Name: Matthew K. Sharp
Occupation: Unemployed, Previously Professional Services Consultant
Location: South East Asia headed to Eastern Europe, Originally from USA.
We work to share our story on Facebook, Twitter, and through our website and blog as well as speaking with new friends we meet along the way. By sharing our story with friends, family, and acquaintances we embody this message.
2.You have travelled for 305 days, and more than 100K miles visiting 40 cities in 8 countries on 2 continents. Was that the original plan?
The original plan was 3 months, then 6 months, then 1 year. In the end we will have been away for ~15 months. Early on we acknowledged that the journey is the destination. So we picked a few key locations and let the rest develop along the way. Many factors have changed the overall route as the months have passed. Just before we left we documented the plan as follows: “For the
next 12+ months we’ll travel through India, Nepal, China, SE Asia, Australia, New Zealand and S America.”
3.How did you plan your route?
We started by creating a family and travel mission statement which we have refined over time. Once that was complete we picked destinations that were culturally interesting and reasonably safe to visit. We then crafted a selection of activities from trekking, scuba, yoga teacher training, volunteering, and language courses etc. To be sure we stimulated targeted personal growth relative to our values.
4.What means of transport did you take to get to the various destinations?
We have taken planes, trains, buses, taxis, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, motorboats, and cruise liners as well as bicycles, elephants, and walking to arrive at various destinations.
5.Why did you decide to embark on this adventure?
In my article on Career Break Secrets I talk about this.
Here’s basically what I said…
STEP 1: UNHAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT – STAMP YOUR FEET!
From the article “Happiness is Love — and $75K” we saw that after analysing more than 450,000 GHWBI responses from 2008 and 2009, Dr. Deaton and Dr. Kahneman found that happiness is actually the result of the fulfilment of two abstract psychological states — emotional well-being and life evaluation. When I started, from a Life Evaluation perspective, at work I had “accomplished the goals I had set, was financially secure, and emotionally fulfilled.” I was living a fast paced corporate life. I was getting results: an excellence award, a promotion, a bonus… I was a Hilton Diamond member, Hertz #1 Gold, Emerald Club, United Premier, and Southwest A-list. On the road more than 80% of the year, my stress levels were through the roof, I hadn’t seen a personal friend in months, and my marriage was strained to say the least. In all my success at work, I was lonely. I was unhappy. And no wonder…” Emotional happiness is primarily social,” says Dr. Kahneman. “The very best thing that can happen to people is to spend time with other people they like. That is when they are happiest, and so, without question, this is a major story. We find loneliness is a terrible thing. So is extreme poverty. But loneliness, regardless of how rich you are, is a very bad thing.”
STEP 2: EXAMINE THE BENEFITS
For more than a decade I dreamed about traveling. While this conviction that we needed to travel was strong… I had no idea why. Sure, other people unequivocally stated that their career break was the right decision for them. And I knew first hand from my Study Abroad experience that travel was good for my soul… but my life partner wasn’t convinced, and without her I probably wouldn’t be here today. Everything that I read on sabbaticals indicates that the benefits far outweigh any sacrifices made to realize these sacred times of fulfillment. For example, as this Career Break Secrets article explains, through measurement we know the effects of a sabbatical on a person’s health and well-being. Specifically, career breaker’s long term stress decreases, life satisfaction increases, and
they tend to burn-out less when they return. Businessweek reported in 2007, “Just as small breaks improve concentration,
long breaks replenish job performance. Vacation deprivation increases mistakes and resentment at co-workers… The impact that taking a vacation has on one’s mental health is profound,” said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles told ABC News. “Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.” Still other inspiring figures present their stories in TED forums and on YouTube which gave me even more desire to hit the road:
• Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off
• Radical Sabbatical: Scott Jordan
In the end, research shows that a career break would inherently reduce stress, boost creativity, amplify life satisfaction, increase productivity, and properly prioritize well-being. So even before I crafted a convincing personal argument
advocating a career break, I knew my premise was strong and the effort was worth it.
6.What have you learned from it?
Our Duyên page is dedicated to honoring the people we were destined to meet during our travels, and serves to remind us of the lessons we learned from each experience… Duyên is a Sino-Vietnamese word, derived from the Han character for “fate.” In this context, Duyên means “predestined affinity.”
7.What’s in store for your next trip?
Currently floating a few ideas from:
• 7 month ashram stay in Mumbai India
• Teach english in South America
• Website development in China
• Cycling through out Africa and climbing Kilimanjaro
8.You’ve contributed to 8 non-profit organizations, why do you think it is important to give even when you are on your own budget adventure?
We have found that giving is an excellent way to connect to the local people, and help in preserving the culture, and environment.
9.Where is the best place you have been to so far? Why so?
This question is always difficult. It depends on what is meant by “best”. Some places are the most charming, scenic, have delicious foods, warm people, etc. Truly every place has its unique lessons, and has a special feel that makes it a favourite for its own reasons.
10. There is an extreme element to your adventures…..trekked to 5550 m (18,208 ft.) of altitude, diving to 75 ft. below sea level…..what does this add to the experience?
This “extreme element” brings a physical challenge and sense of accomplishment, in addition to exposure to the natural beauty available in such settings.
11. On your travels you had to acquire 7 visas. Was that a frustrating process?
VISAs are definitely a source of frustration. We applied for Chinese VISAs in Mumbai, India and Russian VISAs in Beijing. Often the embassies don’t state on their website all requirements for application, the office hours are quite limited, and the lines are quite long. Using a VISA service company can simplify the process, but often comes at an excessive cost!
12. How did you formulate the following plan?
October 2011 – SCUBA in Roatan, Honduras
November 2011 – Trek to Mt. Everest Basecamp in Nepal
December 2011 – Volunteer for one (1) month in Hanoi, Vietnam
January 2012 – Tour of Vietnam from Hanoi to Saigon
February 2012 – Tour India from New Delhi to Trivandrum
March 2012 – Tour Cambodia & Laos
April 2012 – Intensive Language Study in Beijing, China
May 2012 – Intensive Language Study in Beijing, China
June 2012 – Intensive Language Study in Beijing, China
July 2012 – SCUBA in Phuket, Thailand
August 2012 – Yoga Teacher Training Certification in Chiang Mai, Thailand
September 2012 – Eastern Europe Tour (Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Romania,
October 2012 – Western Europe / Egypt & Jordan
November 2012 – Pilgrimage across Northern Spain
December 2012 – Cruise from Barcelona, Spain to Sao Paulo, Brazil
The plan is mostly a function of limited budget & time, combined with activities chosen according to personal values.
13.You have a Duyên () page to document words of wisdom of various people…do you go back and read this often?
I do try to keep these lessons in mind; however, it seems each time I review the page I find benefit in the review.
14. The culinary aspect of your blog is really original! Is food a passion of yours?
One of our favorite aspects of travel is definitely food! We are thrilled to share these authentic dishes, and plan to make them when we get back home!