Once we had decided that we wanted to take a year off and travel, our next thoughts were on how will we be able to do that?, and what do we want to do?.
As soon as “how will be able to do that?” is on the table, the list of questions – can we afford it?, how can I leave my job?, is it safe?, will I ever be employed again?, what do we do with the house?, etc., etc., etc. – builds. The list of questions appears to be infinite, and the prospect of answering all the questions is daunting, to say the least.
In reality, the only question that matters is: are we going to take a year off and travel? Once we truly said yes to that, all other questions became, if not secondary, then at least manageable.
The “how can we do this” is tightly coupled with “what do we want to do”. Karen and I rather quickly agreed that we wanted to do a mix of pure travel and community service; we also agreed that we wanted to spend time in South America, Africa, and South-East Asia.
We have been to South America before – Argentina and Brazil – and loved it; the people, the landscape, the food, and let’s not forget, the wine. This time though, we wanted to see much more, explore off the beaten track, and be able to spend quality time whenever and wherever we felt like it. So, South America was designated as the pure travel portion.
Loosely, we decide to spend 6 – 8 months in South America, and then roughly 6 months in Africa doing community service intermixed with some tourist travel. Finally, our plan is to spend 3 months in S E Asia, assuming the money lasts.
OK, so we now had an exceedingly rough itinerary, and the word money had reared its ugly head…
One of the first things anyone asks when we tell them about our plans is: How can you afford it? The short answer is we’re fortunate. On further reflection though, my guess is that many people can afford to do something like this once they have made up their mind that they’re going. Once that decision has been made, it becomes a balance of when you want to travel – how many years do you have to save – for how long, and in what style.
After we decided six years ago that we wanted to take a year off, we created a travel account and started to save. Karen’s salary went either into her retirement account or into the travel account. Those savings determined our budget.
We thought that 12 – 18 months would be the right length of time to travel.
And finally we think, given our travel plans, we can manage on a budget of $100/day for the two of us, excluding setup charges. As a sidenote, now that we have quit our jobs and should be living on our budget, it’s amazing how many things now get classified as setup charges…
As a second sidenote, we are starting to use the “That’s two days on the road…” as a description of extra expenses.
The length of time, the daily budget, and our savings are all roughly in line. We’ll see how it goes; worst case, we’ll cut our travel short.
The next question we get is: “Country X is so dangerous, how can you go there?”. Given that at the time of this writing we have only spent time in Canada, and Canada was never mentioned as Country X, we can’t yet say that Country X isn’t dangerous. What we can say though is that we are not too concerned about our safety. Sure, there are dangerous places in the world, and certainly bad things can happen. But they can happen almost anywhere. (I, Henrik, have been mugged once in my life. In New York City…).
Our direct experiences from many countries, and friends’ experiences from many more, all back up that the vast majority of people anywhere in the world are friendly, helpful, and gracious. We believe that as a tourist / visitor, common sense and courteous behavior will go a long way in avoiding any problems.