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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)