From 1998 to 2013 – I was pretty well on the road. From 1998 to 2001 I was exploring the USA from North Carolina to Florida to California to Alaska and loosely based in Seattle and Bellingham – with brief periods of stable employment (which wasn’t so stable actually and hence, brief.) There were a few adventurous trips to Canada, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom and domestically – but for the most part – I was exploring without fear by thumb, vehicle, and whatever means I could find – I lived in vehicles for extended periods, had rough permanent camps in the forest, and dreamed of jumping to Asia, the Middle East, South America, and Europe.
In 2001, I made that jump – first backpacking and roughing it through China and Southeast Asia and then after the devastating events and effects of September 11th, 2001 – I made the leap to Hawaii – without a doubt, my best move ever. I lived in Hawaii longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere – and while there took the time to explore the islands, take an extended trip to the Philippines, and thanks to the generosity of my partner at the time, to see a bit of the South Pacific around Tahiti. I also began to feel like I wanted more from life and followed the rather overesteemed course of earning a degree from the University of Hawaii – and in the process borrowing around $28,000 U.S. dollars. About the time I graduated in 2008, the economy crashed and burned – the destinations I had really wanted to go – Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, the Punjab, Iraq – they were mired in war and terrorism and seemed like they would never emerge as a place where a guy could just wander around and check things out – so I crossed them off my list – which really sucks – but was the right decision – which is why you haven’t seen a youtube video of me getting my head cut off – absolutely not worth it.
So, with worthless degree in Anthropology in hand – I set out to explore the rest of the world. Here’s a funny side note – a big part of the reason I pursued a degree was because I wanted to teach English in Japan and it required a BA in any field – the great recession pushed so many college grads into looking for teaching jobs in Japan that the requirements increased so that only those who majored in education or TEFL or English really had a shot at the jobs – by the time I earned my degree it was worthless for the purpose I’d wanted it for…
With no plan and not much money – I visited family and friends in the USA and caught the first flight to Europe I could afford – bringing me to Barcelona, Spain – I had no intention of returning. None. Zero. Not a bit. Of course, that changed when I met my future wife in Morocco and realized I had to return to the USA to fulfill the paperwork needed to marry her – I chose a girl in a country where there was no option to forego marriage and run away together and where marriage was a paperwork nightmare – so there I was – I came home and gathered my documents – again not intending to return.
Oh, here’s something else – I married a person from a country that most countries don’t want immigrants from and from which many illegal immigrants migrate – so , since by that time I was earning my income from a combination of travel writing, blogging, and off the books hotel and tourism consulting – I wasn’t able to provide the necessary ‘sponsorship’ guarantees or financial records to bring my wife with me to the countries we both wanted to visit – our one attempt to go to Paris ws stymied by the French Authorities despite the fact that we had return flights, reservations at hotels, and a verifiable amount of income in the bank – mainly because my wife was Moroccan and I didn’t have an employer – self didn’t count. So, I travelled on my own…which is kind of a bummer when you are married.
We were limited to a few countries – Turkey being one of them – where we went and lived until the birth of our daughter – I busted balls to ensure my daughter got a US Passport and US Citizenship – but we still had the issue of my wife’s nationality – so, after much thought and discussion and an astounding years worth of paperwork, documentation, and interviews – we returned to the USA to put her on the path to US Citizenship (I returned, she emigrated for the first time) – and here we’ve been since –
And – at this point – about a year and a half in – it feels like we may never be able to escape. As a family, we couldn’t afford to return to Hawaii – $9 a gallon milk and rents that start at $1500 for mediocre apartments and then go up rapidly – maybe I should have taken the leap right away while we had some savings…instead I thought I would be able to parlay my experience in travel and tourism into a job with a San Francisco startup – since the economy was improving – yeah – haha – the job market never picked up for 40-something year old guys embarking from long periods of self-employment – we couldn’t even afford to rent a house or apartment in California with landlords ignoring our housing references from Turkey and Morocco and demanding first, last, and deposit on living spaces that started at $1800-$2000 – yeah right – $6000 to move in, then the utility deposits, then the other expenses of moving in – and all of that on the heels of moving my family from the other side of the world – it would have left us with nothing – nada- zip – but maybe I should have done it.
Instead I moved us to a dying town on the beautiful Oregon coast where we have a nice little 3 bedroom house with big yards, garage, and have managed to open a little antique shop- all for less than a month’s rent in a crappy apartment in Hawaii or San Francisco – but, on the downside – we live in a dying town and making ends meet is not as easy as it was several years ago when single ads on this blog would bring in $400-$800 a year – those days died with all the Google updates and penalties – at one point – Vagobond went from a pagerank 4 to a pagerank 3 – which took my prices down more than 50% – the changing SEO environment took prices down further and most companies stopped paying for ads or sponsored content – I stopped accepting offers when they dropped to $100 or less per annum – not worth the risk – especially when the ads were for finance or casino sites – no thank you. Travel blogging is pretty much dead for me – it was great to spend four hours a day on content when I was earning money for it, but without the cash – I can’t justify it any longer – which is why there has been so little new content over the past year and a half…Google killed travel blogging, as far as I can see.
But, back to the title of this post – the dangers of coming home. Aside from Google – it’s become very hard to get back on the road – every penny we have gets sucked out – whether by our vehicle (approx $400 per month for gas and insurance and routine maintenance – without major repairs) health insurance, groceries, rent, utilities, and incidentals – we’d love to take a trip to Morocco and see my wife’s family but there is no way we can afford the $6k-$10k it would cost – not to mention the cost of shutting our business for a month…that’s the big danger of coming home – it’s very easy to get stuck – we are stuck with a capital S and every month feels like it could suck us down into a whirlpool of destruction – and that $28,000 I borrowed to pay for my worthless degree? Somehow it has become $40k and I’m on the verge of defaulting – I have no idea what will happen then…
It would be great to just chuck it all and split – but it’s no longer a possibility – our daughter is getting close to school age and we are seeing a huge number of reasons not to put her in public schools – but we have to figure something out – we just don’t want her to turn into one of the cellphone toting zombie girls we see American schools turning out – her vocabulary is already larger than most 16 year olds and she is 3. Oh yeah, let’s send our smart nice kid into a school system that is dumbing down the tests instead of improving the teaching…no way.
Then there is the stuff we see in the news – Turkey – which we love, by the way – is totally screwed with the Islamic State on two borders and violence reviving among it’s own Kurdish population because of the insane policies of Erdogan – then there is the war across the Black Sea from Istanbul in Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia – whoa – way too much going on in Turkey for us to go back right now – WAAAAY TOO MUCH!
Then there is Morocco where they are increasing persecution of foreigners – yeah, maybe it’s just one homosexual who has been arrested but I don’t think so – it’s a broader conservatism which is sweeping the Muslim world and making it dangerous to be a foreigner in Muslim countries – dangerous to be there and then dangerous to come home – and then there’s Ebola which oddly enough landed in the USA before it landed in North Africa – or maybe it did anyway…it’s too early to tell what the disease has done in Africa where reporting is anything but instant…
What about Europe? Same issues as before – my wife is still a Moroccan National – we’re here for that citizenship – we want her to get that blue passport but by the time we get hers, I won’t be surprised if my own gets revoked for defaulting on my student loans- do they do that?
And that, my friends, is the danger of coming home – you might not be able to leave again…be very careful!