As a matchmaker, I plan 25-30 dates a month for my clients. Having planned literally hundreds of dates, I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes a good date spot, and what definitely does not. I can’t guarantee that every date I set up is going to be a home run; chemistry is difficult to predict! But I can guarantee the date location is going to be great.
One of my favorite things about my job is planning dates. I have clients all over the country, so I feel like I get to explore all the cool nooks and crannies of new cities while I hunt for the PERFECT date spot. Seriously, I’ve been so surprised by which cities have it goin’ on.
Which brings me to Hotlanta. Turns out there’s more happening in Atlanta than filming scary TV shows, sweating, and eating brunch. Including good fucking food and cute ass coffee shops, making Atlanta date planning paradise for me!
Here are the tops picks!
Read Shop by the Merchant
Not all of my clients agree on this, but I am a big lover of a bookshop date. Sitting across from someone at a bar or restaurant can seem like a lot of pressure and quickly turn into a job interview rather than a date. Not sexy.
Bookstores make for a slightly more dynamic date without too many distractions. Plus strolling through the stacks is weirdly relaxing if you have anxiety and it takes the “who is going to pick up the tab” stress out of the equation. I tell my clients to pick out a book they think the other should read and buy it for them. Super cute! And don’t get me started on the importance of supporting independent booksellers.
Read Shop is hip and trendy in a minimalist way, with plenty of weird indy books to keep you intrigued and test your date’s taste. They also serve coffee and treats so you can transition into a more traditional sit down date if you find you have enough to talk about. Read Shop is located in Vinings Jubilee so there’s plenty of other shops and eats around to explore if you want to keep the date going.
Are you bougie af, but also like to help people? Then 1. same and 2. boy have I got a restaurant for you! Staplehouse is a bit hard to describe. An upscale, reservation only dining experience with a cause, in homey digs about sums it up. 100% of profits after taxes goes to the Giving Kitchen, a non-profit supporting restaurant workers facing hardship.
Staplehouse offers an acclaimed tasting menu experience in their main restaurant, if you’re really trying to knock someone’s socks off. But if that seems a bit too intense for a first date, they also have have a killer cocktail bar, Paper Crane Lounge, that can be found above the restaurant. Really kick ass cocktails.
Queen of Cream
I personally am not a huge fan of ice cream. What I am a fan of is the casual day date. So much less pressure and no need to get alcohol involved. Seriously, why do we assume alcohol has to be a part of every date or social encounter?! I digress.
Meet your date at Queen of Cream for coffee or ice cream. Their ice cream is made totally from scratch with locally sourced dairy, so it’s delicious and sustainable. Grab a scoop of lavender honeycomb and take a stroll with your date. I promise walking around eating ice cream will make your date feel a lot more natural. Because that is the most stressful thing about going on a date, being aware that you are on one.
Do you like fancy cocktails? Do you like farm to table eats? Do you like pretending to be a wealthy stockbroker taking your mistress out for oysters circa 1928? You can have all this and more at Kimball House.
Kimball House is a creative old timey cocktail bar with a raw bar, locally sourced dinner, and absinthe service. When I hear a place is going for that vintage aesthetic, I think, “Ugh, not another speakeasy.” But that’s not the vibe at Kimball House at all. It’s comfortable and kind of homey, like your favorite pub, but with incredible food, Old World level service, and one of the best cocktail programs in the city. So if you’re looking for a more traditional date with light bites and killer cocktails, this is your place.
This past week, I’ve seen sooo many post on Facebook to the effect of “There are no good men out there!” “I don’t know any happy couples!” “Finding the right person is a matter of luck!”
Well, if you know me, you know I think all of that is BS. Finding the right person takes work. Being the right person takes work. Being in a relationship takes work. Having the life of your dreams take work. Welcome to planet Earth!
No, I don’t mean your life or relationship should be a struggle. The kind of “work” I’m referring to is working on yourself, being emotionally honest with your partner, taking big risks, being brave enough to love unconditionally. These things aren’t necessarily easy, but personally, I think doing your self work is a whole lot easier than playing the victim.
Anyway! The fact is trauma is real, depression is real. I know when you’re in the pits it can be hard to visualize a better relationship or better life for yourself. But it’s important to get your imagination moving in the direction of the life you want. And I think the best way to do that is by hearing the stories of real people who have accomplished beautiful things. That’s why I’m doing this series on real travel couples. That’s right. Couples who like each other enough to commit AND travel the world together. Wowza.
This week I had the pleasure to interview a Canadian couple Shawn and Steph. They are happily married and hold down “real” jobs, while still making the time to travel the world together and collaborate creatively. Follow them on Insta here for daily #relationshipgoals inspiration.
Their interview also reminded me that the real beauty of traveling with your partner isn’t the awesome shots for social media or even the incredible places you’ll visit. It’s in the experience of slowly uncovering deeper and deeper layers of intimacy with your partner. This interview is seriously beautiful guys!
Read on for their amazing story and awesome insights into love, life, and travel!
1) What has travel taught you about love? About intimacy?
Each and every time we travel together, we always come home with a deeper love, and deeper connection for one another. We think this is because it tones down the stresses and anxieties of our everyday lives, and allows us to be grounded and present to truly focus on each other. It gives us more time to be alone, emotionally, and physically & allows us to reconnect, especially if we’ve lost track due to the business of the real world.
When traveling together you get to see and experience all of the raw moments of another person’s life. Their insecurities, their fears, their excitements – there is no hiding it when you’re with a person 24/7. This is the true test. If you love them after seeing all of them, I think the relationship could be amazing. I’ll never forget bursting into tears because we were in an area of extreme culture shock and discomfort, and looking at Shawn gave me that sense of “home” I needed in that moment. That’s what love is.
2) How has travel shaped your relationship?
Each time we went on a trip together while we were dating, those were the moments that solidified myself wanting to marry him.
I always thought, if we could get along for x number of days, and enjoy each others company, AND have fun while doing it, then I want this for life! What could be better than a life travel partner and a best friend all wrapped into one?
However, travel really does teach you if you are well suited for each other. Our interests and wants on a trip have always aligned and I think that helps immensely. I’m sure everyone can name a friend that they know they absolutely cannot travel with. We are by no means an athletic couple – so we opt for the shorter hikes. We LOVE food & drinks – so we always research neat places to eat etc. Discussing what you want out of a trip before you go, will really make it that much more successful.
3) How did you know you wanted to travel together?
We didn’t, but we thought we’d give it a try! With Shawn, it always came naturally. I was the anxious planner, and he was the relaxed, laid back type. I think we really compliment each other well.
We’d just finished university (where we met), and had been dating for about a year. Our first big trip together was to Western Canada- to see Banff & Jasper. I remember thinking, if this goes well, he could be the one! (Spoiler: we got married last August!) It ended up being a very successful trip and one of our favourite memories together! If you’re hesitant, take the risk – it will either make you a stronger couple, or teach you what you need to work on together – either way an amazing learning experience.
4) What has it been like collaborating creatively with your partner?
We definitely have our parts when it comes to collaborating creatively. Shawn is more of a behind-the-scenes camera man. He takes the majority of our photos for us. I like to do the research for finding cool places to shoot, and the editing. He’s very supportive and definitely brings positivity, even when at times I get down on myself comparing our work to others and thinking its not “good enough.” He’s like our little cheerleader, always reminding us that we started our account for a reason – to share our love of travel with the world & inspire others to step out of their comfort zones – not to care about how well or not well a photo does on Instagram.
5) How do you balance working full time with travel?
So I am a teacher, and Shawn is an engineer. I have a very strict schedule for when I can travel – Canadas education system has fewer breaks than other countries. I have July & August off, 2 weeks at Christmas, and 1 week in March. This is when we travel. It also happens to be the most expensive time to travel, which is the only downfall to the time I get off.
Shawn has 3-4 weeks off a year. So while working, we save up as much as we can so we can go on our next adventure! Seems manageable but it is a struggle sometimes. It is VERY hard to produce content during the week. We come home exhausted from work and don’t want to film stories, or edit and post photos. We do the majority of that on the weekends.
One thing that REALLY helps us, is that we focus on creating and producing date nights and date ideas to share with others aside from just travel. We choose 1 weekend a month to explore or go to places near our hometown of Toronto. This gives us more content to share when we aren’t traveling, and allows us to go on a date – win/win!
6) What’s Your Next Adventure?
Our next adventure is happening in July – we are exploring France/Italy for 3 weeks! I’m Italian and have been to Italy once, but Shawn has never been. We are even staying with some of my family that I’ve never met before, so it will be quite the experience.
We are starting in Nice, France & ending in the Amalfi Coast. I am definitely most excited to explore Cinque Terre – it has been on my bucket list FOREVER!
If you want to follow us on our adventure, be sure to check out @thethompsontrotters for all of the pasta and bread and wine anyone could wish for!
Image creds: @thethompsontrotters & @durandstudios
“Why are you still single?”
A client once fired me for asking him this question
I know this questions can be painful. And it’s definitely loaded.
Loaded with shame for not being “coupled.” Loaded with the pressure of family, friends, people from high school. Fuck, even Facebook ads might be subtly letting you know it’s time to get married.
But here’s the thing, why ARE you still single?
I mean you’re probably a total catch, right? I’m sure your friends assure you the right guy will magically come along eventually. It’s just not the right time yet!
I’m sorry to tell you this, but your friends are wrong. The right guy is not going to magically appear in your life “when the time is right.”
The right guy will only appear in your life after you have done the hard work to love yourself and to heal beyond the patterns that are keeping your trapped in chronic singledom and toxic relationship patterns.
“Why Are You Still Single?”
To manifest your dream relationship, you need to seriously ask yourself this right now.
“I’ve been busy.” “I haven’t met the right person.” “Maybe when work gets less crazy…”
These are not acceptable answers.
The answer I want, the answer that will lead you to your dream relationship, is in the place where you don’t want to go. The feelings you’ve been trying to outrun.
What if I told you that the relationship of your dreams (and your emotional freedom) are in the parts of yourself that you are afraid to visit. The memories you’re afraid to touch. The parts of yourself you really really don’t like acknowledging. What if everything you wanted was behind the door you’re most afraid to open?
It is. That’s what healing your way to love is.. going where you don’t want to go to bring healing to the part of yourself you have been trying to ignore and outrun.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR
I know your triggers are extremely visceral. I know trauma is probably living in your body and unconscious. I know you have good reason to be sad, angry, wounded…
But you don’t have good reason to stay where you are. From where you are you will just keep reaching for relationships and finding the same dysfunctional patterns instead.
You do have good reason to face your fears and do the hard work to heal.
The path to your soulmate starts today.
But it doesn’t start on dating apps, at a bar, with a makeover, at the gym… it starts in one place and that is in the moment you decide you love yourself enough to admit that it’s time to heal.
And that you may need some help to get there.
It starts with loving yourself enough to ask the one question you’ve been avoiding all this time.
So why are you still single?
June marks my anniversary of working as a matchmaker. Let me tell you, it has been a crazy, rewarding, and deeply challenging ride. I have touched the lives of hundreds of people and curated almost 200 dates!
Whenever I share with someone that I’m a matchmaker, their eyes go big. Telling people you’re a matchmaker is kind of like saying you’re a fairy god mother! The instant follow up question is, “How do you even get into that line of work!?”
I usually just tell people, “Oh, it’s a long story,” because it is, and came at the climax of a long personal, academic, and professional journey that I usually don’t want to go into. But now, in honor of my matchmaker-versary I’m telling the whole story.
There are so so many reasons I became a matchmaker. In fact, falling into this profession was so kismet I know matchmaking is a huge part of my life’s purpose.
First things first, education.
I got my BA in Religious Studies. People thought I was NUTS to major in such a “fringe” topic. More on why I made that choice in a later article. But the fact is, Religious Studies was the perfect background for matchmaking.
While studying religion, I had become weirdly obsessed with the field of Nationalism Studies. The idea of getting a job out of college sounded soul crushing and I didn’t want to continue working in non-profit because I was deeply burned out, so I decided to give academia a chance. I moved to Budapest, Hungary to continue my study of nationalism at Central European University.
The entire time I was in grad school, I was sick with anxiety. Because yeah, graduate school is fucking hard, but also because I was sure I would never find a job.
What kind of job does a person with my background get???
Surprisingly, there were a few options on the table for me after grad school. One of them was even seemingly a “dream” opportunity, exactly related to my field of study and background. I would have made great connections and lived in New York City. But when my would-be future boss called to ask when I could fly into New York to meet the Executive Director and take a writing test, my stomach dropped and time stood still. I couldn’t imagine a future for myself in New York. I looked out at the sun coming through my window and somehow knew there was no way I was going to be leaving Budapest. I had zero desire to live in NYC and frankly, I really couldn’t afford it. I told him I had decided to stay in Hungary, and he said he couldn’t blame me.
But suddenly I was unemployed!
I figured I’d live off of my savings for a few months while applying for jobs in Budapest. In the meantime, I could pick up some freelance writing gigs here and there.
Pretty soon, I was making more money as a freelance writer than I would working an office job in Budapest. And I loved the freedom of it, the ability to control my income month to month. I had full autonomy over my life! I loved all the random gigs I got that forced me to learn something new every day. But pretty soon, I burned out on writing. Something that was once a relaxing hobby became the source of my anxiety.
I hated the solitude of my work; there was no team backing me up. Finding my own clients was exhausting and my income was always uncertain. Over the course of a year, more and more writing jobs got outsourced to Kenya and the Philippines. My wages dropped, I felt like I was fighting for every gig, editors treated me terribly, including sexual harassment, and the once well written essays on international politics I had been contracted for became a gig churning out the fakest of the fake news. Living with a deadline always hanging over my head started to feel like the sword of Damocles. I had constant anxiety.
I was spent and I knew I needed a change.
Thanks to an organization called Remote Year, I knew that more and more organizations were hiring fully remote teams, which meant being able to travel AND work. I started stalking a job board called We Work Remotely. I had no idea what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to help people and I wanted to be able to work from home (or anywhere). Partially so I could continue traveling the world and partially because I had a really painful autoimmune disease that sometimes would prevent me from being able to work or drive a car.
In the meantime, I had picked up a badly paid job writing about relationships and dating. The pay was embarrassing, but it published with a byline and a gut feeling told me to accept it because it would lead to other things.
On a personal note, I had just gone through a TERRIBLE breakup. I mean truly, I had hit the rockiest of rock bottom. My personal life was a complete mess. I had temporarily left Budapest to come back to the US so I could work with a hypnotherapist and fix my relationship with myself and with men. Most of my free time was spent learning about relationships and making sense of everything I was going through.
One night at 3 am I saw a job posting for a matchmaking company on We Work Remotely. A MATCHMAKING COMPANY. I had no idea that was a real thing AND they hired remotely!!! My dream in high school had been to be a matchmaker, but I had no idea it was a real thing outside of reality television.
I stayed up until 4 am and completed the application mostly just because I thought it was funny. I remembered to include some of my recently published articles on dating in my cover letter. I submitted my application pretty sure they wouldn’t hire me, then fell asleep.
By the time I woke up in the morning, I had been invited to a group interview. I got hired 6 days later.
During my one-on-one interview I spoke candidly about my experiences in abusive relationships and that I thought I could really help women who had been through abuse and were hoping to date again. I reflected on my experiences learning about religion and how it might help me understand my clients better. I led with my heart and was honest about who I was and what I could deliver.
As it turns out, my background in Religious Studies, Nationalism Studies, and politics was perfect for matchmaking. 99% of my client have ethnic, political, or religious preferences, usually, all of the above. If I didn’t have my academic background, I probably wouldn’t be able to serve my clients the high level, bespoke experience they expect. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to understand where they were coming from.
I have the freedom to set my own hours and to work from wherever I want. I help people every day. I get to be creative and to bring more love into the world daily. I actually use my degrees, which are luckily in subjects I care about deeply. I got here by following what I was passionate about and what interested me. I said no to opportunities that looked great, but felt wrong. I dreamed big and believed in myself. And I make the crazy leaps other people might have shied away from. I trusted my gut.
Sometimes late at night I think, “Where would I be if I had listened to all of the people who thought they knew what was best for me?” and shudder.
Whether you know what you want your dream life to look like or not, you can get there. It’s about listening to your inner voice, focusing on your own healing, and taking risks. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be living a life this easy and this magical.
So tell me, what does your dream life look like?
You can’t market your way to love.
What I mean is, you can’t show up as a sanitized, mass marketable version of yourself and think that will still turn on your soulmate. Nope!
Don’t get me wrong, most people don’t consciously realize they’re being inauthentic. Our culture, education system, fuck even our families, train us to be a “likable,” socially acceptable, easily digestible version of ourselves. But until we break out of that mindset and live from our authentic soul self, we will not manifest our soul partner. And, hey, I know it’s hard to show up as yourself. I’ve been there! I used to use dating apps as a way to seek mass validation. I was seeking the feeling of being pretty and likable, rather than using apps as a way to show off my authentic self, sense of humor, and kick ass lifestyle. Sure, I got lots of matches, because I was good at content marketing, but none of them were my match. They liked a fabricated version of me, not the real me. And by being inauthentic, I was probably repelling people who would actually appreciate me.
Your soulmate resonates with you at a soul level, not at a surface, mass marketable-self level. That’s why so many people who look perfect for each other on paper just don’t have any chemistry, while some people who logically don’t make sense together are perfect for each other. I see this every day through my work as a matchmaker. It doesn’t matter how good a match looks on paper, if both people aren’t leading with their soul, there will never be chemistry.
Being out of touch with your soul will create plenty of blocks that prevent you from actually manifesting and recognizing your soulmate. For one, you HAVE to show up as your most radiant, authentic self to manifest your soulmate. When you show up authentically, not only do you magnetize people to you who are vibrating at the same frequency, but you send a powerful message to the Universe. “I love myself. I love this being you have created for me to experience and the vessel you put it in. I am WORTHY of someone who feels the exact same way about me. And I won’t accept anything less.”
Second, if you don’t show up as your radiant, authentic, soul self, you will attract people who don’t appreciate all of you. This is when you attract partners that use you and want to change you, rather than partners who celebrate you at a soul level. Love yourself 100% or you won’t find a partner who will. I know, easier said than done. But doing the work to fully integrate and love all parts of yourself? So, so worth it.
AND you will be out of touch with what you actually crave in a partner. If your societal programing is still running the show, you will only pursue what you think you SHOULD want, rather than what your soul needs. How can you manifest your soulmate when you have no idea what your soul actually wants? I can’t tell you how many clients I see torturing themselves to fit in a box of what they think they should be pursuing, what their family would approve of, what their friends would be jealous of, rather than someone they could fall truly, madly, deeply for. Your parents, friends, and colleagues are not going to spend the rest of their lives with this person, so remove the blinders of their opinions.
“I ate society. It poisoned me.”
If you are unsatisfied in your dating life, it’s probably because your soul is not leading; your fears and societal programming are.
Does this sound familiar? You keep having shitty dates and can’t remember the last time you actually had chemistry with someone? You know something is off and dating feels exhausting? You’re losing hope as well as your passion in general? You can’t even remember what the magic spark feels like? Time to date with your soul! Drop the judgement and call in what your soul craves, not what you THINK you want.
Wait, but how do I do that?
If you’ve been out of touch with your soul for awhile, it can be hard to recognize that voice when it’s speaking. You’ve probably even been suppressing it. I’m going to be honest, building a bridge back to your authentic soul self is not easy work and you won’t have over night success. You might need help to get there. That’s why one whole module in my love coaching package is on deep soul desires.
If you want to get in touch with your soul the first place to start is by observing all of your thoughts without judgement. When you feel yourself judging, gently release it. This will help you to recognize the voices in your head and to hear yours more clearly. Once you do that, you can start communicating with your soul. Ask yourself, “What does my soul want?” “What does my soul want for dinner?” “What color does my soul want to paint my bedroom?”
As you do this, you will slowly start to build up this relationship. It IS a relationship, and you have to develop that trust again. But as you do, you’ll begin to step into and create the life you really want. Your vibration will change from “meh” to radical self love. You’ll be on the path to manifesting your soulmate.
If you’re ready to align your dating life and dating app profiles with your authentic self, check out my free ebook, Mindful Dating in the Digital World.
What is your soul craving today? What does your soul want you to do right now?
Do you fucking hate #travelcouples on Instagram?
Or do you secretly love the ridiculously romantic shots and seemingly stress free relationships?
Whether you love them or hate them, the reality is, deep down you’re probably at least a little bit envious. Who wouldn’t want to spend their lives traveling to far flung destinations with the love of their life?
I can’t lie, I love scrolling through the heavily edited pictures on Instagram. I love looking at a snapshot of fabricated perfection. But the reality is, travel is never perfect. Neither are relationships. But even though the pictures of travel couples might not be exactly real, it IS possible to travel full time with your partner.
I know that seems like a fantasy for a lot of people, but it’s not. It’s totally possible. I also know it’s hard to believe until you hear the stories of people who actually made it happen for themselves.
With that in mind, I wanted to start a series of interviews with couples who travel together IRL. I wanted to show you that it is possible, but it’s not necessarily as romantic and picture perfect as it seems on the Gram.
While Instagram may make full time travel with your beaux look like a dream, it’s actually pretty challenging. Missed flights, little personal space, and the inevitable food poisoning can either ruin a relationship or take you to deeper levels of intimacy than you had imagined. That’s why travel is such a great exercise for couples.
For the first in this series I had the honor of interviewing my friends Courtney and Andrew. Courtney and Andrew met while they were both working on their environmental studies degrees in undergrad. They’re passionate about travel, urban planning, AND not destroying this planet we all live on (rad). With these passions in mind, they quit their jobs and spent eight months circling the globe together. While on the move, they founded The Homage Project, a really important project about urban development around the world, which provided a beautiful intention and framework to their travels. It’s also a testament to the idea that you can indeed collaborate with your partner without murdering them.
But the real reason I love this interview is that they get real about what travel really looked like for them. Yes, it was incredible. But it had it’s not so glamorous moments (cleaning toilets) and some moments that weren’t easy on their relationship (bad haircuts).
1) You guys are a couple! How did you meet? How long have you been together?
Ha yep, we sure are a couple. We met at Rollins in January of 2013 in an environmental studies class. Definitely wasn’t love at first sight, but Andrew persevered and by December of that year, we were dating. We’ve been together four and a half years though (due to a one-year break in the middle there—oopsies lol).
But actually, the break (which was while I spent my junior year abroad) was super important. It helped me realize how much I valued my partnership with Andrew; how much I valued the experience of being abroad; and how much I wanted to be able to be abroad with him. So then I persevered to get him back, with the full disclosure that I would be going abroad and he better join me, or else that’d be the real end of us.
2) How did you decide to travel together?
I’d dreamed of spending a significant part of my 20s abroad since I was a young teen, brimming with pent-up anger about my suburban upbringing. I didn’t know what exactly the “Abroad Experience” would look like, but I don’t think I envisioned working at hostels cleaning toilets, or “teaching English” in an over-crowded, dirty tube house in far-out Hanoi. But dammit, I knew it would happen!
Andrew, he had no clue. I think he’s missing the gene that makes people obsess over the future. Both a good and bad trait. In my mind, I’m already a grandma.
I originally planned to leave right after graduation, but Andrew wasn’t ready then. He had an urban planning internship in Orlando and wanted to see it through, but agreed to leaving within two-ish years. So I got a job and stayed put, which at first seemed disappointing and lame, but was in fact wonderful. Knowing we wouldn’t be in Orlando indefinitely allowed us to better appreciate our time there, and the people and friends and food and beaches.
The experience of working was also paramount. My first job doing commuter outreach for the Florida Department of Transportation significantly impacted the quest of our journey, and made me realize how fired up I get about mobility. In a practical matter, working also helped cushion the bank account and make the traveling possible financially. So thank you, Andrew from two and a half years ago, for being so wise.
Kotor, Montenegro (courtesy of @homageproject)
3) How did travel impact your relationship?
This is a bit personal, and I kind of wish I had thought about this more or people had talked about this more. I also am not confident enough to openly talk about intimacy on a public platform so I also only graze the surface.
Traveling was one of the best things we ever did for our relationship, and also one of the worst. I was constantly obsessed about our finances and made us track every single expense we made—a practice we kept up even after the traveling. The financial stress of seeing our bank accounts steadily dwindle was tough. And because we were trying to do things on the cheap, we often opted for dorm beds or work-trade situations where we’d be staying in dorm rooms for weeks at a time with no chance of privacy.
That was a hard change from people who had previously lived together in an apartment. In that sense, traveling felt like a step back for our relationship. Plus, the future was so uncertain. Would we get jobs? Would we have to move in with our parents? Would we be able to see each other regularly? Would we want to live in the place where the other got a job? Again, fortunate Andrew and his gene mutation didn’t get weighed down by these pondering nearly as much as I.
But on the flip side, it was the most glorious experience. We got to spend every day for eight months with our favorite person in the whole world. We got to stumble upon beaches in the Balkans that took our breath away, slurp down some kumquat tea in a smoky alleyway in Vietnam, and watch with awe at people and their gazillion bikes in Osaka—together. I wish we could spend the rest of our lives that way: exploring and learning and being together every day.
But oh, there were tough times. Like the time Andrew got a haircut I didn’t like (which sounds minor, but I’m ashamed to say it affected us for about two weeks), or the time I was so stressed about Money and The Future that I couldn’t even be concerned about my partner.
I think we both feel the trip is better in retrospect. Being on the road for so long is tough. Long bus rides; cheap accommodation; lack of typical outlets (like a clean, safe place to go for a run); and other stresses made me feel I wasn’t always the best version of myself. And it’s hard to shine when basic needs aren’t guaranteed. Now that we have a clean, beautiful home, steady income, and constant access to good food, it’s easier to be nice to each other and to ourselves. It’s also easier to look back at that sketchy hotel in Hanoi with moldy walls and sticky sheets and laugh.
4) How did you come up with the idea for the Homage Project? What was it like collaborating as a couple?
We were used to working together on school projects and extracurriculars, so collaborating on the Homage Project was a breeze. (Andrew wasn’t blindsided by my critical, perfectionist nature.) From my time studying abroad with SIT, I knew I wanted to bring a more clear intention and question to the traveling, because I felt that the quest to really learn about place is what made studying abroad way more enriching than just passing through.
Melaka, Malaysia (courtesy of @homageproject)
My job with the Florida Department of Transportation, academic background, and overall frustration with the built environment in Central Florida made the mobility and city design quest of the journey a natural fit. Andrew had a similar academic, professional, and personal interest in planning, so he was also in.
5) What did your family think about you taking a year to travel?
Family members differed. For the most part, our parents were a bit reluctant to see the benefit of such a decision. They didn’t say we shouldn’t do it, but they also didn’t say we should. My mom, though, was all about the Homage Project. She was eager to encourage creative pursuits, and appreciated that we were trying to build a professional element into the very unprofessional decision. She also knew I had always dreamed of traveling for an extended amount of time, and wasn’t surprised when I actually told her I was doing it. I think all of our parents were glad we were going together. Especially for my parents, they were comforted that their young daughter would have someone with her.
6) Any words of advice for people who want to travel full time?
The most important thing someone considering traveling—or just considering life—can do is to ask why. Why do you want to do this? What do you want to get out of it? What do you think traveling will be like? What do you say when you mean “travel?”
We met dozens of other long-term travelers while on the road, and each of them approached the journey differently. Some had been traveling for YEARS, and spent no more than a few days in each place. Some had been traveling for years, but spent a few months—maybe even longer—in each place. I always thought we would rent a room for a month or two and stay put in one place—get to know it and the people there. Because that seems like a true break from work and from your same old town but without the stress of being truly on the road. But for some reason, we never did. We stayed put while working at hostels, but that wasn’t exactly the same as the getaway I had imagined.
We also have a friend who thought she’d do the same thing, and had even begun planning for her departure and journey months in advance. But then, she realized her desires had changed. She liked her life and realized it wasn’t the right time. I found this so beautiful, because if the purpose of traveling is to love each day a little more, then why wait until you’re someplace else to start? You never know what’s going to happen—that big trip you’ve been cooking up in your mind may never come. But today is here, so what are you going to do to make today worth it?
Where Are They Now?
Courtney and Andrew returned to the US and continued traveling for another month while applying for jobs. They both live in LA where Courtney works as an urban planner and Andrew works in non-profit helping people with high barriers to employment (felony convictions, homelessness, drug addictions) get jobs. Their latest project? Conquering car-free living in Los Angeles!