Have you ever gone on vacation and completely fallen in love with your destination?
The people are so welcoming and friendly, the food is delicious, the weather is perfect, and your tan is glowing. Just as you gain the confidence to make it back to your hotel without getting lost, it’s time to pack your suitcase and head back home.
This traveler’s remorse is the catalyst to a new way to travel.
Rather than the traditional week long vacation, people like me are deciding to live “mini-lives”, spending extended stays test-driving different locations and lifestyles around the globe. Mini-lives are not just extended vacations.
The main difference is in the way you travel. There are no hotels, few restaurant trips, and little emphasis on sight-seeing. The goal is to live as you would at home, just in a different destination.
My introduction to mini-lives began in college.
I moved to Washington, D.C from my hometown of Columbus, Ohio and loved the transition. D.C was much more diverse and fast paced. Going from a small city to the capital of the country allowed me to experience a different lifestyle and I loved it. I knew that I wanted to continue to live in different areas and destinations after graduation.
While I loved the city feel of D.C., the winter weather was a deal breaker for me. To escape the snowy winters, I chose to move to sunny Los Angeles and quickly added “nice weather” to my list of dream destination must haves.
After two years in LA, I was ready for another change.
I decided that the best way for me to experience different cultures would be to have the ability to work from anywhere, without being tied to a specific geographical location.
I became a digital nomad. I work remotely, and therefore can run my businesses from anywhere in the world. I set out with my husband to begin living mini-lives all over the world.
We started with one-way tickets to Panama, where we found an Afro-Caribbean island to call home for three months. We completely embraced our new community while living in a guesthouse along the Caribbean Sea, spending our time eating fried Red Snapper and plantains, learning Spanish, and hiking through the jungle.
Before long, our neighbors knew us and we felt like a part of the community. We shopped where the locals shopped, were invited into their homes, taught their recipes, and invited to traditional ceremonies.
One to three months is the perfect amount of time for a test drive. It allows enough time to really adopt a new way of life and get a feel for a culture and destination.
We used that as our barometer as we traveled through Central America, spending two months in Nicaragua and Mexico, where we learned that an emphasis on great food was another “must have” for us.
We then headed to Europe.
First, living in an Italian villa on the Tuscan border, learning traditional Italian recipes and drinking local wine for three months. The community was very tight knit and secluded, a steep mile-long hike from the nearest store or restaurant.
We really liked the idea of not having a huge grocery store. Instead, we went to the baker for fresh bread, the butcher for meat, and then over to a local farm for fruits and veggies.
We enjoyed ourselves and learned so much about Italian culture that we would want to implement into our own lives; such as the regular family dinners and slow pace of living.
After a month in the village we regularly found ourselves at Sunday dinners, usually with three generations of a family around the table. We would laugh, drinking Limón cello and Grappa, into the wee hours of the night.
While village living fulfilled our desire for delicious food, we missed the city life.
We headed to London, and spent one month in the congested city getting stuck in traffic and tourist traps. While we enjoyed the convenience of metros and trains, we missed open roads and hikes. Gardens are a big deal in England and an invite to a garden show in the countryside made us wonder what England had to offer outside of London.
We headed to the English countryside to find out if we would love their villages as much as we loved Italian villages. To our surprise, we were completely smitten by the farm lifestyle.
We stayed in a home with chickens in the backyard that provided fresh eggs every morning. We walked to the grocery store and enjoyed clear sunsets, untainted by pollution, every night. There was an elementary school behind our home and I enjoyed watching the mothers bring the children, too young for school, to play with their older siblings at recess.
Every day, the families would walk home together, no school buses or car congestion, just a casual stroll home. I liked that and had to admit that I loved the culture of small villages.
Once you find a lifestyle choice that fits you, simply add to it with other characteristics on your “must haves” list.
Over the past two years, we’ve experienced mini-lives in France, Spain, and Morocco, all in small villages in the countryside, with short stays in Paris, Barcelona, and Marrakech.
Because of our long-term stays, we have the option to vacation to the major cities without that being all we see.
It’s no surprise that more people are deciding to travel this way as opposed to the traditional weekend or week long vacations. You can’t truly get a feel for a foreign destination in that short time frame and will always be left with traveler’s remorse when leaving a new city or village that touched your heart.
Joining the mini-lives travel movement is a simple process:
- Find a way to work remotely. I’ve found that it is easier to find free WiFi than free drinking water, so you can always find a way to work online.
- Pick a destination. It’s best to book apartments or private homes for accommodation, as hotels do not provide the feeling of home.
- Once you arrive, embrace the new community as your own and make note of the things you love. Add them to your list.
By combining as many of your must haves as possible, you are able to find the best destination and test-drive the lifestyle.
Mini lives just help you test drive different lifestyles while you figure out what makes you happy.
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