What do you do for work?
For the length of our travels, neither of us are working. For the last five years Adam has worked for a transportation and technology trade association called ITS America who kindly gave him a leave of absence to travel for a year. Molly left her non-profit job with I Love A Clean San Diego and will look for gainful employment when we get back to the States.
How can you afford all this traveling?
We spent four years planning and saving for a sailing trip to Central America and the Caribbean. With some weddings gifts from friends and family and a few years of scrimping and saving we built out a decent sized cruising kitty. Some health issues prevented us from sailing so we took our cruising kitty and headed to Europe.
How do you budget for a trip like this?
We budgeted the simple way – we put the number we were willing to spend on the top of a piece of paper, reduced it by 25% to make a reserve for unexpected costs (something we learned from planning a wedding) and then divided it by 10 for the minimum amount of months we wanted to travel for.
So far it’s all working out pretty well and interestingly, all things considered, we’re spending less money/month traveling in Europe than we spent back home in San Diego. . . . probably because had a boat then!
How do you pay for things?
We use a Southwest Airlines Visa Credit Card. It has a 0% fee on international purchases, you can really easily do travel notifications online to make sure a hold hasn’t been put on your card. Plus we have enough Rapid Rewards points to never be in the B boarding group for the rest of our lives. That card gets paid off every month. We use ATMs for cash, which are everywhere but there are multiple fees for doing that (it costs about $20 to pull out $400 in cash) so we try and use our Southwest card as much as possible.
How do you decide where to travel?
France was the perfect jumping off point for us because we had (through friends) a place to live and a car to use. After three months in France we had to leave the Schengen Area for visa reasons and chose to spend three months in the Balkans. We’ve sort of been planning new destinations, a few months out, as we go. Beyond being driven by interest and desire, we generally have one criterion: to establish a home-base where we can settle in and where we’ll have time to really get to know the area and its history at a relaxed pace. We’ve been renting airbnb apartments for good chunks of time – at least five weeks – so that we can make temporary homes which allow us to cook and take side trips without having to travel with all of our luggage.
Do you have health insurance?
Having health insurance is important to us. When our friends Amber and Jeremy did a similar trip last year they wrote of deciding on insurance: “we thought about it carefully, researched it thoroughly, and then…we just bought World Nomads insurance like every other RTW traveler does.” Our research involved reading just that sentence and then going to get World Nomads Insurance just like they did. (Thanks guys!)
Health insurance for the European traveler is probably not as necessary as elsewhere in the world. We’ve already had a few doctors appointments and tests done in both Paris and Prague and our out-of-pocket costs have been far less than they would have been in the U.S. with health insurance. Amazing. We then had those costs reimbursed by World Nomads a month later. But even though European Health care is extraordinary for minor to medium sized issues, being insured is still the responsible thing to do in case of larger issues. Also without it, driving in Montenegro would be downright stupid.
What did you pack for a year?
We each came to Europe with a rolling suitcase, a large backpacking backpack and a medium size backpack. One of those large backpacks was just camping gear. We downsized a little for Montenegro and will downsize even further for this summer when we head to Austria and Scotland and won’t need winter clothing. We have had the good fortune of being able to leave things behind at our friends’ home in France.
Every time we pack we’re happy with how little we have and when we arrive we always realized we could have gotten by with much less. But we’ve struck a good balance by having a nice variety of clothes and shoes and jackets and books while also being able to pack for a 10 days trips with just one medium backpack for the two of us. Another benefit of renting a long-term apt and planting in one place is you have somewhere to leave the majority of your things when making side trips. Basically, we’ve only had to deal with our luggage just twice in six months.
What electronics did you bring?
We each have a laptop and Molly has an iphone which she uses only with wireless. We also have an ipad which we use for movies, navigation and on short trips when we don’t bring our laptops.
Molly also has an SLR camera and a few lenses. Most importantly, we have a few removable hard drives to back-up pictures, movies and files. We always keep those stored in a few different spots. You know: eggs and baskets.
How do you communicate back home?
Good (enough) wifi is very prevalent in homes, hotels and most cafes. Using an iphone, which is unattached to any cell plan, we connect to that wifi. Then we can text and call friends and family back home using apps like Viber, WhatsApp or Google Hangouts. Also, there’s email, which feels oddly obsolete to mention this day in age.
Do you have cell phones hooked up?
We opted not to bother with cell phone plans. Not having a cell phone and not being connected 24/7 has been enjoyable for us. It seems like a judgement call: if you’re over the age of 30 and have experience surviving in this cruel world without a cell phone then you’ll probably be just fine. If you’re under 30 and have lived your whole life with the crutch of immediate communication, then maybe it’s a good idea to get a cell phone plan. We are exactly 30 which means we are assuming we can live without a cell phone but in an emergency situation we’d probably be helpless and begging for one.
When going on road trips we download the maps in Google Maps ahead of time by zooming in on the places we plan to drive to. So when we’re in the car, completely unconnected to the internet, the phone still gives us a detailed map. Also, we use paper maps. I know, crazy, right! There is one big reason to have a cell plan while traveling, especially in a car: what happens if the car breaks down and you’re stranded on the side of the road in a foreign country? Honestly, we just haven’t worried about, especially after having such wonderful experiences in France at gas stations, auto shops, etc.
If you don’t have cell phones how do you communicate with each other?
It turns out that we spend all of our time together, so communicating with each other hasn’t been an issue yet. We made a plan in Paris back in December that if we got separated in a big crowd we’d just meet under the Eiffel Tower. We haven’t updated that plan, so that could be costly if one of us does get lost here in Montenegro.
What online resources do you use for your trip?
AirBnB for apartments and homes is sole resource for housing. Whether it’s a few days in Sarajevo or 14 weeks in Montenegro we’ve had nothing but good experiences. Rome2Rio is our main resource for planning trips. They’ll give you all the transportation options, costs and alternate routes. This is an impressive website – we’ve never seen a website that does what it sets out to do so perfectly. For the Balkans we’ve found Balkanology to be a great travel and history resource and we follow a blog called Montenegro for Me for trips in Montenegro. We seem to use Wikipedia many times a day to fill in gaps in our knowledge, but we’ve also benefited from Amazon France to get good quality books with minimal shipping costs. (We read books not e-books.)
We like TV and movies and have enjoyed having time to watch such things, especially with the short winter days. Hulu, Netlfix, HBO Go and all web based entertainment sites do not work outside the United States so we’ve been watching movies and shows we own via iTunes. Recently we discovered USTVNow.com which has allowed
us Adam to watch March Madness games.
What do you do about books?
Ok. Nobody asked this question, but the answer took up quite a bit of Adam’s time before leaving. Being a non-partisan blog we’ll eschew the explanation on why we avoid e-readers in this family, but its true, we do value the old fashion way despite the added work.
We shipped a box to France ahead of time with a computer and a few books we knew we’d want (and we insured that box.) We also brought two or three books in our suitcase. When we arrived in France we ordered a few used books via the marketplace on Amazon.fr. which was just like buying at home. The best part, however, has been looking out for English language bookstores which tend to lead you to some really interesting expat neighborhoods normally far off the map. And then of course, there’s Shakespeare & Co. in Paris where travel budgets go to die.