On my final flight I was struggling to stay awake after 24 hours in transit. I wouldn’t allow myself to fall asleep though — I was minutes away from coming home! As we began to descend over the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, an older man sitting across the aisle saw me trying to peek out his window.

I was so excited by what I saw that he told me I must not be from Utah. I explained that I actually was, but that I hadn’t been home for an entire year. He mumbled how he was from Utah too, but he wasn’t excited to be back. If only he’d known what I’d been up to in the past 365 days then maybe he might have understood.

Travel, Spanish Fork, Spanish Fork Canyon, Wasatch Mountains, returning home, Utah, coming home

The view on our last flight coming home.

The day Mark and I packed our bags for the last time in Cusco, Peru, I felt elated and exhausted. I was tired of traveling and wanted to go home, and felt guilty thinking that way as if I didn’t appreciate our trip. Why would a person ever want to come home and stop living the dream of travel? Why not keep going if it was an option?

Truthfully, being on the road for an entire year straight was hard for us. The long flights, constant culture shock and uncertainty of what we ordered from menus got old. Being each other’s only company for days on end was too much sometimes and we’d lose our tempers, lose our patience and lose sight of why were were out there.

travel, Fort Lauderdale International Airport, Miami, returning home, coming home,

Arriving back in the United States after one year abroad!

I learned that traveling wasn’t idyllic all the time. Bad days happened, but with it came a plethora of amazing days: Exploring temple ruins in Cambodia, eating pistachio rolls in Paris, praying with the Pope in Rome, visiting Lenin in Moscow, walking the Great Wall of China, hiking Torres del Paine in Chile, running to the Sydney Opera House, watching cholitas fight in Bolivia, riding the legendary Trans-Siberian, hearing the call to prayer in Istanbul, trekking to Annapurna Base Camp, enjoying sunset in the Greek Islands, swimming in the lakes of Finland….

Europe, Travel, travel photography, Canon 5D Mark III, Photography, Santorini, Oia, Sunset, Greece, Perissa, Fira, Thera, Ancient Thera, Red Bull Art of Motion, Art of Motion,

One of the top destinations on my list was Santorini, Greece.

The list goes on and on and I couldn’t have asked for better experiences in our trip. Again and again I was reminded of how lucky we were to be healthy and able to do these things and see so much of the world. Regardless of any complaints or discomforts, it was my dream trip.

Now home, I’ve noticed I don’t have the same apathetic attitude I used to have toward many things. Gone are the feelings of angst when I would think things like, “I haven’t done anything with my life,” or, “I’ve never been to Paris or Rome.” Daydreaming of a different life is now a thing of the past. The trip cured me from this mental roadblock that was keeping me from living an engaged life at home. I’m now more open, more interested in people and life around me. And most importantly, I’m more accepting of myself.

I also was able to reconnect with my dad in Vietnam this past year, which was something I don’t think would’ve happened if I had stayed at home working. While I was abroad, I also reconnected with my youngest sister online that I hadn’t talked to in years. Along with knocking out my travel to-do list, I realized that reconnecting with my family was the most important factor in removing that something-is-missing feeling in my life. Besides allowing me to travel more, quitting my job opened the time for me to reconnect with my family members.

A quick picture by some fellow tourists as we floated along on Lake Titicaca in Peru.

On one of our final tours of the trip on Lake Titicaca in Peru.

I have never felt so content as I do now. I’m more complete as a person and I feel like I finally did something worthwhile. I’m more understanding of the people of the world and how we’re all alike in our basic needs of food, water, shelter, money and love. Understanding others of different backgrounds also helped me better understand myself.

After exploring different religious ideas and cultural customs around the world, I’ve learned to embrace it all — who’s to say one way of living is right and the other wrong? One person may quietly spin a wheel filled with prayer scrolls and whisper a mantra, while elsewhere in the world someone prostrates themselves five times a day as the call to prayer echoes from a mosque. I think they’re all beautiful ways of worship.

New Job in Utah

I work for Zions Bank in this tall tower overlooking Salt Lake City.

Grateful for many lessons learned during our time away, Mark and I were happy when the time came to come home. We arrived at the Salt Lake International Airport on May 25, which marked our 365th day of traveling and officially wrapped up “One World One Year.” Now that we’ve been home for two months we’ve caught up with family and friends, attended birthday parties and wedding receptions and adjusted to normal life. I started a new public relations job at Zions Bank a month ago while Mark started a new marketing copywriting job in downtown Salt Lake.

We’re living my new dream of having a cute apartment in downtown Salt Lake City from which I walk three blocks to work — the best commute ever — where I share a dream office in a tall tower overlooking the city. It’s funny how the definition of my “dream” has changed. Maybe my outlook on life is just better now after traveling. Also, everything I need is within walking distance: library, grocery store, TRAX light rail, trails, parks and restaurants. Walking everywhere was a huge part of our lifestyle while traveling, so I’m happy we’re able to continue to carry that on into our everyday life back home.

I’m done with traveling for now, but I’m grateful that so many things at home trigger memories of our journey. We live next to a gorgeous Catholic cathedral and when the bells ring it takes me back to Europe. Down the street is a small Indian/Nepali market that takes me back to Kathmandu. The local waffles at the restaurant Bruges a few blocks away takes me back to Belgium. Exploring our new neighborhood also makes me feel like I’m still somewhat a tourist, but this time with a job and a comfortable place to call home.

Home in Utah

The rooftop at our apartment in Salt Lake City, Utah.

So was it all worth it, to give up working for a year to travel? Yes! For me, it was exactly what I needed and I wouldn’t change a single thing. It all fell into place so easily when we came home that it seems like it was meant to be. My wallet may be empty, but my heart is full. Without a doubt my life is better now than it was a year ago. No regrets whatsoever.

See how this crazy travel dream all started. 

11 Responses

  1. Kathy Anderson

    Welcome home and safe! Yeah it was a blessing of coming home with rich experiences you and your hubby had! Steve and I enjoyed reading and looking some of your trips. I can’t believe already one year trip. Enjoying your next chapter. Take care Hugs from us

    Reply
    • Britnee Johnston

      Thanks Kathy and Steve! It’s been great being home. I can’t believe it’s over either, but I still have a bit of wanderlust left in me. So I’m sure adventures will come again later…and maybe a visit to California to see you guys. :)

      Reply
  2. Davina

    Thank you for this. All of this. Your story is absolutely amazing and has inspired me in a way like no other. Traveling for a year may not be in my cards right now, but I sent this to my boyfriend that in hopes, one day, we may be able to do the same.

    Reply
    • Britnee Johnston

      Thanks Davina! It’s crazy to think that for most of my life I didn’t think traveling overseas would ever happen for me. I learned that if it’s something you really want, and you make it a priority, you can make it happen! Hope to see you and your boyfriend out on the road someday! Any kind of travel, regardless of how long or how far, will always be an adventure.
      Britnee Johnston recently posted…HOW MUCH IT COST US TO TRAVEL THE WORLDMy Profile

      Reply
  3. Sean

    I’m so glad I came across your story. I’ve always wanted to travel. Reading all of this really inspired me to do something along these lines. I’m glad you had a safe trip, and I’m glad you had an amazing time!

    Reply
  4. David

    Great story and thanks for sharing. I loved reading your journey across the world. Hopefully I get to partake in this excursion sometime in the near future.

    Reply
  5. Sam @ Financial Samurai

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and feedback after traveling around the world for one year! I grew up in a foreign service household and lived overseas for 14 years before coming to the states and I absolutely understand what you mean by being more understanding and accepting of other cultures. Who is really to say that our way is the better way right?

    I think the biggest fear people have of traveling around the world is running out of money and not having a job and they get back. It is pretty amazing that you both got jobs as soon as he got home. Did you guys plan for this? Or did you guys start looking once you landed in Utah? I’ve been thinking about going back to work for the past year now. I left my full-time job into thousand and 12 to work on my side full-time and also travel. But I’ve got about 90% of my travel book out of me and now I think just traveling to four weeks a year is good enough now that can be done if you have a day job.

    Have you guys ever thought about starting an Internet-based company so you can probably travel and be untethered from the office?

    Sam
    Sam @ Financial Samurai recently posted…Financial Samurai 2015 Goals In ReviewMy Profile

    Reply
    • Britnee Johnston

      Yeah, we got really lucky with getting jobs when we came back. We started looking about two months before returning home. I had a job interview the day after we flew back home and was offered the job three days later. Mark was able to transition into marketing and found a job at a company in Salt Lake City as well. It was a combination of luck and good timing. We’ve enjoyed being back at work and having a regular schedule, as well as being able to socialize with coworkers and feel like we’re part of a community again. That doesn’t mean we miss travel though! We thought about working remotely if we ever had jobs that’d allow that, but we don’t have any plans for that right now.

      Reply

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