We hope you are having a wonderful, warm, safe holiday season. We don't usually get into the year-in-review letter writing business (though we always enjoy yours immensely!). But given the nature of our past twelve months, we thought we'd make an exception this time...
WOW! It's been quite a year!
You may know that after weathering another Pacific Northwest winter, we left corporate life and Portland behind to see this great big world. We do plan to return someday and get jobs of the yet-to-be-determined variety, but here's how life has changed for us over the past eight months...
Our office became Patrick's Subaru, then Jen's parents' basement, and then a new hostel every 3 days or local homestay every few weeks. Our daily view of Mt Hood and the Willamette River was replaced with scenic vistas of mountains, prairies, oceans, and everything in between. Our mouse-clicking muscles went flabby; our constant computer-related shoulder pains and headaches were swapped for backaches from actual manual labor and 12 hour bus rides. Deliverables that were once fairly intangible became guarantees for food and lodging - slightly more concrete.
Our brain cells stopped figuring out complicated Excel formulas and ambitious project plans, and focused instead on learning "please", "thank you", "hello", "goodbye", and "potato" in six languages (seven if you count Canadian, eh?). Synapses once used for client management turned to processing more European history over the past 90 days than in all of our years of public education combined. Budget reports became... well, budget reports.
Cubicles, meetings, and eternal printer paper jams were replaced by 10,000 miles of a "check engine" light, a bazillion mosquito bites and rose thorn pricks, kilos of manure, several overnight airplane/bus/train rides, dozens of meals cooked in flaky teflon pots, numerous sleep-deprived nights in snore-filled hostel dorms, and a few close encounters with bears.
Instead of Voodoo doughnuts for breakfast, Stumptown coffee breaks at Floyd's, and leftover Hot Lips pizza for lunch we enjoyed poutine and beaver paws in Ottawa, lobster rolls in Maine, cheesesteaks in Philly, pierogies in Warsaw, beer in Prague, plum jam in Nemcicky, stinky cheese in Olomouc, goulash in Budapest, moonshine wine in Lisa, Turkish delight in Istanbul, pide in Goreme, and kebaps in Fetiye. And a million farm fresh eggs.
Our upper management over the last eight months included countless sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats, horses, farm dogs, farm cats, and farm kids. Our annual reviews were generally positive and included the following results:
- Patrick exceeded expectations in fencemending, goat whispering, road/streetmap reading and panoramic photography. Areas to work on include horse wrangling, price checking in the local dialect, and drinking less caffeine after noon.
- Jen exceeded expectations in plum picking, manure clearing, campfire/hostel cooking and event summarizing. She was below average in goat milking but excelled in goat cheese eating. Areas to work on include wood chopping, regular yoga practice on the road, and not bringing up goats in every single conversation.
We miss our friends in cubeland and Portland, but we've made great new friends along our way. We've found that just like office life, communication while traveling can be challenging but a smile goes a long way and if you are nice to people, they will usually be nice right back to you.
We haven't escaped the scope-budget-schedule triad by any means. End of year numbers show that we are a quarter through our overall itinerary, a quarter through our trip funds, and a projected two months late (and counting) getting to SE Asia. In the travel version of project management, that's actually a great thing!
We have appreciated your support throughout our journey. We are so grateful for all the opportunities we've been given so far, and we look forward to what 2014 will bring. Wishing you and yours a wonderful new year!
Patrick and Jen
c/o Slowly Global