Do you remember that feeling you had on your last vacation? Your toes in the sand, the sun shining, and you felt at peace for a moment. The last thing on your mind was your job and the ‘to-do’ list that waited for you at home. How long did it take to forget that peaceful feeling upon returning home?
We’ve felt it too. Once reality sets in, we tend to label the feelings of unshackled-freeness as ‘pipe dreams’ and forget them, only to have the same feeling on our next vacation. Most of us find it hard to imagine stopping our current lives and leaving it all behind. The people we see online living “the life”, had these same worries; not enough money, jobs, family, bills, etc. Somehow they made it work and seem to be happy. Think about it this way, all we know is how we have already lived. If we aren’t currently happy with how we have chosen to live, then we should go down a path that we have not tried yet.
How can we work towards making our traveling goal a reality? Without a doubt, the first step is making the definitive choice to chase that peaceful feeling. Preparing yourself mentally and financially will not be an easy or quick task, so being fully committed to your goal is essential. It may seem out-of-reach now, but striving forward bit by bit, is how we made our grand adventure possible. We gave ourselves almost 3 years to reach our goal and set a start date for September 2017, which we are on schedule for.
When we mention our travel intentions to anyone, invariably the first response is, ‘Are you secretly rich?’ We understand why we get asked this question; majority of people, including us at one point, thought you had to make a six figure salary to do extended travel. We are not rich, we are not even middle class. For us, the prospects of making more money were slim, but by changing our mentality about how we spend money we were able to save enough. This method of saving will take longer than if you suddenly got a better job or hit the lotto, but when has chasing a dream ever been easy? We were not able to completely stop spending money, we did however make smarter choices on our purchases. We prioritized. Setting limits on things like eating out and reducing your monthly expenses is a great way to free up some extra cash.
You can learn more about how we saved HERE.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you have decided to travel and started to save. That ‘pipe-dream’ is getting more real. Then comes the hard decisions of what to do with your home and your material possessions.
To make an extended trip or long vacation financially possible you may need to adjust your living situation. Whether you rent or own, paying for a home that you will not be using is going to cut heavily into your travel budget. If you rent your home or apartment, try to time your trip with the expiration of the renter’s agreement. Do NOT rush and leave for your trip just because your term has ended. Extending the agreement or renewing for another year is a much better option than leaving without having enough money saved. Try to choose a realistic target date that works with your savings and the contracted amount of time you have agreed to stay in your residence. If you are really determined to start traveling but your lease isn’t up, see if you can sublease your place until your contract is up. Make sure to check if it’s ok with your rental agency, and understand that at some point on your trip you will have to deal with whatever issues come up with the rental.
If you own a house the decision is a bit harder. Do you sale your home and get a great sum of money or do you rent your house and keep it as an investment? When considering selling your home, make sure to do your research. Get an appraisal of your property and compare it to recent home sales in your area. Examine the money still owed on your loan vs. the appraisal to see if this is the best move. Is this your forever home? If it is not and you stand to make a decent sum of money, you might be more inclined to sell and have a fresh start somewhere else.
We own our home in Richmond, VA and making a decision of what to do with it was an up and down journey. We changed our minds, a few times, about what the best course of action would be. Should we rent or sell our house? Both options have advantages and disadvantages, but knowing our long-term goals helped us make a decision.
Here are some questions to think about. Do you want to travel for just a few months? Or sell your home in hopes that you could settle somewhere along your journey?
After a few months of debate, we decided that it would be best for us to rent out our home. Having only been in our home for eight years, we had not grown enough equity (the value of ownership built up, that represents the current market value of the house minus the money still owed on your loan) to make the sale worth it. To make things easier for us, we decided to find a property manager. Property management companies will market your home, screen applicants, collect payments and various other tasks for a monthly fee. Our reasoning for hiring one is that we did not want to be ‘active’ landlords while we are globe-trotting. Thinking about our home, the tenants, and rent payments all the time would make it hard to have that peaceful feeling we are trying to attain.
Now that you have decided on how to handle your home while away, what do you do with all the things inside of it?
It is ridiculous to think that while traveling, we will be able to bring everything we own. Renting a monthly storage unit is the most common option, when considering what to do with all your possessions. Keep in mind that the bigger the unit is, the higher the cost is going to be, which means you will need to set aside more money. We chose to sell most of our furniture, clothes and collectibles that we have acquired over the years. This does two things; it reduces the number of boxes you will need to pack up your home, and it also generates another source of income for your trip.
Everyone does their own version of spring cleaning. Do you still think you will use those gadgets collecting dust? Are you staring at the clothes in your closet and debating if you’ll ever wear them again? Just let them go. Take this opportunity to rid yourself of all the excess material possessions that have turned into an anchor that holds you back. When people make excuses for not chasing their dreams or traveling, they will usually mention that they have no idea what to do with their things. They then give up the dream and go back to the life that leaves them wanting more.
The documentary ‘Minimalism’ urged us to look at our belongings and ask the same question about each item; “Is this thing adding value to my life?” If the item brings you joy, then by all means keep it. We had kept items in boxes for years, but never once took them out to use or share them. So why would parting with them make my life worse in anyway? Just let go. The money you make from selling your old items could pay for the storage fees for your remaining possessions, or give you enough money to extend your trip for a few extra weeks.
You may choose to keep everything you own and place it into storage or have a family member hold onto it. You may sell everything you own except the clothes on your back. There is no wrong choice, do what works for you. We chose to reduce our belongings to only family memories and our most cherished possessions. By setting up yard sales every few months and selling online using Craigslist and Facebook’s Marketplace, we have raised an extra $1,950 so far. We have also rid ourselves of 10-15 boxes of things to pack up later.
It’s weird watching people walk away with the first sofa we bought as a couple or items we specifically picked to make our house look like a home, but we haven’t missed any of it, and we don’t believe you will either. Remember what you are doing all of this for. If your goal still makes you happy, then all of this is worth it.