A Crazy Thing Happened Leaving Barnes and Noble
How in the world did this whole thing get started?
This is a question we get a lot! It was Spring 2013 and we were in the process of selecting our next ‘big trip’ destination. Since 2007 we had taken one every couple of years (Mexico 2007, Vietnam 2010, France/Italy – Honeymoon 2012) and we were headed to the bookstore to figure out trip #4. Normally we would’ve visited an independent bookstore, but since we were basically planning to use the store as a library we figured there was no harm in going to Barnes and Noble. This was of course before we realized you could actually use the library…who knew they had so many Lonely Planet Guides?
We arrived at Barnes and Noble, ordered iced green teas and hunkered down in a corner with a huge stack of travel books. We would be traveling in November so the obvious region was SE Asia. Adam wanted to go back to Vietnam, but since I’m a big believer in repeating only after all destinations have been visited that was out of the question. I had made an exception for our honeymoon, since Adam had never been to Europe and I wanted to show him the town I had lived in (Annecy), but there were too many places to see! We had both wanted to visit Thailand and Cambodia so we settled on 2 weeks split between the two. As we dove into the books on both locations we began to feel frustrated almost immediately. We had fallen down the rabbit hole that Lonely Planet had been kind enough to dig for us and had a list of ‘must do/see’ that could have filled a month! Feeling defeated we decided to head home, but not before purchasing The Travel Book, to ensure we would spend the rest of the night, if not week, drooling over all of the places we would never get to go.
The real problem was that we were coming back to the same road blocks we always ran into when planning our trips (vacation time, budget, etc). With 1,000’s of destinations we hated the idea of picking just one, especially when we knew it would be a year or two before the next one. We cracked open The Travel Book and began our chorus of broken record whines: “wouldnt it be great if we could just quit our jobs and travel?”, “why don’t we have more vacation time”, “why didnt we travel more immediately following college?”, “why arent we independently wealthy?”. Normally this whining carries on for a week or two until we just finally pick a place and start planning. However, something was different this time. On our 5th or 6th go around a light bulb went off and our questions began to shift to “wait, why can’t we quit our jobs?” and “how much would it actually take to make that happen?”. For some reason this ‘dream’ that had always seemed like a fantasy all of a sudden seemed like a realistic possibility. We began calculating…
We knew we first had to figure out what a trip like this would cost. We found some great blogs that included detailed budgets and planning documents. We read through them to see where everyone was over-budgeting and under-budgeting and compared their spending habits to ours in Vietnam. Obviously there was a huge range depending on accommodation preferences, activities, eating habits, etc, but after about a month of research we realized that if we were able to save up $30,000 we could actually pull off a year long trip! We then had to sit down and figure out if we could actually save that much. We knew we wanted to leave by then end of the year, which gave us about 8 months to save. Here is where we diverted from the norm a bit…most RTW bloggers talked about saving for a year or two before heading off on their trips or cashing in savings they already had to make it happen. Well, we had no savings and definitely didnt have the patience to wait a year or more to begin. As anyone who knows us (specifically me) can tell you, we’re pretty ‘instant gratification’ people. Eight months already seemed like too long to wait, so anything longer was never going to happen. Plus, leaving in January would allow us to wrap up things nicely at work and leave both of our companies in the best possible position to deal with our departures. This was another thing that set us apart from the ‘average’ RTW bloggers. We loved our jobs and we LOVED living in San Diego. We weren’t trying to ‘run away’ from anything or take a ‘career break’, we were simply ready to try something new and go after a shared dream we had had for as long as we could remember.
We ran the numbers and realized that as long as we earned enough points/miles to pay for our flight we could make this happen. It almost seemed unreal, like there was no way this could actually be possible. Though once we realized it was, the questions shifted again…so we can do it, does that mean we should? Are we crazy to ‘risk’ everything we have? Are we gambling with our careers and our happy, easy lives? Could we get on the trip and realize we had made a huge mistake? Is there a chance that we could get hurt, sick or killed on the road? Ironically realizing the answer was ‘yes’ to all of these questions was what convinced us it was the right decision.
We were happily married, successful professionals with no kids, mortgage or car payment. Once all of the ‘what ifs’ had taken their turns we realized that all of those things could happen no matter where we were. People lose their jobs, get sick and make mistakes all the time. You never know how much time you will have or what is waiting around the corner…careful planning only gets you so far and, in most cases, provides more of an illusion of a safety net than actual protection. So after careful consideration of all the possible outcomes (and believe me, my anal retentive planner/control freak came out in full force) we realized the only question we had to ask ourselves was: Why not?
So here we go….