How I Went From Back Surgery to a Year of Travel

How I Went From Back Surgery to a Year of Travel 2

Thinking about taking a year of travel but think your life is too hectic to accommodate such a day dream? Maybe my story can help give you a little push in the right direction. Remember that back injury I not-so-conveniently had just weeks before my last around the world trip? Whelp, my recovery kind of plateaued leaving me with the option of having stabbing pains and a numb foot for life or taking the chance that a surgery would improve things. I chose door number 2.

So sorry for the gap in posts but I did just have surgery…get off my back!

No really. It’s tender.

On the plus side…

For the past few weeks I have been on the mend and am back to how I was before the surgery, but no better. It has been frustrating but did give me a lot of downtime to think. It has been hard to circulate positive thoughts because here I am, almost a year removed from my back injury and am seemingly no further along.

When life gives you lemons, you travel.

So what does this guy do when down and out? Mope mostly. After that?


That’s right. 2015 is dedicated to a year of travel and all things, bad back and all.

If this seems sudden, let me back up a bit. Taking a year of travel (at least) and focusing on this site has always been my plan. For years now it was a goal and one that would be met. Things just kept coming up to delay it. My trip at the beginning of this year was finally going to be just that, but then I hurt my back amongst other excuses.

Let the pinning begin! via Flickr CC poolie
Let the pinning begin! via Flickr CC poolie

If not now then when?

With my ample downtime I began to think about those excuses and started to take my own advice about them. I realized that there will always be excuses and that there will always be reasons to delay. If I didn’t do something about it now, I never would. If taking a year of travel was my plan, why not go through with it? I mean I’m only getting older. All we are really given in this life is time, and very little of it at that. Better make the most of it.

Turning positive thoughts into action.

Remember that amazing one-way ticket to Kenya I bought? That really kickstarted things. Originally it was just going to be another trip and not necessarily part of traveling full time. I mean, I just had back surgery. I’m in no shape to travel the world right? Well if anything, this past year has taught me that I could travel with an injury and that it shouldn’t keep me from being happy. Nor should my day job…


Work it out

This may be a surprise to some but I do hold down a day job. It has been what has kept me grounded, good and bad. On the positive it has allowed me to afford my travels. On the negative, it has kept me from pursing my love of travel and writing about it. Still, it brings stability to my seemingly hectic life – although again, I’m not sure that is a good thing. It has been a safety net but also a ball and chain. It has kept me from failing at travel writing but also kept me from giving it my all…until now. I have grown increasingly frustrated with certain aspects of my work and work environment and have realized that a break away would be best for my health and happiness. It was tough to do but I explained my increasing frustrations and requested an unpaid leave.

What about your shit?

Next up was deciding what to do with a home full of possessions and an overweight cat. I am very lucky to own property in Vancouver BC, one of the most awesome places in the world to live. My home has brought much joy but more importantly, brought the ability to pull next year of travel off. It was a tough decision but it was time to practice what I preach – experiences outweigh possessions. We sold our place and all but a few things and downgraded to a smaller condo that we will rent to our cat-loving friends Sarah and Glenn. If the names sound familiar they are the travel loving couple who allowed us to crash their Iceland honeymoon.

And go.

So with everything falling (jamming) into place I am left with sorting the next year or so out. With little to no cash and a vast appetite to see it all, this will be interesting. Our intentions are to travel for a few months then live somewhere cheap for a month and sort out the next leg then repeat. I’m still trying to figure out the first few stops but have some amazing partnerships to share, just not yet. What I can say is:

Tokyo bound - via lau_kazza Flickr CC
Tokyo bound – via lau_kazza Flickr CC

From Africa we have some time to kill before our next flight from Prague to Tokyo. We will most likely settle for a month somewhere cheap and easy to get to. For a rough idea of what 2015 will bring check out my See you Soon page. Stay tuned as we fill in the gaps!

So let this be proof that a year of travel is within reach no matter the circumstances or unfortunate excuses that come up. Those excuses will always be there. If you are thinking of a year of travel, stop the excuses and start planning!

Update: This amazing year+ of travel has come and gone! For the full route recape see the post What does 14 months of travel look like anyway!


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29 replies on “How I Went From Back Surgery to a Year of Travel”
  1. Avatarsays: Rashad Pharaon

    Shaun, awesome content aside, I love the layout of your blog and your energy. It’s refreshing to read about someone who’s taken an impairing negative and turned it into such a bright positive. Great story!

  2. Avatarsays: Sonal Bhardwaj

    My story is similar. Its your grit and passion that made you going along always. May travel be with you always

  3. Avatarsays: Jerry

    Shaun, You are wise and fortunate to have found that other yardstick to measure your life’s’ progress. I too was fortunate to find a different stick to use, alas, after a series of spinal surgeries following an injury, and near death experiences for the wake up call. None the less, applaud you for the motivation and best on continued recovery. It is travel that makes the best recovery, regardless of our physical ability.

      1. Avatarsays: Jerry

        Thanks, U back in CA? One more surgery tomorrow, then no mas. Yikes, had to give up a trip to Chiapas caving and rapelling. next time. Been there? Done that? AdventurGo.

  4. In 2003, we started the same journey and sold everything we owned (we’re Canadians too). From 2005-2008 we lived in Southern Mexico (where we still winter). I recently wrote about WHY we did it. Life is short ya know.

    I don’t regret one minute of it. In fact, if I regret anything, it’s that we didn’t do it sooner and for longer. That’s why, we’ve already picked our retirement date (December 2017) and have already begun the long process to sell everything again (and for the last time, I hope).

    Where are you right now? No matter, I hope that you are enjoying yourself and that your health is keeping up. Medical care is cheap in Mexico and most of the doctors speak English. Just saying. Let me know if you’re near Chiapas Mexico from December to March because you have a place to stay.

    “Me casa es tu casa”.

    Besos, Sarah
    Journeys of The Zoo

    [email protected]

    1. Hola Sarah! Thanks for the kind words and offer! Life is freaking short. This year is blowing by which only makes me want travel more.

      I will be in Central America December to January so will be close!

  5. Avatarsays: Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren

    Amazing and inspiring! Out of curiosity, you are ringing in 2015 in Toronto? Where do you think you’ll be? We’re spending NYE downtown and maybe we’ll just have to run into you! 🙂

  6. Avatarsays: Sally Lee

    Yes more power to you Shaun! Great inspiration and hope nothing but the best for you and your upcoming adventure! I will be following along and getting inspired for my next big trip!

  7. Avatarsays: Jessi & Tara

    Awesome post, Shaun, and more power to you for not letting anything hold you back. Sometimes there can be a few false starts, and hurdles are always wrestling to throw themselves in your way, but eventually you just have to do it! Safe travels, and I hope that your back feels better. You’re going to have some amazing experiences!

  8. Avatarsays: Akbar Hazeef

    I would much like to travel like you do. Your trips and words are very admirable and wish you well on your travels.


  9. Avatarsays: Felicia Whitmore

    This looks amazing Shaun! Love your positive attitude and looking forward to your stories!

Comments are closed.