Sharon sold her home to travel the world. Then the pandemic hit

written by Sharon Cheung May 9, 2022
Spain Intrepid Balcon de Europe

In 2019, Intrepid traveller Sharon Cheung resigned from her job at a school. In January 2020 she sold her house to travel the world for two years. It was going to be her big, independent, globetrotting adventure. And then…well, in her own words, here’s what happened next.

In January 2020 I sold practically everything I own. My house, my possessions, everything. I’d resigned my job the month before – working at a high school, helping kids who didn’t have English as a first language – and the plan was to travel the world for two years. The house had actually been sold in August 2019, when I was in Ukraine of all places; I was on an Intrepid trip and I got a call from the estate agent saying, “We’ve had an offer. What do you want to do?” I paused for a second, then blurted out, “Go for it!”

The decision to sell everything had been building for a while. I’d been divorced for a few years. Both my kids had graduated and started working in other parts of the country. My job wasn’t challenging me anymore, and I’d begun to lose faith in the British school system. I thought, well this life isn’t stretching me, I’m not learning much. So I told my son and daughter, “I’m going to sell the house. It’s too big for me anyway. What do you think?” And they were very supportive.

When I got back from Ukraine, I started clearing everything out of the house. I had one storage unit, about the size of a double bed, and that now holds everything I own in the world. I guess, technically, I’m homeless. I gave most of my books and things away to friends, or donated them to charity. The few items I kept were the ones with sentimental value.

Then January 2020 arrived, and my travels began! It was going to be two years of adventure. After that? Well, I didn’t have any plans. I had nowhere to live, and nothing much to come back to. I started in Greece, then wandered through Sicily and Spain, before hopping over to Lisbon. This was in early 2020, when COVID was just starting to break, and people were becoming worried. Having a Chinese surname had been an issue when I moved from London to rural Norfolk, but I hadn’t expected it to be a problem in 2020. I’d get a lot of nervous looks in hotels. It was a very strange experience. One manager said to me, “Oh, you’re English? We thought you were Chinese. We’re going to send our children up to the mountains, where it’s safe.”

After Portugal, I flew to Wales to see my son for a few days. I was due to fly out to Budapest, then Thailand. COVID was really starting to spread by this point, and my daughter rang and said, “Please don’t go. I have a bad feeling about this.” I was due to fly at 7pm that evening. A few hours later, Hungary closed their borders.

What was meant to be a four-day trip to Wales ended up being three months of hard lockdown. I was stuck in the country, unable to even cross the bridge back to England. I stayed with my son for a three months, then moved in with a friend. I went from couch surfing to a short term rental. Hopping from place to place. Living out of a suitcase.

I wanted to keep the travel dream alive. As 2020 wore on, and lockdowns shifted and opened, I managed a few weeks of travel here and there. My Intrepid Uzbekistan tour, planned for my birthday in 2020, got cancelled (multiple times). I swung between feelings of freedom and panicky regret. Over lockdown I’d have the odd day when I’d think, gosh have I don’t the right thing? Selling my house, everything I own? But the next morning it’d be gone and I’d think, yeah, it was the right move. I didn’t need all that stuff anyway.

“I don’t regret my decision to sell everything, even after the pandemic. Sometimes your plans don’t work out, but that doesn’t mean the decision wasn’t the right one. “

This was a lesson I’d learned a few years before. My ex-husband wasn’t keen to travel anywhere. Looking back, he was quite controlling. But after I left him, the kids and I moved from London to a little house in Norfolk, with a beach at the end of the road. And I realised my priorities had changed. In London I was going out all the time, spending £70 or £80 on meals, buying lots of clothes. And when we moved to the country I realised I didn’t need all that.

Six months after moving to Norfolk, my kids and I were in South Africa. Our first big adventure! We’d ride trains and stay in hostels. I’d wake up at 2am and buy cheap flights and we’d go everywhere. Little mini adventures. The travel bug bit us all. We made a deal, my kids and I, that no-one could complain on our trips. We’d each get to do something we liked while travelling. We took turns choosing activities.

But then my kids grew up and went to university. I thought, if I want to get out there and see the world, I have to do it on my own. So I’ve been travelling ever since.

I don’t regret my decision to sell everything, even after the pandemic. Sometimes your plans don’t work out, but that doesn’t mean the decision wasn’t the right one. My big birthday trip to Uzbekistan didn’t happen in 2020, but I’ve rebooked for October this year. Before that, I’m going to Jordan with Intrepid. I’m going to walk through the Siq and see the Treasury at the end. I’m going to have my Indiana Jones moment.

The last two years have been a bit of a roller coaster. I’ve learned to be resilient and stay flexible. I’ve started to get my French up to speed, with solo trips to Paris and Provence. I’ve had a week in Cyprus, exploring both sides of the green line. But most of all, I’ve learned the more you travel, the more you see the world, the less stuff you actually need.

Want to hit the road? Selling the house and all your worldly possessions is definitely optional. Check out Intrepid’s small group adventures to find your next big trip.

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