Wednesday, July 16, 2008
WHO IN THE WORLD ARE WE???
When we originally set up the blog, it was so our family and friends could follow us around the world and share our adventures, trials and tribulations. We are now discovering that others, people who we have never met or people who we have just met, are now reading our blog as well. One person even specifically asked for a "background blog" so that she could learn a little more about us as she follows us on our odyssey. So, Samantha and others who don't know us (and for those who think they know us but really don't) this blog's for you.
In my "previous life" I was a financial planner. Our firm had a client who wanted to take a year off from their "regular life." In the early 1990s they bought a sailboat and with their nine year old daughter sailed for a year. Being one who gets seasick, the boat part had zero appeal to me, but the year off was very enticing. I said to myself, "One day, I too will take a year off and travel". (Thank you Rick, Marnie and Kelzie for the inspiration). When I met Marty (my husband to be) and told him of this dream, he bought into the idea hook, line and sinker. We put the idea forth into the universe and then let go.
About 2 1/2 years ago, we decided that a trip of a lifetime doesn't just happen, you have to make it happen. We decided to start planning the trip with a departure date of June 2008, fully recognizing that the trip may or may not happen. Marty was already fifty years old and I wasn't too far behind and we started seeing people our age get sick or die. Why put off till tomorrow what you can do today? Also, we had two seven year old twins. Nine to ten seemed like a good age for travelling - old enough to be somewhat independent, able to remember things and not yet in the teen years where travel can be challenging.
It really did take the 2 1/2 years to put it all together. We needed to research where we wanted to go, how we were going to get there, what we were going to do once we got there, what to bring, what we were going to do with our home and then prepare it for rental, what to do about schooling, what to do about employment, health care, etc. The list went on and on. I was beginning to wonder what I did with all my time BTP (before trip planning). I guess it goes to show you that you can always find the time for what you really want to do.
Decisions made: Employment - Marty would need to quit his job as he worked for a small company and a one year leave of absence would not be possible. Some form of re-employment would have to occur once we returned. I only worked very part time and since it was on a contract basis, told them that I would not be available until June 2009. Education - Why let school get in the way of a good education? We had no doubt in our minds that our children would learn much more in a year of exploring the world than what they would learn in the classroom. They are avid readers, they are keeping a journal and they are contributing to the blog. We brought along a math computer program and some math books and will "'homeschool" them throughout the year in math so that they will stay current for their grade level. Home - Rent it out for a year so that the income can be used to help offset our mortgage and hope that we have no reason that we need to return early. Itinerary - Marty and I each made a list of places that we would really like to go. Places that didn't show up on both lists were eliminated unless someone had a burning desire to go there and wouldn't let it go. From that point forward, the research began. Sometimes we would research a place that we really wanted to go and would feel uninspired and then drop that location. Other times we would turn the page in the guide book and read about a place that wasn't on our list and suddenly that place was added to the "A" list. It was important that the itinerary had a "flow" to it. If it was too challenging to get from one location to another then that city/country got dumped. We also felt that we wanted to stay in each location for a good length of time. We wanted to be able to get a sense of the culture of that area, shop in their markets, cook the foods of that locality - this can't be done if you, for example make a three day stop in Krakow. We also knew that it would get exhausting if we were on the move all the time. All of these factors were taken into consideration when we were setting up our itinerary -- "Is this a location where we would want to be for two to three weeks?" Our itinerary became a living document that would change over time. In the end, there were some places that we really wanted to go that we're not going to (like Turkey) and places that we had never even considered that are now a future destination (Laos). Weather was also an important factor. If we were hitting a country time wise during the rainy season, we reconsidered whether we really wanted to go there. We also had to consider that we were only taking one suitcase each so keeping to a mild climate where we wouldn't have to carry clothes for cold weather was a necessity. Finally, safety was an overiding factor on our location choices. If we wanted to go somewhere (like Nepal) but there was too much instability, we opted to leave that location for some future point in time. While we had all the flexibility in the world in setting up our itinerary, we choose to give up that flexibilty in exchange for security when we booked flights and accomodations in advance.
We are not travel agents and when something goes wrong, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Since we weren't booking packaged trips, a travel agent really wouldn't have any reason to work with us anyway as they make their money through commissions. Besides, the truth is, it really wouldn't have been the same had we let someone else do all the research and work -- that was part of the process from our viewpoint.
We are not rich but we did save for a long time in order to afford this trip. We did so by not spending money on things that other people feel are important in their lives. We all pick and choose what to spend our money on and for us, it was this trip. The other reality is that a trip like this is not nearly as expensive as many people think. For instance, we are staying in apartments which are much cheaper than hotels (and much more spacious as well). This affords us the ability to cook meals which is much cheaper than eating out. When we do eat out, it is either street food or inexpensive restaurants - no fine dining here. We try to take advantage of free entertainment and free museum days. When you're in a new and different city, just walking around can be an adventure. We use public transportation and are only renting a car on rare occasions. We splurge when it's something that is important to us (a scheduled safari in Tanzania) but then act conservatively at other times.
We wanted to experience the world! To see how others live and to explore sights beyond our own country. We wanted to live in other cultures and see what makes their lives rich. In the end, we hope to bring home the best of everywhere we have been and combine it with the best of what we already have.