Zen Travellers’ Trip Around the World!

We have been a little light on posts lately for good reason; we have been making arrangements to take just over a year off for a trip around the world!

We were hesitant to put it out there on the blog until all things were finalised with our work, landlord, etc, but we have been planning this for some time now. Announcing it is both unbelievably thrilling, and a little nerve-wracking at the same time.  Telling you all now just makes it so much more real!

Something we’ve noticed as we’ve told our friends, families, and colleagues about this adventure is that many people seem to respond with similar lines of questioning and comments, which we will share with you here.


Where are you going on your trip around the world?

Obviously the number one question we get – where are you going on your trip? We have a general route sketched out around South America, Africa, and Asia.  We planned the schedule based the activities we would like to do (including a few “must dos”) and what time of year is best to do them. We are active folks and interested in adventure travel, so finding the best time of year to be outside factored heavily into our rough sketch.

When I say rough, I only mean we don’t have all our lodging booked, will find local guides and outfitters once we’re onsite, and have wiggle room in our itineraries to pick up and drop destinations as we move along. That said, we aren’t completely winging it and Mr. Zen made a very thorough spreadsheet to that effect because that is how he rolls.

RTW Planning Spreadsheet
Excel nerds, rejoice!

So do you have the trip all planned out?

There is no doubt that planning for a trip like this is a daunting task, and the short answer is that we don’t really have all planned out. That is the beauty of long term travel, you simply don’t need to have every single detail hammered out beforehand like you may when you only have two weeks for a vacation and want to make the most of your time. If we like a place, we can stay. If we don’t, we can leave. It’s both freeing and a little scary.

Travel sign - destinations around the world

How do you even begin to plan a trip around the world?

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” – Henry David Thoreau

Again, it seems daunting but it’s really not. You make a goal and follow through. If you rent, you give up your lease like you’ve done before. If you own, you rent out your house or sell it. If you work, you quit or ask for a leave of absence.  Stuff can be stored or sold. People can be told, and when you do, most will be excited for you.  If a relationship ends because you went travelling, it probably didn’t have a solid foundation in the first place. A year is a long time, but no time at all over the course of a life. Money can be saved exclusively for this purpose.  Yes, it’s a little bit scary but it’s a whole lot more exciting.

  • “But I have kids.” Take them with you! Plenty of travellers do. Just search “RTW travel with kids” and dozens of sites will come up.
  • “But what about my mortgage?” Sell or rent your house, people do it all the freaking time.
  • “What about your car?” Sold!
  • “But what about my job?” Quit! In the words of the indelible Patti Smith: “there’s always more labour”.

If it’s a dream of yours, only you can make it happen, so go boldly in the direction of your dreams and embrace the simplicity of it all.

Do you have to quit your jobs?

Speaking of jobs, the answer to this question is yes and no. Mr. Zen has to quit, but I can get an unpaid leave of absence. Many employers will offer leaves of absences to employees who ask, but you will never know if they do unless you ask.

In our case, we’re comfortable with just one of us having a job to come back to and that Mr. Zen can find something when we get back.  If you don’t rage quit as you fantasise about your life without work your old employer may just be able to find something for you when you get back. I think it’s important to remember that at the end of the day, many employers won’t think twice about terminating your employment if a line on a spreadsheet tells them to do so, which means it’s not worth putting your dreams on hold forever for a job. There’s always more labour.

How much is a trip around the world going to cost?

Yes some people (bless them) do come right out and ask how much it’s going to cost. The answer is probably a lot, but not much more than we would have spent in a year living in Calgary. While it’s not as expensive as Vancouver or Toronto, Calgary still is a fairly costly city to live in. Especially since it has all kinds of terribly fun distractions like concerts, great restaurants, theatre, great skiing, and the Calgary Stampede which are all things that love to make you part with your money. For what we paid in rent alone for a year in Calgary, we could live reasonably well in Southeast Asia for example. We’ve crunched the numbers and if we had a mortgage for the same place we rent, we would be paying close to double our current rent, which is a good start towards the budget for a round the world (RTW) trip. Read more on how to save for a trip around the world here!

The Peace Bridge at Calgary
Calgary’s Peace Bridge at night

No really, how much is it going to cost?

We are planning on a budget of about $100 USD  a day, so  $36,500 USD, or say roughly $50,000 CAD for our RTW trip.  It is entirely possible to travel for much less, but I for one am too old for grimy hostels.  And while street food can be delicious, I don’t want to eat it every day.

Also, some of the activities we are planning on doing are rather expensive, so while it’s easier to save on food and lodging during long-term travel, we will make up the difference when we drop $200 per day for both of us to go SCUBA diving. Is it worth it? Oh hells yes. There is nothing cooler than watching a sea turtle go about his business along a beautiful reef while you breathe underwater. It’s the stuff of dreams.

How do you save the money for a trip around the world?

The same way you do! We both have good full time jobs and have been saving sizeable chunks of our salary for some time. We hatched this plan while on an exciting East African adventure in 2014 and have saved consistently ever since. It has meant making certain choices that not everyone is going to want to make and that is fine.

Zanzibar, we didn't want to come back so we started planning our trip around the world
Zanzibar, Tanzania.  We didn’t want to come back and started dreaming of a trip around the world

For instance, we didn’t buy a house in Calgary’s very-hot-until-recently real estate market.  Our furniture comes mostly from Kijiji.  We have an unsexy, but reliable used vehicle with no payment plan, and we don’t typically rush out and buy every new and shiny iGadget. That said, we are hardly financial saints and have been known to drop serious cash in Calgary’s dangerously delicious restaurants or appeasing our travel addiction, but overall we saved more than we spent and we hardly feel deprived. Travel hacking to earn some points will help with some of our expenses on the road too!

Some people follow up that question with a “will you be working on the road to bring some money in?” Apart from the very meagre ad income we make from this blog to cover its hosting, the answer is no. I have worked abroad in the past and am a huge believer in immersive travel experiences, but this time is about going far and seeing lots of different places, rather than getting to know one really well. 

What will you do with all your stuff?

A lot of our stuff came from Kijiji which is a secondhand site like Craigslist that’s popular in Canada.  It’s now going back to Kijiji which makes us even more money for travel (simplicity again). What we don’t sell, will be divvied up between patient family members and friends for storage  or donated.

We sold our car for travel
We sold our Soul to go travelling (Get it? It’s a Kia SOUL!)

How do you pack for extended travel?

Our packing list is pretty simple – clothes, cameras, e-readers, laptop, phones, and their chargers mostly. If we find we need something, it can likely be bought on location. Good news – capitalism exists all around the world!

Ok in all seriousness, we will follow up with a specific post on packing, but really we’re focusing on clothes that are multi-functional, lightweight, and breathable. This is relatively easy for us since we do a lot of hiking and have most of this stuff already.

What do your friends and family think?

Most people are super excited for us. We know that not everyone is going to understand the draw to do something like this, but not everyone is meant for a quiet life in the suburbs either. It takes all sorts to make the world go round and most people understand that. Are our mom’s worried? Of course, but that’s what moms do. We have promised them copious Skype sessions.

How can I follow along?

We will be sharing our adventure here and the best way to see every post is by subscribing to the blog via email (below).

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You can also follow us on your preferred social media platform:

See you on the road!

Airplane photo

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