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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

From Central America to Africa!

It's official, Justin and I have purchased our tickets through to Africa! We've got just under two months to go, and now 80% of our locations are set. We're leaving the last several months of our tickets for purchase this summer for reasons I'll lay out below.

But first, we've now got an established itinerary (rough, but a guideline) for January, 2014-September, 2014. The two must-have destinations for us were Brazil and Ghana. Justin is a soccer FANATIC (all caps intentional) so we MUST be in Brazil from at least June 12-July 13 for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. My must-go destination is Ghana, as one of my dearest childhood friend's grandmother runs a non-profit called Anansi that assists teens in getting their high school education. Check out more on this great organization at the link below.

2014 FIFA World Cup
That said, (drumroll, please!) the flight destinations are as follows:

  • San Jose, Costa Rica--Lima, Peru: June 4, 2014
  • Lima, Peru--Sao Paulo, Brazil: June 10, 2014
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil--Buenos Aires, Argentina: July 16, 2014
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina--Sao Paulo, Brazil (cheaper to fly to Africa from Brazil): September 17, 2014
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil--Accra, Ghana: September 18, 2014

Machu Picchu, Peru
Buenos Aires, Argentina
We are also making a slight stopover in Togo on our way to Accra, but other than that, this is our flight pattern. We'll likely be visiting additional countries along this route, including (but not limited to) Nicaragua, Panama (I'm dying to see The Canal), Paraguay, Mali and Cote d'Ivoire. We also plan to travel up the coast of Brazil to Rio and Salvador, as well as follow the US team around for the World Cup.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Salvador, Brazil
We decided not to purchase tickets beyond September 2014 for a few reasons:

1) Ticket purchases are only valid for change up to one year from purchase
2) Tickets are only available for purchase up to 365 days in advance
3) Our plans/money/situation may change!

This leaves us free to stay in Africa through January, or add a leap over to Europe, India, Nepal...wherever.

We purchased our tickets through, a site highly recommended among long term travel bloggers. Our travel planner, Chris, was incredibly helpful. He worked to get us the best deals possible. For all flights, including taxes, we paid just $2,884.00 USD each. This is a pretty screaming deal, considering flights to Brazil and Ghana alone can be more than half that on their own (especially with World Cup prices, when it comes to Brazil).

Now that we've got our tickets purchased, we've started focusing more on acquiring gear, selling more of our stuff, and getting accommodations together. We've booked a hostel in Costa Rica through for our first three nights, but hope to couchsurf much of that first month (and much of the trip, to be honest). During our second month there I'll be in my TESOL training course through International TESOL and TEFL Training, which includes onsite accommodation.

We're also meeting up with some friends in Costa Rica at the end of March, where we'll get wonderful condo accommodations for a week (sooo excited). 

After that, who knows. We'll go wherever the wind blows us. For now, we're just counting down: 

For help getting started on your around the world itinerary, the following sites were invaluable to us

For general know-how:
For flights:
For accommodations:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Donating our Car

In another big step toward our location independent lifestyle, we donated our car today. She has been acting up for just over a year, but finally decided to bite the dust about one month ago. Several friends had theories about what might be wrong, but in the end, we decided it was time to just get rid of her.

That all said, it was a rather bitter sweet moment for me personally. I purchased little Ronata (the Sonata--clever, I know) almost exactly 7 years ago. I'd had several duds before her, but she was the nicest car I'd ever owned. I took her for regular checkups, we went on long drives together--nearly 100,000 miles of memories she and I.

Ronata holding up my pack on my one year wedding anniversary

We had some great times, like when I drove her from Southern Oregon to Seattle in the pouring rain, all the while on the phone (via bluetooth!) with my then boyfriend, now husband, Justin. We'd only been dating for two weeks and we talked on the phone for 8 solid hours--now that's love. Or the time I was cleaning her out and found a moldy old mango under the passenger seat. I'd spilled a bag of groceries two weeks before and apparently missed one (so gross). Or, one of my very faves, the time my Uncle KC tried to re-wire the brakes as a practical joke after our wedding. He wanted the car to make an obnoxious "aaaOOOOOgaahhh" sound every time the breaks were hit, but instead shorted out all the lights in the car. Good thing we left on our honeymoon the next day. :)

There were some rough times too, like the time her front diver's side tire popped while we were rolling down the freeway. You think I would have noticed, but I was jammin' to my music and had no clue until a van next to me pulled up and mouthed while pointing "your tire went BOOM." She also ground to a screeching halt on the freeway (on the way to work, no less) one day for no reason. I towed her to the office and figured I deal with her when my shift ended. When work was over, she started right up, as if nothing had happened. Sorry to all the people on I-5: that traffic jam was caused by me (so embarrassing).

After a fender bender. (Hey, at least we got $1100 from the other guy's insurance)
With all the mixed emotions and memories behind us, we decided to donate Ronata to Wheels for Wishes, an affiliate of Make a Wish Foundation. We support the cause and found the process easiest and most painless--you schedule a pickup, they take it off your hands and give you a $500 charitable tax deduction slip. If the car sells for more, they'll send an updated tax form for the difference. Check them out at

Other organizations that you can donate to: -- funds go toward children's education -- pretty sure the donation goes to help pets with this one ;) -- proceeds go to children

You can even donate your car to your local Public Radio Station, like KUOW here in Seattle:

Of course, you can also sell your car the old fashioned way. We chose a different route because, as of September, our old beauty only started about 60% of the time. Whatever works best for you, go for it. You don't need your car sitting around at home while you're off traveling the world.

If you must keep it, though, have someone drive it a few miles at least once a month. This will help ensure everything is still working properly. Also--you must maintain car insurance, even if the car isn't being driven often. If someone hits it (or worse, if it rolls and hits someone/thing) you could still be liable, even from half across the world.

Fare thee well, Ronata. May your next incarnation suit you. You will be missed.

Ronata being towed away last Friday morning. Goodbye, old girl.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Garage Sale: More Community, Less Stuff.

A garage sale can be an exposure of your personal life via used items on display for the whole neighborhood to rummage through. As your neighbors peruse your old stuff they get a glimpse into who you are based on what items you had and are getting rid of. Every item can tell a story about your style, hobbies, work or education. And the fact that you're getting rid of those items tells another story: what are you ready to leave behind as you move forward to the next step of life? We couldn't help but feel that everyone at our sale had a close-up view into who we were without ever needing to exchange a word. We were neighbors without borders. We intended only to purge our material items and make some dough, we didn't expect the outpouring of community, stories, and kindness.

If you're planning to travel long term, selling your stuff is a step we'd seriously advise including. It's not practical to store stuff long term. A garage sale will generate some funds and is a valuable exercise in letting go of the things tying you down, allowing you to focus only on the road ahead. We expected it to be a hot, boring, end of summer sale, little did we know we'd get to know all sorts of fun characters from around the neighborhood.

Because we didn't price anything (not intentional, we just ran out of time -- in hindsight, we'd really recommend it!) we were forced to speak to everyone that walked up. This turned out to be our favorite part of the day. There was the family with an American dad and Mexican mom, who'd recently returned from visiting her family. They gave us travel advice, should we end up in Mexico. The older of their two daughters was 9 years old, with personal style to boot. She was the unlikely purchaser of Justin's old work ties: 
We're so happy that we know this person exists
There was the father and two daughters who biked from miles away, all arriving on one bicycle with dad pedaling, one daughter on the handle bars, and one standing in back. They bought too much stuff to carry home, so they came back a few hours later, this time with three bikes.
This family won the award for Best Transportation
Even the neighborhood weirdo contributed to the fun that day. He was our first customer--he could have won a Michael Jackson look-a-like contest from the "Beat it" video. We all felt a little uncomfortable around him at first (think slow speech, mumbling, odd topic choices) but after he returned for the fifth time to pick up a set of dishes he planned to give to his sister, we all had to agree--he was pretty awesome. On top of all the cool strangers we met, we got to spend the day with our dear friends Amy and Torry who hosted the sale for us. Even their neighbor, June, cleared her side of the driveway and hung out with us for the day.

In the end we purged (it's amazing how much CRAP we realized we had) AND we made a over 700 bucks! But the real successes of the day were the connections we made with everyone, and that we gained a wonderful new story to add to our Round the World experience.

Garage Sale tips and tricks we learned along the way:
  • Advertise a week early on craigslist. List and picture some of the big ticket items and also state other types of things that will be for sale. Use keywords like books, DVDs, music, clothes, kitchen gadgets, camping gear, etc.
  • Make fun signs to put up around the neighborhood--many customers commented that our colorful signs are what attracted them
  • Don't bother pricing everything before hand. It takes a lot of time and people will barter anyway. And our favorite--it encourages interaction with people.
  • Have fun setting up. For instance, our buddy Amy made a camping display, setting up the camping chairs, picnic table and Coleman stove. We didn't think we'd sell much of this stuff--but it all went first! Thanks, Ames, for the idea!
"Like camping? Buy our stuff and this could be you!" (Amy and Erin)
  • We bought banquet tables, a clothes rack, and a money box for the sale and returned them the next day. This step isn't for everyone. We kept them in perfect condition and kept the tags for everything.
  • At the end of the day, take everything you didn't sell and donate it.
  • Use the buddy system. Odds are you have a few friends who have things they need to get rid of. Team up and spend the day helping each other.
  • Have FUN! We proved that garage sales don't have to be a drag, they can actually be a day well spent. (The mimosas and beer didn't hurt, I'm sure)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Reluctant Husband: Part 2, The Process

I was the reluctant husband, but now I'm on board for a 12 month, round the world adventure. And I'm even blogging about it.

So what has the process been like? One might say that constant droplets of Crystal's persistence slowly tapped at my will until it cracked like a water-boarded prisoner. My will is not so rigid though, and her persistence is not so torturous. Others might say that my desire to stay home propelled a propaganda campaign to black out her heralds of rebellious messages of freedom. She is not so mutinous though, and I am not so oppressive. It's been a long, evolutionary process for sure, but always more of a dance than a battle.

Crystal would speak of all the amazing things we would see while we're traveling and all the amazing people we could connect with. We would watch travel documentaries about emotional humanitarian stories like Living on One, or ones about awesome geographical or historical attractions like Rick Steve's Europe. After each (sometimes with a tear in her eye) she would say, "See?" I would rebut with with the fact that we had agreed on the current path we were on, and that interrupting it now would only set us back years and that we had mortgages and credit card balances and student loans. Or we would spend an amazing weekend with friends or family and we would both feel affirmed that those are the moments worth living for. Afterward I would look at her comfortingly and say, "See?"

So many dinner conversations turned into passionate pleas on both our accounts and they often lasted late into the night. We always were very careful to reconcile and be sure we both went to bed knowing that the most important thing was that we loved each other. I can't emphasize enough the magnitude of that act. But the conversations were still hard. It was exhausting and heart wrenching. I felt like she didn't understand or accept who I was and she felt like I wouldn't believe in her or her dreams. What we didn't realize though is that throughout all those conversations we really got to know each other. I mean really got to know each other. There's no moment more sincere and honest than when your spouse, completely emotionally beat down after hours of intense arguments, clutches her chest in front of her heart with both hands, looks you in the eye with tears on her face and says, "this is me." Wow. I didn't know I could know any person like that.

The process has been long and difficult, and I'd bet one day it will fit perfectly as just a single chapter in the story of our lives together. But through it all, Crystal and I have gained something that would have been impossible to attain if we'd just agreed with each other all along: a truer, deeper understanding of one another and synchronization what we dream for our lives together to be.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Reluctant Husband: Part 1, Catch-22

I am the reluctant husband. Or I should say, I was the reluctant husband.

The conversation about travel began early in our relationship. About six months in, over a casual and seemingly non-descript dinner at Red Robin, she asked me if I'd be willing to relocate for her to go to grad school. I was immediately terrified of the thought. But in an attempt to be a good boyfriend I thought I would play it smart and sound supportive by saying, "If the opportunity was right, I would consider it.” Apparently my measured attempt at the right response was not at all what I was supposed to say. In her fantasy, I would say, “Of course, my love! I will follow you wherever you go and no matter what we’ll be free and happy and nothing else matters as long as we have each other. Also there will be Oreos, triple rainbows and parades, because love.” She didn’t know me very well back then.

Triple Rainbow, because love
From that point on, travel was always a contentious conversation between us. A lifestyle of traveling the world, assimilating into new cultures, meeting people and making friends in foreign countries, and raising our children with a worldly perspective was what Crystal had always dreamed about. For me, everything I needed and loved was in Seattle. I'm very close with my family and friends and I’d always dreamed they would be close by and we’d all grow old together in our home town. It was so hard for us to talk about because we had conflicting desires at such a fundamental level. How could we honor each other's life dreams without dismissing our own? We couldn't. Any time the conversation came up we were both pitting our own dreams against each other's. Talk about a catch-22.

And now here I am, writing a blog post on our travel blog. This trip is probably not how either of us imagined or dreamed things would pan out prior to that fateful conversation three years ago. But three years gives a couple ten thousand opportunities to understand what’s really going on inside each other’s heads and hearts. By now our fantasies have integrated. I know that we have to see the world together, because love. And she knows that we have to remain connected to home, because love.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Travel Vaccinations

Who new that after the excitement of FINALLY buying one way tickets, the next most obvious step would be...the doctor? Yup, extended traveling apparently includes some not so glamorous bits. Yellow fever in Ghana? Rabies in Argentina? Sounds GREAT!

(Personally, I'd like to think of Ghana like this...)

Well, not really. Which is why Justin and I are beginning the long list of round-the-world-trip check-boxes by looking at how we should monitor our health while we're traveling. We've come across some great resources during our research, so we wanted to consolidate to make the search easier for the next guy or gal.

In putting together our budget, it occurred to us that we'd completely forgotten to account for any medical expenses, other than travel insurance (more on that later) and that we'd likely need to get A LOT of shots before we left. Well, we were right, and we heard a lot of warnings that this can be incredibly expensive. Trying not to feel downtrodden, we started gathering information.

As it happens, its actually pretty simple. First, you've got to figure out where you want to go. Second, investigate what sort of nasty diseases are the worst case scenario there. Third, get vaccinated for all of them. Or, put more simply, find a map like this one, click on the places you plan to visit, and jot down a list of the vaccinations they recommend. Then consult your physician and get movin'!

Once you've got a general idea of what you could be exposed to, get a consultation at a travel clinic. Justin and I were certain we knew what vaccinations we'd need, but our appointment this morning with Dr. Michael Bolton (no joke) was quite educational. We had no idea that its easier to avoid dogs than get a rabies shot, while mosquito nets are worth their weight in gold.

What's more, once we knew what vaccinations we'd need, we decided to get the more common ones at our regular doctor (think Tetanus and MMR) and save the less common shots for the travel clinic. Travel clinics don't typically work directly with insurance providers, so the less money out of pocket, the better.

Speaking prepared to spend a pretty penny. While I know our insurance provider will reimburse us for most of our shots, spending $1000 on vaccinations before finishing my morning coffee was a hard pill to swallow. Hopefully my typhoid medication will be a bit easier...

And while this post is heavily vaccination focused we should point out that its also a good idea to visit various doctors to ensure you're set for your trip:

-optometrist (updated prescription, glasses, contacts)
-general physician--a physical isn't a bad idea at this point
--ensure all prescriptions are up to date, filled for the year, etc.

Dr. Bolton also recommends the CDC's Traveler's website and Fit For Travel, a UK based site. The latter has handy resources like malaria maps and other region relevant health risks.

All this is to say, getting immunized is a necessary evil to avoid some really unnecessary evils. Get your tickets, get your shots, and get going!

Until next time --
  Crystal and Justin

Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals and do not claim any responsibility for the health of any of our readers. Please visit your doctor for medical advice--this post is merely a discussion of our experience and in no way should replace professional medical vaccination and travel advice.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Costa RICA

When the Universe calls, you listen. Justin and I started talking about Costa Rica about one week ago. I started reading about it just this morning (check out this great book).

And now we're the proud owners of two tickets to travel there on January 6, 2014, all for the ripe old price of $740.00 TOTAL! 

When The Universe speaks, YOU LISTEN. Sure, we'll make our way south for the World Cup in Brazil. But in January, we'll be swinging from vines someplace in our temporary home of Costa Rica. 

And we couldn't be happier.

Monday, May 27, 2013

It begins

Well, we've done it. Justin and I have officially decided to take the leap and go on an around the world adventure. I've dreamed of this for many, many years. Justin is newer to the dream but just as eager to break from the 9-5 and show the world that extended travel is possible.

We're both still very much immersed in the typical work-a-day lifestyle at this point. It has fast come to our attention, however, that there are alternate routes through life. All Justin and I know is that we're determined to find one. Ours, we can hope.

Truth be told, we have no clue what we're getting ourselves into. One thing we're sure of though? Those two people, fresh off the plane and ready to embark on an adventure? They look pretty excited:

Imagine taking that excitement and extending it out for, saaayyyy, a whole year. It can't be done, you say? Pssshhht. It can. And it will. Even better--you can do it, too.

We're currently in the research, dreaming and planning phase. (May 2013 UPDATE: We just bought our first tickets to THIS lovely location). We've got tentative dates and several itinerary options. My future posts will lay out what we've learned on buying tickets, travel insurance, packing lists, itineraries, technology to bring, selling stuff, saving, etc. You name it, we intend to cover it. This blog will be a transparent account of what its like for a couple to engage on the adventure of a lifetime, documented from the beginning.

Until next time, thanks for reading.