Life Lessons Learned From A Year On The Road

Year of Travel

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” –Mark Twain

April 24th 2011…Easter Sunday. Appropriately enough, it’s the day that we flew out of San Francisco…ascending into the heavens on a jumbo jet to a destiny and future yet to be written.


365 days and nearly 50,000 miles later, the journey has been transformative and life-changing for both of us. On the surface it might appear that it’s been nothing but fun and laughter throughout.

The truth is, this past year was four quarters at Life University.  Most times it was enjoyable, as we explored new places and learned about new cultures.

National Mosque

A learning experience about the Muslim religion. National Mosque, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Other times, it was rough…as we learned more about each other and our different thresholds of tolerance for everything from customer service, to foods, to creature comforts.

Sleeper Train

Tucking in during our 18-hour journey on the sleeper train from Penang, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand

Through these challenges, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds in a very short period of time. This experience has made us stronger in every way, and has strengthened and deepened our love and appreciation for each other.

While we’ve learned so much in the past year, there are still so many lessons yet to be learned through this journey. Below are the most prominent ones we learned during our first year in the Study Abroad program at Life University.

Your health is the most valuable asset you have in your life.

In a year of travel, Jo and I have never gotten seriously ill.  We stocked up on all kinds of ointments, antibiotics, anti-malarial  medicines, and even a couple of epi-pens, but have never had to use them.

Other than the occasional upset stomach or headache, we haven’t gotten sick.  We directly attribute this to our commitment to eating healthy and maintaining our fitness while traveling.

CM Marathon

Posing at the finish line with our new friends at the Chiang Mai Marathon in Thailand

Whether you are traveling or not, making your health a priority will go very far in improving the quality of your life. If you haven’t already, start a regular fitness and nutrition regimen. Your life can only improve by it.

Ubud Run

Jo gets the job done on a training run in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

A great resource for beginning a fitness program is our friend Steve Kamb’s site NerdFitness.

Traveling is not the same thing as vacationing.

Whenever we keep in touch with people back home, the conversation invariably ends with an encouraging “So glad to hear you’re enjoying your vacation.  Stay safe, and we’ll talk to you soon!”

Without a doubt we appreciate the words of encouragement and the well wishes from everyone back home.  However, life on the road is not all glitz and glamor.


Disembarking from Friendship Bridge shuttle bus from the border of Thailand into Laos.

Not to sound elitist…but the business of traveling is a much different affair compared to that of vacationing.  Have you ever noticed after coming back from a vacation you are twice as tired as you were when you left?

Why is that? Because a vacation is a project. You’ve got to decide when you’ll go, when you’ll leave, where you’ll stay, how you’ll get there, what you’ll do, what you’ll eat, how much you’ll spend, and more. Not to mention visas if it’s an international trip.

And when you get to where you need to go, every day is filled with places to be and things to do. After all, you didn’t exactly go on vacation to lay in bed all day long.

Passed out

Marvin passed out...exhausted...after a grueling 16-hour overnight journey involving three buses, two tuk-tuks, and a taxi. Thailand to Laos visa run.

Now multiply that times ten. If you visit 10 countries in a year, that’s how much effort it would be to travel long-term. Add to that maintaining a website and keeping it updated, and you get an idea of what our job has been for the past 12 months.

KL Office

Our "office" in Kuala Lumpur at a travelers hostel. $12/night including all day coffee, tea, and continental breakfast

We’re not complaining.  We’re just clarifying.  Traveling, writing, and coaching is work.  Thankfully, it’s work that we love.

To live a rich and fulfilling life, we need less, not more.

We only started to understand this concept in the past three years. Whenever we wanted to travel, there was always the matter of managing our “stuff” before and after our trip. Not to mention, there was always less budget available for travel because all of our resources went to the upkeep of our stuff.

Having less stuff has allowed us to turn on a dime when necessary.  It has enabled us to have ultimate travel flexibility, and to change plans easily.


Everything we need fits into these: One large pack and one daypack each

When you’re unburdened by things, it’s a truly liberating feeling. You have less to maintain, and you can spend more time and energy working on your dream or even working on improving yourself.

I don’t propose that you sell all your stuff off and become a minimalist. Although if that’s your goal there are resources we can suggest to help you. Adam Baker’s Sell Your Crap(aff. link) program is a good place to start.


Most big dreams are held back not only by mental barriers, but also because they are crowded out by other things in your life competing for your attention. All the while, time runs out for you to make things happen.


Figure out what things are slowing down your progress to your dream, then ditch those things. Don’t worry, you can always figure out a way to get those things back.  You can never get the time back that you lose by being distracted from your dream.

Don’t believe the hype in the news.

By the time we set off for our trip, we had already weaned ourselves from the news media for a year. We rarely watched TV, except for maybe the weather, and we spent most of our time either exercising or preparing for our launch.

Today’s news media does an incredibly good job of paralyzing you through fear. Most of what they cover is sensationalized to the point of hysteria. There are definitely some stories that are of legitimate value, but most of what you’ll see is useless noise. 

When we decided to tune all that noise out, we opened our minds to be able to experience so much more. We toured Burma for a month in February.  Yes, that Burma.  The one that everyone’s been avoiding due to fear of the ruling military junta.

Bike Burma

Biking with the locals. Bagan, Myanmar(Burma)

Not once did we feel in danger, nor did we ever get robbed or held up. Every person we met was so open and friendly to us. Our taxi driver gave us a tour of the capital while we shuttled between our hotel to the bus station…at no extra charge.

The most eye-opening for us was the amazing friendliness of the people we met in Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia. We never encountered any militant anti-Western sentiments.

Sharing a meal with our driver Suprapto. Surabaya, Indonesia

We were always greeted with open hearts and welcoming smiles. They seemed happy that others considered their country worthy of being visited.

The nice family who hosted us during our visit to Surabaya, Indonesia

Bottom line: While the number of truly dangerous places in the world can be counted on two hands, the truth is that anywhere you go…even your home country…is dangerous enough.

But that has never stopped you from stepping out your door each day.  Don’t let that stop you from going for your dreams. Start by watching less news.

Being homeless is a state of mind.

If you’ve read our About page, you will know our decision to fulfill this dream of traveling the world included us leaving behind our material belongings and house.

Once we realized what we needed to eliminate in order to make this dream a reality, the decision to leave it all behind became so much easier to accept.

A.platz Berlin

Alexanderplatz (Alexander Square). East Berlin, Germany

In the weeks leading up to our launch date, someone jokingly said: “So what does that mean, are you homeless now?”

You might never hear someone say that to you, but you may hear other words that are designed to be just as hurtful. Words designed to elicit a feeling of inadequacy or shame for what you are doing.

The truth is, we are far from being homeless.  A typical renter signs a yearly or even monthy lease. Jo and I consider ourselves “micro-renters”. Our leases are usually daily or weekly commitments.


Our home for the week we stayed at Inle Lake, Burma

We pay a property owner a specified sum of money in exchange for shelter at a pre-defined interval of time. This arrangement is commonly referred to as a landlord-tenant contract.


Coincidentally, we have been in Bangkok since March, having signed a monthly lease on a furnished studio apartment after our adventures in Burma.

We decided to hunker down to get more quality work done for you our valued readers here at Intrepid Motion.

Don’t let anyone shame or guilt you into not pursuing your dreams. The bigger your dream is, the more people there will be to hold you back from it. Strengthen your heart and mind for this. Nothing worth doing comes easy.

Our cozy and comfortable bungalow home for a week during our stay at Vang Vieng, Laos

Our amazing view in front of our bungalow in Vang Vieng.

If you have children, and they have the courage to share with you a fantastic dream of theirs, honor their bravery. Help them gain further confidence by offering to help them brainstorm what it would take to make their dream happen.

Most of all, be proud that they don’t have a limited mindset about what is truly possible for their life. Suspend disbelief, and show them that you have the courage to support their dream.

Confidence goes a long way in making dreams a reality.  Your kids will only believe in themselves as much as they think you believe in them.  Your belief in their dreams means the world to them.

A young Burmese dreamer smiles for us on the way to school. Nyaung Shwe, Inle, Burma

The end is never near if you’re willing to see each day as a new beginning.

Jo and I set out on this journey not knowing how things would play out. Unlike our old way of traveling, we didn’t map out twelve months of travel in advance. We didn’t know our next destination until usually a few weeks prior to making our move.

Near the rim of Gunung Bromo volcano, this horse looks at me wondering if he'll have to carry me up to the top. I opt instead to walk it, saving his back.

With many things in life, you want to know the outcome before you set out onto the path. You need to plan every move, so that you can predict your results. You only want to play a game that you know you will win.

“I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin.” –Neo, from the Matrix

Children don’t worry about the future. They treat each waking moment as a new beginning.

Be like a child, and every day is a chance to begin again. There is no fear for what the future holds, for today is the only thing you know for sure that you have.

Jo and the lively children in Nyaung Shwe, celebrating the first full moon of the year. Nyaung Shwe, Inle, Burma

When we set sails for the world a year ago, we didn’t pretend to know what the final outcome of all this would be. We gave ourselves a year to “see how it goes”, and said we would decide at the anniversary whether we had reasons to continue.

We are grateful for all the support and love we have received from the remarkable people in our lives, including family, friends, fellow bloggers, and most of all you…our loyal readers.

We continue to be inspired and in awe of what people are truly capable of when they rally together to achieve big goals.

Admittedly, we have decided that we will continue this adventure, continue to learn more life lessons, and most important, we will continue to share those lessons with you right here at Intrepid Motion.

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18 Responses to “Life Lessons Learned From A Year On The Road”

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  1. Annette says:

    Congratulations Marv and Jo! Happy Anniversary!

    • Marv.n.Jo says:

      Hello Annette! Thanks for the kind words! We’re so glad you stopped by to say hello. We hope life continues to be an amazing ride for you. Keep your faith and your spirits up, and know that whatever you dream it is possible!
      Marv.n.Jo recently posted..Why We Need You To Act NowMy Profile

  2. ian says:

    So inspiring! Like all your other blogs! Thanks cuzzo’s it only just begun.

  3. Your perspective on life is so unique and optimistic and positive, and that’s what I’ve always admired about you both. Can’t believe it’s already been one year! My favorite part of this post was the comment you received about being “homeless.” Little did they know, but “home” happens to be where you both are, together, with new and different surroundings. I enjoyed this glimpse on the joys and creative challenges of your lifestyle. Thanks for sharing!
    Julianne Kanzaki recently posted..Ghetto No Mo’My Profile

    • Marv.n.Jo says:

      Thanks Julianne. We’re so fortunate to each be blessed with an amazingly supportive teammate(each other) in navigating the trials and tribulations of life. The more challenges we face in this journey, the more it affirms for us that we have a dream team that is capable of showing others that it really is possible to make your dreams a reality. It’s truly blessing for us to be able to touch more lives and make a greater impact in the world.
      Marv.n.Jo recently posted..Why We Need You To Act NowMy Profile

  4. suzette montalban says:

    Great adventure! thanks for sharing your awesome experiences with us . . . .

    • Marv.n.Jo says:

      Thanks for the compliment Auntie! We continue to be moved and inspired by people like you, who have the courage to keep moving forward in life at all times. We are not defined by what happens to us…we are defined by how we respond to what happens to us!
      Marv.n.Jo recently posted..Why We Need You To Act NowMy Profile

  5. Cely says:

    Great post! It’s good to see there are others out there who take this same approach to life. I got he same reaction from people when I told them I decided to take an entire winter off just to snowboard in 2001. I got laid off from my job, moved to Nevada and snowboarded at every single resort in the Sierras logging 90+ days in one season. Now that I have a daughter, I’ve tweaked my life a bit so I can incorproate her into my lifestyle. It hasn’t been easy and it’s been a very rocky adjustment but many new parents altar their lives completely after having a child b/c it’s scarey and it’s defintiely challenging. It’s all a learning experience too. You just have to learn how to anticipate those meltdowns and how to react to them. I now need to be creative when it comes to making health a prioirty. Instead of working out all at once for 45 minutes a day, I make it a 30 or 40 minutes session or, do a 20 min workout in the morning and another 20 min workout in the afternoon. I agree, make it a priority & everything else will become easier to achieve. Good stuff ya’ll! Thanks for so much for sharing.

    • marvin says:

      Hi Cely! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story! Wow, 90 days of powder…that’s amazing! Yes, we remember you and TJ are very active and outdoorsy folks…which we love about you! I really love how you’ve shared with us all here your experience in raising a child while staying true to yourself in terms of what is important. Children learn most from what they see and hear their parents do and say, and it’s clear you are setting a great example for your daughter. Keep up the great work, it will pay off years later when you have a confident child with healthy habits. Thanks so much and we love having you here!
      marvin recently posted..Why We Need You To Act NowMy Profile

  6. Annie Andre says:

    I loved this post marv and Jo.. I hope after our stint here in France that i can take at least my youngest daughter to do a year of travelling around Thailand and vietnam.

    So many of the things you said rang true for myself. negativity of people who try to discourage you from travelling and living more simply because it doesn’t conform to society..

    The importance of health is priority number one. If you are ill, you can’t move or travel obviously.. (me just getting over being really ill)

    Less is more….

    Thanks for sharing some of your life lessons while travelling. I can’t wait to see what you guys do next.. Another year perhaps?


    Happy Anniversary.
    Annie Andre recently posted..Worlds Best Lover: Are The French The Hottest Lovers? Adventures In France #5My Profile

    • marvin says:

      Annie! Glad to hear from you and so excited that you are considering a Mother-Daughter adventure here in SE Asia. There’s definitely more to see and more to learn. Let us know when the time comes if you need any help. Another year is definitely a possibility. :) Meanwhile, stay faithful in your dream, stay healthy, and as Mr. Jobs said…stay hungry, stay foolish!

  7. JJ DE GUZMAN says:

    Dear Marv and Jo,
    Amazing story! Most working individuals in the world have dreamt the life you both are experiencing, but never had the courage to execute, for that I salute you both! Congratulations you two and continue to live your dreams…or our dreams that is!

    • marvin says:

      Thanks for stopping by JJ! We’re so honored to have you here. You are so right, it really is about taking action. It takes just a little action each day, and once the momentum gets going…anything is possible! The hardest part is to believe you deserve to live your dream. Too many of us think we’ve got to “earn the right” to go for our big dreams. When the day comes and we go for it, we wonder what we were waiting for all that time. Thanks again, and keep dreaming…but keep moving towards that dream!

  8. Ciara says:

    You guys are so inspirational, I look forward to your updates and stories living the life millions dream of. Keep on creating those memories
    Ciara recently posted..Chaos to Control – Section 1: VisionMy Profile

    • marvin says:

      Hi Ciara! Thanks for stopping by! We’re so happy that this message connects with you. Like you’ve written, vision is the first step! The rest is action. On that note…we’ll keep making things happen for as long as we can!


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