It’s been nearly 14 years in the planning, but we’ve finally decided we are going on our around-the-world trip. We have set a date, but I don’t want to reveal the exact date just yet. No need to alarm our employers and clients. Some may ask: why now? All the signs seem to point in the same direction: the road. Here are a few of the reasons:
1. Airline Policies Change
Originally, we were going to purchase two around-the-world (RTW) tickets, but since my wife traveled so much for work, we decided to start saving up her airline miles for those tickets. Using reward miles would save us over $10,000. That was over 10 years ago, and since then we’ve used some of those miles for trips to Africa, Italy, and the Middle East. I had some miles also and we used some of those for our trip to the U.K. and France last year. Even after all those other trips, we still have enough airline miles for two RTW tickets.
Last month, my wife received an email with some policy changes from one of the larger airlines where she has accumulated some miles. It indicated that they would no longer be offering an RTW ticket. Since it wasn’t the airline with which we had the majority of our miles, it didn’t affect us directly. However, airlines tend to follow the lead of other airlines, especially the larger ones. In the past, we saw that when a couple of the airlines started to charge extra for checked baggage, it wasn’t long before all the other airlines charged for checked baggage. So if one of the major airlines discontinued their RTW offering, we figure it won’t be long before the other two airlines also stop offering it. Time to use those accumulated miles.
2. We aren’t getting any younger
Traveling around the world and living the nomadic lifestyle has normally been associated with a younger generation. After all, it takes energy and stamina to constantly be moving from place to place. Some destinations, especially those in the Himalayas, are much more physically demanding and youth makes it easier to arrive at those places and still have enough left to actually enjoy your surroundings.
My wife and I have become a couple of couch potatoes—armchair travelers mostly—with a few weeks each year to participate in a forced march which we call a vacation. Each year, we notice that it takes longer to overcome our maladies from being on our feet day after day for weeks at a time. We know that our relatively good health won’t last forever. Add to that the constant reminder that we live in an uncertain world, with war, civil unrest, diseases, and the constant dangers of daily living, and we realize that the time is now to fulfill our dream.
3. The dollar is strong
Our economy is recovering, albeit slowly. Fortunately for us, the rest of the world, and especially Europe, isn’t rebounding as quickly. The U.S. dollar is at a high point and that means we can spend less. Of course, inflation has meant that each year we delayed added to the cost of our trip, so we could no longer afford to wait.
4. We finally saved enough
About 10 years ago, we started putting some money aside in our RTW trip fund. With our most recent tax refund, we have reached our goal for what we need to be on the road for a year and not have to worry too much about money. It’s difficult to take a year off from a normal life with bills and responsibilities. The budget I initially set was revised recently to account for lots of changes in income, expenses, and expectations. Part of what helped is that we recently decided that we would rent out our house while we were gone. With two rental incomes, the mortgage and property taxes would be mostly covered, leaving more money available for living expenses while abroad. But those budget revisions worked both ways. Many of the organized side trips we planned were based on prices I paid 15 years ago. Almost all of those tours have doubled in price, so the budget hasn’t changed that drastically.
5. I’m still not working full-time
I am thankful that my wife has a good, well-paying job that’s in high demand. She should have little problem finding another job when we return. I, on the other hand, haven’t been so fortunate since moving back from California over 4 years ago. A failed Internet startup venture left me without income for nearly 6 months and nothing else to show for all the work I put into it. Even a year away from the tech industry makes a person less desirable on the job market. Imagine what 4 years does to your resume. The occasional photo gig and web design job did little to add to our trip fund. Cutting back on discretionary spending has helped, but it took longer than expected to reach our goals. I’ve been applying for jobs each week, however, nothing permanent is on the horizon, so now seemed as good as a time as any to leave.
The date we initially set had to be pushed back a couple of months because there was no way to get everything done in time. That meant we also had to change our itinerary since the dates are meant to coincide with certain milder seasons in the more extreme climates. It will be hard enough to pack for the Himalayas without having to also worry about winter climates as well. So the dates will allow us to bookend two southern continents with tropical Asia, the Himalayas, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe in between.