You’re really traveling all around the world?
Yes. We left our home in the US on December 15, 2013, so that we could travel around the world for one full year. We soon realized one year of travel wouldn’t be enough and have continued the journey. We’re still roaming around the world after 2.5 years later. Our first year of non-stop travel in 2014 took us in some big loops, but we finally circumnavigated completely around the world in 2015. Now in 2016, our travel ambitions are still going strong.
Why are you doing this?
Because we love traveling and it’s been our dream to spend an extended time doing so while we’re still (relatively) young. We love a good adventure and experiencing other cultures. We had talked about doing taking a trip around the world for about five years prior to departing and worked very hard towards embarking on that dream during that time.
Travel and adventure puts perpetual smiles on our faces, makes us excited to wake up each morning, and just genuinely makes us happy. Very happy. So I guess you could say we are simply pursuing what happiness is to us. The clock is ticking and the time for us to travel is now.
How long are you going to travel for?
We don’t know. We had always budgeted and planned for one full year of travel. We decided that we would be flexible with that plan and possibly even end our trip short if we got a few months into the journey and decided that the nomadic life was not for us after all. We were also ready for the possibility that we could be blowing through funds too quickly and decide to call it quits.
Instead, it was exactly the opposite. When nearing the one year mark, our budget was holding up way better than we ever expected and we were having a blast pursuing our dream. So we decided that there was a lot more of this wacky world we’d love to explore. Hence we extended our grand world tour for a second year.
Approaching the end to our third year, we came the realization that we still weren’t quite ready to call it quits, so we’ve extended this journey into a third year although we’re now traveling at a much slower pace.
How long will we go for now? That answer changes on a regular basis. We now plan our travels for a few months at a time and we’ve decided that we’ll end our nomadic ways whenever it feel right. There is no goal of visiting a certain amount of places or bucket list of adventures. We’ll never ever be done traveling. But we may decided to plant roots somewhere at some point to be determined. We’ll always continue traveling but it may be for weeks or months at a time rather than years at a time.
Locations, Locations, Locations
Where have you gone?
We’ve now visited over 60 countries and have visited all continents except for Antarctica. We’ve spent most of our time in these regions:
- Mexico & Central America
- Northern Africa (Morocco, Egypt)
- Southern South America
- New Zealand
- SE Asia
- Sub-Saharan Africa
You can find a more detailed summary of our 3-year route here.
Where to next?
There will always be future destinations that we’ll dream about. We would love to travel through the Amazon & Galapagos and Iceland & Greenland among other places. Those are currently the places we yearn to visit and we may try to make one of those places a reality if we can manage to fund it. Yet Antarctica still sits firmly at the top of our dream destination list. Maybe one day.
Had you done much traveling before embarking on your round-the-world trip?
We’ve embarked on several domestic adventures within the US together. Our experience with international travel was more limited, having only been on two trips together outside of North America, prior to our big “roaming around the world journey.”
Within the US, I’ve visited 42 of the 50 states and Heather has been to about half of those. International travel has led us on a quick two-week sprint across Europe for our honeymoon and a year prior to that we had journeyed through Thailand and Cambodia.
Of course, we’ve also made some trips to our lovely neighbors of both Canada and Mexico in addition to a few quick jaunts to nearby Caribbean islands (mostly from cruising). Everywhere else in the world that we’ve visited throughout this trip has been entirely new for us.
We researched destinations and travel techniques for years before we embarked. This helped to make us feel comfortable for the adventure ahead. Yet it was the real-life travel skills we developed early during our journey through Central America that was perhaps of greatest help.
So what are your favorite countries?
It may sound cliche but picking a favorite country is like picking a favorite child. Instead, I can tell you some favorite experiences. Here’s our favorite experiences from our first year of travel and our favorite experiences from 2015.
If you really want us to play favorites, these are the places we crave returning to (in no particular order): Spain, New Zealand, Malaysia, Montenegro, Slovenia, South Africa, Patagonia (Chile & Argentina) and Mexico. Hmmm… also Turkey, Philippines, Thailand, Belgium, and Guatemala rank high with us. Oh, hell, they’re all great. It’s so difficult to pick favorites because we like different places for different reasons.
Costs and Funding
Wow, a 2 + year trip around the world sounds like it would cost a fortune! Did you win the lottery or get access to a trust fund?
No, we wish! As boring as it may sound, our main source of funding is from saving over the course of several years. We had been financially planning this grand adventure for about five years and aggressively saved for it during that time. We made lots of difficult sacrifices and decided to live very modestly, well below our means. During those years, we committed to saving over half of our income, and at times – up tp 70%. This savings went not only towards the trip itself but to also to allow for a safety net, the possibility of extending our trip (which we did), and/or to provide us funding for comfortably settling back into a “normal life” once (or if) we return.
How else have you funded your trip?
I’d estimate that our aggressive saving probably has accounted for covering about 70%-80% of our expenses. But we certainly have utilized other means to cover travel costs too.
In addition to saving money, we also meticulously hoarded points and miles. In fact we had racked up almost 400,000 Delta Sky Miles (the equivalent of about 30 round trip US flights), which we used a portion of during our infamous 5-day-flight. We also stashed several thousand dollars worth of Capital One Purchase Eraser travel dollars that we used to pay for an entire two-week repositioning cruise, expensive scuba diving lessons in Belize, and many more travel expenses. We accrued enough Starwood points for about a dozen nights which we used to stay for free at the Le Meridian in Morocco and also throughout our entire Egypt on a Budget 2-week itinerary. All of these rewards were essentially free for the taking over the years. I will write a lengthier post about how we did this (and how you can too) at some point.
I also pick up freelance and consulting projects that I can work on remotely. My career in marketing research and data analytics lends itself nicely to remote work. I can basically work on a project anywhere within an eight hour charge of my laptop. It may seem like we’re constantly out having fun but I’m occasionally spending weeks at a time crunching stats and writing business reports. That’s just not at all relevent to this site, so during those times we continue to post about our travel experiences of the location we hunker down in, rather than posting about the boring spreadsheets I’m working on that helps to continue to fund our travels.
We have also leveraged this blog by obtaining occasional sponsorships from travel brands who have hosted some of our experiences. Additionally, we also earn a little income using affiliate links where relevant within our blog posts. During the first two years, the income we’ve earned from the blog hasn’t even paid for our beer consumption on any given month. During this third year, things are going much better, but our blog income still remains one small part of our income equation and is far from being a fully sustainable way for us to travel. (We discuss more about the blog during the final sections.)
I’ve also dabbled a bit in the stock markets by investing about half of our savings prior to traveling. This risky strategy proved to be good to us in 2014 & 2015, pocketing a decent chunk of change to help fuel our travels a bit. But I got nervous in mid-2015 and pulled most of our funds, which now looks to be a good move, given some downturns that followed. Yet although we locked in some nice gains, we’re no longer making earnings since most of our funds are now out of the market.
So exactly how much does a trip like this cost?
The cost of such a trip varies greatly but it may be less than you would think. The cost of a round-the-world trip will differ based upon your travel style, countries visited, pace of travel, and many other factors. I’ve found some folks with yearlong round the world itineraries for about $10K lasting them the entire year and still achieved a decent albeit low-budget travel experience. Others have spent well into the hundreds of thousands for a much more comfortable and even luxurious experience. We fall somewhere right in between these two extremes.
I wouldn’t describe our travel style as backpacker, budget travel, or luxury but rather it somehow embodies all of those comfort levels. We fluctuate based on economic conditions of the locations that we’re in. Midrange would probably be most common to use but I’d instead describe our style as “cost-effective” or “opportunistic.” We take advantage of some very nice experiences (first class flights, upscale resorts, world-class restaurants, and even 5-star cruises) when we can exploit some travel loopholes.
Over these past few years of travel, our lodging expenses averages about $35 per night, even when factoring in some of these upscale places! Meanwhile we’ve kept all of our flight expenses under $400! Traveling good doesn’t have to be expensive and this has become a motto we’ve come to live by.
Also, one of the biggest financial advantages to being nomadic and traveling long-term is that we have virtually no expenses. We don’t have any mortgage or rent to pay, no home repair expenses, no water bill, no wifi bill, no electric bill, and no cable. There’s no car payments, gas, maintenance or car insurance. We’re not required to buy the mandated health care coverage since we’re not currently living in the US. We haven’t even had to buy little things like toilet paper or shampoo over the past several years! It’s always provided for us wherever we go. Basically our only regular bills is travel insurance and a cell phone bill.
We’re also very strategic when it comes to the locations we travel to and stay in. For expensive countries, we sometimes limit our accommodation to hostels, and eat primarily at street food stalls & other cheap eats. Then in countries where our dollar goes further, we stay longer and really upgrade our living conditions since it can be very affordable to do so. It may seem like two extremes. But there’s really a balance & art to this.
Pace of travel can greatly affect cost. Being stationary in places can helps cut costs but we tend to travel fast. We like to slowly make our way throughout countries, going to many locations within them, but we’ll often zip around fairly quickly. We move particularly fast through expensive countries due to high costs.
So now understanding our fluctuating travel style and our fast pace, how much has it all cost for us? We estimate that each year of our travel has cost us roughly $25,000 per person. Amazingly, this is less than our cost of living back in the US.
How do you travel well, for so little?
Some people are surprised to hear how little our travel expenses while still maintaining a pretty good standard of living. We plan in advance and scour the web for deals. In making hotel reservations nearly every night for the past three years, we’ve learned where to find the best deals. It often varies based on location, time of year, and many other factors. You can read our detailed guide soon the booking sites we use to find the best hotel deals. We’re planning to write more guides about what sites we use for flights, rental cars, cruising, tours, and more, so stay tuned. But in short, here are the sites that we use most often to book accommodation:
- Hotels.com – Great deals and best rewards program (stay ten nights, get on free).
- Booking.com – Great deals and often the biggest inventory of hotels.
- Hotwire.com – Often the best hotel deals on the web, but the exact hotel isn’t revealed ’til after booking.
- Priceline Express Deals – This works the same ways as Hotwire but with different listings. Check both.
- HotelsCombined – We use other sites to find hotels, but this is good to ensure you’re getting the best price.
- Airbnb – This is our go-to source for home & apartment rentals. Use this coupon code to save $30 off your first stay.
What did you do with all of your stuff?
We’ve sold or donated most of it and are storing a few boxes with a family member (thanks Mom!) This has been a long-term five-year plan, so even though we’re married in our 30’s with a decent income, we’ve strategically been putting off all major household purchases such as nice furniture and other household items most have bought at this stage in their lives. Most of our furniture were pieces we bought second-hand or from Ikea. If we were to have stored that crap for the past few years, we would spent more money on storage than we would buying nice new furniture upon returning.
We have, of course, kept sentimental items like photos, wall art, along with some of our nicer clothes, cookware, and tableware. But most all else is gone, even our cars. We haven’t needed them over the past several years, so it didn’t make sense for us to let them sit somewhere and depreciate in value another year. Instead we tucked that money into an interest baring account during our time away and we will eventually use it towards buying newer used cars upon returning. Meanwhile, whenever we’re back in the US, we use rideshare service like Uber and Lyft to get around, while also taking advantage of rental car relocation deals to provide us with a cheap rental car for weeks at a time.
What do you pack?
It can be difficult to pack for a trip of indefinitely length that involves both two-week long luxury cruises and backpacking camping trips across Patagonia. An additional complication is packing for hot & humid beaches as well as snow-capped mountain treks. It’s a challenging balance that we’ve perfected. Meanwhile we also need to take an arsenal of electronics that are needed to capture and blog about our experiences. Yet we still manage to fit it all in two large carry-on packs plus two smaller backpacks.
We have detailed every single item that we travel with and have included links with all of our gear recommendations in this post: The Ultimate Travel Pack List and Packing Tips.
Health, Wellness, & Safety
Are you vaccinated against all the dangerous diseases out there?
Before embarking on our trip we went to a travel clinic and reviewed the countries we’re visiting with a doctor who recommended the following vaccinations for us: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid Fever, Tetanus, and Polio vaccinations. So we headed the doc’s advice and got all of them. I understand that other folks may also consider Yellow Fever and Japanese Encephalitis vaccinations, but we did not get those. We took Malaria medication when traveling in areas like Sub-Saharan Africawhere the disease is prone.
What do you do for health insurance during the trip?
Most US-based medical plans don’t cover you abroad. Since we’re rarely in the US, we’ve forgone purchasing standard insurance. Although the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare) was signed into law mandating that we must have an insurance plan, we actually qualify for an exemption from this law since we have not been actively living in the USA throughout the year.
Instead we use something called something called travel insurance that covers medical expenses and other emergencies that may arise while abroad. We like World Nomads based upon their coverage, low price, and from our own experience. We’ve filed a few claims with them now and they have fulfilled them without too much hassle. We like World Nomads for travel insurance for long-term travel as we have found they provide the best combination of coverage for the price for long term trips. We’ve found that you get the best value, price-wise, with their six month policies.
For shorter trips, lasting 1-2 weeks, we instead prefer RoamRight as we’ve found they tend to offer a better value for shorter trips and trips of lesser value that have a more finite cost than an open-ended long-term trip. That’s what we used when we took a 2-week trip to Cuba. We can’t comment on firsthand experience on filing a claim with them, as thankfully we didn’t have a need to do so. Otherwise, everything with RoamRight seemed like a great fit for a shorter term trip.
But we have found medical treatments to be very inexpensive in a lot of the countries we’ve traveled through. I got a nasty skin infection first in Guatemala and then again in Panama. In Panama, I went to see a fantastic English-speaking doctor who spent nearly 30 minutes cleaning the infection, diagnosing it, and discussing treatment with me. This entire visit came out to $5 USD! We didn’t even bother with the paperwork to file insurance claims.
What about dental check-ups and vision exams?
Dental visits and glasses are substantially cheaper in many parts of the world compared to that in the US. We’re very strategic about where we seek treatment and never do it during our brief visits back to the US since it is cost prohibitive.
In Thailand, we got our teeth cleaned and dental check-ups which came out to about $20-something dollars, no insurance needed. In Malaysia, I chipped a tooth and saw an emergency dentist, again for less than $30, no insurance needed. Most recently in Mexico, we went for another dental cleaning and exam and it was nearly the same cost.
Aren’t you concerned about safety in some of the countries you’ve gone to?
I’m really not much more concerned about my safety abroad than I am in the US. All countries have their good and bad areas and their good and bad people. We try as best as possible to avoid bad areas and bad people. I’ve found that supposed “dangerous” countries we’ve traveled to, to not be any more dangerous than the places we’ve roamed around back in US.
Robbery is always a slight concern, but it has thankfully never happened to us. We don’t wear any flashy jewelry to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. In fact, Heather has chosen not to wear her diamond engagement ring while away. We are also very careful as to where we take out electronics like cameras and laptops.
I did get pick-pocketed once on a subway in Athens, Greece. But I was alert to what was going on and managed to knock the wallet out of the thief’s hand and recover it. I always keep my wallet in a side pocket and not the back pocket.
We never carry around large sums of money with us. I’ve safeguarded and layered our bank accounts. Additionally, all of our electronics were purchased on a credit card that reimburses purchases which are stolen. Our travel insurance also covers theft. So if theft does occur, our losses should be minimal. Sure, it’ll still be a huge inconvenience, lots of paperwork, and who knows how long for it to go through; but we do feel better with all of these protections in place.
In some places we stay, their is a safe, which we always leave our passports and laptops if they fit. More often, there is not a safe. In these instances we put our valuables in one of our bags that is secured with a small luggage lock. This is probably an unnecessary precaution but it’s just an extra precaution to help thwart potential theft.
But really, we’ve found the world to be a much safer place than we ever imagined it to be. I’ve dropped money in the dusty streets of Mexico only for someone to tap me on the shoulder and hand it back to me. I once left my wallet out at a pool overnight in Cambodia and it was returned to me the next day with all of its contents still there. We once left a credit card on a bus in Malaysia and upon returning to the bus station the next day, we were actually able to get the card returned to us with no fraudulent charges on to our account.
We’ve found that most people in the world are generally good people and do the right thing.
How do you stay connected? Do you have a phone?
We usually try to book accommodation with solid wifi. While on a short vacation, wifi should not be a primary concern. But it’s almost a necessity for us as we try to maintain this blog and work on other online projects. So we usually thoroughly vet out the wifi situation of the places we’re considering to stay at, particularly so for longer stays. We avoid places with bad wifi reviews and sometimes even go to the extent of asking about wifi speeds before booking.
We also share one phone. Convenient timing, just before departing the US, T-Mobile took their nationwide data & texting and made it global. Now unlimited data and texting is included in over 100 countries at no extra charge. Additionally international talk was reduced to only an additional $.20 per minute in the 100+ countries. So we’re fully taking advantage of all that. Additionally, we’re bringing laptops with email, Skype, etc. With all that we’ll be staying pretty well connected most of the time.
How do you do laundry?
You gotta keep your clothes clean! In most countries we travel to, laundry service is super inexpensive compared to in the States. Often we can get an entire bag laundered, dried and folded for about $5! So we often take advantage of that and have someone wash our clothes. We’ve never had a problem. Meanwhile sometimes we’ll be lucky enough to stay somewhere with washing machines and we always do our laundry whenever that happens. Occasionally we’ll travel through places where its cost prohibitive to get laundry service and we there’s no washer at our accommodation. In those rare instances, we’ll seek out a laundromat.
What about your jobs?
We quit our jobs to travel the world. And that was actually one of the toughest struggles for me because I’ve worked very hard towards and have been happy with my career path thus far. This is admitedly not a normal life path to take. It was very difficult to pull the trigger on and that was the hardest part of making our become a dream a reality. We had two good stable sources of income that we kinda enjoyed. We felt sort of crazy to give that up.
I’m a very career-driven person but also have this insatiable thirst for travel, which has led me to be very torn between these two passions. But I’ve found ways to attempt to balance this.
For one, I’ve been pursuing consulting work remotely during our travels. I still have a computer, Internet, phone, and Skype. We’re not on crazy adventures in remote jungles 365 days of the year, so I do occasionally hunker down for a few days/weeks at a time to knock out a project or two, if and when opportunities exist. Secondly, check it out, I started a website called Roaming Around the World! This site has helped me to learn new marketing skills that I can now proudly tout.
What are you going to do for a job once you’re done traveling?
Done traveling? We’ll never ever be completely “finished” traveling. But at some point, we’ll likely stop being nomadic and our travels will become more part-time rather than full-time. I suppose we’ll be networking and putting our resumes out there, once that time comes.
Hopefully we will be able to settle back into a career
once if we return to a more normal life. And who knows, we can even dream that a travel-related company may find this prolonged travel experience to be an interesting and positive aspect. Sure, there may be some hiring managers that frown upon our pursuit of a 2-3 year trip around the world. But we probably wouldn’t enjoy working for them anyways.
Still, having a gap on my resume has been a concern of mine to even be considered for a position. That’s why I’ve ensured there is no gap. If you’re curious about what exactly I do or how I reflect travel to my resume, you are welcome to snoop through my LinkedIn profile.
Alternatively, we’ve also dreamt about potentially growing this website, consulting on a more consistent basis, and other Internet-based businesses we’ve been thinking about starting up. So we really have lots of different avenues to consider moving forward. Over the past few years, we’ve been more focused on our travels than on career & income opportunities. That’s slowly beginning to shift though.
But I’m not sure exactly where we’ll be a few months from now, let alone making major yet hypothetical career decisions. We’ll (hopefully) figure that all out upon at some point. For now, I’m still trying to decide what to eat for dinner tonight. I’m thinking tacos sound good.
Why create this website and blog?
Several reasons. For one, what better way in this digital age to be able to share our experiences with friends and family? That’s really why we started the blog. But we’re now happy to find that other people were interested in our travels too and have grown this little space on the interwebs.
Also, though I don’t claim to be particularly good at it, I really enjoy writing. It’s a creative outlet for me that I’ve been having fun exploring and perfecting during my time away from a traditional career.
Additionally this blog has provided a greater purpose for our trip. Sometimes when we’re exhausted, it provides us with motivation to go that extra mile and climb that mountain peak to capture that Instagram-worthy shot. The blog also sometimes forces me to explore more and ask questions that I’ll later write about. Without the blog, we’d perhaps take a more subdued and lazy approach. But the blog helps to provide some sense of purpose to sometimes travel deeper to seek such information.
Additionally, if I can help and/or inspire some folks out there who also want to travel better and learn more about the destinations we’re exploring, I’m happy to help by sharing our experiences. I love talking and writing about travel, so its an easy way to give back.
Lastly, my career is in the field of marketing, so it’s been nice to keep those skills in practice while improving my Internet/web marketing abilities. This website helps me to sharpen those digital skills, experiment with Internet marketing techniques, and learn new tools along the way.
Do you make money from the blog?
Yes, we do, but it’s pretty minimal and it is not the driving purpose behind the site. We have a few affiliate links throughout some of our more popular pages, and these links referring products and services scrape in some spare change to help keep the servers humming and our website running. You can read our disclosure policy for full details about this.
How can I work with you?
If you are a brand who wants to work with us, please get in touch with us through our contact page, as we are PR-friendly and do occasionally work with brands who are a good fit.
If you are another blogger that would like to publish a guest post on our site, we’re sorry but are currently not accepting guest posts at this time. It is a consideration for the future.