Many people dream of dropping everything and traveling the world, but for most it remains a dream. It’s overwhelming and daunting to even know where to begin (much like writing this blog post), and it seems impossible that it can really happen. The most common responses we get when we tell others that we are traveling for a year is “how can you afford that?” and “are you quitting your jobs?”. People often seem shocked and can’t seem to understand how we are able to do this.
So let’s rewind to one year ago when our dream of traveling the world was still a dream. We decided that the first thing we needed to do was start saving money. At this point we had no itinerary, no departure date, and really no idea what we were doing! We opened a separate bank account that was strictly for saving money for our trip and we diligently put money into it each month. This is when I really started to believe that we were actually going to do this.
Over the next few months we read about all the places we wanted to travel to and we started to build an itinerary. We kept reading and kept adding until we realized if we were to do everything we wanted to do we would be traveling for the rest of our lives. We decided that we should focus on the things that take the most time and that would be hard to do as a shorter trip later in our lives. We also had to consider the best season to visit each place so that we don’t end up hiking in Nepal during monsoon season. Eventually we settled on the following itinerary. It will be interesting to see how closely we end up following it, and to see what other adventures we may find along the way!
I then delved into searching different flight options. An around the world ticket didn’t make much sense for our plans, so we opted for booking individual flights. After countless hours on kayak.ca I found that although not the most environmentally friendly route, the most economical route would take us on a return ticket from Vancouver to Santiago, then a one way ticket from Vancouver to Kathmandu. I still can’t understand why round trip tickets are often cheaper than one way tickets, but this means we will be stopping by for a day in Vancouver in May to say hello! Changing my name on these tickets after getting married proved to be another battle, but we'll save that story for another time!
With tickets booked and money in the bank, our trip was becoming more and more real. But now we were entering uncharted territory. What do we do with all of our stuff for the year? How to we get visas while we are traveling? What’s the best travel insurance to buy? How do we create a budget? How much do we pack for a year of travel? What vaccinations do we need? Thankfully, Google knew the answers to all of these questions!
Most of these tasks turned out to be pretty straightforward, but some proved to be more challenging than expected. We thought travel insurance would be easy - call a few places, get quotes and choose the best one. However, we now live in BC, the only province that still charges monthly premiums for health care. After calling Medical Service Plan of BC (MSP) I was told that we would have to keep paying these premiums while traveling in addition to our travel insurance OR we could cancel our MSP coverage but then we would have a hard time finding travel insurance. This was quite frustrating because if we lived anywhere else in Canada this would not have been an issue. I eventually found a company that provides insurance for expats who was able to provide us with the insurance we need and allowed us to put our MSP on hold. That was a big relief!
Finding a storage unit for our things was fairly simple since there seems to be an over abundance of storage facilities in Vancouver, but figuring out what to do with our car was not so simple. Our initial plan was to lend it to some friends for the year, but they didn’t end up needing it and it would’ve been more complicated that we thought. Our next plan was to store it on a friend’s land in Penticton for the year, but with all the snow and bad conditions on the Coquihalla we decided that wasn’t the safest option. Our third plan was to find somewhere in the Vancouver area to store it, but this turned out to be ridiculously expensive (some places were charging $400/month!). We then thought we could store it on the road in front of a friend’s place so they could keep an eye on it, but this required us to keep full insurance on our car. At that point we figured we might as well just sell it, but this was two weeks before our departure and we didn’t think we would be able to sell it in time. In the end, our landlord saved the day! He is allowing us to park it in his driveway. When we asked how much, he said “just put yourself in my shoes and pay what you think is fair”. What a guy!
In terms of gear and packing lists, I will let you read David’s post. David loves gear, especially ultralight gear! He has watched hundreds of YouTube videos on gear and packing for thru hikes, so I just let him pack first and then I copied him! Except I refused to buy a quilt, I am a firm believer in sleeping bags!
Making a budget was a lot of guesswork. It’s not too hard to find blog posts about the cost per day of traveling in different countries, so we mostly based ourselves off of those. We also included costs of flights we plan to take, visas, travel insurance, storage, and more expensive tours that we want to do (e.g. tour from Kathmandu to Tibet). I’m sure there will be unforeseen expenses, but that is part of the adventure! We are open to working at some point during our travels if it comes down to that. The other thing to consider when making a budget is having some money when we get back from our travels. Luckily for both of us when we told our companies we were quitting to travel for a year they were very supportive and said they would do whatever they could to hire us back when we return. David’s company, Esri Canada, is also sponsoring our trip by providing us with an ipad and a satellite phone to help document our journey.
Other things to consider were visas and vaccines. Websites like visahq.ca make finding information about visas easy. It turns out we don’t need any visas in South America (just need to pay an online reciprocity fee for Argentina), the visas we need in Asia can be obtained upon arrival, and the visa for New Zealand can be obtained online. Phew, that is much easier than we expected! Likewise, finding info about vaccines is easily done by visiting a travel clinic. I already had everything I needed and David just had to get a few shots.
So after a year of planning we think we have covered everything, but we will only really know once we get started. It is hard to believe that we will be departing in one week. It feels surreal. It has been a dream for many years to do a trip like this, and we are finally going to make it happen. Planning a trip begins with a single step; with a commitment to make it a priority and to change the doubts and excuses into actions and faith. There is never a perfect time to drop everything and go traveling, so we are creating the opportunity for ourselves, knowing that we have and will have to make other sacrifices and miss out on other things. We believe that this is a far better path to take than one of regret.
We are both excited and nervous to face the unknown and the adventures that await us. We know that there will be ups and downs, but we look forward to working through things together, developing a greater appreciation and understanding of other cultures, learning to live a minimalist life, practicing patience, and taking the time to soak in the vastness and the beauty of the world we live in. We will do our best to keep you updated along our journey and we thank you all for your support.
Lauren and David spent 15 months travelling around the world and shared some epic adventures together! Some of their stories can be found on the Outdoor Explore Community website. Lauren works as a Physical Therapist in Vancouver, BC.