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What’s Your Real American Dream?

What’s Your Real American Dream?


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 andHouse 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 BoatBackyardboat 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 VAfriendsweekends.  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 SAfriendsthat 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 KristinBurmaBuscrammed 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 IndiaTrashlife 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.


Comments (22)
  • Lindsey Medley

    March 27th, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I thought of you guys when we bought our house! I remember our conversations about all of the money, maintenance and time spent on weekends. We went small and manageable for many of those reasons!
    Enjoy the last few months of traveling. Looking forward to (hopefully) seeing you guys when you’re back. Love you!

  • Erin Wederbrook Yuskaitis

    March 27th, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Well said, Kristin. I seriously think you guys should consider motivational speaking engagements when you return to the States! You will have quite a story to tell and people will appreciate your experience. I love the ease of apartment living, but after 11 years of it, I do often wish we could afford a home, something to call our own. But living in an expensive city always puts things into perspective! I’d rather live close to the city in a small apartment rather than have a big house way out in the ‘burbs. I’m still trying to figure out what my American Dream is! Enjoy your last few months of this chapter!

  • Bryan Waugh

    March 27th, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    As always, thanks for the comments Lindsey and Erin! My favorite line out of Kristin’s blog is “Log off Facebook, put your smartphone down, and go have real-life fun.” We’ve switched back and forth from first to third world countries a dozen times on our trip. In third world countries you’ll see tons of family and friends chatting and having fun together. No smartphones, no facebook, no internet. As soon as we hit first world countries where everyone has a smartphone, it looks like everyone’s a robot. They’re all sitting at a table together, but glued to their phones; no chatting, no interaction with the person they’re with. It’s quite sad to see this transition so many times. I’ve vowed to Kristin that I’m not going to get a cell phone plan when I get home, and I never want to be that friend that’s glued to my phone. Cyber-living is NOT living.

  • Alicia Barnes

    March 27th, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    There is a book deal in your future. I love your writing style and appreciate such honest perspective. While in Tanzania a few years back I remember watching a woman sweep her dirt “patio” and realized how much I need to care for and appreciate what I have. Traveling also helps you re-evaluate needs VS wants, it’s almost comical what enters the luxury category after spending extensive time on the road! 🙂 my favorite quote is also “put down the phone” I think sometimes people get caught up in documenting moments that they actually end up missing it altogether.

    • Kristin W.

      April 24th, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      Thanks Alicia!!! I love hearing your stories and seeing your photos as well. Keep up the travels, my friend! 🙂

      p.s. – I bet you have some interesting travel journals, too!

  • Kathleen Dennis

    March 28th, 2014 at 12:11 am

    I love your guy’s posts. I used to do a lot of solo traveling abroad & always enjoyed people watching. I think as far as materialistic objects go, it’s best to stay off the radar. My analogy: If a man can’t notice a beautiful woman because she dresses understated, that’s his problem. Notice your surroundings and be aware of what makes you happy. It’s sad when people make life more complicated than it needs to be. Enjoy what freedom to travel to have. I now have a family & it’s difficult for us to travel as much as we like, but my kids are great travelers and respectful to others when we are on the move. I’m grateful for that & many other things. My American dream is to be happy with simplicity & never be impressed with vulgarity. Keep on keeping on.

    • Kristin W.

      April 24th, 2014 at 12:11 pm

      Wow, Kathleen! Thank you for sharing your insights! I’ve always been impressed by solo female travelers. And now it sounds like you have some really cool traveling kids. 🙂 Safe and happy travels to you and your family!

  • Mama Waugh

    March 28th, 2014 at 1:24 am

    Great blog Kristin. I am happy that you and Bryan are happy. As far as Facebook goes, it makes me happy. I can see what friends and family that live far away are up to and enjoy the pics and statuses. Not what house they bought or job they have, but the little things like a pic of a little boy holding a baby chick with such excitement in his eyes or a pic of my best friend from school. Sure there is plenty of crap on there to weed through, but for me, it is worth it to see where and what my kiddos are up to. So much of it makes me smile.
    Bryan, you will have to get a phone, so that you can be contacted for those job opportunities or realtors looking for an apartment for you because as much as I love the two of you, you won’t be living with us forever, unless there is a baby Waugh living here too….lol

    • Kristin W.

      April 24th, 2014 at 12:04 pm

      Mama Waugh, there are two Baby Waugh’s that will be happy to live with you! I bet you know what their names are and that they are a little furry. 😉 xoxo

  • Claudette

    March 28th, 2014 at 4:53 am

    Great post! Some people just don’t get it and never will. Happy travels xo

    • Kristin W.

      April 24th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

      You too, Claudette! Thanks for following us! 🙂

  • Crystal Silins

    March 28th, 2014 at 6:38 am

    The “I’m not trying to be Gandhi” is too funny! I can see you guys saying all this stuff, and really love this blog! We can’t wait for you to return to US soil and see your shining faces! I agree that some motivational speaking would be awesome for you two. You have SO many experiences to share that will allow people to view things in a different light. I’ll be sharing this post on the Facebook. 😉 I agree that FB isn’t always real life, and you definitely have to ween through some of the crap. But if not for facebook and email, we wouldn’t have been able to follow ya’ll over the last 2 years. 🙂 Love you guys!!!

    • Kristin W.

      April 24th, 2014 at 12:07 pm

      That’s very true, Crystal! We’ve enjoyed sharing your story through the internet, too. And Skyping you guys from Brazil and Thailand of course! Love to you and Aaron! 🙂

  • Grandma Munch

    March 29th, 2014 at 10:41 am

    So proud to be grandma to such down to earth,talented, grandchildren.I think you’ll have many avenues to follow when your journey ends and you’ll have much happiness in your future.I can see a writer and photographer just to mention a few.I think you both excel in those areas.Can’t wait to see you. LOL XOXO

    • Kristin W.

      April 24th, 2014 at 12:09 pm

      Can’t wait to see you, too, Grandma! I’m sure Bryan will let you know what type of dessert he wants when we come visit 😉 Maybe involving strawberries??? Miss and love you lots! 🙂

  • Mama Munch

    March 30th, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    You are a very wise girl. It definitely is not things that make a person happy. I agree it is your faith, family, and friends that bring joy and completeness to our lives. You have learned what is important from all your travels and seeing many people who have a lot less than we do, but are still happy with their lives. You and Bryan will continue to bless many people with the wisdom you have gleaned from your travels. I love you 🙂

    • Brother Waugh

      March 31st, 2014 at 7:06 am


      Wear your glasses mother 🙂

      • Brother Waugh

        March 31st, 2014 at 5:35 pm

        oops… thought this was a “Mama Waugh” post…

        • Kristin W.

          April 24th, 2014 at 12:14 pm

          Brother Waugh – “Gleaned” is in fact a word; it means to “extract information from various sources.” You are getting a dictionary for your next birthday! Love, Sister-in-Law Waugh 😉

  • Jeanne Coleman

    March 31st, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I’ve enjoyed following your adventure through your blog and Facebook. Funny, because when you both set off I remember thinking that world travel doesn’t interest me at all. Having moved every two to three years growing up, I just wanted to settle. I felt like I had already spent so much of my life trying to “blend in” with how others lived, and realized it takes a while to get to that point. So the concept of constantly being new to places all over the globe didn’t sound too appealing.
    It took a lot of courage to do what you guys did, because it’s not like you came home after each adventure and unpacked your things or put away your hiking shoes- you kept on the journey.
    I’m finding my American dream by trying to simplify life to Faith and family. After ten years of working non stop out of high school and finishing school, I’ve found more happiness staying home with the kids and waitressing by night. The cliche of more money/more problems presented itself as soon as we had our son and I thought, why am I working to pay for daycare? So we can have a bigger TV or nicer car? It was silly.
    And it was amazing how much any kind of materialism seemed to matter when our time was filled with family events and weekend adventures.
    Sorry for my ramblings, and thank you for your insights. Good luck to you two as you venture back to the States.

  • Dad Munch

    April 1st, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Great blog! It reminds me of the saying that the secret to being content is being content with what you have. But to do that, you also have to be thankful for what you have. While watching TV, we all get bombarded with commercials that are intended to create the opposite feelings. As you’ve seen during your travels, middle class Americans are wealthy compared to most people in the world.

  • Kristin W.

    April 16th, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Thanks Everyone for all your great comments! We LOVE hearing from you! This trip has definitely been easier and smoother thanks to all your support and prayers 🙂

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