The two questions on everyone’s mind seem to be:
1) WHY are you doing this insane thing? You had a house in a great city, a car, a successful business, a good job and reputation, a community, friends and family….blah, blah, blah.
2) How can you afford this? You must have won a big case, inherited a fortune, made a good investment, sold a large quantity of cocaine, etc., etc.
I’ve thought a lot about whether or not to answer these questions for several reasons. A) The reasons are personal and B) We enjoy the mystery. I’ve decided to give answering them a shot, anyway.
Let me start with question 2 in this post because that is the easy one: How can we afford this?
We can’t. Lets be real, very few can. A year to two years (or longer if we can figure out how) travelling overland through several countries without a real income? It seems impossible, doesn’t it? It did to us, too.
Lets start with the basics – how did we even financially initiate such a thing. Neither of us comes from money. We didn’t inherit anything and there are no inheritances in our future. I didn’t win a big case – I’m a criminal defense attorney not a civil attorney, I don’t make civil attorney money, my clients are broke which is often why they either commit crimes or why they are accused of committing crimes. We didn’t sell drugs or organs on the black market. You will just have to trust me on that one. I wouldn’t know what to do with the stock market. Frankly, I am a financial idiot. We didn’t ask anyone for money and no one gave us any. A close friend attempted a small fundraiser effort on our behalf, which brought in exactly zero dollars.
We did have a going away party and our friends really came through for us with gift cards for gas and fast food that, honestly, were tremendously helpful to us in our journey across the very expensive United States. I had no idea before this trip just how expensive the States really is, y’all.
But, it still isn’t complicated – we did this four ways:
1) we saved like hell. For our friends that wondered why we never went out with them to bars anymore or why we didn’t buy Christmas presents or send out cards last year – this is why. It’s the little things that really do add up with saving – just cutting bars out of most of our friends’ lives would save them thousands per year. Think about it, if you spend thirty dollars at a bar twice a week that is 240.00 per month. In East Nashville, where we lived, at least, most people spend more than that, more often. Some things are obvious, like going out to lunch during a workday – on the cheap end of that you are spending 5 bucks, on the expensive end, 20. If you do that 4 days a week, at minimum you are spending 80 dollars a month and at the high end, 320. I wont let this deteriorate into a blog post about obvious ways to save money, though – I’m sure you can figure it out.
2) We sold virtually everything we owned. EVERYTHING. Between us, we had three vehicles – our two daily cars and our "for fun," old project jeep. We sold both of our daily cars and are storing the jeep in a friend’s barn. I think you can guess whose decision it was to not sell the jeep. (Insert long sigh here) My car was a 2002 BMW and paid off so that was pure profit at this point. Karin is very good at the buying/selling car game and made a few thousand on the sale of her vehicle as well.
I would love to tell you that selling our cars made a real dent in our trip budget but it didn’t because we needed to replace them with a very special type of expedition vehicle for a journey like this and whatever vehicle we bought would need modifications. It would not only be our mode of transport but it would be our home. We bought a 1997 Toyota Landcruiser with more than 200,000 miles on it. We bought it because there are Toyota dealerships in most of the countries we are visiting so there will be people who can work on it if things go wrong. We chose a Landcruiser because it has solid axles, lockers and Toyota’s have a solid reputation for being reliable cars. You can check out the specs and build of our car here.
The car we chose already had a lot of the modifications we would need and came with an ARB refrigerator/freezer that would run on our 2nd car battery - although, if we had it to do over again, we would have bought a stripped naked one and built it out completely ourselves so it would be exactly what we need and want. But at the time, we didn’t know what we wanted or needed. Lesson learned.
On top of the cost of the car itself, we discovered quickly that it had some mechanical problems. Nothing serious, in fact nothing that if we were just driving it around Nashville we would have even fixed, but to go on an expedition across 23 countries including mountains, beaches, rivers, dirt roads, washboard roads and no roads, we could not take chances. We spent several thousand dollars having the engine rebuilt and a variety of other small repairs.
We also needed to purchase the rooftop tent. We did some research, found the company we wanted to go with: CVT Tents and started looking around. We chose CVT because they are known for excellent customer service and good quality tents.
We managed to find one on craigslist that had only been used twice before and that saved us about 50% on the cost. We also needed an awning and some tent accessories – we called CVT, explained the nature of our trip and they hooked us up with HUGE discounts and free shipping on everything we needed.
Selling our cars covered about 65% of the cost of getting the new car completely trip ready.
Along with selling the cars, I sold all of the furniture in my office. This was particularly difficult for me because I really loved my office and had painstakingly picked out every piece. But this trip is, first and foremost, about letting go of things in order to make room for new experiences.
We had a series of yard sales to sell everything in our home. And as far as the stuff in the house, we kept nothing, not a stitch of furniture, not a dish, nothing. We even sold our clothes.
Doing all of this got us about halfway to our goal. It would have been enough for us to do this for a little while but not the entire trip, not by far. You wouldn’t believe how much we spent on gear we thought for sure we would need only to now have sent half of it to my mother to sell at a later date.
3) Now came one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made – the decision to sell my house in East Nashville. It’s the only real asset I had. We made our choice and defined our priorities and sold it. As it turned out, I got lucky, and unlucky, but overall, lucky. My mother had sold her home a year earlier and was living in an apartment but ready for another house. She liked my house, liked the neighborhood and asked me if she could buy it. In some ways, this was a lot easier for us because we didn’t have to do a lot to get the house ready as we would have for a formal sale, we didn’t have to get an inspection or a realtor. The downside was that you can’t sell a home to your mother and not give her a big discount. You can’t sell it to her with appliances that don’t work. We didn’t make as much as we originally hoped this way but my mother gave us a fair offer and it was one we could live with and that would help further our goals. After all, she is my mother. It worked out well for everyone - I am grateful to her for making the sale of my house easy and I love knowing she is in a good house that has seen a lot of love.
4) We made choices. Some weren’t all that responsible. Most didn’t further any “future” security. You pay off the bills you can, you delay the ones you can’t, you definitely pay the IRS what you owe them, you pay the minimums on things you can pay minimums on, you make choices. Your credit may take a small hit but you get the idea.
All of that got us going and sustains us for a little bit – but it won’t cover the entire thing. We are having to get creative; Karin is doing part time contract work online when she can. We are constantly looking for houses we can sit in various countries and cheap or free camping options. We are exploring options to trade work at farms, orphanages, various ecosystem projects, animal sanctuaries, etc. in exchange for room and board or just safe places to camp for a few nights. We included a tab called “buy us a beer” on our website where anyone who cares to can contribute to our journey – so far, this has brought in 20 dollars for which we are very grateful. That is almost an entire day on the road!
You have to remember that this way of life IS actually much cheaper than daily life in the states. We camp a lot; we are in countries where everything is cheaper. And often a lack of availability of anything we would want to eat or buy saves us money and a lack of space in the car to put anything definitely saves us money.
We don’t buy souvenirs or gifts to send back home because we don’t have the room for it. Camping generally costs us between 5 and 20$ a night and sometimes its free. Even if we get an Airbnb or a hotel we rarely spend more than 25 or 30 a night. Street food is VERY cheap. Gas is our biggest expense, coming in at twice the cost of what it was when we left the states and with far more driving. Our entertainment is hikes, waterfalls, beaches, walking through towns and new cities, sitting around campfires – not going to movies, going shopping, going to bars or, taking expensive vacations.
We can, when we really buckle down, live on 25-30 dollars a day. Our most expensive days come in around 100 dollars. Generally, we fall somewhere in between.
We have met people on this trip who are doing this on far less than we started with and some with far more. We have met people who have converted old vans, who are living in ground tents or only camp in gas station parking lots and also people in hundred thousand dollar RV’s and unimogs. We have met people with 10.00 a day budgets and people with no limit to their budgets. This can be done. Anyone can do it. That doesn't mean everyone should do it. Its about choices and priorities. Its not a vacation, it is a change in lifestyle. Its not easy, its work. We don’t spend “vacation” money, we spend money to live. But, man, are we living!
So that’s that – I’m not sure what else I can say about how we afford this. We gave up things – we gave up nights out of the house, we gave up security, we gave up career growth, we gave up a lot of daily comforts and habits, we gave up our nest egg. But what we are doing now will stay with us forever, the memories we are making and experiences we are having can’t be given a monetary value, I don’t see us ever having regret about these choices…which brings me to the next part of this segment: Why are we doing this?
Part 2 – Coming Soon!