The journey or the destination, which matters?

Joy on a journey at a destination. Pirin Mountains, Bulgaria. The journey or the destination. enjoylifeadventures.com

As a fan of quotes, one that I often refer to is “the journey, not the destination matters” by TS Eliot.

While I believe that to be true about ‘life’, the destination definitely matters when thinking about our upcoming adventures as digital nomads.

Recently, I wrote about our decision to head to Bansko in Bulgaria as the first destination on our upcoming digital nomad journey.

If you read that article, you will know we are heading there for Bansko Nomad Fest.

The journey to Bulgaria will take more than one full day of driving and flying from our home in Australia. We will stay in Bansko for one month before moving to another destination.

If I focus only on the journey and not the destination, we could have great flight plans but end up staying in a place that makes us miserable and frustrated.

Trust me, no one wants to experience that…and if you have ever flown before, you will know that those plans do not always count for much.

Finding destinations to journey to

On this occasion, we had initially suggested that we would be away for three months. The intention was to spend about a month in three different locations.

In a bid to keep our costs down, meet interesting people, stay in authentic (not touristic) places and have access to facilities like a kitchen, laundry, a desk and wifi, we have looked for opportunities to house-sit.

We have looked after other people’s homes in Australia and know it is a responsibility, especially when pets are involved. David found those opportunities via the Aussie Housesitters website.

A camera lens and a travel journal

Petsitting in Australia. Captured by Joy Taylor

As we are going to be in Europe, David started researching options and found Trusted Housesitters and Nomador to be two options with lots of housesits listed. For the last few months, he has reviewed options and submitted applications.

We now have three housesits lined up that will provide us with all of the essentials we need and some unusual experience opportunities in three unique destinations.

How to short-list potential destinations

Making the decision to housesit narrows your potential destinations to places where someone is looking for a sitter for the dates you have available. This reduces further based on the conditions of the application, such as applicants must have their own vehicle or experience with farm animals.

Knowing what the weather conditions are likely to be is also good to know. Give me an average of 24 degrees and a large body of water; my bags are already packed. On the flip side, apparently, some people love the cold and don’t mind months of grey skies and four hours of sunlight a day.

Consider whether a quiet mountain village, a house in the suburbs or a city that never sleeps is more your vibe. I have learned over the years that I like variety, and draw energy from both solitude and crowds, providing neither is for too long at a time.

Introducing friends to destinations

A few years ago, I was fortunate to spend a week in Amsterdam with my youngest child, Amanda. We stayed in a very cute basement apartment that I found on Airbnb. It was on the Singel canal, right in the heart of the city.

We spent our days exploring the city. Walking around the galleries and museums, eating stroopwafels, and having our eyes and noses opened to all that makes Amsterdam unique…(well, maybe not all, Amanda was still in high school at the time).

Of course, we also travelled out of the city to see the windmills and the countryside. Unfortunately, our visit did not align with the tulip season, though that did mean it was not too crowded.

Young woman sitting on the edge of the 'i amsterdam' seat in Amsterdam.

Amanda in Amsterdam. Captured by Joy Taylor

One of our housesits is in Holland, so we will fly into Amsterdam. It will be David’s first time in The Netherlands, so I look forward to introducing him to the city and exploring some of the areas I haven’t been to yet.

Our host’s home is in a suburb of Rijswijk, not far from The Hague, home to the Peace Palace and a stone’s throw from Delft, famous for its blue and white pottery.

We will be responsible for looking after their home plus their dog, cats, snake and lizards for a month. They have kindly agreed to leave their bicycles for us, so we can explore the area as the locals do, and their car in case we need it.

Exploring new destinations

At the end of our stay in Rijswijk, we have about a week before our next sit commences. We like to keep a buffer between housesits in case one host has a last-minute change of plans and needs us to arrive early or stay a little longer.

One of the great things about travelling in Europe is the option to travel by train. Rail travel is both affordable, efficient and more environmentally friendly than flying. Plus, you can usually book last minute without any problems.

12th century castle with turet, battlements and flags flying. Gravensteen Castle in Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteen Castle, Ghent, Belgium

After researching several options of places to stop in the direction of our next housesit, we settled on Ghent, Belgium. Neither of us has been to Belgium before, which scores more points in my book as I love visiting new places.

I have long desired to see the ancient city of Brugges and the cosmopolitan Brussels. We decided on Ghent (or Gent, depending on which direction you are coming from) as it is not so big or busy, is very walkable, and has a large castle and a river. Also, the municipality only allows low-emission vehicles inside the old city zone.

We managed to find an apartment in an 18th-century mansion located inside that zone, just up the road from the 12th-century Gravensteen castle. From there, we will be able to venture out on foot and explore the city or take a train to Brugges or Brussels if the mood strikes us.

With a tram stop outside the front door, it will be easy to make our way back to the train station to catch the high-speed train to Paris. It is almost 300 km, but the TGV covers the distance in only a couple of hours. We can be there in the time it would take to check in at the airport and produce around 80-90% less CO2 emissions.

Revisiting the same destination again

In 2012, David and I spent a week in Paris with Oliver and Amanda, who were both teenagers at the time. It was the last leg of a six-week adventure that took us through several countries.

We were a bit tired by then, and I wrote a blog post after the first couple of days called “10 things I hate about Paris”. Fortunately, it did get better after that, so I am actually excited to be going back.

On that trip, we stayed outside the Boulevard Périphérique and became quite proficient at using the metro. We visited Euro Disney and many of the prime tourist spots across the city.

Disneyland Paris castle at the end of a street lined with golden buildings.
Our Paris housesit is only ten days, though I am sure that will be enough time to reacquaint ourselves with the City of Love…and odd smells, rude people and pickpockets (I still want to go, but I have not forgotten…)

This time, we will be looking after two precious pussy cats and a small apartment, two minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower. With local market stalls under the metro line beside us and the Jardins du Trocadero and Champ de Mars at our doorstep, we are bound to find this a very different experience from last time.

Joy, Oliver, Amanda & David under the Eiffel Tower in Paris at night.
Joy, Oliver, Amanda and David under the Eiffel Tower in Paris 2012

Destinations with a point of difference

After a couple of weeks in a mega-city like Paris, we will be looking for a change of pace. The timing works for us to transition from the small apartment in the middle of Paris directly to a large house in a small semi-rural village outside of Budapest in Hungary.

At the time of writing this story, I haven’t worked out exactly how we will get there. This one will likely require a short flight, as the drive would take longer than we have available, and there is no direct fast train option either.

We are housesitting for a fellow while he travels through Iceland and Greenland on a photography trip. The details he has shared about his trip have encouraged us to add those places to our ever-growing list of places to explore.

He has a menagerie of pets that will keep us intrigued and occupied during our three weeks there. The house is near a small lake and there are meant to be many good hiking trails in the area too.

The train will get us to Budakalsz from Budapest, but then we will be on foot. I am curious to experience being in a place without easy access to transportation. I am hopeful that I will relish the serenity of the countryside and the waters of the blue Danube that flow nearby.

I expect we will stop in Budapest on our way there or back for a few days. The last time we were only there for a couple of days. All I really remember is that we went to movies and watched Ice Age 4…in Hungarian

Ice Age 4 movie poster in Hungarian. Source: CineMaterial.com

Ice Age 4 – Continental Drift movie poster. Source: CineMaterial.com

Exotic and mysterious destinations

Following what we expect will be a few weeks of quiet time in the countryside, we are setting our sights on the exotic and mystical destination of Morocco.

The warm waters and golden sunshine of southern Morocco have been calling out to us since we first met the crew that started SunDesk Coworking and Coliving space at a CUAsia (Coworking Unconference) event a few years ago. While we aren’t staying with them this time, we will be just around the corner and are sure to catch up.

Taghazout is a small fishing village that is pretty much full of surf schools and coliving spaces. We will be staying at AdventureKeys, which also includes a 24/7 coworking space, in addition to surf lessons and yoga classes.

Experience Morocco with Viator

We are booked in for a full month in a private room with full board…so we are looking forward to delicious Moroccan food, friendly hospitality and probably several days of very sore muscles…I am sure it will be worth it!

David and I both love the ocean and are keen to learn to ride a surfboard. Our research suggests this is a good place to learn, as there are a wide variety of breaks catering for all levels.

The journey home usually feels faster

To finish our adventure, which is now loosely about four and a half months, we will have to work out how we are getting home from Taghazout to Toowoomba.

We haven’t booked our flights yet, but initial indications suggest it may take us around 48+ hours of travel time, and that is just to Brisbane…I wonder if that train line to Toowoomba will be built by the time we get home?!?!

While I am sure the journey will be an experience, it will be the destination of ‘home’ that I expect I will be desiring by the end. Fortunately, I usually find that the trip home always feels faster than the journey to get somewhere new.

Perhaps that is because the scenery becomes more familiar the closer you are to home, or maybe it is because the anticipation of something unexpected is reduced, so the senses are able to relax.

So, is it the journey or the destination that matters?

In my opinion, it is both.

Try to make your entire life the journey to enjoy.

When travelling though, try to make the journey as energy efficient as possible. If you have the option to travel slowly, take it.

Spending a month or more in a destination means that you do not take as many flights in a year as you would if you are only spending a week or two in one place.

If there is an option to journey by train rather than fly, take it. Your sanity and the environment will thank you!

Choose destinations that stimulate your senses in a variety of ways. The excitement of the new versus the comfort and pleasure of the familiar.

Avoid choosing the same type of environment over and over again. The beaches are beautiful, but so are the mountains. Cities can be exciting, but a small village can offer more opportunities to connect at a deeper level than you expect.

Our journey will take us from the mountains to the suburbs, to the old city, to the big city, to the farm, to the beach…and back home. I look forward to sharing it with you as we go!

Originally written: 24 May 2022

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Joy Taylor

Joy Taylor

Joy has been working her way around the world with her kids, solo and with her partner for over 20 years. Her motto is ‘travel cheap, travel deep’. She built a green house and tries to live a green life. 35/196

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