We made a decision very early in our relationship that we would invest in experiences as opposed to things. Both of us come from humble backgrounds without a trust fund or financial support from our parents. Money was never something that either of our families had a plethora of growing up and was never something that was deemed necessary for success or happiness.
See, the funny thing about money is that it’s never enough. While conversely, the thing with travel is that every dollar you spend on it makes your richer.
Almost all of our friends and many of our readers have asked us, “So how did you guys do it?” It’s really a simple question that starts with one easy decision. You have to fully accept that you can make anything happen if you want it badly enough. You have to also decide that you aren’t going to be controlled by what is a socially acceptable, “successful” life to live. For some God awful reason we have let society form norms for our lives that go something like: go to school, graduate, go to college, graduate, get a job, work 40+ hours a week for 51+ weeks every year for the next 40 years, retire, attempt to finally travel and enjoy all of this wealth that you’ve accumulated and pray it doesn’t run out before you die.
But what if we flipped this idea on its head and traveled with little to no money while we are young enough to adventure in any fashion and still impressionable enough to learn something and grow personally with every new city, state, and country we visit? This is what we decided to do. We quit our jobs, sold virtually everything we owned (which wasn’t much), and set out to live our lives for no one other than ourselves. And you know what? It was the best decision we ever made.
Many of those who have asked us how we managed to make this adventure happen have expressed fears of getting behind in life, taking a step back in their careers, or just simply not knowing how to logistically make a trip of this magnitude happen. Well listen to us and listen to us good. If you take a year to yourself to travel the world nothing will have changed when you return. Barring a death or some incredibly unlikely unforeseen tragedy, everything back home will be exactly the way you left it. The only thing that will have changed will be you. You’ll be richer, wiser, and so incredibly refreshed. Your job will either be there for you or one of the other hundred companies that does the exact same thing will hire you. Trust us millennials, a gap year in your early – mid 20s won’t mar your resume. Any manager/company that would knock you for traveling the world and gaining a wealth of experience and knowledge is simply not someone you want to work for anyway.
Did it cross our mind that what we might be doing was potentially insane? Of course! Both of us had just filed tax returns for our most successful year financially and we were on pace for another great year of business. But again, to reiterate, money is not the driving factor in our lives.
Logistics will be different for everyone who chooses to embark on a journey like this. Everyone has his or her own personal financial standing, has certain places he or she would prefer to live in/visit and of course, some prefer spontaneity while others prefer detailed itineraries. But let us tell you a bit about our personal situation.
On June 1, 2015, we boarded a one-way flight to Italy and embarked on the greatest journey of our lives. Over 7 months we traveled to 12 countries and literally traveled the entire way around the Earth.
We had been planning and making soft plans for about 10 months but we really didn’t do anything other than talk and dream about all the places we would visit. It wasn’t until about 2 months before our trip that we started booking flights and such. We wanted to be as spontaneous as possible, but during high season buying flights and hotels last minute can double or triple your costs. To avoid this, We decided which countries outside of Italy that we wanted to visit and purchased flights and booked accommodation ahead of time. Of course this hindered spontaneity, but when we wanted to be spontaneous we hopped on a train and traveled around Italy. Honestly, having the majority of our travel pre-paid was such a life saver when it came time to actually taking the trips – especially our later ones like Oktoberfest and Amsterdam Music Festival.
Of course our plans weren’t concrete. We ended up missing one trip we booked in advance due to constraints in finances and we ended up spending a month in France and 2 months in Bali (check out our Bali Travel Guide); neither of which were planned from the get go.
This part is going to be different for anyone who chooses to embark on a journey like this. If you’re going to Europe, obviously you should save more than if you’re going to South America or Asia. If you’re fine with making all of your meals at home and don’t mind slow forms of travel, obviously you need to save less than if you’re only willing to fly and you want to eat out every night.
We did our best to budget, cook meals at home when possible, and stay in affordable accommodation.
Full disclosure: We saved about $8,000. Yeah. That’s it. That was the total we saved together; not each. What some people spend on a table in Vegas on a random night, we had saved to live on and travel the world with. Although, we did have a couple small forms of income while traveling. We freelanced for a number of travel companies and Michael did some contract work for his company back home in the States. But this “income” was barely enough to cover either rent or food each month.
Before we left we each opened a British Airways credit card from Chase. After spending just a few thousand dollars over a period of 3 months you get 50,000 bonus miles. For us, this was enough for flights from Milan to Qatar and on to Bali and additionally from Tokyo back home to LAX. Alex had just started a Delta Skymiles account but Michael had one for a couple years and as such had enough miles to get from Bali to Tokyo for our journey home. It was incredibly fortunate, because as one could expect, we were pretty broke on our way home.
If you don’t have an airline miles credit card, open one. However, do some research before. Every card offers different benefits and has different airline taxes.
We’ve also come to a point with Couple’s Coordinates where we are collaborating with brands, hospitality companies, and travel companies which essentially means that we are getting paid (a very small amount) to travel.
· Tripit – To keep your travel details all in one place. This is great because you can link your Gmail account as well as others to have auto import of your new reservations, tickets, etc.
· Skyscanner – Best airfare prices (especially for flights in Europe)
· Interrail – Interrail will suit all of your train needs in Europe
· Airbnb – We really wish Airbnb had a loyalty/miles program because we stayed in Aribnbs for about 90% of our 7 month journey. Dear Airbnb: Please create a miles/points/loyalty program.
· Google translate app – This app is so clutch for quick translation needs
· Forex app – Don’t get screwed by the rate at exchanges or banks you’ll find as you travel. Know the rate. Check the Forex app.
· Hotels.com (Get a free night after you book 10 nights)
· Uber (or grab taxi in Asia)
· Rosetta Stone – If you’re spending any bit of time in a place, learn the language.
· Duolingo – Helpful for learning new phrases in another language
· Delta AMEX – 30k mile signing bonus after initial spending requirement. (Side note: Delta is our preferred airline.)
· Chase sapphire – 40k (Sometimes 50k) miles after initial spending requirement
· BA Visa Signature from Chase – 50k miles after initial spending requirement
We hope that this was helpful and perhaps even a bit inspirational for those of you who have dreams to travel extensively. The last year has been one the best year of our lives. We have built a very solid brand and foundation with Couple’s Coordinates and are eager to continue to build as we plan our trips for 2016. Thanks you all so much for following our journey. We can’t wait to share what we have in store for the future.
We want this to be an open forum and want to answer any question you might have, so feel free to ask us in the comments below. We will be sure to respond. Happy travel planning!