The other day I was asked by a friend how we could even consider selling most of our stuff and our home for a big one year adventure. She continued by admitting that, although she loves travel and was incredibly envious of our big trip, she could never do it. She simply loved her home and her stuff too much to let it go.
In some ways, I can understand this. I too struggle with the pairing down of belongings and the selling of the house, but I also just can’t stop thinking about how incredible this next year is going to be and looking forward to the journey and growth in all of us. I firmly believe that the experience is going to be priceless way beyond the value of our “stuff.”
Yet, my friend’s honesty left me speechless. I have had too many people tell me “I could never afford that,” “I don’t have the time,” “We have too much stuff to get rid of it all,” “I could never leave my job,” “Won’t you miss the house?” But this particular friend understood what was happening. And, to me, it was almost a relief in some ways to have someone admit that is was a choice and in her case, she does and would choose differently.
So, how are we making this happen?
Did we win the lottery? No.
Did we receive some inheritance windfall? No.
Are we making big incomes? No.
Are we going to work from the road? Heck no.
Then how can we do it? Years ago, we made a determined choice and have lead a life toward this goal. Living in a suburb of Portland which has a reputation as being wealthy, we have had to work hard to live firmly below our means. Self-employed for a long time, we are no strangers to working long hours, evenings, and weekends. We have paid off all debt, saved money and, most years, have been fortunate enough to throw a little toward retirement.
The other day, I met someone who was in complete disbelief that I do not have a smart phone. Serious disbelief! I honestly think he thought I was lying to him. (My boys tease that even their grandparents have smart phones?!)
Right after that conversation though, I started making a list of all the things the family and I don’t spent money on. Before you read, please don’t misunderstand as judgment. Without a doubt, I can see the attraction of every item (well, except maybe the credit card interest) or even the need (student loans can go either way.) It is just that these items haven’t been a part of our budget over the past several years.
Here is my list:
Iphone or any other smart phone (and the corresponding monthly contracts)
Ipad or Itouch
Xbox or Playstation
Big screen TV, Cable TV, Blueray, Tivo (I don’t even know what this is, but it sounded like something I should include)
Expensive gym membership (one pair of running shoes will last me 6 months)
Expensive shoes or boots (unless you count my running shoes. J )
Hair color appointments
Manicures and/or Pedicures
Expensive organic produce or prepared food
New cars (mine is 10 years old)
Credit card interest payments or ANY loan interest
Home improvement projects
There are a lot of things here and if you add up the amount people could spend on them each month, it feels almost like a trip around the world, no? J
That said, despite the above list of items we have cut, we still were not able to save as much money as we would have liked, so selling the house was the next step. Money from our home equity is allowing us to head out without worries, giving us enough to travel and still have enough left to start re-entry at the end. To further stretch the budget, we plan to travel as frugally as possible, and we have chosen inexpensive countries for a good long part of the trip.
Did I mind having giving up all the above for the adventure? No. (OK, sometimes I did, but only until I considered the return.) Over the past few years, we all (yes, even the kids) have gotten in the habit of thinking of money spent or saved in terms of how far it would take us.
New brand named shoes? Three nights in Vietnam.
One nice dinner out? A dozen meals in Cambodia.
A smart phone? Family elephant rides in Thailand.
We all face choices every day that could take us in many different directions. At the end of the day, I guess I have chosen the elephants over the iphone.
What about you?