The Countdown Is On – Eleven Months Till Take Off

Who are we?

We are a family of four from the UK, with two daughters aged 4 and 7. Around one month ago we decided to take a year away from our normal lives and embark on a round the world trip.

We gave ourselves one year to get organised, so our departure date is set for July 2016.

How on earth can you afford this?

We have not just won the lottery or stumbled across any buried treasure, so we need to fund this trip from our own limited resources.

It is difficult to know in advance how much a year away will cost, but my initial estimates suggest that we won’t simply be able to save up our loose change to cover this – see RTW Budget Estimate.

Our main resource is our house, which we only bought two years ago, before the realisation that we wanted to take a round the world trip. We have considered renting our house while we are away, but the rental income would only just cover our mortgage, so there wouldn’t be enough of a surplus to also cover living expenses for a year.

The only practical way that we can take a year off work to go travelling is by selling our house.

So one of our big jobs over the next few months is to redecorate our house, so that the inevitable wear and tear of a young family, plus dog, is not quite so evident when we come to put it in the market.

What will you do about work?

I have a full-time job and Anja is a children’s nurse, currently working part-time. I mostly enjoy my work, but having been employed full-time for the last 15 years, and with potentially another 30+ years of full-time employment stretching out before me, I think the time has come to take a break to assess what I really want to do with the rest of my life.

Also, work is encroaching more and more into our private lives. This is either because you are checking e-mails in the evening, or simply because you are too tired / grouchy after a day at the office to do anything particularly productive in the evenings.

With 11 months to go, work remains essential to maintain our current life at home and to provide another source of funding for our trip. It has, however, become slightly harder to focus on long-term career plans, when I don’t yet know how a year away might shape what we want to do when we get back.

It may be an option to take a one-year sabbatical from my work, but I am doubtful that my employer will be overly keen on this idea.

So, as things stand, I expect that I will also be quitting my job at some point in the next 11 months.

Have you told anybody about this yet?

Our initial experience of explaining to family and friends what we are planning to do has so far been very positive. Everybody has been interested to find out more about our plans, and responded encouragingly to what we’re doing. A few have certainly been surprised that we are planning to sell our house, but I understand the surprise because I am still slightly surprised myself.

I am sure that there will also be an element of scepticism amongst some, as to whether we will really go through with this idea, or whether we’re actually capable of going travelling for a year with just a pack on our back for support.

I can fully understand any scepticism that may exist, given that we’ve not done this kind of thing before.

A large part of my motivation for starting this blog is to record all of the ups and downs that I am sure we will go through during the year before we leave, but also to provide a continual reminder of why we are doing this in the first place and, frankly, to make it more difficult to change our minds when the going gets tough.

I am a firm believer in writing down your goals in life, and I have always found it easier to stick to plans once they are committed to paper.

Won’t the kids miss too much at school?

Educating our daughters on the road is something that we will need to properly prepare for, and will discuss in detail with their school to ensure that we can transition back into the system as required.

We are not underestimating the potential impact of this trip on our daughter’s school lives, but on balance we are almost certain that a year out in the big wide world will be hugely beneficial to our daughter’s long-term education.

They are both at an amazing stage of their life, where they soak in information from all around them with seemingly no effort, so I am really excited for them about the prospect of visiting different parts of the world and learning about new places and ways of life from personal experience.

My biggest fear at the moment is that we will not them to go back to school after our trip, and that they too may not wish to slip back into their old routine. We have to accept that re-adjusting to school after this trip may take some time, but the long-term benefits will outweigh and short-term difficulties.

Fifth Member of the Family

The fifth member of our family can not, unfortunately, come with us on this trip for logistical reasons. Hugo is our labrador dog, and a big concern at present is finding a suitable home for Hugo while we are away.

We will all miss Hugo in our own way, and I think the kids will find it especially hard to say goodbye, but we won’t leave until he has somebody to pamper him while we are away. Hugo will probably be delighted to get spoiled by somebody new, and providing he gets his food and a good walk then I know that he will be absolutely fine.

The challenge is trying to find somebody willing to look after Hugo for a whole year, which I appreciate is an awful lot to ask, so we are currently researching different home boarding options to see what looks best. This is one area of the trip where I will not be allowed to economise and we recognise that it is going to cost some money to home board for a year.

Other Stuff

The plan for all of our other stuff is quite simple, in that we will sell as much as possible before we leave and put anything that we don’t want to sell into storage.

This is almost certainly easier said than done, as when we last moved house it required several days and two large vans to move all of our possessions.

I actually hope that one of the more subtle benefits of this trip will be to reduce the amount of stuff that we own, as by any reasonable assessment we simply have too many things.

We could certainly survive with many fewer possessions, and I would like to adjust our habit of spending money on material goods that we don’t really need.

Needing to save money to fund this trip should help to focus the mind, although even as I write this I know that Anja and Kiera are out shopping…supposedly for essential “back to school” items. In all honesty, I have been guilt of spending too much money in the past, preferring to buy top of the range products wherever possible, on the premise that I was buying quality and saving money in the long-run.

In future we need to be more frugal in our shopping habits and stop accumulating new possessions wherever possible.

To show my commitment to the cause and how serious I am about this, I have literally just cancelled my subscription to Sky Sports (cable TV sports network), saving £30 per month for the foreseeable future, which should at least cover the cost of a few nights away.

Planning a route

One month into our planning and we have created a draft itinerary based around where we currently believe we’d like to spend most time – see RTW Itinerary.

I have also done some initial research into possible flight options, and I am currently favouring a “book as we go” approach to maximise flexibility, using sites such as Sky Scanner, although I may still use a RTW ticket to cover the backbone of our trip and then tag on extensions as required.

The most difficult aspect of planning this trip from my perspective, is trying to strike the right balance between visiting lots of places and spending quality time getting to know a few places well.

I probably won’t get this balance right in advance and I suspect that, with hindsight, our itinerary will look very naive, simply because it is impossible to predict what you will feel like doing in 1 week’s time, let along in 18 month’s time.

However, I also feel that I can’t take my family away for an entire year without having at least a vague idea of where we might be going, even if this inevitably changes along the way.

Learning from others

I have discovered an amazing amount about round the world travel by reading accounts from others, who have either already returned from their journeys or are currently on their way.

My current favourite sources of inspiration and practical help are the following:

I feel like an imposter even talking about planning a round the world trip given the amount of combined knowledge that already exists, but I trust that every trip will be unique in its own way and so there is no harm in me adding to the debate. If nothing else I can turn my blog into a book when we get back so that I can fund an early retirement in (insert favourite place from trip here…).

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