Life passing us by

Baltimore, Maryland, United States

It is once again time for Greg’s birthday entry-

One can always rely on family to ask the questions everyone else is quietly wondering about:

“Greg, it’s been almost 4 years now.
Aren’t you worried about the world just passing you by?”

The exact words change from member to member but it’s a question family members have asked us more than once over the past 2 years.

And by “world” we know what’s meant:

Career, Paychecks, 401Ks, retirement, medical / optical / dental benefits, long term financial plan, you name it.  A life beyond the next 2 months and a gig that falls into the category of “reliable income.”  Something I can expect to have for an entire taxable year that will pay a wage somewhere near what someone of “our experience” should be getting.  One that would possibly involve trading in the sails for a desk…or at least a consistent cell phone number.

Freaking money people.  Cash.  An income. Jobs.  Mortgages and the like.

Or as some call it “a REAL life.”

When are we going to get off our butts and stop letting REAL LIFE pass us by?

Let’s start with the response you might expect:

life passing by

Pass us by!?  We can tell you what the view looks like from the topside of downunder, throw down in Chinese kung-fu battles, play a…passable…ukulele and oh yeah, for sailing to Tahiti or getting past French immigration or herding the sheep of New Zealand we’re pretty much your go-to couple.  I’d say we’re doing a bang up job keeping up with the world and hey, this getting paid $20/hour or more in Australia to spend our time split between tending mostly empty bars in the tropics, delivering sailing yachts and going skiing every day ain’t going to make us overnight millionaires but it fills the coffers quite nicely!

But that’s not the question my family members were asking and a flippant response like the one above disrespects the affection and desire for our well-being behind their concern.

And while there’s some truth to the response there’s also a trap there.  Our work holiday visas have an expiration date that is rapidly approaching and we are coming to a decision point.  In our travels Tiffany and I have met a few people who have taken this lifestyle from a “gap year” to a “few years off” to finally a “permanent lifestyle choice.”  Wandering massage therapists, charter captains for hire, dive shop owners in the kingdom of Tonga, Hemisphere hopping international ski patrollers; they come in many professions and at some point each of them made a decision to shift long term travel from a grand adventure to a permanent way of life.  Some of them made the choice consciously while others woke up one day to find themselves so far along the path that turning back was a more difficult decision than simply carrying on.

We have not yet reached that point of no return – but we can see it from here.  We have gone from “a few months out” to regularly being the people in the room with the most time spent “abroad”.  It is in fact very rare for us to find other travelers with as much time under their belt as us.  Which means the next step, the transition from “long-term traveler” to “traveling lifestyle” is staring us squarely in the face.

And is that what we want?

pic 7

Now before you go “well duh!” think this one through:

Do we still have things we want to accomplish with our professional lives?

Yes, yes we do.


Are we retired?

No.  Not yet.  We still want the option in the future though.


Is this trip the culmination of our lives or another stepping stone in our journey?


Today I am 34 years old.  It is, as I describe it to my friends, “my last chance to be professionally young.”  Having run a successful business, I got used to hiding my age because people were shocked to find out that I was under 30 and a business owner.  I remember very clearly when I turned 30 the reactions of people…softened.  When I told people my age they were no longer shocked so much as surprised.  Less of “that’s impossible” and more of “oh, well, that’s impressive.”

How long will it take for “that’s impressive” to fade into “that’s expected”?

My guess?  35.  So 34 is my last chance to be professionally young.  Which brings us to the other side of our equation.  Why didn’t we wait until retirement to make this trip?  What motivated us to extend our travels, intentionally choose to take some more of our “prime income years” and dedicate them to, for lack of a better term, professional adventuring?

20100624 - photo - Huahine (43)

(aside from that sounding totally frigging awesome, that is)

Because on each and every boat we worked we were told a story by our captain of at least 3 friends that would be making this same journey except that “extenuating circumstances” got in the way.

Like taking care of an elderly parent, or having grandkids…

Or cancer…

Or getting a retirement wiped out when the stock market crashed…

Or just waiting too long, getting too old and being too reliant on modern society to maintain a certain quality of life (everything from air conditioning to required medication to mortgage payments on their homes)…

Or something as simple as their dream changed on them.


We are old enough to have the experience necessary to have an effective go at this crew business and just young enough to catch the tail end of the work-holiday visa programs.

We’re old enough to appreciate the value of the time we dedicated to this endeavor while being young enough to have the ability to travel freely without health or other long-term concerns.

Simply put – Tiffany and I can’t think of a better time in our lives to travel and while we both acknowledge that our next adventure may be very different from this one, this for us was the time to make our journey happen.

And we are at this point officially declaring, by every possible measurable standard we can conceive, our “one year trip abroad” an outrageous runaway success.  While we wouldn’t change our decisions up to this point, while we are making enough money in Australia to fund something neither of us could imagine doing when we started out:

round the worldA full overland round the world trip

those travels and this iteration of our life does now have an end date.  We are, as I stated previously, on our way home

…that doesn’t mean we don’t plan to drag our feet a little though 😉

…and it doesn’t mean we have to stay once we get back, either.

Because REAL LIFE is pretty much what we make of it.

(feel free to insert matrix reference here)

About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures.  If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at

This entry was posted in budget travel, Pacific Puddle Jump, Sailing, sea life, travel, world travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Life passing us by

  1. Roy McMillan II says:


    First off, Happy Belated Birthday. I truly am sorry I missed wishing such an extraordinary young man a happy birthday. As to those asking you about getting a life. :-P. Tell them to bite you. They are in the same position I am, upside down in life, and wishing they would have done what you are doing.

    Anyone with an inkling of explorer in them, wants to travel the world, see the sights and experience life with other cultures. I can tell you the envy bug bit me hard when I saw you in your Kung-Fu stances. Especially with the fact that it appears you were actually in China. You are only 34 and your escapades abroad with your wife at your side would make an excellent book. Heck your blog alone is a book waiting to be edited.

    Imagine this “Greg and Tiffany Norte – Coast Guard Officers, Sailing Instructors, Motivational Speakers, World Travelers and now top selling published authors. ALL…..Before 40!!” Yeah, maybe you should get a “Real Life” Greg, before all this excitement we have passes you by.

    God Bless and Blue Skies my friend!

    Roy McMillan

    • Greg says:

      Hey Roy,

      While I agree with your sentiment of adventure, I also appreciate adventurous spirits need balance to adventure for the long term. I go into this more in another blog entry

      and the core of it is that while life should be amazing right now, there is a balance there that will allow us to have fun now and be set up for the future. That’s my family member’s point: they want to make sure I’m thinking of that stuff. Which I appreciate, because it’s also important.

      oh and yeah, China was pretty awesome! (affordable too, in case you want to give it a go yourself)

  2. Candace Mahler says:

    Hey Greg,
    I don’t usually respond to posts, but in this case I feel the need. While I was just a face in your crowd, I have always thought very highly of both you and Tiffany. I recently had a birthday which had me looking back at different times in my life, and I can’t help but wonder what I might have accomplished if I had been brave enough to do what the two of you are doing.

    You give hope to others who put their feet on the ground, their chins in the air and begin looking for something to keep them afloat (no pun intended) when the life they thought they had all but disappears. Talk about making lemonade out of lemons.

    You have a lifetime of memories that the two of you have built together while having some serious adventures. You have faced life with a sense of humor and aren’t afraid of taking a chance or two in order to see what’s over the next hill, or wave. I have no doubt that you will find something that will satisfy and challenge you both and whatever path you decide to follow, regardless of if it fits anyone’s idea of what they think you should do, it will be right for you.

    Be true to yourselves and each other, and life will be your oyster.


    Candace Mahler

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