Often people ask us how we manage to travel for so long without jobs, and more often are asked, ‘why?’. For us, the answer is multifaceted, but in simple terms, we created a goal of experiencing the America’s and committed to seeing it through. It’s truly amazing what can be accomplished with hard work to make a dream become a reality. Our dreams of travel coalesced immediately when we met, and deep down we both knew that we’d spend a lot of time abroad together.
Upon deciding to drive to South America, major shifts in our financial attitude changed. We began a very rigorous savings plan that required full time discipline. In the beginning months, we were shocked at how much we could save by eating at home and reducing any unnecessary costs we’d come to know as normal spending habits.
Three years later, with a combination of the strict savings plan, renting our condo to vacationers on VRBO, and selling almost all of our possessions, we managed to hit our pre-planned financial goal of $15,000. This enabled us to quit our jobs and rent our condo full time, thus reducing our monthly bills to less than $100. We realize that our situation is unique and this goal may appear easy to attain, but we can assure you that a lot of hard work went into the process to travel extensively.With our wedding planned a month prior to our departure, we quit our jobs to focus on the planning involved for the big day and trip. Admittedly, the wedding did give us a financial boost that allowed us to thoroughly equip the van and stay on the road longer than initially planned thanks to the generosity of family and friends. We viewed the wedding as an important and necessary familial gathering prior to our big trip on top of the expression of our love and commitment to each other.
Now, with the planning and saving phases behind us, and with some experience now on the road as travelers, one must think its really expensive being on vacation right? In the beginning it felt like vacation and that we should treat it like one after all the hard work and saving. But, that simply did not work in harmony with our goal for long-term travel so we had to adjust.Our initial plans involved a $50/day budget, including everything from food and gas to recreation. It may seem like a lot at first, but when you consider American rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, happy hours, memberships and so on, you will quickly realize $50 a day is not a lot, especially for two people.Up till now, we’ve been managing $40/day which we’re happy about because it has prolonged our trip and reduced our financial stress. Sarah has been incredible with the discipline required to stay within our budget, tabulating every cost of every day in a small book and later transferring the costs to an excel spreadsheet to keep track of our spending habits. It’s enlightening to see exactly how we spend, and we plan to continue this habit after traveling to reduce over-spending.
As fun as it would be to buy that frosty cerveza at every beach or splurge on every tourist activity and restaurant, we manage restraint more often than not, and the decisions can be hard at times. The greater goal of arriving in Patagonia always stays in the back of our minds, and we have to keep this big picture in our thoughts when spending. Let’s just say the van kitchen gets heavy use daily.It’s important to know that we are not rich by western standards, do not have trust funds and don’t have free money supporting us. We worked really hard to make this trip a reality, and it continues to be hard work to keep it going. Often times we find ourselves volunteering for free lodging or lingering in places we can afford and enjoy. As privileged Americans, we have taken for granted the freedoms and opportunities we were born with. The ease of finding a job, any job, in the United States is something that simply does not happen everywhere. Many people that we’ve met down south are more than willing to sacrifice everything they know to live in the United States with ‘any’ job, and many have, which is evident in every corner of the USA where immigrants old and new have made amazing lives for themselves and their families. I mean, aren’t we all immigrants in the end?
Also, having an American passport is traveling gold, allowing us to freely travel throughout the world with little second thought by other countries. Imagine briefly what it would be like not having permission to see most of the world because of your home country. This is a harsh reality for most of the countries we’ve visited.Now, to the folks who might think that extensive foreign travel is a little selfish, un-patriotic, or just simply unattainable, we strongly disagree. The feeling of turning our back on our country has admittedly happened on this trip, especially during the large transition of government power. However, we’ve come to realize American citizens are the outstanding minority of world travelers. This has led us to new beliefs on the subject of travel and more importantly, thinking globally. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to show the people we meet in these foreign countries what American greatness is and can be. Smiling and saying hello, having a willingness to exchange in positive dialogue with whomever, tipping and expressing appreciation for service, and maintaining an open mind and tolerance for the differences among us are examples of what we believe to be good about us as United States Americans.
Showing the world, in person, how great America and it’s people can be is one of the most rewarding and motivating pursuits of this trip. We cannot simply stand by and let the new world we’ve entered perceive us strictly on what their TV’s and newspapers tell them, which is almost hourly. Despite our increasing bewilderment of the negative events happening in the states, we maintain positive attitudes and firmly believe that most Americans are good people, and that it’s worth showing the world this fact. We’re all in this together no matter what politicians say.
So in conclusion about financial feasibility for travel, and more importantly mental feasibility, we strongly encourage everyone, young or old, no matter what situation you find yourself in, to go have a look around outside of the physical borders of your beloved country and the mental borders of comfort to see what is really out there for yourself.Whether its two weeks, or two years, you’ll be surprised and shocked to see beauty and compassion where you least expect it. It will also help show what it means to be a good human in this ever-changing, globalizing, increasingly dynamic, breathtakingly beautiful planet we call home. So dream big, chase the goals that don’t seem realistic at first, take someone dancing, engage in conversation, and during all of it, be nice and have a good time!