For those considering this type of adventure, here are the nuts and bolts of how we found ourselves, within ten months, living abroad.
1) November 2011– Boots-n-All hosted a Meet Plan Go symposium in Portland. This planted the seed. We listened to others who had taken a career gap year. On the way home we analyzed our lifestyle and we realized we were ideally suited because we did not have any strings tying us to home:
a. Bobbi is a telecommuter. I also telecommute, but I began work in April, 2012.
b. We lost our St. Bernard in February, so we no longer have pets;
c. We do not have children;
d. Our parents are healthy.
2) May 2012– We bought one way airline tickets to Venice via NYC (JFK). We chose Venice because the tickets were only $400/person. This sealed the deal- we were commited.
3) June 2012 -We decided what to do with our house. Our town is small and word got out that we were leaving for one year. A family contacted us. We spent $70 to have background checks done. They were great and we have peace of mind. We signed a lease agreement with them.
4) July 2012– We held a yard sale over two weekends. Everything sold – yes, even the couch. We kept our bed, an old Victrola, 2 dressers, a desk, a desk chair, various art, motorcycle, mt. bike, skateboard, skis, snowboard. We recently converted a shed behind our house into a small guest house. When we left we locked all of our remaining belongings in the “shed.”
5) July 2012– We decided how much to bring with us and the best luggage options. We wanted to travel fairly light so that we could travel easily via bus/train/air, as well as schlepping our gear from one apartment to the next. One of the big priorities was keeping our offices with us at all times. We really did not want to bag check our laptops or monitors. We ended up each having a backpack, a rolling carry-on, and a personal carry-on. Our arrangement is working well. When we need to haul, we place our personal carry-ons on top of the rolling carry-ons, and our packs are on our backs.
A. Backpacks: We went with the Osprey Waypoint 85. These are very versatile. They have a zip cover that encloses the shoulder and waist straps. This is a big bonus for air travel, as it protects them. We have also found that the small detachable daypacks are great for day hikes. The following is a breakdown of our clothes that get stuffed into these packs:
a. Bobbi’s clothes: (i) Jackets- winter shell, wind/rain shell, soft shell, down sweater; (ii) Pants: 5 pair (1 of which zip off into shorts) + 1 pair silk long underwear; (iii) Shirts: 10- five travel blouses, two base layer tank tops, three silk base layers long sleeves; (iv) Socks/underwear/bras: ten pair socks/thirteen pair underwear/ six bras; (v) Shoes: 3 pair + down slippers; (vi) 1 pair pajamas; and (vii) Accessories: wool hat, gloves, scarf, sarong, water bottle, insulated thermos cup, and a TITANIUM SPORK.
b. Ken’s clothes: (i) Jackets- windbreaker, rain shell, soft shell, down sweater; (ii) Pants: 7 pair; (iii) Shirts: 10 ; (iv) Shorts: 3 pair + swim trunks; (v) Socks/underwear: 6 of each; (vi) Shoes: 3 pair; and (vii) Accessories: gloves, ball cap, sunglasses, Big Agnes air mattress, silk cocoon, aluminum water bottle, and a titanium spork. (* I have come to the conclusion that I have one too many: pair of pants, jacket, and shirt)
B. Rolling carry-ons: We bought two. The first is hard-sided and we customized the inside with foam to carry our computer monitors. The second carries a laptop, a netbook, all the computer cords, keyboards, mouse, and our Bose Soundlink speaker (best invention since sliced bread.) I also use some of my clothes to fill voids and add cushioning. (Note from Bobbi: it’s actually because he brought too many pants and can’t fit it all in his pack) (Reply Note from Ken: I could if I wanted to)
C. Personal carry-ons: We completed our luggage with a personal carry-on each. I have a day pack that I fill with misc. stuff (Kindle, toothbrush, spare contacts, books, paperwork.) Bobbi slings a soft leather briefcase. It contains her laptop, a board game, backup computer files, and various “Bobbi” stuff.
6) August 2012: We sold both of our cars. Bobbi’s sister loaned us her car for the last week we were in town. Many thanks, Danielle.
7) August 2012: Misc. administrative items:
a. Homeowner’s insurance. We purchased a landlord homeowner’s policy and canceled our existing policy. This is important for those thinking of renting their house. Most homeowner policies do not cover long-term tenants.
b. Health insurance. We kept our health insurance. We did a bit of research and we questioned others who travel for long periods. It made the most sense to keep paying our health insurance, as it will cover international emergencies should they occur. If for some reason a serious ailment surfaces, we can always return stateside and have coverage.
c. Utilities. We canceled our utilities, and our Netflix. We suspended our cell phones for six months, after which time we will probably have to pay an exorbitant cancellation fee.
d. Mail. We forwarded our mail to Bobbi’s sister’s address; nice to have such a helpful relative.
e. Credit card. We applied for a Capital-One credit card b/c it does not have foreign transaction fees. Word of caution! Even though we notified Capital One before we left that we would be traveling to Italy and Africa, they still froze our card when we tried to buy a ticket on Ethiopian airlines (in biz since 1959). And then it took three days to finally get through to their customer service rep. It seems upon further research that Capital One is notorious for this problem. We also carry our Amex with us, and it has always worked.
f. Online bill pay. We use an online bank. All of our bills were already being paid through on-line bill payment. We use our debit card to withdraw cash from ATM’s. ATM’s seem to provide better exchange rates than currency exchange businesses.
Believe it or not, that’s about all it took for us to hit the road.