Recently we’ve received a lot of emails asking us how we financially supported our travels since we decided to take the plunge to live an unconventional life. I realize that we’ve written a lot of inspirational pieces about following your dreams and pushing yourself to step outside your comfort zone, but we haven’t given real practical advice in quite a while. So we decided it was time to share some of our tips and tricks to living an unconventional life.
Our journey to becoming full time travel bloggers was not a quick and easy one. We had many failures and set backs along the way. It took time for us to find what we wanted to do with our lives and what would make us happy. We knew way back in 2003 and we wanted to be together traveling the world forever. I realize that many people have that dream, but we felt it deep in our bones. It was more of a yearning than a fantasy. When we were traveling, we felt at home. We knew that on the road was where we were meant to be.
In 2004 we were like many backpackers traveling around South East Asia, but unlike the many others out there, we were already brainstorming with ideas of how we could continue to travel for the rest of our lives. We knew we wanted more than just a one year escape. We didn’t have the answers yet, but we knew that we couldn’t keep working at our current jobs for the next 20 years hoping that we’d one day be able to retire and finally live our dreams.
So we started making plans.
How to Start your Unconventional Life of Travel
1. Changed our spending habits
We used to spend a lot of money on things that didn’t better our lives. We’d buy $4 lattes, go out to dinner several times a week and we’d buy new designer clothes. The more popular the brand name, the better. On the weekends, we’d drop $200 on a meal and not even blink at the cheque and then we’d go to movies spending a good $50 on tickets and popcorn. Well, all that changed when we decided we were going to put away enough money to sustain us for a year while we decided to become professional adventurers. We ate at home, and cooked at home. We made our own gourmet coffees, and instead of going out to the movies all the time, we rented. When we wanted to go to the bar, we instead had a glass of wine at home and invited friends over, it was much more affordable.
For activities, we were now doing free and exciting things on the weekend like mountain biking, rock climbing or snowshoeing. We didn’t drop cash at the bar or on expensive meals or weekend getaways to a suite in Niagara Falls anymore. Instead, we went camping and spent our time outdoors. It was much more fulfilling and a lot easier on our pocketbooks.
Note: At this time in our lives, we still didn’t know how we were going to become full time travellers, we just knew that we wanted it to happen one day and that we had to be ready when we finally figured it out. By having a nest egg and by not having anything tying us down, we’d be ready to jump at any opportunity.
2. We downsized.
People have often said to us “I wish that I could do what you do, but I don’t have the finances to support my travels” Well, if you really truly want to travel. It can be really easy to save and build a nest egg. We sold our house and most of our contents and went back to renting an apartment. This freed up a lot of our income to put towards our travel savings fund. Getting a small one bedroom apartment that included utilities, cable and parking helped us plan our monthly budget.
We also went down to one automobile. We used to drive two cars on a lease, but when the leases came due, we let them go and bought a used car. Our monthly payments were less and our insurance cost less too because we no longer had to pay for collision. If our car was damaged it didn’t matter because we paid next to nothing for it anyway. We drove that car for the next 10 years, it was only this summer that we got ourselves a new car.
3. We Kept All Options Open
Like many people, we knew we wanted something more in life, but we didn’t know what it was that we wanted. We were frustrated. I remember always saying to Dave “If I only knew what I wanted to do with my life, I know I’d be successful.” The problem was, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. The only thing we both knew was that travel was to be a part of it. So, we studied all things travel. We went to seminars talking about Teaching English as a Second Language, we went to travel trade shows, we watched travel shows like Pilot Guides and Don’t Forget Your Passport.
We took up as many adventures as we could. We learned how to rock climb, mountain bike, scuba dive and snowboard. We became avid campers and built our adventure gear arsenal to an impressive list where we actually started to look the part of Adventurer! We said to ourselves, “one day maybe one of these skills would come in handy.” At the time, we didn’t know it, but all those skills eventually came in handy. We used to call ourselves “Jacks of all trades and Masters of none.” We had doubts, of course we did. We thought, maybe we’re wasting our time and energy trying new things all the time, but we knew that we had yet to find something that we truly loved. We enjoyed everything, but we didn’t have the passion that some of our rock climbing or scuba diving friends had for one particular sport. They found their passion and all they wanted to do was climb or our scuba diving when they went to a destination. They couldn’t care less if they saw the local culture or witnessed incredible landscape. They wanted to explore under the sea and that was great! It just wasn’t for us. We wanted it all. We wanted to be able to climb in one location, dive in another and shop at the market in yet another. It was our Jack of All Trades mentality that eventually lead us to becoming travel bloggers.
Our lack of focus helped us become true explorers.
4. Focus on Strengths
Once we decided that we wanted to have the word “Adventurer” on our business card, we made plans on how we were going to make that happen. After exhausting all possibilities we decided to focus on our strengths. We had been working in the film business for a long time and learned from the successful people around us. I watched TV hosts promote themselves and create their brand and identities and Dave picked the brains of photographers and cinematographers on set. We knew that we were good at self promotion and that we knew the TV business well, so we decided to sell an idea. We knew that we would have to do something epic to stand out from the crowd. In 2008, backpacking around the world was becoming very popular. When we did it in 2000, not many people were leaving their jobs to travel the world, but now it seemed to be that everyone was taking a sabbatical. If we did something epic like bicycle from Cairo to Cape Town people would take notice.
Canada’s Adventure Couple was born and we had a dream of making it a TV show. We hired a publicist, sent out press releases and announced our epic journey. We knew we loved traveling together and that we had the mental stamina to succeed in this race down the continent. If we could place or become a part of the EFI Club, we would get noticed. It turned out well because Deb won the women’s race and Dave joined the EFI Club!
5. Have a Plan
We invested a good chunk of our hard earned money into this cycling race. We saved for a year putting every penny away and buying new bikes, training and investing in the entry fee and flights. We didn’t want to take part in an epic adventure only to return to our jobs and resume our lives. We made a plan that within two years of signing up, we’d be traveling full time. We had to figure out a way to keep the momentum going. We tried pitching a TV series that had a lot of interest, but eventually failed. That didn’t deter us though, we had made a lot of TV appearances and were becoming minor celebrities in the online world, so we decided to nurture our 15 minutes of fame and turn it in to something bigger.
Drawing on our nearly decade of travel experience, we created a blog that had a focus. We decided to focus on being inspirational and to show people that happy couples are not obsolete and that marriages can last and that the opposite sex can have fun together. Right from the beginning of creating ThePlanetD, we knew what our message was going to be. We wanted to show that adding a bit of adventure in to your every day lives can help you feel more fulfilled. We wanted to show people that if we can do it, anyone can. It took us a long time to figure out our purpose, but we never stopped searching and if you really want to change your life, you can do it too. Don’t let age, money or fear stand in your way, if you want something bad enough, you CAN make it happen.