Halfway to our goal: How we travelled to 25 Countries in 18 months
after turning 50.
Updated, October 2019
This post was first published in June of 2017 upon returning to Canada after traveling to 25 countries in 18 months. We have since visited an additional 8 countries for a total of 33. We are planning for the next phase of our travels to begin in October 2019 in order to reach our goal.
A summary at the halfway point of our travel goal
If this is your first visit to our blog let us bring you up to speed. Feeling unsettled and unfulfilled as self employed, empty nesters, we decided to sell our home of 19 years and set ourselves a goal to travel to 50 countries in the span of 50 months to mark the milestone of turning 50. We gave notice to all of our clients, said good-bye to our two grown kids, our friends and the comforts of a place we knew so well. We reached the halfway point of our goal when we landed in Thailand in March of 2017. It was an important milestone for us as doubt had crept in from time to time about what we had done and where we were headed. It has been a whirlwind couple of years and not without unexpected twists and turns. This blog post will fill you in on our thoughts, reflections, and future plans as well as highlight 25 images from the first half of 5050 Travelog. Enjoy!
In this article:
Setting a travel goal and believing in it
What is up with the number and why count? When we first started out I had to work on my belief system. I would explain our goal but would often say self defeating things like; we will see what happens and not be specific. Hey, there is a 50/50 chance we will succeed. It was quirky, pie in the sky, just because we both were turning 50. A fun concept hatched over coffee at Starbucks to escape the day to day. We needed and wanted a change, a challenge, but I didn’t fully believe it was achievable. However, once we got on the road and the further we traveled, I began to feel a change in my desire and a shift in my belief in the goal. We were reconnecting with old friends and cherishing moments of new discovery. The travel experiences and impressions were refuelling my passions and filling my memory bank. How do you count the value of personal connections? It can be hard to quantify for oneself and others. We are not traveling for the sake of a number but at the same time it is a way to be accountable to our goal to challenge ourselves. It is also very rewarding to set milestones and reach them.
How to get started on a travel project
It was not easy to get 5050 Travelog off the ground. From the time the decision was made in the fall of 2014 until we were on our first flight to Hong Kong a year went by. If this is your first time reading our blog, a noteworthy post would be: Selling our House to Travel.
The worries and aggravations of the planning stages were quickly replaced with quiet anticipation followed by an adrenaline rush as the plane taxied down the runway and lifted off the tarmac in Vancouver on the last day of October 2015. For those who are mentally calculating 50 months forward, we have until January 2020 to visit the next 25 countries.
Staying with friends during travel
We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone we have stayed with during "Part One" of 5050 Travelog. There is no way we could have made this happen if we would have stayed in hotels or Airbnb style accommodation for the entire trip. After working at a ski resort for 15 years, we have friends from around the world who may or may not have regretted uttering the words… if you are ever in my country, make sure to visit. At the fear of missing anyone, we will refrain from listing names. You know who you are. If we haven't already connected since we returned to Canada, we sincerely hope to see you for a visit to our new home base in Vancouver.
Our travel mission statement
Our mission statement reads: The main goals for our travels are to experience the world as it is today, to photograph the many wonders, catch up with old friends and hopefully meet new friends along the way. So far I think we have succeeded. The most rewarding part has been reconnecting with old friends and family and spending unforgettable time with our grown kids. It has been a privilege to spend quality time together with those we hold dear. Not just for a few hours over a glass of wine but sometimes for days or even weeks.
Our daughter, Emma joined us in Paris in the spring of 2016 and spent three weeks with us on a trip taking us to Barcelona, up along the French Riviera, into Italy and back to Paris via Geneva. Emma also spent the past year in Copenhagen attending university so it became our favourite stopover location. Our son Mik and his partner Courtney joined us for a week in December for a traditional Danish Christmas.
The challenges of long term travel
We have seen amazing places and it has been rewarding, but not without challenges. The photo above from Marrakech reminds me of the health issues we encountered. We did not have a fixed address or a home for 18 months. By choice, we were constantly on the move. The longest we stayed in one place was about a month. There is no vaccine for the stress of travel; a series of highs and lows and constant chaos. The first task when arriving at a new place was to consider and plan our next move. How far in advance do you plan? At times it was difficult to simply enjoy and live in the moment, worried about where we would sleep in a few days. Our bodies and minds had to keep up with the pace and we did not always cope well. Lessons learned or so we thought. On the second phase of travel in the summer of 2018, we had a detailed plan with flights and accommodations booked so we could be in the moment. The best laid plans however are subject to the unexpected. On day twelve Di was admitted to hospital for a what turned out to be Ramsay Hunt Syndrome and a 7 night stay. Thank goodness for health insurance as we cancelled to all of those well laid plans. Now we try to maintain a balance to make sure the major details are in place and set aside planning time while traveling to confirm details and book a week or two out.
Which camera and lenses for long term travel
For the camera crowd out there I cannot have a summary without talking about my gear selection for travel. I have been a Canon shooter for the longest time but wanted a lighter system for travel. Canon makes excellent cameras/lenses and I would not hesitate to buy another one at some point should I feel the need. Having a lighter kit however has been crucial in feeling free and nimble. I sometimes miss the larger sensor and that certain look of the lenses I have enjoyed using in the past but Fujifilm has a great line up of pro cameras and lenses at lower cost and weight.
Camera and Lens Reviews at 5050 Travelog
We now have Camera and Lens Reviews in our blog.
Switching from Canon to Fujifilm for travel
For the first leg of the trip to Hong Kong 2015, I used my Canon gear. Over the Christmas holiday back in Canada I sold all my Canon gear including four lenses. For the next leg (United Arab Emirates, Prague, and France) I took a Fujifilm X-T1, which I traded in Paris after the X-Pro2 was released. The X-T1 was a nice camera but the X-Pro2 is better in many ways. It has 24 megapixels vs. 16 in the X-T1, it is faster, has better AF, more AF points, a joystick for selecting AF points and the fantastic Acros black and white film simulation. I have four Fujifilm prime lenses; XF 14mm f/2.8, XF 23mm f/1.4, XF 90mm f/2 WR. Last but not least the XF 35mm f/1.4, probably the lens I use the most. I had the XF 35mm f/2 WR for a while but traded it for the f/1.4 version. For a six-week stint in South East Asia, I traveled with only two lenses, the XF 14mm f/2.8, and XF 35mm f/1.4.
Taking a break from travel
Why do a summary at this point? It is as much for us, as for our readers, to take stock.
We have three main reasons for pressing 'pause', One; It became evident as time passed we were missing a base; a place to call home. We needed the place where you close the door and are yourself, where you practice self-care, where you relax 100 percent. We enjoy the company of friends and family but discovered we also cherish quiet alone time, just the two of us in familiar surroundings. We needed a base where we can recharge and prepare for new adventures. Second; we must replenish our bank account before deciding on our next travel move. Despite attempts at budgeting, funds disappear quickly on the road. If you are budgeting for long term travel remember to include tedious expenses like passport renewals, vaccines, travel insurance, international drivers license, luggage fees, airport transfers, parking, currency exchange fees, and storage fees if you decide to store your belongings while away. Third; we needed a break from taking a break. At times, we experienced an overload of new impressions. To fully appreciate the marvellous places in the world we have found we need more day to day to contrast with the beauty and bounty. We want to enjoy the ride and not be overwhelmed with quantity rather than quality. We will likely opt for shorter periods of travel while maintaining a base. Speaking of the term "break”, I believe many people assumed we had won the lottery and were on constant holiday. At times it has felt like a full-time job keeping track of all the details of life on the road. We can assure you the fancy drinks on endless beaches were few and far between, although we did have a very relaxing time in Thailand so please do not feel sorry for us. We choose this life. Part of our goal with this 5050 project is to embrace a lifestyle change we want to adapt; to experience more and own less.
Entering real life after travel
What is it like to re-enter real life? It has been challenging but we have also enjoyed the process. We arrived in Vancouver at the end of April and found an apartment in the West End available for June 1st. Our very good friends Dagny and Philippe came to our rescue and we formed a small commune in their home in Vernon for the month of May. It was super cozy and we are very thankful. We sorted our storage in 100 Mile House. We donated more stuff, moved the rest to Vernon and went through things one more time to downsize as much as possible. We had very little furniture to return to, so the good folks at Ikea were happy to see us. Practical and affordable.
Working towards and planning for more travel
We signed a one-year lease and are coming up on two and a half years in our cosy West End apartment. It really feels like home. I am again working in photography, web and graphic design, supplemented with a few shifts at Starbucks. Di secured a three-month full-time finance position, which evolved to consecutive long term contracts between our travels. Our plan is working out nicely so far and our long-term goal is to be able to travel for 2-3 months a year. Friends often ask; where to next? We know we will be going to New Zealand, ideally as our 50th country to bookend the adventure with our good friends the Duleys. We would like to do some island hopping in the South Pacific. Australia, Central, and South America along with Mexico and Caribbean are also on our radar. Although, as Emma is now living in Copenhagen at least until the summer of 2022, I will have a hard time keeping Di away from Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Lots to look forward to. We have now begun to focus on the business of owning a travel blog and are learning more and more. With our deadline fast approaching, we are in the beginning stages, offering our apartment for sublet and working on potential itineraries. Tentative departure - November 1, 2019. Stay tuned for updates. A total of twenty-five photos in the post... keep scrolling.
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Diana & Morten