Are we just really lucky that we can manage to travel long-term like we’re doing, or is this lifestyle the result of wise choices?
I think it’s a little bit of both.
As I think back upon my 50 years on this planet, I can think of many events that, ultimately, led to my being right here, right now. A few of them were luck, but most of them were decisions I made which eventually paid off
1960 – Born to the right parents – luck – My parents were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination (a nurse and an educator), but they knew the value of education and hard work. They instilled those values in me. They also happened to be from the USA.
1975 – Learned the power of saving – luck – My father sat me down one day with a whole series of facts and figures. If I saved $100 when I was 20, when I was 60 it would be worth a lot more due to the power of compound interest. If I put off saving that $100 until I was 30, it would be worth a bit less but still worth saving. And if I put off saving until I was 50… well, that $100 wouldn’t be worth much more than $100. In other words, save what you can and save it early.
1976 – Traveled to Mexico with family – luck – As I wandered the streets of Mexico, my eyes were opened to a great big fascinating world out there.
1978 – Graduated high school – choice/luck – While many teenagers chose to drop out of high school, I didn’t. Honestly, the thought never occurred to me, thanks to the values my parents raised me to believe in.
1984 – Graduated college – choice – My father always said, “You may not learn anything in college, but having that paper means a lot to other people and will open a lot of doors.” He was right. That college degree has allowed me to earn a decent wage (if you call a teacher salary a decent wage…) [Note: I know many people don't have the intellectual capacity for university, but there are technical programs even for severely handicapped people which will allow one to get a decently paying job.]
1984 – Entered Peace Corps – choice – While in the Peace Corps I learned about the world. I also learned that living overseas isn’t something that only “rich” people can do.
1987 – Traveled South America – choice – When I left the Peace Corps, they handed me a check for $3000 to help me get settled into life in the USA. I took the money and spent seven months traveling in South America instead. Foolish, perhaps, but I learned that I didn’t need a lot to travel.
1993 – Moved overseas – choice – John and I decided to head overseas to teach as we both wanted to travel, but didn’t have the money to travel without working. This started a 12-year jaunt of teaching in Egypt, Ethiopia, Taiwan, and Malaysia. For us, this decision was pivotal in that, although our salaries were similar to what we would have made in the USA, housing was provided and the cost of living was lower, so we could save more. It came at the cost of being far away from our families.
2005 – Bought a house – choice – Although we bought our house when prices were fairly high, it was still one of the best financial decisions we made. The rent from the house is now paying 50-60% of our travel costs.
Always – Lived frugally – choice – While our peers were spending a lot of money for big screen TVs, dinners at fancy restaurants, or new SUVs, John and I lived a more frugal life. Our favorite restaurant in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was a little pizza joint one kilometer from our house – we could feed the whole family for $3! I’ve never owned a new car in my life.
So I come back to the original question: are we just really lucky that we can manage to travel long-term like we’re doing, or is this lifestyle the result of wise choices? It’s clear to me that our lifestyle now is the result of decisions we made throughout life – some more than 35 years ago! We’re now reaping the benefits of those choices. But I still realize the foundation of my options lay in the fact that I’m from the USA.
Many others from third world countries simply don’t have the options I have. I’d be silly to squander it away.
Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on this issue! This post was sparked by a discussion we had on FaceBook – is a traveling lifestyle possible for everyone? Or just a select few? What do you think?