Nine weeks ago we left our home to travel the world for several months with our two teenage children – Ian 19 and Lily 16. During the four year planning and saving process, we came across many different opinions about our decision to undertake such an adventure ranging from fascination to jealousy to disdain, but what surprised us the most was how many people responded with reasons why they could never take a trip like this. The “I would love to do that, but…” responses were varied and perplexing to us. If we could do it, surely ANYONE could, right? And so, we developed this series of articles to tackle what we call the “myths” of family travel – all of those reasons why you “can’t” take a trip like ours are about to go right down the drain. Here we go!!
FAMILY TRAVEL MYTH #1
You have to sell your house and all of your belongings or be loaded with cash to undertake a round the world trip.
That would be FALSE, my friends!
This idea first came about several years ago when I read a book called “One Year Off” by David Elliot Cohen. It tells the story of two parents who take their three children on a one year trip around the globe. It was mesmerizing and inspirational and at once I decided we needed to do it.
But here is the thing – we had less than $1000 in savings. We were renting our home. How could we ever come up with the capital to undertake a journey like that?!? And that was the pivotal moment. We could have defeated ourselves right there and moved on to the next seemingly unattainable dream. Or we could get real about what we wanted to teach our kids about big dreams and how to go about making them happen. And so we came up with a plan to cut back on our spending and start saving with an end goal of 9 months abroad.
We did all of the standard things that people do – we cut back on eating out, family vacations and movies. Instead we cooked at home, took weekend getaways and watched Netflix. We sold all of the junk in the house and garage that we weren’t using anymore and stopped buying stuff we didn’t need. At one point in time, all three of our cars didn’t total $10,000 in value because we refused to take on a car payment.
WHEN PLANS GO AWRY:
We had hoped it would take us three years to save the money we needed and that because we were renting month by month, we could just terminate our lease and hit the road. And then the unthinkable happened. The perfect little house fell into our laps. It was “just right” for our family in a fairytale kind of way and we fell in love with it immediately, but the clincher was the price. It was CHEAP. And there was no way we would ever be able to find a home we loved as much in the price range we were looking at. I said no. NO NO NO. And my husband, who clearly knows me far too well, took me by the hand and said “I can see growing old with you here”. And so we bought a house.
Now we had to decide if we were going to rent it out while we were gone. We were hoping for 9 months away, but our plan had always been to travel until the money runs out and then come home and that is NOT conducive to renting out a home. And so we had to figure a mortgage and basic utility costs into our budget. And three years turned into four.
YOU DID WHAT?!?!?
We knew pretty early on that in addition to cutting back and building our savings that we would also be taking some of our retirement money to pay for this trip. It kinda cracks me up how freaked out people get about this. It was a no-brainer for us. First of all, we are young. We have 27 years left to work and can quickly recover those funds. Secondly, we beefed up our contributions when we decided to take the trip so that we were padding those accounts and getting the most out of our employer contributions. And most of all, it was more important to us to use that money now to travel with our kids than to wait until we are retired and travel without them. The future is not guaranteed and there is no telling if either of us will even be in any condition physically to travel at all in 25 years. Why risk it? Why miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime to spend this amazing time with our kids exploring the world? Why indeed!! We are 42 years old. My husband’s mother died unexpectedly at the age of 47. Her death is like a bright star in the night sky reminding us to live in the moment and not take for granted that the future will be what we expect it to be.
We were an unlikely family to take a trip such as this. We had little in savings and no equity when we made the decision to chase this dream. Many of our family and friends thought it would never happen. And yet, here we are, in Thailand, having the time of our lives. I love proving people wrong!
But the bottom line is this – if we can get our nonsense together and save the money to take this adventure, then you can, your best friend can, your co-workers can and that weird neighbor down the road can. It’s a choice you make every moment of every day to prioritize the dream. I can have the Starbucks or I can pay for a meal in Thailand. I can buy these concert tickets or I can pay for a week’s lodging in Cambodia. Every time you chose the dream, you are that much closer to attaining it. It really is just that simple.
About Staci Schwarz
Staci and her family are currently traveling the world for several months enjoying good food, incredible sites and the best of company. You can follow their madness on www.blameitonmywildheart.com or on Facebook at Blame My Wild Heart.
Next month Staci will explore family travel myth #2 by interviewing her children to assure you that they were actually totally excited about this trip and are not being held hostage by their super mean parents who tore them away from their friends to go on a stupid trip around the world.