Did you win the lottery?
A lot of questions about money come up as we talk with people about our plans to travel:
- Isn’t it expensive?
- How can you afford that?
- Did you win the lottery/get an inheritance/find a sugar daddy/mommy?
We are always happy to answer money questions when they come up. We really do understand how big of a question financial resources are, and how they can become a barrier to travel. It took us a while to wrap our heads around “how” we could do this financially (without going majorly into debt or without lottery proceeds/inheritance/a sugar daddy). Here are a few of the things that we have realized that are helping us make this possible.
Living somewhere costs much less than vacationing there
We did a few “test runs” of working/living away from home a number of years ago. When our kids were younger, we took them to Florida during the winter for 4-6 weeks at a time. This was when we started to wrap our heads around the fact that for roughly the same cost as an all-inclusive vacation for a week, we could rent a (beautiful) house with a pool and hot tub where we could cook for ourselves and work while we were away for over a month. Those Florida trips were wonderful, and our kids have great memories of them. We hit a bunch of “logistical glitches” on these trips too that helped us see what would and wouldn’t work with working and travelling with our family. Each one of these glitches served to help us see things that we needed to find a way to manage while travelling, and I’m grateful for each and every one of them.
We are using a similar principle with our travels now. We won’t be jumping around to new locations every few days for most of the trip. We will be looking to find longer-term (1-4 months) accommodations in different locations for most of our travels. This also provides us with a greater opportunity to see more of a location than we would if we were tourists passing through. We will get a better sense of what it is like to “live” in these places.
Living in Canada is Expensive
Anyway you slice it, living in Canada (and much of North America) is expensive… if you want to live the “traditional” way… and especially if you have a family. I spent many years serving on the Board of our local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate. My primary job in that role, was to be the voice/advocate for families. I have no doubt that anyone who served with me during that time will tell you, I took that role very seriously. That role gave me far greater insight (beyond what my own family was facing) into how “unaffordable” life was becoming for families. The cost to live a very basic, Canadian life is growing at a rate that far exceeds the growth in income available to support it. Families (especially those with young children) are facing impossible choices every day, in order to make life work.
Recently, the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network put together a very comprehensive estimate of the cost of living for a family of 4 in Niagara. The final number that they gave was $65,435.51 per year (or $5,452.96 / month). It is not an extravagant life for a family that was outlined in this report. The report outlines the basic level of income required (after taxes) for a family to meet basic needs and participate in their community socially and economically. This level of income does not include any debt repayment, gifts, or savings for the post-secondary education of those children. This level of income does not include any savings for retirement for the parents, or any donations either. When you consider that the median family income in Niagara in 2012 was $68,410, the picture starts to emerge of just how many families (almost half) do not have the resources to live this very basic, “traditional” life.
One of the largest line items in this budget is childcare, which represents roughly 20% of the family’s costs. These numbers would be much higher if the children were younger (assuming that childcare was even available). Young families are facing truly impossible choices to be able to make life work within these constraints, and our workforce is losing many (AMAZING) parents who are taking a step back from their careers to make their family’s life work. Our friend Sarah made a beautiful movie called “The Bad Mother” which looks in a heart-warming and delightfully funny way at how these impossible choices impacted one family. Marcus and I are SO proud of Sarah, and we love the fact that we got to be extras in this movie.
What may surprise you to know, is that basic, cost-of-living for a family of four number that I gave you above ($65,435.51) is pretty darn close to what our annual budget is for this trip. That includes our cost of living, flights, cost to run our businesses, insurance, visas, additional educational costs for our kids… and yes… money to have some pretty amazing experiences. We won’t be able to do every single thing on our bucket list with this kind of budget, but we will be able to do a lot. I’m not going to pretend for a second that this number is possible for all families (considering roughly half of families living in Niagara are making life work on less than this), but it is more possible than you might think. One of the things that we hope to gain insight into as we travel are things that can shift here in Canada, to reduce the crushing burdens that families who are raising children are facing.
Location Independent Income
So what is “Location Independent Income”? It is income that you can earn without being tied to a specific place. Many freelancers, consultants, “digital nomads”, those who use the internet to sell goods and services have mastered location independence. Having the capacity to earn an income while you go, it one of the keys to being able to maintain travel for the longer-term.
Eighteen years ago, when I was still in school with the goal of becoming an e-learning instructional designer, I knew that I wanted a career that would allow me to “empower the world from behind a laptop with good internet connection”. Thirteen years ago, I made the leap to becoming location independent practicing my profession virtually as a freelancer. That leap allowed me to be at “home” while my children were growing and still do work that I loved. Going into this adventure, I feel truly blessed to know that as long as I have stable internet connection, I can still do meaningful work that I love – anywhere in the world.
About 7 years ago, (during the great Speech Therapy Drought of 2009), Marcus had to really start re-thinking how he could continue to practice his profession as a Speech Language Pathologist as he was faced with abrupt and massive cuts to the funding for the services he was providing to kids in schools. At that time, he started building a virtual Speech-Therapy practice, using Skype as a vehicle to deliver service. As one of the pioneers in virtual therapy, Marcus became a bit of “rock star” in the Speech Therapy world, and was featured in the launch issue of S&L World (a global bulletin on Speech & Language Pathology and Therapy). His latest project is Rapid Speech Therapy, which features training tools based on his methodology. We’ll be working on developing a number of these tools as we travel.
Everyone who goes into something like this has a different “comfort level” when it comes to money. There are people who pick up and leave with very little in the bank, and maybe a few ideas in terms of how they will support themselves while they are on the road. I pretty much stop breathing when I consider doing that… but more power to those who can.
I’ve learned (the hard way…) that everything that could go wrong, can go wrong – and all at the same time. So, I am (and my family by extension) pretty conservative about money. We are going into this with:
- First six months travel expenses covered
- An emergency fund
- Our first three months “back home” expenses covered
And yes, it took us some time (and very frugal living) to be able to put that in front of us. I’m grateful it is there though, because not worrying about “the money” right now is allowing me to put more time and energy into other things.
About the Author
Professionally, I am an e-learning instructional designer who breaks down the barriers of space and time in learning. Personally, I'm the Mom in the Little-Green Family, and co-planner in our adventures.