The creation of "The Plan"
We heard this from just about everyone, including each other, from the outset of this decision. This grand delusion that we conjured up of putting our successful careers on hold and trotting off around the globe seemed insane to nearly everyone we told.
From the outset, anytime we mentioned what has become known as "The Plan" to anyone, we always get the same question.
Are you serious??
Yes, from the beginning we have been serious, although all along the way we had our doubts. There was always that nagging voice in the back of our heads saying discouraging things like what are you thinking? and you know this will never work out!!. So we did what any insane person wold do. We ignored all reason and logic and started researching to find out whether the impossible could actually be possible.
We started asking each other questions. What could we do? Where could we go? What would it cost? In researching the answers to these questions, we found our answers. Anything!! Anywhere!! Not that much - Woah. Wait. What are we missing? What are we not thinking of. We consider ourselves to be reasonably intelligent people. There MUST be a reason everyone doesn't do this. We ARE missing something? Let's do more research.
What I'd like to cover in this opening post are the presumptions we started under when we decided to take on what we always assumed was impossible. I'll give you a brief rundown of our research process, what we did right, and where we went wrong.
The questions mentioned above were the first ones we needed to answer.
What could we do?
This question is better asked as "What could we do to make this happen, and the answer was simple. We could sell our worldly possessions. Do I really need my 60" LCD TV? My Video Game Systems? Does she really need 36 pairs of shoes? If we were traveling out of the country, would we really need 2 cars? Do we have enough in savings? How can we add more to our savings? With some simple math and some serious cutting back on luxuries, we were able to figure this out pretty simply.
Where could we go?
This took a little research. Using the power of Google, I happened upon a wonderful service, Airtreks. After talking extensively with them, we were amazed to find how inexpensive multi-stop travel really is. As a side note, these guys must be required to take several trips a year. They were able to tell us, based on personal experience, what we should make sure to include, what was overhyped, what areas to avoid, etc. Needless to say, I was thoroughly impressed. When I first called, I really expected just to speak with a booking agent. I got travel gurus instead.
What would it cost?
This was, and is still proving to be the hardest question to answer. In the beginning we had a simple formula that went something like (airfare+$50/day living expense) x2 = cost. Completely inaccurate to say the least. Having said this, keep in mind that 80% of the world lives on $10/day, and more than half of those people live on less than $2/day. We know that's a stretch for us, but we are willing to learn.
Once we had the broad questions asked, we had to start getting more specific. Now we were on to the real questions. If you don't care to read about travel finance, travel logistics, clothing, humor, personal struggles, or human error, save yourself some time and stop here.
What vaccinations do we need?
This was definitely one of the expenses that I underestimated. In order to save money, we decided to cancel our self-paid health insurance. Turns out it wouldn't have mattered if we still had it, because our policies wouldn't have covered it anyway. We are cautious people, so we opted to go all out on vaccinations. Sure, our odds of contracting Japanese Encephalitis are slim, but do we want to take the chance? So long story short, 15 vaccinations (each) and 500 malaria pills later, we subtracted $5,500 from our budget. We could have spent 1/4 of this, but decided to err on the side of caution.
Would governmental travel cards help with entering/exiting the country/customs lines?
I take full responsibility for this one. We decided to get Global Entry Clearance to keep us from waiting in ridiculous lines at customs coming back into the U.S. While researching this, I came across a program known as APEC. In my defense, the website is a little unclear on the use of this card, but let's suffice it to say, it wasn't valid for the use we thought it would be. Nonetheless, we signed up for clearance through these programs and were accepted for programs we couldn't use. Subtract another $600 from our initial budget.
Now that we don't have access to all these countries through the APEC program, how are we going to get all these Foreign Entry Visas?
After Rhea recovered from her near heart attack and released me from the choke-hold, we set to do the impossible. Now, the first thing you should know is that in Texas, Every Consulate in the world seems to be in Houston, a 3-4 hour drive from us depending on traffic. The second thing you should know is that it takes about 5-6 business days on average to obtain a visa from most countries and you have to surrender your passport to them while they process, so it's very difficult to get more than one processed at a time. We needed 3 visas that we couldn't get online or once out of the country. Luckily, the Brazilian Consulate in Houston is one of the only consulates that issues a visa on the spot. So with a little luck, we may be able to pull this off!! As luck would have it, we happened upon another small travel miracle - a little company called DCS Visa Solutions in Houston. For a very small fee, they got our visas handled and back to us in less time than we thought. Subtract another $1,000 from our initial budget
Are we going to bring luggage? Uh, what are we going to wear?
Every travel blog you read will tell you a light packer is a happy traveler. I can tell you with absolute certainty that they have never traveled with Rhea. Despite all odds, we decided we would take on the world together with nothing more than we could fit in a backpack. Well, 2 backpacks. And a day pack. And something called a cross-body. And our pockets. And....look, the point is I am terrible at packing and she has a phobia of needing something and not having it. Also we figure if we realize we absolutely don't need something, we can either ditch it or mail it home. So we bought all of the aforementioned and subtracted another $1,200 from our initial budget. Rhea decided the bag she initially purchased may not be durable enough and opted for a different bag, so the the total subtracted from the budget was actually $1,300.
As far as what to wear, this actually took quite a bit of thoughtful consideration. We are spending at least half of our trip in areas famous for nothing if not their mosquito population. After tons of research, we decided to splurge on clothing treated with Permethrin®. While somewhat more costly, we again decided to err on the side of caution and deducted another $1,000 from our initial budget.
Wait, what shoes do we want to wear?
Yes, this could have been included under clothing, but the last thing you want while trekking across a foreign land is achy, stinky, smelly, moldy feet, so I decided to give them their very own section. We both ended up investing in good hiking shoes. We both already owned a pair of good water shoes, which we also packed along as well as thongs (flip flops for you southerners) to use for shower shoes. Rhea also decided to invest in a pair of what I call ballet slippers to wear as comfy shoes or to wear in case we want to dress up at some point, so I deducted another $600 from our budget and made room in our bags for shoes.
In a nutshell, here was the challenge. Commit ourselves to plunge headlong into the unknown, accept the fact that nothing we own is worth anywhere near what we paid for it and then be willing to sell it anyway. Scrape together all our savings, leave our home, move in with her sister, survive on Ramen noodles, stay with my parents when her sister gets tired of us invading her house, save more money, sell more stuff, make sandwiches with leftovers, leave our six-figure job we worked years and years to get and worked countless nights to keep, stay with her parents, sell the remainder of our belongings, cancel our insurance, and leave town.
We've decided to take this journey and share our trials and tribulations with you. We've also decided to keep this record in order to keep our friends and loved ones up to date on our antics and hopefully keep a few people entertained along the way. We hope you enjoy following us as much as we enjoy this journey.
If I overlooked anything or there are any questions on anything I covered, feel free to ask in the comments section below.