 2018). More like a rekindling of good vibes for our city and a yearning for the things we love about home. It feels great to be excited about returning someday. I’m thankful that we miss our friends and family. We’ll build adventure into our lives for decades to come – I have no doubt about that – but our feeling lately is that the permanent vagabond life is probably not in our future.

I’ve become less stressed about money with every passing month. I don’t think it’s because the market is doing well, though that certainly doesn’t hurt. Perhaps it’s increased comfort with a lack of steady income. I’ve quit checking the market every day, or even every week. I’ve quit obsessing over financial spreadsheets. And I’ve grown less concerned about the exact price of every hotel and tourist attraction (though, admittedly, that’s easy to do in extremely affordable Southeast Asia).

Another reason might be that I’m feeling more certain than ever that my future will include work, in some form or another. I’ll be discerning about the form in which it re-enters my life and the constraints it puts on my free time, of course. I don’t plan on taking a life-consuming job ever again. But I expect that I’ll want some element of it back in my life. Imagine that: wanting to work. What a feeling.

Not once have I doubted that taking this leap was the right decision. It continues to open my eyes to what I value. It’s given me a chance to de-stress and relax. It’s fulfilled my cravings for adventure and a break in the routine. And even if we had to fly home tomorrow and go back to office jobs for decades, I’d be thankful for this experience for a lifetime.

More photos and travelogue soon.


  1. So happy to see a new post and hear that things are going well! I love not only the amazing adventures you’ve been able to have, but also the incredible insight you’ve gained along the way. Thanks for sharing this with us 🙂

  2. I have missed you! I wish we could grab a cup of tea and chat more about all of this. Finding the other sude of long term burnout, finally finding balance, not thinking about money so much, thinking about that meaningful work that fits the rest of our lives. I’m 100% there right now.

  3. You have been missed! It’s great to hear that you’ve been spending this time so well, and that we’ll see you back in this space later on.

    I’ve spent years recovering, while still working, from that kind of burnout and it’s definitely influenced how I think about work as it fits into our lives, rather than how my life fits around work. And perhaps a long sabbatical like yours will be fitting to cap that transition for us, someday, as well.

  4. I’m with you… I have made serious reductions in my screen time. Like you, I also don’t want to think about finances all the time. This post was very much what I needed to read. 🙂

  5. Happy to see a new post.

    I ;ike that you write that you might want to work again.

    In our revised plan, there might be work till we actually fully stop at an old age. Why? To have the adventure now, not later.

    (I really like the KL carwash picture)

  6. Great post, Matt! And so happy for you and your partner. Sounds like you’ve found peace. Priceless.

  7. It’s so great to hear how much you’re enjoying the present while also looking forward to the future. That’s a balance I definitely haven’t achieved.

  8. I’m feeling ready to go back to work much sooner than I ever anticipated I would, but simultaneously, I’m also not finding too many job listings that interest me. I don’t really like this feeling. I don’t want to spend because I don’t know when more $$ will be coming in, but I don’t want to take a crap job just so that I can feel more free to spend money. I think if I were to embark on another extended absence, I would wait until I have enough that more $$ has no impact on my lifestyle.

  9. Good to hear from you! I’m loving your pictures – and glad to hear life is providing you with adventures (and freedom from consumer stress)! Looking forward to more gorgeous scenery!

  10. Amazing journey and beautiful pictures! I recently discovered your blog and very inspiring. SE Asian is a magical place.How long do you plan to be in SE Asian? When are you guys coming back to the states?

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