We all have dreams that we all hope will someday turn into realities. So we plan, and plan and plan. So with all that planning, when does your dream become a reality? Does it ever? In August 2011, Larissa Milne '06 and her husband Michael decided after 25 years of marriage to make their dream to travel around the world a reality.
The Milnes had always loved to travel. Both of their families traveled all of Larissa and Michael's childhood lives, so traveling was always in their blood.
"That was probably something that drew us closer together in the first place," Larissa said. "We both came from families where travel was a big part of our lives."
The planning process for their year-long journey was a long one. Larissa and Michael sold their house in the suburbs and rented a furnished apartment in Philadelphia while they planned their trip across the world. They kept only a few sentimental objects that are now sitting in a small storage unit, and sold the rest.
"We decided that we would get rid of or sell anything that we could readily replace, or that didn't have sentimental value," Larissa said. "Our basic philosophy was that if we could go to Target and replace it, we weren't going to keep it."
In order to afford the trip, the couple had been saving up for a while, using some of the money from the sale of their house and belongings, as well as their life savings.
Prior to leaving for China, their first of many destinations, the couple designed the layout of their blog "Changes in Longitude," which the couple has been updating throughout their trip. The blog, whose title was inspired by Jimmy Buffet's song "Changes In Latitude," keeps readers informed of what Larissa and Michael are up to, what they are learning and experiencing, and gives readers helpful travel tips.
"We seem to have struck a chord with people," Larissa said. "Taking a trip like this is something that people think about, a lot of people talk about, but they just never do it. They've really been intrigued with it. Their interest has governed a lot of the content on our blog."
To hold on to their Philadelphia roots, the Milne's have been traveling with a mini statue of Rocky. They have posted photographs of Rocky in front of famous landmarks on their blog and Facebook page.
So where has the adventure taken this adventurous couple? Everywhere. Larissa and Michael began their journey in China, and since then have traveled to 24 countries including North Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, France, England and Scotland.
As a way of "letting go of the mindset of having a plan," Larissa and Mike do not plan their trips more than a couple of months in advance, sometimes only a few days in advance. In fact, the day of our interview, the Milnes were at a flat in Scotland where they would remain for the next four days and their plans for after that had yet to be made.
Larissa stressed how a year-long trip around the world differed from a short vacation.
"It's a totally different mindset when you're going on a trip like this, because you really need to stop and slow down in the midst of it," Larissa said. "It's not a like a vacation in that you have to go at a much slower pace."
Instead of dishing out large amounts of money for hotels and restaurants, Larissa and Michael have taken the economical route and stayed in flats for a few weeks at a time, and often cooked their own meals.
"We're basically finding a place to live for however many weeks it might be, and we take the time to absorb the culture," Larissa said. "That's one of the things we've been writing about on our blog."
So what is it like spending an entire year traveling with your spouse? According to Larissa, compromise and alone time have been two major factors during the trip. Larissa says that Michael visits military sites, while she spends some time taking cooking lessons and shoe shopping by herself. Larissa was particularly fond of Vietnam where she took cooking classes.
"I've always liked Vietnamese food; I ate like crazy," Larissa said.
Larissa said that North Korea was definitely the most interesting destination the two visited.
"You see a lot, they restrict what you can see, but you still probably see a lot more than you think you would," Larissa said.
Larissa added that their cell phone and computers were confiscated upon arriving in North Korea, and returned to them once they left.
Another country that stood out to Larissa and Michael was Turkey. They stayed in Istanbul for five or six days.
"We didn't really build in time to tour around the country; we only spent time in Istanbul," Larissa said. "It's a place I would want to go back to. Our visit to Turkey was a really pleasant surprise."
As one would think, the lifestyles of different countries take some getting used to. Larissa said that there were aspects of the American lifestyle that she certainly missed, like Philly cheesesteaks, but she also found living a new lifestyle to be refreshing. She said that escaping the materialism of America was one of many advantages of the trip.
"We've seen so many different things throughout our travels, it's hard to miss the stuff from home," Larissa said. "Because we're traveling and we're seeing so many different countries, there's so much going on."
Technology has made it easy for Larissa and Michael to stay in touch with their friends and family, who were quite supportive of the trip. The couple was equipped with a laptop and one phone and SIM card between the two of them.
"Michael doesn't have a cell phone right now," Larissa said. "He can choose when he wants to communicate with people, and he loves it."
It is safe to say that a year-long journey would change anyone. Larissa said that it certainly had a strong impact on her and her husband. In fact, they've decided to extend their trip to 14 months because they still have some exploring to do.
"It has been an enriching experience," Larissa said. "We've exchanged a lot of our belongings for an abundance of experiences. We're more interested in having experiences as we move forward in our life than having things."
Larissa also credits their journey abroad to the people they encountered. The two met many people during an organized tour in North Korea, with whom they have made strong connections, along with many people from other countries such as Australia, Singapore and Turkey.
As their journey comes to an end, Larissa and Michael hope to use the experiences they've had while on their trip to start a new career. Before the trip, Larissa consulted with early-stage companies in the life sciences and Michael was in the commercial real estate business.
"I want to pursue growing a business out of my experiences with travel," Larissa said.
One thing is for sure, their experiences over the past year have changed Larissa and Michael's life greatly, and they hope to go abroad again.
"People have different ways that they like to flex their creative muscles or experience new things, and for us it's always been through travel," Larissa said.
To keep up with Larissa and Michael's adventures abroad, visit their blog at www.changesinlongitude.com.