“Every step we took in life led us to this moment. We were born for this.” – Noah
I don’t believe in coincidences or luck but we’re continually amazed how little we had to shift our lifestyle to make this thing happen. I’m about to answer a question that no one asked (yet) but here it is…
How did we save enough money to make our travel dreams a reality?
First a little back story: When I met Noah he was living his own dream of being a professional drummer. He was playing in a rock cover band, just moved out of his parent’s house and was dripping with confidence and life. He made me laugh and I fell hard. We were both working retail at Guitar Center (he in the Drum Dept, duh) and I remember being so impressed by him. He was so passionate about music and was doing everything he could to make such an unconventional career a full-time reality. He didn’t make much, but he also didn’t need much and was content. He was intelligent, pure of heart and marched to the beat of his own drum. I KNEW that I was going to marry this man. On a lunch break, we were spotted by our Manager holding hands and Noah declared, “I love this woman!” the secret was out and Noah gave his 2 weeks notice since he wanted to drum full-time. He received his pink slip later that week per the “no dating co-workers” rule. Noah was now free from his part-time job and took up playing 2-4 nights a week.
2001. The year we met.
Years went by and we carved out a little life of 3am video game sessions, watching movies and taking little road trips. We were happy and in love but over time, the grind of me working in shitty retail jobs for 12 hours and coming home to Noah playing video games (without me!?) took it’s toll. I would like to say that I didn’t have a hand in telling Noah to effectively “get a real job” but I can’t. I questioned his life and made little comments about our future and what I expected it to be like: New house, car, kids? I would drop not so subtle hints or flat out ask him, “how we can have all these things on a drummer’s budget?” Noah was/is the least materialistic person I’ve ever known and that is what I love about him, but I got swept up in what everyone else was doing and felt left out because I didn’t have a mortgage, new car, credit cards or all those “adult” things you’re supposed to have at the ripe old age of… 24. *facepalm*
Sidenote: My Dad is also a drummer. Paging Dr. Freud!
Noah eventually crumbled under the weight of my guilt trips and decided to go back to school. Earlier that year, he and a friend built a computer and Noah started really getting into PC gaming. He loved it and was discovering a new outlet. When I met Noah he would hunt and peck on the keyboard so it was a total surprise when he decided to get a Computer Science degree.
The plan was for Noah to focus 100% on school and we’d get by on my 27K salary (this is gross profit, not net income. Thank you big daddy Government!) This would be the first time we ever lived off of one income but it was surprisingly easy and actually pretty fun to take control of something that we lost control of long ago. For the first time, we had to get real about our finances, communicate better and cut the fat which meant:
- Cancel cable. We’d stream Netflix at $9.99 vs. cable’s $89.99 a month. We’ve been cable-less for years and will never go back. (Doing the math, we’ve saved $7,560+ over 7 years)
- Track our finances with Mint – this allowed us to see where our money was going and what was coming in. This is a no brainer, if you don’t have this free software. Get it. Now. Turns out, we actually had more money going out then coming in each month. Whoops. I’ll never make that mistake again, visibility is everything.
- No credit debt. I fudged this and accumulated 3K on my yearly trips back to Hawaii. I had to pay for this later and at a higher cost (screw you interest!) Lesson learned there. Once payed off, I cut this card in 2.
- Sell VHS tapes. It may sound petty but it’s added up over the years. Noah’s beat up ROBOCOP sold for $14.99! Amazon is where nerd collectors will love your dusty crap. It’s just sitting there, go make some money! This doesn’t stop at videotapes… you can sell books, clothes, furniture anything that you no longer want to dust, fold or use. Every little thing adds up, trust me.
- No cell phone plans or contracts. We used a prepaid cell phone at $25.00/month
- Start saving for Noah’s inevitable school debt (ended up being 35K after 5 years)
- No new cars, no loans, no buying things we don’t need for basic survival or have the cash for at that very moment.
When I learned of this, I couldn’t stop reading their blog. I was obsessed with it and new words like couch surfing, budget, and independent traveling came up. I started googling phrases and it felt like I was falling down the rabbit hole… what the hell is a “career break”?
While reading Zoe’s words I was taken to the ancient places I always dreamed about and more importantly, I was shown that 1) I don’t have to be retired to make it a reality. 2) You don’t need tons of money! I read tales of $5 massages, $1 fruit smoothies, $5 beach bungalows! This was the biggest breakthrough for me and the more I dug into this traveling subculture the more I uncovered a really cool community of people that felt the way I secretly did and was living the life I secretly wanted to live. I tried to find the “it”… the common denominator that made these people able to travel for so long and not only were they of all ages and walks of life but not one person had won the lotto, was a trust fund baby or was being financed by a parent or outside backer. The only common thread I could find was that they all just set a goal, made it their priority to travel and did it. No special formula or secret sauce involved. Action = results.
I was gobsmacked and remember my inner dialogue saying something like, “Um…so you’re telling me that I can have Lifelong memories and new experiences all while actually spending less than if we were to stay home working 40+ hours week? Sign me up!
Before I discovered this nomadic world, before Ashley & Zoe came into our lives I had a reoccurring daydream and it went like this:
I saw myself at 70. I had an awesome do of silver hair and Noah was was still my main man. I winked at him as he turned the keys to our shiny new RV and we followed the road with absolutely no plans of where we were going. I then saw the cruises we’d take to Greece and the white sand beaches where we’d walk together and I felt the warmth of the sand on my wrinkled toes. I also knew we had kids we put through college but I never saw their faces, gave them names or knew their gender. I’d never dwell on the joy of raising our family, I always just skipped ahead to retirement, to the time they were out of the house and NOW it was me and Noah’s time to do whatever the hell we wanted.
This daydream was going to serve me well for the next 40 years because it was the only vision that made me truly happy.
But now… now someone we know is traveling the world on 15K for an entire year?! This turned everything I believed to be true on it’s head. My next mission was to get Noah on board because this was an opportunity I would never let go of and my death-grip is strong.
This is the gorgeous Zoe. We’ve only met her in person once and she’s completely changed the course of our lives. She’s also an amazing actress. Check her out at:
Ashley & Zoe in Vietnam. From the bottom our our hearts, Thank you.
On December 14, 2011 Noah graduated from the University of Washington Magna Cum Laude. Lots of events transpired in between but there was a shift inside of me while I took on our finances and dug deeper into the world of slow, independent travel and a shift in Noah as well as he went through school. I reignited my childhood flame to see the world and couldn’t scratch the itch and Noah learning an entire new skill set and racking his brain the past 5 years in college (i.e. being too hard on himself) was ready to relax and chill. We started to ask each other some difficult questions and attempted to define what “success” really looked like to us.
“But Noah, what would we do if we weren’t afraid?”
So here we were, at a crossroads of our life and now financially stable to get that new car, that house and have kids??? It’s referred to as “The American Dream” but we’re American’s and that “dream” didn’t personally speak to us or even feel like our own idea. How can I want something that didn’t originate from me? I have a history of being annoyed when I feel I’m being told where to allocate my energy so needless to say, I wasn’t feeling it. He wasn’t either.
We needed another plan and I was quick to suggest an alternative.
I’m not going to lie and say that me and Noah’s conversations were smooth. It took a lot of mental somersaults to soft-ball such a 180 to him. He just went through 5 years of school-hell to give us a better life (i.e. the conventional life of stuff) and now I’m suggesting we sell our things, be homeless, jobless, say goodbye to our puppy and rough it out with me in the third world? It was a lot to take in.
I backed off (a bit) but a few months later, I sent him this article: 11 Reasons to stop dreaming and plan your round the world trip and he read it while sitting in his cubicle during his internship. He told me that something stirred inside of him that day. As he sat there reading those words he could hear the person in the next cubicle talking to someone in Chicago, “Yeah, it’s been raining here all month”… it was July. He imagined himself sitting there in his windowless room for the next 40 years and something inside him snapped. Noah told me later that night he was ready to go. That we had to do this.
“Experience over things. Time over money.” This became our new Team Camp motto.
So here was our plan of attack:
- Noah got a job in January 2012. Every penny he made we saved and paid off his student loans. We became officially debt free June 26th 2012.
- Noah would quit his job exactly 2 years after working so he can gain the exposure, networks and experience in the industry. (we’ve since moved that date up to start the adventure sooner)
- We decided that we’d continue to live off of one income during those 2 years. Mine. We’ve been living off of my single salary for so long, that it made sense that all the monies Noah made at his new job (then he got hired at Disney!) we’d put into an account we called “Gap year” with a weekly transfer we’ve been filling up for almost 2 years now. People have a tendency to increase their spending to match their new promotion or windfall but if we did that, we’d just be spinning our wheels. Yes, we were making more than we’ve ever made but instead of buying new things (especially since there was nothing wrong with the old things) we thought of it as buying ourselves time which we felt is more valuable to us.
- We put monies into a “re-entry” account. This is money we don’t touch and could live off of when/if we come back to the states. We figure this will sustain us long enough to find a place to rent and get new jobs.
- Sell everything. We sold all our movies (this was a tough one for me) and used places like Amazon, Craigslist and book/dvd/video game buyback companies. All the money we made by selling our things go into a “gear fund” where we’d buy our backpacks, laptop and assorted things to follow us on the road. The rule was to never buy anything out of any other account. If we didn’t have enough money to buy a road gadget then that means we have to sell more of our stuff to get it or get creative and do without.
- Stop buying new clothes. I’m sure people at my work have noticed I wear the same 3 outfits all week (3 years running) but now the secret is out as to why.
- Buying groceries once a week, for that week. There is no bigger pet peeve to me than throwing food away because I had too much or didn’t plan better
- Operation “stop buying shit” The goal is to use up all my make-up, hair product, shampoos, perfumes, lotions, soaps, etc. that has lived in my bathroom for years and replenish it ONLY after I’ve used up every bottle. I’ve been doing this for 6 months (wish I started sooner) but so far I’ve only had to buy a bottle of foundation and package of soap. That’s $16.00 for 6 months and I’m nowhere near using this stuff up. I have at least 3 years worth of products, but now I’m short on time.
Half the products from “Operation: Stop buying shit”
- Making lunches. I won’t attempt to quantify how much we’ve saved but believe me when I say it’s a lot.
- YouTube (or just the internet in general) I’ve learned how to do home fixes, learned how to use my camera gear, Noah has used it for tutoring in math… knowledge is free and at your fingertips, there is no reason you need to pay to learn something new ever again.
- The library. People forget this exists (PLEASE visit your local library!) but before buying a book I want on Amazon I see if it’s at the library first. I was so happy to see a Nat. Geo travel book I wanted on Amazon (at $40.00) was at my library. I looked through the book once and knew instantly I’d never pick it up again. That $40.00 that I saved is an 8 night stay at this beach bungalow
- Have $40.00 a month “mad money”. Every month we get $20.00 each (must be cash) to use it however we want. I buy ice cream and Noah spends it on Slurpees. We are people of simple pleasures. No one gets butt hurt since it’s the same amount and when it’s gone for the month, it’s gone. The cash was a great visual aid and served as an exercise in restraint. Try this for a month, tell me how you do!
- No credit cards, no loans, no cars, house or things we can’t afford that strayed from our travel goal. Ya’know, the basics. This SNL skit perfectly sums up my feelings on Debt and all of the above.
- Our travel style will be “slow travel” which means we’ll still be on a budget on the road so while we’re not staying in expensive resorts – we’ll be immersing ourselves in the country, culture and people more. Eating, sleeping and traveling like the locals do will save us a lot of money which enables us to travel longer. Win-win.
So this is how we’ve done it. There are a million circumstances and stories out there but also millions of ways to save, think outside the box and have those experiences you’ve always wanted. This is how we’ll be able to quit our jobs and travel for well… awhile. We only had to make small shifts on where we allocated our money, but the mental shift of making a daydream real was the thing that was most profound.
Another awesome side-effect of all this has been that our marriage & communication have been strengthened 10 fold! And to think, all it took was one, little yes
Yoko Ono was the world’s worst band wife, but I’ve always loved this “Yes” piece of hers.
I am a high-school drop-out turned receptionist. He is a cover band drummer turned Software Engineer and we have no idea what we’re doing. We are not special, we’re not experts in any trade and we’ve never traveled internationally (not even to Canada which is like 3 hours away!!!) We’re just some dude and his wife answering the call to “GO!” If travel is not your goal, then you can apply these principles to anything else you want to happen. A few years ago I would’ve called shenanigans on that, but for once in my life, I’m calling bullshit on myself – it’s easier than you think. Just say yes.
“You either make a choice, or life will make one for you”
We’re doing it. Because We Camp.