We hugged my parents goodbye at the Minneapolis airport on September 2nd, threw on our backpacks, grabbed a camera and a banjo, and thus began our adventure. We were greeted the following day in London, England by sister Haley, brother-in-law Sam, and Taylor’s parents, Don and Kathy, visiting from North Carolina. The day we talked about for months had finally arrived and it was all very surreal. Piling our belongings into a borrowed adventure van, we set off, Taylor in the trunk, for Witney, our new home.
We intentionally entered this experience with an open mind, without expectations, but for any who have spent months planning and preparing for a specific day to arrive will know exactly how we felt as we drove to the new place we would call home: in a daze. The reality of this trip had not set in before we left Minnesota, and even still it had not once we arrived. How could the reality of this adventure ahead hit us when there were so many unknowns ahead? Where we would go, how long we would be there, who we would meet, and what we would do were all up in the air. All we had was each other, our dreams, and our goals for the indefinite time ahead. That was enough.
Before leaving on this journey most people asked me, "Are you scared?" To be honest, I wasn't very afraid at all to leave. We've both had an amazing sense of peace about our seemingly crazy plans. What scared me the most about this trip was actually the voice behind the move. This voice, which I know and believe to be God, called us to get up, leave our belongings, and go. Not just in the literal sense, but to shed parts of ourselves to allow vulnerability that we might be challenged, that we might learn and mature into greater versions of ourselves. This trip was God's call to step up our game, to trust Him, to learn whatever it is we are to learn, and be forever changed and better because of it. On the outside this trip may only seem like fun, free-spirit vagabonding, but I assure you we are both very clear about the purpose of our time away. What scares and excites me the most about this trip is who it's asking me to become.
“What did we get ourselves into?” was the question I asked myself multiple times those first few days as reality of our lives ahead began to unfold. The comforts of our own home, the routine of our everyday lives, the control we had seemed to have been suddenly snatched away. We were now in someone else’s home, on someone else’s schedule. I was reminded how much I love to be and feel in control, but that too much of this can cause rigidity and inflexibility, a lack of dependence on God. We knew it would be an adjustment, chose it and welcomed it, yet continually needed to remind ourselves that this momentary discomfort of change would only expand, grow, and deepen us for the better.
Aside from adjusting to the flow of our lives, we had a great time with family by our side the first ten days, helping us bridge the gap between our old lives in the states and our new lives abroad. We spent the beginning of our trip touring a few absolutely beautiful, quaint, small towns in the British Cotswolds: Burton on the Water, Abingdon, Cirencester, Bibury; visiting Blenheim Palace, eating pasties, and drinking tea and coffee at the local shop. Despite the common England forecast of clouds and rain we were blessed with wonderful, sunny weather. Thanks to Sam’s personal audio tour while driving we became better acquainted with the town of Witney, where we lived, and Oxford, where Sam and Haley attend Hillsong church. We are so thankful for our sister and brother-in-law’s generosity in opening up their home to us in the first year of their marriage, and helping pave the way for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If it were not for them and their offer, we would not have gotten this crazy idea to quit our jobs and travel for an indefinite amount of time. Thank you!
Embarking on this trip with a limited supply of money and zero income, we had to adapt to a long-term travel mindset, but these first few days were more like vacation since we were with family. Blessed by them all in more ways than one, we spent our first night out to dinner at The Blue Boar in Witney, a lovely place where Don and Kathy treated us all to a dinner of salad, pork belly, and creamy risotto. It was divine. Sam and Haley surprised us all with tickets to a rugby match in Cardiff, Wales, where we were joined by Sam’s family, the Johnstons. Taylor and I have a new love for the game and have followed the Rugby World Cup ever since!
As a family we took a quick trip to Florence, Italy before Don and Kathy headed home to the states, and Sam and Haley back to work. We rented a lovely Airbnb near the heart of the city, and spent our days walking, touring, and eating our way through the streets. Blessed with beautiful weather, we adventured about in shorts, shirt, and small backpack. We began our trip on the citysiteseeing bus to get our bearings and learn the history of what surrounded us. With this pass we were able to use the bus as transportation for the remainder of the day. We went to Piazzale Michelangelo to overlook the city before heading to dinner that night to fill our bellies with fresh Italian pasta and gelato.
The following day Taylor and I went for a run around the city to train for our half marathon coming up the following month. Later that afternoon we hired a local tour guide suggested by our Airbnb host to learn more about the history of the old town center. Valerie, our guide, led us through streets, piazzas, sculptures, and stories dating back to the 14th and 15th century. Almost every corner we turned was another original piece of the city from that time period. It was super interesting to have the stories of old come back to life! Our tour of the city continued next in the Galleria Degli Uffizi where we spent a few hours admiring original artwork by artists such as Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Giotto.
Before we knew it we were back in England and our last night together as a family arrived. We celebrated by going out for a nice dinner at Nags Head in Abingdon, and the following morning bid Don and Kathy goodbye as they left for the states. With everyone back at work, our real-life adventure began. With vacation officially over and zero income, extended travel life truly began. Taking back a little more control over our lives again we set off to find a regular routine of where to buy food, go for runs, get internet, etc. It didn’t take long before we realized that our expectation-less trip was actually full of all kinds of expectations, and what we envisioned our time would look like living in Witney was actually quite different than expected.
We envisioned making a greater connection with the local community and making some extra cash by teaching yoga classes, playing the banjo, participating in the church, etc, but the logistics of this required us to actually plan on living in the area. As we lived in Witney for a week, Sam and Haley at work all day, researching and looking at options we began to grow stir-crazy and anxious to travel outside the walls of the small town we lived in. We began to realize that our adventure would lead us to make connections and community all over the world, as opposed to just one place. With that said, Witney, England has become our home base for travel, a place to relax, recover, and spend time with family while we plan our next trip.
One of the biggest goals we have for this trip is to document and blog about our adventures and travels. We want to update you on where we are and what we are doing, but more importantly share all that we are learning and growing through. We both believe it is so important to be transparent and to share our experiences with the purpose and hope of encouraging you and others to do the same in your own lives. To create, deepen, and expand a community of amazing people on this website that is filled with observance, honesty, and encouragement. People like us, who are scared, crazy, and imperfect, but doing their best to live their greatest life.
I must admit this project has been a greater undertaking than we expected, but we are excited to finally get started. In the past two months we have been not just England and Italy, but to Wales, Scotland, Norway, and Ireland as well, so keep your eye out for blog posts on these places and what we are learning from these experiences coming soon! To receive email updates please subscribe on the home page and follow us on Instagram at @liveyourgreatestlife . Taylor and I would love to have you along this journey with us and truly believe that our adventure is only just beginning.
Now we would love to hear from you so please leave a comment below!
What unrealistic expectations have you had in your life and what have you learned from that experience?
What temporary discomfort could you welcome into your life to encourage personal growth?
Have a wonderful week!