And boy did we learn a lot from this experience.
2. You can't travel long term if your heart is not in it. Our heart was in it, then not, then in it, then not - for a period of many months we stopped enjoying our travel yet couldn't seem to find any way out of it. We got disheartened, sad, mad and frustrated. Then we regrouped again and again - every time something happened we went through the cycle. Hopefully we have come out the stronger for it. We love to travel and hated losing our passion for travel to a set of bad circumstances.
3. You can always change your plans. Our original plan was to go to Bolivia - we had arrangements made with friends, volunteer positions set up and ready to go, free accommodation en route. We were ready - except we couldn't afford to leave. So after toing and froing we decided to cut 5 countries off the itinerary - that was 5 border issues we didn't have to deal with, 5 countries we didn't have to source accommodation for - immediately our hearts felt lighter. It was never about seeing as many countries as we could, it was always about being able to provide a wonderful educational experience for our family as a whole. So we turned around and focused on Ecuador.
4. You are stronger than you think. While at times we didn't feel very strong, in reality we were. We faced being penniless and homeless in a foreign country with two kids - and you know what - we survived. We worked and worked hard to better our unfortunate position - we tried to stay strong and quite often we failed. But you know what we stuck it out - we made it through sanity (just) intact!
5. You are more resourceful than you think. We got to our last cent many times during this situation. As the van sucked our savings dry we had no backup. As a freelance writer, the money flows sporadically and when clients are slow to pay then I can't afford to eat. My husband got a job, I started working for a local travel company - every little bit helped.
6. Amazing opportunities can open up. We made some amazing new friends in Arequipa and visited some wonderful sights. I got a delicious gig reviewing some of the local restaurants in Arequipa on behalf of Peru This Week. Emilia and I even got to enjoy a cooking class together. None of this would have happened if it weren't for the problems we faced. I am not saying I am glad they happened - but I am thankful for the opportunities that arose as a result. Every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.
7. Things will get better. Yes they will, it may take 6 or 7 or even 8 months or even longer but they will. We knew that deep down but we faced seemingly insurmountable problems that at times despite all reasoning there was no way around. While our problems have not fully sorted themselves out, we are moving forward. It is just at a much slower pace than we would've liked.
8. No one has it all figured it. I am not one to put on a brave face when things go wrong but nor am I one to get down in the dumps or seriously depressed unless I have good cause to do so. No one person I know has a perfect life - everyone is faced with some kind of relationship issue, money problem, family drama, whatever it may be. The only way we got through it was by talking about it. No good comes of anything when you pretend things are rosy 24/7 and you never know that one person who may be listening might just be able to help.
9. Regret is wasted. So the mechanics we encountered along the way didn't really know what they were doing and took our money without properly servicing our vehicle. So we spent thousands of dollars on our vehicle which we have no way to recoup. So...so...so...what! We lived to tell the tale. We aren't focused on money per se - we are only focused on money at the moment so we have a way to leave the country and continue on our way to Ecuador. If we don't have the money at the border they won't let us leave. If we don't have money for gas we can't drive there. The rest will sort itself out.
10. There is no point in trying to control everything. We don't thankfully - but if we did our problems would've been a lot worse. We are go with the flow types naturally and usually things don't faze us. But of course when you have kids there has to be some sort of plan. We had no way of controlling this situation at all. I could earn more but I couldn't earn enough to make things better. Every day we stayed was costing us more in fines. We had to take a big leap of faith - one which we are still hanging onto as we speak.
11. Adventure is a lifestyle. So we got off track. So we cut 5 countries off of the program. Our experiences to date have not been too shabby. We are raising two wonderfully strong and independent children in a foreign country. We didn't even speak the language when we came (not that we can now mind you). But this foreignness is our version of normal - going to a supermarket in Peru does not seem weird to us. Our life is an adventure everyday and we choose to make the most of it.
12. A bad travel experience will not put you off travel. As much as we liked Arequipa, it was seriously sucking us dry, whichever way we turned. But you know what, we are excited to get back on the road and hang out in Ecuador for a couple of months. We feel like we have earned our own private beach retreat. Bring it on.
13. You can always help others. When things are low and you have no money you can still help others. We did not one, but two, GlobeDrops for non-profit organisations in need due to the support and kindness of others. Gratitude is a big part of what we do and we are truly grateful for every day we get to travel and live life on our own terms. So we do what we can and give what we can - even when we are experiencing massive problems of our own. There is always something you can do for others.
14. You learn to cherish the little things. Not that we really needed it - but we got a reminder like no other. We made do with the basics - we had our gas stove and that was all that we needed. Who needs a fridge or a microwave or a TV? We appreciate when we have hot water because sometimes we have no water. We appreciate when we have electricity because for mysterious reasons that can go off too. And we appreciate our ability to plug into wifi whenever we can - that is truly a lifeline to the rest of the world. We appreciated a roof over our head (sleeping in the van is not easy or comfortable) and we cherished our friends more than ever.
15. The world really is a beautiful place. Yes we were stranded and verging on the homeless. Rent was so much more than we had prepared for. Dental bills were overdue. But there was no better place to be than right where we were. The weather in Arequipa was gorgeous and sunny, the views of the nearby volcanoes were spectacular. And we had each other.