I’ve now managed to go more than three months without posting. During my online absence I’ve traveled to Atlanta twice, where I supervised the loading of two separate trucks, one bound for our new home in California, the other for long-term storage in another state, and attended the closing on our house. Yes, we managed to do the impossible–sell a house in a crazy, rapidly declining market—and thus concluded yet another chapter in our lives. We didn’t expect upon ending our travels almost a year ago that we would face quite so many transitions in such a short time, but we’ve learned to expect and even relish change. It’s not always easy, but its in the transitions, when everything familiar and comfortable is stripped away, that our hearts are exposed and we discover what really matters to us. Our cross-country exodus has been stressful, chaotic, and exhilarating all at the same time and given us a unique opportunity to reflect on what we gained during our magical year.
One thing we’ve learned is that it cost a lot less than we originally planned. Including all our planning, preparation, gear, electronics, and travel, we spent a grand total of $86,875.52. That means if you break it down by person, we each got an 11-month, 6-continent adventure, including bungy jumps, elephant rides, and parasailing for $14,479.25! Now that’s a steal! If you strip away our laptops and cameras, you can get it down another $1000 or so per person.
For those looking to do things as inexpensively as possible, there are a few things to bear in mind:
1) We used frequent flyer miles for our RTW tickets. If we purchased these tickets, they would have cost in the neighborhood of $3000-6000 each, still keeping the number around $20,000 each.
2) We stayed for free or at discounted rates at Starwood Hotels using frequent guest points for a total of 45 nights. In some locations this saved us a bundle, in others just a little. In any event, our budget for lodging, which we rarely exceeded was $100/night. You could add $4500 back into the total to compensate for our freebies, but this would probably be more than we would have spent on our own dime.
3) You could go on a lot longer on a lot less if you moved more slowly than we did. There were many times we had to take an expensive plane or train in order to keep our schedule when we could have taken the slower, cheaper route by bus or donkey. Given that southern China and Vietnam cost us only about $75-100/day for 6 of us, we could have spent many months there and kept our expenses way down.
The big expense that some would argue should be included is the cost of keeping our house. We did spend a bundle paying the mortgage, homeowners’ dues, insurance, taxes, etc., but I don’t think it’s fair to make this a cost of travel. We could have rented it out or sold it–which in the wake of our employment situation and the current real estate crisis would have proven a wiser move–and had a lot more spending cash on the road. Both leaving and coming home would have been more difficult, however, and though our bank account holds it against us, we don’t regret doing things the way we did.
In a time when cars can easily cost $40,000 each and $87,000 won’t buy you a bedroom in most cities, we can’t think of a better way to have spent this sum. For $264/day, we gained an unparalleled closeness with our kids and each other, a lifetime of shared memories, and a wealth of experience and knowledge that will remain long after our cars have gone to the scrapheap and our house has been leveled to make room for a shopping mall.
We can’t wait to do it again.