This is a question I get asked a lot.
As we frantically prepare to set off on the next gripping leg of our journey I realise that it isn’t so easy for most people to get up and leave. There are probably a lot of different reasons you would love to start on a long-term dream adventure with your family. You may want to build an intimate bond that hasn’t been there, or perhaps you might want to see this amazing world that you’ve only experienced vicariously through TV, movies, books and the Internet. Or just maybe you want to quit the rat race and actually live!
Whatever your reason, there are numerous ways to make it possible. These have been discussed by different inspiring individuals in our “Living The Dream” series. Whether it would be frugally saving money for the year you travel, working in different capacities around the world, or having a location-independent income stream. Whichever way you plan to do it, this post is NOT about how you will survive financially, but about how to confront and overcome the single greatest and most intimidating challenge of all. Taking the first step out your front door.
When my husband first mentioned the nonsensical idea of a nomadic lifestyle I thought he was crazy. But in December 2011 I doubted my doubts and decided to give it a try, thinking that if we left 10 months later, in September 2012, it would be a sufficient amount of time for me to prepare. In February 2012 a lovely lady asked if she could rent our house in April, which we agreed to. It set in motion a frantic fast-tracked plan to get organised and depart Australia with less than 3 months up our sleeve.
This year, in 2014, I find similar events occurring. We knew we would be “home” for about 4 months, however we have left things to the last minute and are running out of precious time. So as I reflect on the last few months and go through the final steps of getting ready to head off into the yonder again I thought I would share the practical keys I discovered, so you will feel more than ready to embark on your own uber family vacation.
1. Book The Ticket
I work so much better with a deadline. When we thought about going in September we were very slow getting things together. When we found a tenant who wanted the house in a relative short timeframe, we really started moving fast. So book your one-way ticket today and start working towards that date. The sooner the better too. If you need some visual inspiration, write the date in large print on a piece of paper and stick it to your fridge. It will be an invaluable reminder and inspiration that each day you’re 1 step closer to realising your travel dream.
2. Renting The House/Selling The House
Lots of people opt to sell their house to travel the world. We decided renting would work better for us. I simply wrote one Facebook status to my friends and family mentioning we would be looking to rent out our house and people started asking.
The first time around in 2012 we found friends of friends to rent our property. This time we found a friend of mine, and she wants to move in end of March. We don’t want to leave until the middle of April so looks like will be moving into my parents’ house for a few weeks again. De ja vu!
We have rented our house fully furnished, however in the past the tenants only needed a few items. All our personal items and the items they didn’t need were placed in the garage with clear instructions that they could only use half the garage in the rental agreement. It was packed like a perfect jigsaw puzzle and it was almost disheartening to see that the collective contents of our 4-bedroom house could fit into half a garage. It really put our years of futile consumerist patterns into perspective.
Even with friends we ensured all rental contracts were legal and above board. We took out landlord’s insurance for extra peace of mind and it’s safe to say thus far it’s worked beautifully.
3. Stopping Mail
Two months prior to leaving, each time I received a letter via snail mail I called the sender to change our address. Where possible I made everything paperless - all notices would be sent by email: bank statements, utilities, and updates from our sponsor children.
For anything that could not be emailed we opened a PO Box. Our PO Box service automatically scans the front of incoming letters, and gives me the opportunity to scan the contents, trash it or file for later for a relatively low fee. A handy email notification is received each time a new postal item is received so I can securely read it online. This is a crucial key to making long-term travel possible in a world that still uses snail mail.
4. Closing Accounts
Don’t forget to close accounts – gas, electricity, water, Internet, phone lines, and mobile contracts. It’s amazing how many utilities there are attached to a house and how much money you start putting back in your pocket when these are not part of your everyday life.
5. Sell The Car
Depending on the amount of time you are leaving for, you may want to lend your car to a friend or sell it. We decided to sell both our cars and started the process a few months prior to departure. Our second car sold just 2 weeks before we departed, which was excellent timing. We used carsales.com.au (Australia) but online car classifieds websites are easy to find, or you could opt for the good ol’ newspaper classifieds (if they still work in 2014!).
6. Change Insurance
We cancelled our car insurance and contacted our provider to adjust our home and contents insurance. Because we had tenants in the house the contents insurance went up slightly. However we have since been selling off many items and now the insurance has gone down by more then AUD$200 per year.
Also look into landlord’s insurance if you are renting your property. In Australia we chose EBM, which is about $200 per year – a low price for peace of mind.
You may also want to look into travel insurance. We love Travel Insurance Direct and their policies can be booked for up to 12 months. The process is quick and painless and fully online. Our first year cost roughly AUD$1700 for the 4 of us. We made 3 claims ranging from stolen phones to fractured arms and missed flights. Totally worth it.
One thing we failed to do before we left was sort out our banking. Do your research and find out the fees for overseas ATM withdrawals, and check the conversion fees for currency exchange. Get a few extra credit cards for emergencies. We only had one card when we left and often it would be suspended because of our frequent country hopping. This caused some interesting challenges, especially when my wallet was stolen. Keep a few extra credit/debit cards in a secure place (not the wallet that you use each day).
8. Furniture, clothes and stuff
Packing for a long trip can be hard work. I packed my bags, then my husband repacked it and then my best friend repacked it again.
After we completed packing we put the rest away in our garage for storage. The first time we left we thought we might be going for 6 months, but we didn’t come back for 1.5 years. My 3-year-old daughter’s clothing was sitting in the garage and rendered completely useless when she returned as a 5 year old.
When I returned all of my clothing made it’s way to the charity clothing bin as I also didn’t need them.
Be clear with what you have and what you will need on your return. Give away items that are not going to be used again. Sell items that you can live without. Facebook has great groups such as Pay It Forward where people will come collect unwanted items. Check out Gumtree (Australia) or Craigslist to make some extra cash on your unneeded bits and pieces.
Lend DVDs or books to family members. Make sure the fridge, washing machine and dryer doors stay open if you are keeping them, mould is not your friend.
As mentioned previously, we smooshed our furniture into a corner of the garage. On our return we have pulled out and used barely a quarter of what was in there. We just enjoy living more simply now and are methodically trying to sell those items sitting in the garage which are no longer being used.
Some folks love structure and planning, others enjoy spontaneity. When we decided to leave I planned the first 4 months to a tee – flights, accommodation, and transport. After a while, I felt much more comfortable with choosing destinations at the last minute.
You have so much to do before you first leave so take a little pressure off and prepare the next step of the journey later. Book the first flight, find your initial accommodation and then take that first month to relax and figure out where you want to go next, and for how long.
10. How To Eat The Elephant?
You probably would have heard that well-known saying. The answer is one bite at a time. It can seem a little overwhelming at first the sheer number of tasks to accomplish and the logistics of making it all happen. So try creating a spreadsheet, which keeps track of your tasks and progress. We did this in preparation of leaving in 2012. It greatly helped to see what our tasks were as they were prioritised and broken down month-by-month. It felt great to know we were on track and it helped to reduce the stress along the way.
Those are a few of the steps we took to kickstart our nomadic family adventure and I hope they help you too. Get on the computer tonight, book that ticket and get ready as you prepare to make your biggest step – getting out the front door and into a fantastical world of adventure.