There are Usually No Shortcuts

For most things in life worth having or doing, it takes work to get there. As I settle down back in the U.S., plowing through a ton of money to get the tools of living in this culture again (cars, cell phones, insurance, security deposit, etc.) and a place to live we’re actually happy with, I’m reminded of this fact.

We have money in the bank, so we’re certainly fortunate, but how did we get here? For the moment, let’s put aside the current political arguments about tax bracket levels, incentives, and stimulus packages. In the end we have money in the bank partly because we saved a bit, partly because we’ve been living in cheap Mexico for a year (and relatively frugally before that), but primarily because we sold a house last year and socked away all the profit in the bank. We had that house for 10 years and put a fair amount of money and sweat into it, so the sale was really just a matter of unlocking the value built up over a decade.

Going back further, the down payment on that house came from the profit of another one I had owned for more than a decade, alternately living in it and renting it out. I’ve got lots of money in a retirement account, but I started working on that when I was 22. I have a fair amount saved in my kid’s college fund, but she couldn’t even talk when I started that.

Long-term Travel Takes Financial Work to Pull Off

What’s this have to do with long-term travel? Well, it takes more than a whim and a plane ticket to travel the world unless you’ve got some very generous relatives. When my now-wife and I went on our first round-the-world trip, we scrimped and saved and sacrificed and sold off a bunch of possessions. That still wasn’t enough, so we worked for a while teaching English to cover a few months of expenses. Back home, we scrimped and saved again for 12 months to leave again, traveled for four, then taught English in Korea for a tad more than a year.

That teaching gig wasn’t always easy. Sometimes it was a real pain in the ass actually. Besides dealing with inept bosses who tried to weasel out of every promise (a common trait in Korea), we worked 40-50 actual teaching hours a week. That included half days on Saturdays and a smattering of private lessons at night. Wow did that pay off though: we saved over $30,000 by the end of it. That meant we could backpack around the world for another year and still have more than half of it in the bank when we returned. Nice.

Getting the payoff without the up-front sacrifices is tough. Unless you sort of win the lottery and get a free trip around the world, like we just gave away to Lea Leonard of Chicago, you’re probably going to have to work for it. She was ready to keep working toward her goal, but got a gift that’s going to make it a whole lot easier and faster. Thanks to BootsnAll for making her dreams come true with round-the-world tickets and all of the other travel industry sponsors for kicking in lots of awesome stuff, like travel gear, luggage, and a Southeast Asia tour from All Points East.

What are the odds of that? Well, we had more than 40,000 entries for that contest. One person came out on top, two won airfare valued up to $2,000 from Southwest Airlines and 1800FlyEurope. So 40,000 to 3 is better odds than the lottery perhaps, but you might want to rely on your own initiative instead…


  1. jim johnston 07/25/2011
  2. Jeremy 07/25/2011
  3. inja 07/26/2011
  4. calta 07/26/2011
    • Anthony 12/31/2012
  5. Casey 07/26/2011
  6. Kaycee 07/27/2011

Leave a Reply