Today Michael and I travel full time, doing what we love!
Strangely, enough we travel in style while spending about 50% of what we used to spend back home in cold grey Vancouver BC. However, it wasn’t always that way.
Just 5 years ago we were well and truly stuck….. stuck in the treadmill of consumerism and filling our lives full of ‘stuff’. After all, if we had enough ‘stuff’ we would be happy right?
We now know how wrong we were, ‘stuff’ is not what makes our souls sing. It’s the joy of exploring new places, meeting new people, doing new things and trying new foods that makes us happy.
To fully understand what happened to change our perspective so radically, we need to go back a few years………………..
Michael and I met while backpacking around the world, over twenty years ago. Fate threw us together in a rather dramatic fashion at Lake Taupo New Zealand. It started with a simple invite to visit a local pub then being pounced upon enroute by six Maori teenagers in search of some trouble and a little easy cash. The outcome was a bloody nose (Michael) bruises and scratches (Yvonne) and an evening spent giving statements and riding around in a police cruiser trying to identify the culprits.
Our first ‘date’ ended up back at the hostel with a midnight shot of brandy to calm our nerves and a visit from a ‘stress’ councilor who advised that we should carry on talking it out. We are still ‘talking it out’ and Michael still jokes that he knows how to show a girl a good time.
The outcome, apart from a few bruises was that we spent the next eight months traveling together through New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sumatra and Nepal.
Spending all day together, every day, meant we got to know each other very well. It also made us realize that we really enjoyed traveling together. This is why it was a teary farewell at Delhi airport as I returned to the UK and Michael carried on with his travels through India and Turkey, before coming to visit and meet the family in the UK.
After a year of travel, we had both spent our travel budgets and neither of us had a job. We wanted to be together, but what to do and where to do it?
The answer came shortly after Michael returned to Canada; he was offered a temporary position at the refinery that had paid him to travel (thanks to the severance package after being laid off the previous year).
I joined him in Canada and we knuckled down to make a life together and replenish our coffers. The first few months were tough, I couldn’t work as I was on a visitor’s visa and money was tight. We persevered, Michael branched out as a consulting engineer and I took up an old hobby and started making fancy wedding cakes.
Four years later, we bought a house in the suburbs of Vancouver and tried to figure out how we could get rid of that mortgage as soon as possible. Although neither of us considers ourselves spenders, we ended up with two cars, two phones and a four-bedroom house full of stuff.
We had a good network of friends, went out for dinner occasionally and usually managed to squeeze in at least one vacation overseas per year. But, we were restless. We were not happy, we were just going through the motions and everyday was the same as the last. Even weekends evaporated in the heat of ‘things we had to do’.
We were stuck in ‘the hamster wheel’ we worked hard, yet too much of our income was going on bills and everyday necessities. We weren’t broke and we were managing to save but what were we saving for? Were we like millions of others, saving until we reached 65 so that we could carry on paying for all the stuff until we kicked the bucket?
Our wakeup call was when a dear friend passed away from ALS, she went from a bubbly fireball to a unrecognizable skeleton in just a few months. Watching our friends deal with this reminder of mortality made us examine our lives, our dreams and our goals. If this was either of us, would we have regrets, was there something we would rather be doing?
The answer was a resounding YES! We still wanted to travel, we wanted to explore the world and we didn’t want to retire in the burbs of Vancouver and live on two minute noodles because of puny pensions.
The challenge was to figure out a way to travel, without raiding our savings. But, we wanted to travel in style, we weren’t willing to be broke backpackers again.
We knew we could live far cheaper in many parts of the world and initially thought we would spend a few months in Mexico or Asia and then go from there. We had already done the math and knew that we could get a reasonable monthly income if we rented out our home in the burbs. However less than $2,000 wasn’t going to go far.
Then I discovered housesitting!
If we could get enough housesitting assignments we could dramatically reduce our travel expenses, after all flights and accommodation costs are the biggest culprits. Within days we had booked our first housesit and then went into overdrive to get ready for this new phase of our lives.
Emptying a four-bedroom home is not an easy task, especially when you add in all the other tasks we needed to do, such as eliminating mail. Going paperless takes a lot of time, as did switching banking accounts, bill payments and dealing with the taxman to online. We actually work a book on the subject called “Selling Up to Travel”
I will be honest there were times when I wondered what the hell we had done. Where we mad to sell or give away all our possessions, to let someone else live in our home, to give up our professions and become nomads? We know that, that is what some of our family and friends thought.
Four years later, we know that we were not mad, far from it. We now live life on our own terms, doing what we want, when we want.
We have visited over 40 countries, made friends all over the world and expanded our culinary skills. No longer tied to a desk for 40 plus hours a week, we have used the time freedom to branch out into new ventures we blog, write travel articles and even published our own books. We have a stronger, deeper more meaningful relationship and plan to be nomadic retirees for a long, long time.
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