We get a lot of comments about the name of our website “Happy to be Homeless.” 99.9% of them are positive and people think it’s witty. But once or twice last summer we received an angry comment (via email of course). I was actually really surprised; especially since we had previously received a lengthy email from a homeless woman who said that we inspired her to live life to the fullest despite her circumstances and lack of possessions. We never meant it to mock homeless people that lost their homes due to circumstance rather than choice. It was definitely not our intention to hurt anyone’s feelings. So I’ll share with you the real story behind our name “Happy to be Homeless.”
We brainstormed a list of 50 or so names and we debated for awhile. We were looking for something unique and easy to spell and remember – a name that we could give to other travelers of various nationalities we met along the way and they’d remember it without having to write it down. At the time of starting this website, we had recently sold our home and moved to a small one-bedroom apartment. And despite my earlier misgivings, we were so happy and relieved when the changes were set in motion. It was both symbolic and cathartic to watch my keychain go from full to empty as I gave up my house keys, apartment keys, work keys, and car keys in preparation for the big trip. Simplification is awesome.
Bryan bought his first house right out of college when he was 22. So right away, he had yard work, maintenance, cleaning, a mortgage, etc, etc. Five years later we moved to a larger house that we thought we needed. The house was on the water so we then needed a boat and a jet ski. It also had a much larger yard and more square footage so more money, more maintenance, more cleaning, the list goes on. Bryan literally spent much more time maintaining and cleaning the boat than he did taking it out on the water. Do you know what B.O.A.T. stands for? Bust Out Another Thousand.
We were slaving away for things we weren’t enjoying and using. Cleaning and maintaining a house where we only used about half of the space. So when we sold our house and walked out of closing, it felt fantastic! Much better than it did when we came out of closing 5 years prior when we purchased it. And guess what? We had our weekends back! The first weekend after we sold it, we sat in our apartment and didn’t know what to do with ourselves. It had been so long since we had free time. But we found plenty of things to do. We went to our pool. We spent more time with family and friends. We rode bikes. We prepared for our World Trip. We watched movies. We went away on weekends. We were really glad to be without a home and the responsibilities!
So what’s my point? I’m actually not telling you to go put your house on the market right now. 🙂 You probably like your house and you’ve worked hard for it and deserve it. What I am saying is to question and pursue what really makes you truly, genuinely happy. For us, it was taking a sabbatical to travel the world and spend time together. We had done the whole working, commuting, house stuff for 10 years and we chose to take a break because the timing was right. We had spent 7 years of our marriage working opposite shifts and only seeing each other on weekends. Was that a marriage or were we just roommates with benefits? Haha, I know our siblings are saying “eewww” right now. 😉
I’m also saying not to hold off on happiness until you get the things you want. Find the positives of that small apartment or old car! I was fortunate to learn at a relatively young age that it’s not your belongings that make you happy. It’s your family, friends, memories, experiences, faith, and many other simple, often intangible things that give you real fulfillment. Question the “American Dream” that tells you that you’re only successful when you have a fancy career, a big house, and lots of pretty, shiny possessions. I actually blame Facebook a lot for that one. BREAKING NEWS: Facebook isn’t real life. It should probably be called Fakebook. It’s a cyber world where people choose to present themselves in a way that they want others to see them. Sometimes pictures and status updates are far from reality. I truly hope that you are as happy as many of you appear to be on Facebook. But just don’t get caught up in the mindset of: “Susie’s life is so perfect because she has a great job, an expensive house, and a new car. Once I get those things then I can have a wonderful life, too!” Let it go. You probably haven’t even seen “Susie” since high school so you don’t even really know her anymore. Log off Facebook, put your smartphone down, and go have real-life fun. 🙂
Our Happy to be Homeless Facebook page can be misleading, too. We often show the pretty pictures with a beaming Bryan and Kristin. What you many times don’t see are the feelings of frustration, homesickness, disgust, and fatigue we sometimes feel. You don’t see us getting crammed on a bus with a bunch of pushy local people, or spending an hour in the heat carrying our bags while trying to find a clean, affordable place to stay. You didn’t see the scene when Bryan accidentally threw us off our motorbike in Vietnam and I cut my leg. More importantly, Facebook photos can’t convey the extreme poverty and corruption we see along the way. Ironically, on occasions when Bryan does post pictures of unpleasant things we’ve experienced (such as cute creatures locals are selling as food at the market), some of our Facebook followers actually get offended and start ranting. Nothing in life is perfect and traveling is one of them. We often try to convey the reality of long term travel through our blogs when we actually get a chance to publish one! But since we have less than 3 months left of full-time travel, we are spending most of our internet time planning things and trying to enjoy the time we have left without being on the internet too much.
So the moral of my tangent-filled soapbox spiel is to choose your own happiness as soon as you can. What do YOU really want out of life? Don’t let others (such as the media) tell you what you need for your contentment. I’m not trying to be Gandhi here but it’s been something that’s on my mind lately as we mentally prepare to begin our lives again in the U.S.
P.S. – So will we own another house someday? I hope so! But it’s going to be a much simpler one so that we have more time and money to spend on other things we personally value such as traveling.