Category Archives: Planning

Money and RTW Travel

Greetings from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  In the next few days you can expect an update on our transatlantic cruise from Europe back to the Americas, but first let’s take a pause from our regularly scheduled programming to address an important topic:  Money and RTW Travel.

This blog post is inspired by some of the comments on CNN.com in reaction to last Tuesday’s article ‘Summer chasers’ keep sun in their sights which features our Chasing Summer adventure along with a couple others.   The article was a huge success, drawing close to 200,000 readers from around the world and over 150 website comments.  It also drew over 8,000 new visitors to this blog.  Thanks CNN!

Reading through the comments on the CNN website, I noticed that a lot of readers were skeptical about whether “regular folks” can afford to travel around the world like we’re doing.  There seems to be a common misconception, at least in the United States, that international travel is a luxury that only the rich can afford.  I’d like to put that misconception to rest.

Let me start by dispelling the myth that “only trust fund babies can travel the world.”  The style of travel that Lauren and I have chosen certainly requires some cash in the bank, though it’s probably not as much as you think, and if either of us have trust funds nobody has told us about them yet!

As the CNN.com article mentioned, our trip is financed by cash I’ve saved up over the years, mostly profits from my company, Infosurv.  I started Infosurv in college with no outside capital and spent the last 12 years working hard to grow it, with the help of course of dozens of incredibly dedicated and talented employees.

We realize how fortunate we are to be able to travel in the style that we’ve chosen.  That said, I believe strongly that anyone can travel internationally if they have an able body and the discipline to work within a budget that suits them. It all comes down to the style of travel that they choose.

To illustrate, here are a few anonymous profiles of other travelers that I’ve met along the way:

The French Migrant Worker

On a bus to Arlie Beach, Australia, I met a pretty French girl who told me that she’s traveling though Australia and New Zealand as a migrant worker.  She picks fruits and berries on organic farms, alongside other migrant workers from Thailand and Indonesia (she admitted they are far more productive than she is.)   She enjoys working the fields and meeting other travelers along the way.  She saves up money as she goes, taking a few weeks off here and there to sightsee or chill at a hostel by the beach.  I’m guessing that she started her trip with just enough money for a cheap flight from France to Australia.

The British Retailer

At a hostel in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I met a 23-year old British girl who was traveling though Australia, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, and South America for 10 months.  After graduating from university she worked for 6 months as a front-line employee at an H&M clothing store in Liverpool, living inexpensively at her parents’ house to save up as much money as possible.  Her self-funded trip cost around £8,000 pounds (or about $16,000.)

The Australian Software Engineer

At a bar in Thailand I met an Aussie software engineer who funds his travels as he goes by working on software projects remotely for clients back home.  Since the cost of living in Thailand is just a fraction of that in Australia, he doesn’t need to work on nearly as many projects to support himself as he did at home.  This leaves him lots of extra time and money for sightseeing, transportation and recreation.

You may notice that none of the people profiled above would be considered ‘wealthy’ by Western standards. Yet, they’ve all found a way travel internationally for extensive periods of time.

You may also notice that none of the people that I profiled are American… I hate to admit this, but Americans are vastly under-represented amongst RTW travelers.  For every 1 fellow American that I’ve met traveling aboard, I’ve met 10 Australians, 8 Brits, and 3 Canadians.  Since our population is more than 10x each of theirs, this is a shameful state of affairs.

Admittedly, there are plenty of real-world constraints that make extensive travel more difficult.  For example, those with physical disabilities will find that other countries don’t typically have the same accessibility infrastructure that we enjoy in the States (although low-cost international cruise ships usually do.)

Those traveling with small children will find it more challenging than traveling alone, with older children or other adults, but it can be done.  Most of the people I’ve met traveling with children are living abroad more so than just traveling abroad, usually renting a house in a foreign country for several months or a year.  Though this kind of traveler isn’t quite as mobile as the single young backpacker, they still enjoy a similar sense of freedom, adventure, and cultural immersion.

For Americans, the most commonly cited impediment to long-term travel is our jobs  — or more specifically, the country’s relatively tight vacation policies.   In Europe, it’s not uncommon for employees to enjoy 6-8 weeks of paid vacation each year.  In the US, many employees get only 2 weeks.  This is a cultural problem, and unfortunately not much can be done about it at this point short of government intervention, as any American company that offers more paid vacation than its peers would find itself at a competitive disadvantage.

However, even the most workaholic American will find himself between jobs from time to time, especially in today’s economic environment, and these career breaks are the perfect time to knock the dust off one’s passport.

I believe that many of the reasons Americans cite for not traveling are intellectual covers for what’s really a cultural hesitancy.  The United States is very isolated by world standards.  We’re physically isolated by two vast oceans, politically isolated by the strongest military in the world, financially isolated by economic self-sufficiency (oil excepted), and culturally isolated as the world’s best exporter and worst importer of music, film, and media.  Americans have grown so accustomed to the bubble in which we live that most of us don’t even realize how much exists beyond it.  What little we do know about the outside world often comes from our sensationalizing media, thus giving us fears of other countries in vast disproportion to the dangers that actually exist there.

In the end, I believe than all Americans should travel the world, and than almost all of us can afford to if we have the courage, the desire, and the discipline to make it happen.

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Italy – The Itinerary

After playing around on Google Maps for the better part of an afternoon with my good friend Alex, we now have a rough itinerary for the first stop in Europe:  bella Italia. We plan to arrive there in late August and spend 3-4 weeks traveling the country, mostly via car. The highlight, at least for me, will be watching the famous Rolex Cup sailboat race in Sardinia.

Alex was born in Milan and spent summers throughout his childhood in Lake Como and Sardinia, so he knows these areas especially well.  He helped us map out a wonderful itinerary though Milan – Lake Como – Verona – Bologna – Genova – Sardinia – Naples – and various small towns in Tuscany.  In Sardinia, which he knows best, we even know which hidden beaches to hit, what restaurants to visit and what to order there!

Google Maps has some impressive functionality for planning and sharing our itinerary, which you can peruse below:

We’ll post more maps in the coming months to share our travel plans and where we’ve gone.  The planning process for a trip like this is half the fun!

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The Point of No Return

For the last couple of days a particular song just won’t get out of my head…  I think our sabbatical plans have officially reached the “point of no return.”

Here’s what has happened this week:

  • We have a renter for the condo, moving in this weekend
  • Lauren submitted a letter of resignation to her employer (with a generous 1 month notice)
  • Jared set the date for his last day at Infosurv

Since we found a condo renter a bit sooner than expected, we’ll be somewhat homeless for the next several weeks until our travels begin.  Fortunately all of our parents live in Atlanta and are thrilled at the idea of us living with them for a few weeks (crazy, I know.)   We’ll start the bidding at free rent, free laundry service, and 3 home-cooked meals per week.  Do I hear an offer for 5 home-cooked meals per week?

Without a home or jobs, there’s no backing out now!   It feels a potent mix of exciting, liberating and scary.  This trip has evolved from an idea to a conversation to a plan… and soon it will be a reality.

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The Checklist

As part of our sabbatical planning we’ve put together a checklist of everything we need to do before leaving.  We want this blog to be a resource for others planning a similar experience, so in the interest of sharing we’ll include below what’s currently on our list:

May

  • Set up appt with travel clinic- get immunizations
  • Sell, donate, store or trash all non-essential stuff in the condo
  • Make a packing list and see what we need to buy (electronics and personal clothing)
  • Plan possible cruise in Mediterranean in September???
  • List condo for rent
  • Get medical and financial POA (power of attorney) written up

June

  • Start looking at flights for first/second leg of trip
  • Visas for specific countries that require them
  • Rent out condo
  • Check into COBRA for medical insurance in the US

July

  • Get travelers health insurance/evacuation insurance for abroad
  • Safety deposit box for valuables
  • Reduce car insurance or cancel
  • Reduce home owners insurance to only cover furniture and fixtures
  • Forward mail to office/parents’ house (we’ll get an email every Monday with a summary of mail contents)
  • Move out of condo

August

  • Get all prescriptions filled (90 days worth preferred)
  • Cell phones (international plan…)
  • Get Lauren’s car serviced and hit the road!

Are we leaving anything out???

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It’s official

After months of talking it over quietly behind closed doors, our traveling sabbatical is now official. We leave in August. Jared announced the news to his staff at Infosurv a week ago, who took it well. They were neither panicked nor ecstatic that their boss is leaving… either of which would have been a bad sign! During this sabbatical the company’s operations will be in the hands of its experienced Leadership Team, whom Jared trusts wholeheartedly.

Now the planning is underway. We’re reading books and online articles, discussing our itinerary, and exploring options for air transportation and renting out the condo. Most importantly, we’re telling everyone that we know about the sabbatical so that we can’t back out! It’s scary to put one’s life on pause for 6-12 months, but then again, if we find the sabbatical as enriching as we hope, perhaps it will feel more like hitting the “play” button than the “pause” one.  More to come!

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