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Briefcases for backpacks: One couple’s story of trading a life of work for a life of travel

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: In the words of Mark Twain: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This advice resonated quite well with my wife, Farideh, and I. So, she traded a sought-after winery job in Sonoma, California, and I traded a university teaching position for an around-the-world adventure – with backpacks.

As far as bucket lists go, ours is getting shorter. We’ve had the privilege of sailing up the Nile with Said, our Egyptian felucca captain, from Aswan to Luxor. We visited the temples of Karnak and the tombs of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, then travelled to Cairo and the Great Pyramid of Giza.

We’ve seen the big five in the Masai Mara, dived with great white sharks in South Africa and hiked to the top of Machu Picchu.

We’ve stood within inches of howler monkeys and toucans at Tikal, found pink dolphins and giant anacondas deep in the Amazon Jungle and visited Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.


We have photographed Galapagos tortoises, iguanas, hammerhead sharks and watched the sunset from Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. We’ve walked in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Darius the Great at Persepolis, and traversed the forbidding Atacama Desert through desolate landscapes completely devoid of vegetation, where some weather stations have never recorded a single drop of rain.

We’ve read about travellers who make a living while on the road. We are not that clever: our travels are financed by savings.

For years, there was never enough money, so we waited.

Even on the day when we strapped on our backpacks and walked out the door, there was not enough money – but we did not care to wait any longer.

When people ask about surviving without health insurance, our reply is “don’t get sick”. This is arrogant, of course, and sooner or later we will most likely have to deal with medical difficulties, but we have chosen to cross that bridge when we come to it and not allow fear to dictate the way in which our lives evolve.

Currently, we are searching for the planet’s top scuba diving destinations. We will be blogging our Phuket scuba diving adventure at World Dive Quest.

Neither of us are computer savvy, yet a great deal of our lives now revolves around the internet: communication with family; banking; booking planes, trains and automobiles; researching destinations; and now, blogging.

We are an American and Iranian couple. Ultimately, we hope that sharing our trip and our experiences through our blog will help demonstrate to the world that Americans and Iranians can work together, connect and interact positively with people around the globe, rather than quarreling and creating conflict.

We think we’re doing a much better job than our respective governments.

When we were younger, travel was often boom, boom, boom – always jumping from one place to the next. Now – and not so young – we try to remain at least a week in every destination and maintain a leisurely pace throughout the journey. Packing bags every other day is too much like a real job – might as well stay at the office.

How long can one live as a vagabond, you might ask? Perhaps, for as long as one can walk.

For us, thoughts of a real home, a garden, a cat, our own kitchen, a car, a golf course with some buddies, are slowly creeping into our minds more and more. First, we will check off a few more countries, hike a few more mountains, explore a few more cities, and dive a few more reefs.

Surely, we will settle down somewhere, someday.

For now our only choice is to keep exploring, because, as James Masefield expressed in Sea Fever, the call of the road for travelers is “a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.”

— Joseph Ross


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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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