And now my friends the time has come
To say farewell and chase the sun
To explore new things and discover new places
To run wild and free and meet new faces
A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are for
The magic happens when you open up the doors
Do what you love and love what you do
For this journey will never truly be through
Question the norm and speak your mind
For history was not made by following the grind
Explore, dance, travel, be free
Through that you will find your inner glee
For staying in one place is no way to see the rainbow
And now adventure is calling, and I must go
– A poem written by me on 27 March, 2017
For those of you unfamiliar with our story (which can be read on the About Us section of this blog), my then fiance, now husband, Sasha and I left our corporate jobs in Seattle in April of 2017 to travel abroad without a set plan to return. This was a huge life move for us, and one that required a great deal of advance planning and preparation. We both had to wrap up our roles in the jobs we left, train our successors, vacate our apartment, drop off my car with family, cancel our automatic billing (the only monthly bills we had while traveling were storage and cell phone!) and the fun part…packing. I’ll have to admit, thinking about how to dress for an indefinite amount of time in multiple different climate zones, as well as fit it all in a 65-liter traveling pack was a daunting challenge. However, once I started, I found it to be quite simple. Less is always more and at the end of it, it’s actually quite gratifying to realize that you can, in fact, live out of a 65-liter backpack for a long period of time.
We minimized our life from a 700 square-foot apartment into 2 suitcases, 3 duffel bags, 2 day hiking backpacks and 2 reusable bags, which is what we took in the car on our road trip from Seattle to Colorado and provided our sustenance over our travels (we used Boulder as a home base). We re-packed way less when we left the country for our international travels. We brought over ten bags of donations to goodwill and spent 17 hours packing and moving a few days prior to our departure. At that point, it was official and there was no turning back!
Here’s the empty apartment that I lived in for two years in Seattle. On to bigger adventures and smaller accommodation. 😜
In 2015 I landed my dream job as the Tourism Development Sales Manager for two of Seattle’s iconic attractions. The Space Needle and Chihuly Garden and Glass were wonderful to me, and the experience was invaluable. I am proud of all I have accomplished in this role and excited to dive deeper into the tourism industry on the other side of the coin as a traveler!
Walking out of my building as an employee for the last time felt very surreal. No more compulsively checking work emails on my phone after hours and on weekends. I had no job, no car, and no home. I was free. ❤️
Here’s a collage of some of our favorite memories in the beautiful Evergreen State:
So, what exactly does it take to prepare to travel long-term? Below I will outline all the steps I took to help make this transition as smooth as possible.
Many people asked how much money we planned on spending while traveling and how we were funding this adventure. Let me first start off by saying that this kind of lifestyle is not without its fair share of work and time! We began planning our trip in December of 2016 and we left on April 1st, 2017. I put together a massive excel spreadsheet with all kinds of tabs ranging from our savings analysis, savings goals, and monthly budget to see how long we would be able to travel on our dedicated budget. I am an extremely organized person….like, over-the-top organized. I color-coordinate my clothing (when I had a closet) and I have a contingency for my back-up plan (I was raised to be prepared!) 🙂 However, no matter how organized and on top of things you are, you will absolutely feel overwhelmed because quitting your job, surrendering a comfortable income, and leaving your entire life behind to travel is a huge decision and there is a LOT to do to prepare for it! However, just know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and in the end, once everything is done, it will be the best decision you’ve ever made in your entire life and the stress will dissipate once you’re on your journey. In order to keep ourselves organized, I created a to-do timeline with each task that needed to be completed prior to departure that looked something like this:
PRE DEPARTURE LONG-TERM TRAVEL CHECKLIST
Here are (at least) 30 things you should do before traveling abroad long-term:
- Book plane ticket(s)
- Decide what you will do with your car (leave it with family/friends, sell it, lease it, etc.) If you are keeping your car in storage, you will need to call your car insurance company to have them adjust your car insurance rate
- Make any last dentist or doctor checkup appointments
- Apply for Visas if you are going to a country where a Visa is required
- Ensure passport (or passports if you’re a dual citizen) is/are valid and will not expire within six months (or one year if you plan to travel longer)
- Make copy of drivers license, passport & health card to store in wallet
- Select travel & health insurance provider
- Get an international drivers license – they are inexpensive and come in handy in countries that may require them
- File taxes early if you will be gone over April
- Provide your closest family member or friend your personal information including passwords to sensitive documents in case somebody needs to act on your behalf while you are overseas
- Sell any belongings you want to get rid of, or give away to Goodwill
- Sign up to become house sitters on Trustedhousesitters.com (if you want to use this site for accommodation while you travel)
- Ensure your Airbnb profile is up to date if you use this site for accommodation
- Get all necessary shots – visit https://www.cdc.gov/ and click on “travelers health” to enter the countries you will be visiting and find out which vaccinations (if any) are necessary
- Give two-week (or more if you can!) notice to your employer
- Rent out or Airbnb your home (if you are a home owner), or sign up as a home owner on Trusted Housesitters and list your home as available
- Give notice to your landlord (or notify your tenants if you are a landlord)
- Cancel internet and any other utilities you pay for in your apartment if it was a rental
- Ensure your cell phone company covers what you need while traveling internationally (we used the T-Mobile International Plus Plan – more details on that below)
- Print the international claim form through your travel insurance website. It is very helpful to have if something happens while traveling and you don’t have access to a printer
- Cancel renters insurance if you have it
- Enter your travel destinations on your credit card website(s) to notify them that you will be traveling to those specific countries, otherwise fraud prevention may prevent you from making purchases abroad
- Host a going away party with coworkers and/or friends & family
- Forward or stop your mail
- Set up storage for your belongings if you plan on keeping your furniture
- Buy immodium, melatonin, ibeuprofin, and other over-the-counter drugs (or natural supplements) that you think you may need on the road
- Back up your computer to a backup drive so that everything is up to date in case something happens to your lap top while traveling
- Book accommodation in your first destination
- Purchase all items necessary for your travels (backpacks, rain covers, hiking boots, flashlight, tent, water purifier, etc.) – we made a nice, expensive stop to REI several weeks prior to our departure!
- Download the MapsMe app on your phone, and any other travel apps that you will find useful (Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.)
8 TIPS ON HOW TO SAVE FOR A LONG-TERM TRAVEL ADVENTURE
Our travel was completely funded by our combined savings. Sasha and I have both worked since we were 14 years old to earn money and save money. We were very lucky to have parents and grandparents who instilled savings values in us at an early age, in addition to having families who are not materialistic and value travel over things. There were times throughout my working career when I first graduated from college in one of the worst economic downturns of our generation (2009) where I had to work four jobs and barely made enough money to cover my expenses. As I got older and gained more experience, I was at times throughout my career, able to save 50% or more of my paycheck.
- Put a specific percentage of your paycheck into savings each month
No matter how much money you are earning, set a percentage goal of savings each paycheck. For example, set a goal to save 10% of your paycheck and put this into a savings account that you don’t touch (and preferably one that earns interest). You’ll be surprised to see how quickly it grows.
If you are comfortable investing in the stock market, great! If you’re not, companies such as USAA offer robo-investing where they manage your account for you. If you are not risk-averse, you may also want to look into investing in real estate.
- Live below your means
Even if you’re making a great salary and have lots of disposable income, don’t just go and blow it on superfluous home goods or daily dinners out. All the money you don’t spend on those things is money saved towards your long-term travels.
- Stop your daily consumption habits
I’m looking at you Starbucks lovers! That once or twice-daily grande-nonfat-no-foam-caramel macchiato is getting you further and further away from your travel goals. Think about it this way: you can enjoy your sugary drink every day now, or you can enjoy it later when you’re in Italy and Austria, drinking the real thing.
- Your rent should be no more than one-third of your income
It’s shocking how many people are spending far above their means in rent. I have to admit that I fell victim to this in Seattle because rent prices are so darn high! If you cannot find an apartment within your budget range, consider living outside the city and commuting via public transport.
- Collect experiences, not things
You can spend $200 on a brand-new Persian rug, or you can spend $200 and take a helicopter ride over Seattle. Okay, so maybe helicopters aren’t your thing, and sure, you certainly want your home to be cozy and comfortable, but at the end of the day, furniture is just an accumulating physical thing that you certainly won’t need when you sell all your belongings to travel indefinitely. When we were making the decision to keep, sell or give away our belongings, I felt overwhelmed at how much stuff we had accumulated over the years. After six months of traveling and returning to all that stuff, I can honestly say we still don’t need it and I wish we got rid of it sooner.
- Track your expenses
I have been tracking my expenses since 2012 (up until this year I was tracking in Excel, but finally exited the dinosaur era and am now using Mint). Tracking expenses will enable you to see where your highest spending categories are and where you can trim down your expenditures. For example, our highest category was eating out, so for four months before leaving the country, we set a goal to eat dinner out only twice a week, so it became a special occasion rather than the norm.
- Don’t just save more, earn more
If you’re in a dead-end job or aren’t happy where you are, seek greater opportunities rather than succumbing to feeling stuck. There are almost always choices in life. A great book that really inspired us is “The $100 Start-Up“. This book is a compilation of examples of start-ups that required very little money to begin an enterprise that turned into a lucrative business, often times without the entrepreneur expecting that path! For example, if you love yoga, go out and get your certification, then teach yoga part-time while continuing your full-time work for some extra money and extra fulfillment. If you have a skill that you can work on remotely, such as writing or graphic design, create a profile on Upwork and further your skills while earning some extra cash doing what you love! There’s always dog-walking!
I would like to debunk a common saying that traveling is only for people with money. Travel at any spending level is doable; you certainly don’t need to be rich to travel, you just need to be smart with your money and your priorities. You may have to shift your standard of lifestyle a bit in order to reach your savings goal, but you can absolutely do it.
HEALTH & TRAVEL INSURANCE
I did loads of research on the right company to go with prior to our departure. After reading many travel blogs and posts, I decided not to go with World Nomads Travel Insurance because of all the terrible reviews when people had to file a claim. Instead I went with a smaller company based on the East Coast called Insure My Trip. Keep in mind that there will always be negative reviews. People are vulnerable when dealing with sensitive topics such as their health and wellness and tend to strongly voice their opinion when dealing with a negative experience over writing a review about a positive one. However, this company tended to receive better reviews when people had to file a claim, and when I called on the phone from Seattle, someone picked up straight away and the person who helped me was extremely friendly and cared about our needs. He spent several hours helping me find the right plan and ensuring he understood our situation completely.
With our plan, we ended up having to purchase two separate plans for our two separate international legs of the trip, since Sasha and I were not married yet at that time (if you are married, the two of you can be on one plan.) The first leg was for South America, and the second leg was for the rest of our trip in Europe. The reason we had to split it up was because we returned to Colorado for one week in between to re-pack and visit with family. Because this plan is for international health and travel coverage only, we were not insured for the one week we were back in Colorado.
Here Is What We Paid For Travel/Health Insurance Through Insure My Trip:
LISA’S COVERAGE: $185
SASHA’S COVERAGE: $220 (boys tend to be more expensive, ha! Price is also based on age, and Sasha is three years older than I am.)
The total for both of us came out to $405, which comes out to $58 per month for the two of us. This coverage lasted for 7 months and if our travels extend further than that, we simply needed to call them to extend the coverage and pay for the additional months. This was a hassle-free consultation and set up, and luckily we did not have to visit a doctor or file a claim during our entire travels. However, while in Colombia, I got pretty severe traveler’s diarrhea that lasted for five days. We called (from our International T-Mobile plan) to speak with a representative just to make sure we understood our options just in case we needed to visit a doctor. They answered immediately and were very helpful and eased my mind, knowing exactly what we would need to do and what would be covered. Luckily, I got better on my own and with some coconut electrolytes from the Farmacia.
TIP: Decline the trip protection (such as cancellations, lost luggage, etc.) IF your credit card already covers that so that you aren’t paying for something extra that you already have covered. Call your credit card company first to find out exactly what is covered regarding travel. This can often significantly reduce your monthly insurance rates.
** A note for ladies: good feminine hygiene products are very difficult to find in many countries, and nearly all products are scented with unnatural chemical smells. After doing research about all the toxins that are found in tampons and pads, in addition to the inconvenience of having to think about changing them every four hours while we were in the middle of a tour or hike, I decided to ditch them all together and hop on the Diva Cup bandwagon. The Diva Cup has no chemicals, plastics or dyes, can be left in for up to 12 hours, is easy to clean, and reusable, which means you save money and protect the environment by limiting waste. This was one of the best travel purchases I have ever made, and I highly recommend it!
STORAGE IN WASHINGTON: We sold many of our belongings but put our larger, more valuable items in storage in Washington, so this will be a reoccurring expense each month until we return. We used Eco-Movers in Queen Anne, and our rate was $65 per month, set on auto pay.
CELL PHONE: Rather than dealing with the hassle of putting in a new SIM card into our phones in each country, we decided to splurge on the T-Mobile One Plus plan, which enabled us to have the following:
– Unlimited texting anywhere in the world
– International calls for only $.20 a minute
– Unlimited data
– Free in-flight Wi-Fi
This plan saved us on more than one occasion. Having a reliable cell phone with reception and data gave us an extra comfort in case of emergency situations and allowed us to stay connected to friends and family so that we didn’t feel so far away. The plan is a little over $104 per month, so $52 per person.
TIP: Be sure to download the app called Maps Me prior to leaving your home country. This is an offline map that requires no internet connection, saving you on roaming charges. You can zoom in and out easily without the screen freezing, which is especially helpful while in the mountains with no cell service. This is an essential travel app to have handy, and every single person we encountered had it installed on their phone!
This was the last photo we took in Seattle before heading off on our travels!
What We Traveled With
Sasha had a 45-liter backpack and duffel bag since his shoes take up practically half of the space (tall problems). I fit my life into a 65-liter traveling backpack by Osprey, and we both had one small 25-liter day pack each for hiking and carry-on for the plane. #mybackpackisbiggerthanmybody
I hope these tips help you plan for your next adventure abroad, be it one week, one month or one year and beyond!HAPPY TRAVELING!! 🙂