While it was only 10 months from the moment that we decided to take this trip to the point of leaving, the foundation for making that decision was 20 years in the making. After putting together the previous blog post related to our expenses over the past three months, we felt it might have also been helpful to share a bit more about our individual and collective paths that got us to the point of taking on this trip.
Sarah and I met while serving in the Peace Corps in Honduras in the early 1990’s. Prior to that, she had spent close to a year abroad in Ecuador and I had a month-long experiences in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic while in college. I later spent 3 months constructing residential homes in South Korea. We settled down in Minneapolis after living short stints in the Southwest and Northeast, had Max, and jumped into the grind of work – Sarah as a Teacher and me in the nonprofit sector. We’ve been fortunate to be able to travel for a week or so to Mexico for a vacation most years, traveled to Ecuador/Peru for 3 weeks in 2011, and Max studied Spanish for a month in Guatemala in the summer of 2015. By no means are we seasoned travelers, but we’ve been able to build up some good experiences over the years and we kinda knew what we were getting into with this trip.
Over the past 20 years, we’ve also taken on numerous significant home rehab projects where we would purchase the one of the roughest homes on a block and work on it while we lived there. We’d eventually sell and find the next project, but with each sale we were always able to build additional equity for the next purchase and/or retire some debt (student loans, car debt, credit card debt, etc.). We’ve also been pretty lucky in timing the housing market cycles. Our most recent sale allowed us to sell our home in a high cost neighborhood and purchase a less costly duplex in an emerging neighborhood. This last sale/purchase sequence allowed us the ability to eliminate all debt from our lives and create a small income stream from the one of the duplex units. While it was a good financial move, it’s worth noting it required a lot more rehab work on the duplex and some big changes. We had to significantly downsize our lives as we went from a 4 BR/4BA home to a 2 BR/1BA upper unit in a duplex, which was also a good thing in hindsight. All of these moves over a pretty long period allowed us to be debt free. We finally allowed ourselves the opportunity to dream at a level that we never allowed ourselves in the past.
Traveling when one is younger is arguably much easier on several fronts. Not only are most people less set in their ways of life, but they also haven’t complicated their lives to the level that us “adults” have. Most of us have mortgages, jobs, car loans, kids in sports, friends, aging parents, and hundreds of other obligations. Unwinding (either entirely or temporarily) or planning work-arounds for all of these obligations took the better part of six months to do. We had to:
- develop plans of action with our employers – in my case….develop a succession plan for the organization with staff and board,
- finish the rehab on the duplex units,
- lease out one of the units and find a caretaker for our unit,
- deal with insurances,
- storage for our 25 years of stuff,
- car logistics (one of our cars is Prius that needs to be driven on regular basis,
- ensure Max was getting ahead on coursework for the year he’d be traveling,
- Figure out a plan for the farmhouse (about four years ago, we also stumbled upon a great foreclosure opportunity in a farmhouse on 15 acres in Wisconsin about an hour away from Minneapolis),
- mail and bills,
- and thinking through as many of the “what if” scenarios as possible.
There are small issues that have cropped up and I’m sure something big will require some of our attention at some point, but think it’s important to try to keep a mindset that we did as much as we could reasonably do prior to leaving and try to roll with anything that might crop up. We’ll see how it plays out.