12 Memorable Moments From 3 Years of Traveling

Collect more moments and less things.

Easier said than done.

It took some time for me to realize that life has more meaning when I’m collecting more moments and less things. After 30+ years, I finally simplified my life and started spending a disproportionate amount of my money on experiences rather than material possessions.

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Becoming a parent and traveling with my family helped me reprioritize my time, energy, and money on creating meaningful moments for my family and I. We haven’t bought unnecessary amounts of clothes, toys, electronics, furniture, and food. We have spent our money on moments that we deem valuable, including family travel, spending time with extended family, and our health and well-being.

Moments have been created, milestones have been reached, and the results have been memories that will last a lifetime. Here are my 12 memorable moments from 3 years of traveling:

1. Liquidating over 80% of everything we own

Before we embarked on our gap year of world travel, we sold, donated, gave away, or trashed most of our material possessions. We sold our SUV and our furniture, put everything we owned into a corner of our friend’s garage, and took the rest of our stuff on our trip through ten countries in ten months.

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2. Completing the Honolulu Marathon

I completed my first full marathon in December 2014 in a time of 4 hours and 2 minutes. This was the culmination of over 400 miles of running in 4 months of training. Training for this marathon taught me a lot about dealing with pain and overcoming it.

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3. Volunteering and fundraising for a homeless center in Honolulu, Hawaii

During the Christmas and New Year holidays in 2014, I volunteered at the River of Life Mission in Chinatown, helping with their daily lunch service and their holiday giveaway. It was a valuable learning experience and taught me many important life lessons. I also fundraised over $600 from friends and family to help with the Mission’s efforts.

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4. Riding our moped in Phuket, Thailand with my wife and kids for 3 months

With 4 people on one moped, we weren’t traveling long distances very quickly, but we did have a lot of fun with the girls on the roads of Phuket. Thankfully, no one got hurt in our 3 months of moped riding in Phuket.

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5. Sleeping overnight with my family at Seoul’s Incheon airport

With nowhere to go for our 15-hour layover, we had to sleep overnight at the airport. Fortunately, Incheon airport had all the amenities to make this possible, which made it a bearable experience, even with kids.

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6. Traveling all over Ethiopia with my friend for 2 weeks

Ethiopia was never on my bucket list, until my friend told me about his plans to travel there in the summer of 2014. I decided to join him and the result was 2 weeks of travel through 5 different towns in Ethiopia, including seeing the famous stone churches of Lalibela. It was my first time traveling in Africa and a trip I’ll never forget.

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7. Going on solo trips to Sydney, Bangkok, Beijing, Bali, Kota Kinabalu, and Cebu

With my wife and kids happily at my in-laws’ place in China, I took advantage of the opportunity to do some solo travel to various destinations in Asia and Australia. I had many highs and lows on the trips, but I’m definitely grateful to have had the opportunity to travel on my own.

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8. Taking a “kidsmoon” with my wife to Tokyo and Seoul

For 10 glorious days, my wife and I were kids-free and traveled on our “kidsmoon” in two of the most bustling cities in Asia: Tokyo and Seoul. We enjoyed our time together—and away from the kids—but really started missing them towards the end of our trip.

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9. Living in Barcelona, Spain for 5 weeks

Barcelona was our longest stop on our 75-day journey through 6 countries in Europe. The city was amazing with its culture, people, landscapes, architecture, food, beaches, shopping areas, and museums. Our two-bedroom apartment was spacious, modern, and centrally located. Plus, the kids were in school, which helped free up time for my wife and I to go sightseeing, shopping, exercising, or to the beach.

Family photo at a local festival

Family photo at a local festival

10. Having my kids attend schools in Guatemala, Taiwan, Thailand, Spain, and China

I never sought out to have my kids attend schools in 5 foreign countries, but that’s how it worked out. My wife and I discovered our best formula for making family travel work for us was to have our kids in school during our extended stays in various countries. It’s been our hybrid version of world schooling and local schooling.

Going away card from classmates in Antigua, Guatemala

Going away card from classmates in Antigua, Guatemala

11. Traveling to Honolulu, Hawaii to go on a daddy-daughter date to the Janet Jackson concert

Upon our return home from our gap year of world travel, I booked a long weekend date with my oldest daughter to go to Hawaii for the Janet Jackson concert—with only a few days notice. Because of jet lag and the late start to the concert, she fell asleep after the first set. But the experience of being with her and taking care of her on my own was something that I’ll always cherish.

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12. Having my writing featured on The Huffington Post, MSN Travel, and TODAY

My post on “How Much We Spent for 10 Months of World Travel” was prominently featured in the travel section of The Huffington Post, was translated into Spanish and Italian, and eventually got featured on MSN Travel and the MSN homepage. All this interest in my article blew me away. I even was interviewed for a TODAY article about how my family traveled to Europe on a budget.

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Reflecting on my top dozen moments in the last three years fills me with joy on all that we’ve been able to do, but also encourages me that there is so much more to do, so much more to see, and many more moments to live. We’ll keep investing in experiences, whether it’s at home or abroad, and we’ll keep living, day by day, moment by moment.

Three years ago, I could have never imagined that I would have this list of moments. I was stuck in a soul-sucking, demoralizing job with an unsustainable schedule. I yearned for something better and on one fateful day, I decided I was going to actually make substantial changes in my life. With incremental steps, I made the changes to get my life back on track and in the trajectory I wanted it going towards. The life I imagined of freedom, flexibility, and fun wasn’t a dream anymore; it was something that I was making a reality. Step by step, day by day, and trip by trip, things eventually came together and it all wouldn’t have ever happened if I hadn’t change my mindset.

I believe that anyone is capable of removing themselves from the stranglehold of wanting and needing more stuff, and living a more fulfilling life of meaningful moments and unforgettable experiences.

So, how can you change your mindset and collect more moments and joy in the process?

  • Reduce your stuff. Purge everything you own that has served its purpose and doesn’t bring you joy. Things that have been in your closets, boxes, and garage for months, and even years, need to be removed immediately. Give it away to friends or family, sell it, donate it, or trash it. Simply your life, so you’re not burdened with having too much stuff.
  • Spend less money on things. Set a monthly consumption budget for everything that you buy. By buying less, you free yourself of the impulses to acquire more stuff, become content with what you have, and save money in the process.
  • Save more money for moments. Most moments require some investment of money for it to come to fruition. Set a monthly savings budget that provides you the resources you need to make your moments happen, whether it’s attending a concert, traveling to a new country, or taking your kids to Disneyland.
  • Make a bucket list. It helps to actually write down what you want to achieve. Putting something on your bucket list starts the process of anticipation and visualization, which gets you one step closer to taking action and making that moment become a reality.
  • Enjoy yourself. When it’s time to actually live a moment, be there and be present. Be grateful for what you’ve been able to accomplish and the happiness that the moment has given you.

Are you ready to collect more moments in your life?

Start where you are. Start with the moments you have. Make the most of those moments. Then keep making more and more of those moments that bring you joy and love.

Cliff Hsia is a writer, husband, and father, who is determined to live a better than normal life by traveling the world, slowly and purposefully, with his wife and two young daughters. His writing has been featured on MSN, TODAY, The Huffington Post, The Good Men Project, and other publications. He writes about travel, parenting, and lifestyle design.

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