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 in other cultures. 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 (and somewhat disastrous) jaunt overseas for a year in Germany 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 through this process, we’ve discovered that Livable Travel doesn’t have to require continental shifts. Turns out, life can also be pretty exciting closer to home; the trick is, finding a place with opportunities that interest, inspire and challenge you. But wherever we may be, Livable Travel is 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?
8 thoughts on “What’s Livable Travel?”
Dear Livable Travel,
My name is Richard Orzeck and I am a veterinarian practicing here in upstate NY.
I have just finished a book of travel stories and would like to use your photo of the pig eating in the surf in Tonga–with credit, of course.
Hi Dr. Orzeck,
As it so happens, my husband Sam is a veterinarian (among other things), too!
You may use the photo of my non-flying-pig, but please do credit “JL McCreedy/Tonga Time” in the photo caption. :) Also, please let me know when your book is out.
Thanks for visiting Tonga Time and happy travels!
I like that: “livable travel.” Good thought!
Thanks, Becca. It’s the best way we can describe what we’re after. As you know yourself, living in another culture for at least a year is completely different than vacationing or even visiting for an extended period. Among a myriad of other reasons why, when you live somewhere, you usually have to figure out all kinds of ridiculous, everyday things you’d never otherwise encounter as a mere visitor, much of which are annoying but give you tremendous insight into the culture itself, how things tick, why people act the way they do, etc. It’s less thrilling in a lot of ways, but it’s also richer and more meaningful … at least for us. Wish you could come visit!
Thank you for finally naming the way I am living my life. Next destination, after Japan last year, will be Tonga in March! Santé!
Thanks for visiting Tonga Time! I am glad to know you were able to relate with our explanation, and that it spoke to you somehow. Also, I am excited for you to experience Tonga! Do you have a website where you document your adventures? If so, please let me know.
I totally get this and have been doing it since 1979 when I left the Peace Corps. Unfortunately we have gotten stuck in Egypt for about 19 years……still…the concept is totally where my heart and soul remain. I came across your site while planning a trip to Bali in July. I love it!!!! Thank you.
Thank you for stopping by, Djodi. It is always nice to meet a kindred spirit! And, wow. Egypt?! If you have a blog, please email me or reply with your address as I’d love to read your story on that.
Regarding Bali, Sam and I have only briefly been to the Kuta area of late but we did spend some time in Sanur and Ubud several years back. Most recently we’ve been to north Bali a couple of times (which is what you found, I presume). Let me know if I can be of any help; we’ve got friends here in Balikpapan who have frequented Bali much more than us, so we can always ask their opinions on things.
In any case, we wish you happy travels!