Livable Travel is a term that came to us after realizing there isn’t really a phrase to summarize — not just the experience — but the philosophy of living and working abroad. Now, this philosophy isn’t for everyone, obviously. We all have different dreams in life. But if, like us, one of your dreams is to see the world and to really live in it, not just for a year of teaching English abroad or something so that you can “get it out of your system” (nasty, foolish business — that traveling-and-living-overseas and such) … then you might relate with the idea behind Livable Travel.
The need to describe this philosophy came several years ago, after our initial jaunt overseas for a year in Germany (which I wrote an article about in 2009 and can be found here), but before our two-year stint in Tonga. At that time, we were working on the Gulf Coast near New Orleans doing post-Katrina disaster relief-related work. But after a few years of staying put in one place, we found ourselves spending way too much of our free time searching for another opportunity overseas.
Then, one day, when asked by an individual close to us (we’ll call him “Wade”) why we wanted to go abroad so badly, I gushed in reply, “Because we felt so alive! We could go places on the weekends that we’d never be able to afford to see otherwise! We visited cities and cathedrals and museums that you read about in history books! And they commute on these cute bicycles with baskets! Their towns have markets and mixed-use trails and awesome public transportation! And being forced to interact in a new language really enriches your life in a way! I mean, sure, we were totally broke so we had to come home eventually, but we learned as much about ourselves as we did about the destinations we visited! Why would we want to stay in one place if there’s a chance we can see the world? And this time, we’ll find a job where we’ll actually get paid!”
To which Wade frowned and said, “Well, why don’t you just work here, make more money and then take a nice, long vacation like normal people?”
“You don’t understand,” I sighed.
Wade frowned again. He shook his head. “You’re right,” he said. “I don’t.”
So with that failed communication in mind, this is what Livable Travel means to us:
Livable Travel borrows its name from the concept of a Livable Wage. It’s the sort of travel where you aren’t just a tourist, but you’re actually in a community, earning your keep. Or, if you like, it’s akin to Slow Travel but taken further so that it becomes a way of life rather than a way to vacation. It’s living in another culture for a year or two or three and learning [oh, fine — butchering] the language, paying the bills, making friends, burning your dinner, budgeting for that weekend trip, commuting to work …
Basically, it’s living life day-to-day like you would at home, except, for us at least, it’s WAY MORE FUN! And yeah, it can get draining, too.
But even on those days when you reminisce on the ease of your life had you only stayed back home, when you wish you could just pop into your car and one-stop-shop at that conglomerate in your neighborhood, when your overheated, sweaty self aches for the clean, AC-cooled comfort of your US apartment — one with water pressure that actually works and whose walls don’t board insects with names you’ve never heard of — even then, in the midst of all that you look around and realize that you’ve never felt more alive, more engaged or more grateful for the opportunity to really live in the place you’re at.
Livable Travel is still transient, so there is always that sense of We may never have the chance to be here again, or We may have to return home after this contract is complete that probably makes us appreciate the place more than we would if we were born and raised there.
And we know that, as lucky as we are to be able to do this right now, there may come a time when we no longer have this craving; that settling down into a community for good might be just the ticket. Maybe. But for now, it’s a way to fulfill our dream of seeing the world while meeting the realities of career, student loan payments and how-to-maintain-tasty-things-to-eat-in-your-fridge.
Because at the end of the day, who cares where you are if you can’t have your Hasenpfeffer?