A question we are asked all the time is “How can you afford to do this?” People often assume that we must be wealthy to afford to travel as much as we have and do a trip like this, but actually, we are quite average.
As a teacher and a librarian, our salaries were not that large. There are several intertwined elements that allow us to afford travel, including prioritizing it, living frugally, and making sacrifices.
Prioritizing travel is one of the main things that make extensive travel possible. As you know from our About Us article, we grew up with a sense of adventure, curiosity, and traveling role models. Our previous excursions have provided us a wealth of remarkable experiences from which we learned a great deal, in particular the knowledge that we wanted to continue traveling as much as possible. To do so, we would need to prioritize it in our lives to make it happen, and this in turn meant we would need to make different choices.
One of these choices was living frugally, which is one of the main ways we can afford to travel as much as we have. One of the many inside jokes in our family is that I was raised during the depression, as I am fairly parsimonious and try to reduce, re-use and recycle a lot. I learned a sense of self-reliance from my father as well as how to maintain and fix all manner of things. I have also taught myself quite a bit over the years, making extensive use of the public library and the internet. We regularly shop at second-hand stores, planned menus for our week’s meals, stocked up on things on sale, and learned to avoid debt. One of the other running jokes is that I am allergic to debt. If at all possible, which it usually is, I do not buy things on credit, always pay off my credit cards, and coming full circle, live frugally.
I had wonderful physics teacher in High School, who in addition to teaching science, also imparted a lot of wisdom about life to us (Thanks Mr. Hickok!). One of the things I remember was his telling us that if we want to avoid a lot of trouble in life, ALWAYS live below your means. Why that resonated with a 17-year-old high school student, I have no idea, but it was something that has stuck with me all my life. Even when I was making barely above minimum wage in Portland, Oregon in the 1980s, I was able to save money. I was also blessed through some combination of nature and nurture with a lack of desire for material possessions and an aspiration to live simply. I blame that on my family’s Quaker roots. When our wages increased, our lifestyle remained the same, which translated into saving money. This has helped us several times through the years, but more on that later.
At least a portion of our desire to live simply and not own a lot of stuff can be attributed to our interest in Buddhism. I first became acquainted with Buddhism at the age of 12 when a family member was taking a course at college. My early explorations of this belief system struck a chord within me with its ideas of dispelling the dissatisfying nature of our default way of experiencing the world. I have continued to explore and learn more about Buddhism over the ensuing 30+ years and continue to find its beliefs help me make sense of my life. My interest inspires my travels as I prefer to collect experiences instead of possessions. For me, traveling is an inspiring way to accomplish this, and one that satisfies me on multiple levels.
Finally, we make sacrifices in order to travel. In addition to living simply, we also sold our home and many of our possessions in order to do this trip. Talk about making sacrifices! However, it is really liberating to pare down your life to the essentials and really focus on what is important. Talk about living simply! This is actually the second time in our lives we have done this. In the early 90s, Tammy and I decided that before we got tied down with a mortgage and kids and such, we wanted to travel. So we sold everything that did not fit in our Toyota van, parked it on some land my grandfather owned, and traveled the South Pacific and Asia for a year and a bit. During the preparation for our current journey, some people have described us as “homeless,” a word which has negative connotations.
Given the impermanence of life, the transience of our time on this planet, and the actual time people spend in any one residence, we are all homeless. We choose to define home as the important people in our lives. Wherever they are is “home,” whether we are rafting the Grand Canyon or at an actual residence.
You can make a trip like this happen if it is what you want, just you like you can make anything happen if you truly focus your energy on it.
-by Aaron, photo by Rodrigo deMedeiros