Lately a lot of people have been asking us what the “plan” is for our Twelve Countries project now that we’re having a baby. When we announced that we were pregnant, we assured everyone that we were still going to do our Twelve Countries in Twelve Months trip. Today—five months after that announcement—I can confidently say that we are still crazy enough to travel the world for a year with a baby.
Over these last five months, we have been faced with some difficult situations that have made us really consider what we’ll be doing for our Twelve Countries trip and how we’ll be spending our lives beforehand. Here’s a few of the situations:
1. How are we supposed to save money when we’re still not out of debt?
2. If the baby needs to be vaccinated and immunized, does that delay our trip?
3. Where are we going to live when our apartment contract ends?
4. What do we do with all of our stuff for an entire year?
5. This is our first baby…. what the heck are we doing???
We never really felt burdened by our debt until we sat down and looked at how much we had accrued over a short period of time and how little time we had to save the amount of money we need to travel the world. We started off our marriage great financially–the only debt we had was Scott’s school loan, and it was a small loan. We decided to not put any payments toward the loan for about a year and a half because it was interest free until six months after Scott graduated. Even though we’ve whittled away at it, we’ve had that debt since we’ve been married. We did great with our money while we were in school. We both worked part time and were able to get government grants to help with tuition so we didn’t accrue any debt (more than that of Scott’s school loan). We knew we were dirt poor college students, so we hardly ever spent money on anything. We ate a lot of pasta, and chicken and rice to keep our grocery bill fairly low and date nights consisted of us making homemade popcorn and watching movies/TV shows at home.
The summer after we graduated, our finances went downhill. We like to call it the Summer of Indulgence. Scott was working 20-40 hours a week, and mostly on the 20 hours side because we decided to take every opportunity we had to travel. I wasn’t really working… I would do side jobs and projects for my mom’s businesses and racked up a good $100 or so every few weeks. Scott tried so diligently to work as close to 40 hours a week as he could when we weren’t traveling, but I was a huge distraction… after all, we had just graduated college, it was summer time, we had a pool in the backyard, and I wanted to celebrate the fact that we were finally free. I was definitely all about enjoying a slow-paced lifestyle and relaxing by the pool as much as possible, and I tried to get Scott to join me instead of work. Therefore, my newfound love of “enjoying” life by not doing anything and us traveling every other two weeks did not help Scott’s income… at all.
It was during our summer travels that we decided we wanted to do something similar with the rest of our lives. We wanted to enjoy every moment, learn about how others live, and experience as much as we could about this world—not get swamped with the monotony of the common life plan of waiting till 65 to retire. The result of this desire was the Twelve Countries in Twelve Months project. We were so excited and had so much energy about the project that we buried ourselves in research and discussions about what we needed to do to accomplish such a feat without ever realizing that this was the same thing we hated doing in school for so long.
One of the first things we realized was that plane tickets to travel around the world were not going to be cheap, so we looked into ways to help subsidize the cost of airfare. We found a fantastic blog (extrapackofpeanuts.com) that was specifically about how to build up lots of airline miles in a short period of time. Scott contacted Trav, the owner of the blog, and got some more information regarding how to get lots of miles. The trick is not to spend a ton of money and collect points, it was to get credit cards with signup bonuses as often as possible… which, ultimately, means spending a ton of money to reach those signup bonus requirements. We were sold, though, and we quickly ended up getting a new credit card with a good bonus.
The new credit card was our first “business” card, and it was a beautiful dark, navy blue hue with silver streaks. It had a cool name and it was written in silver cursive on the front. It felt like such a legit credit card, and it made me feel powerful (which, as you will see, is obviously not a good thing).
The deal was that we had to spend a certain amount of money within a three month time frame in order to get a ridiculous amount of airline miles. The monthly credit limit we had to reach was way over our monthly expenses, but for some reason we though we could easily pull it off. Anyone can spend a butt-load of money when all they have to do is pull out a flashy navy-blue-and-silver plastic card and swipe it on a machine, but we just knew that we could handle it. Oh, we were so naive. Mostly I was the naive one. Scott is a really smart man who never does, or buys anything without researching it till his eyes pop out, but I, on the other hand, was still on a high from graduating and was so optimistic about anything being possible. I was the one who convinced Scott that we could spend our entire credit limit in 3 months to get the airline miles bonus, as I knew that somehow we would pay off the card every month.
Let’s start with the good news: eventually, we reached the monthly credit limit within the time frame and got the airline miles. The bad news: we weren’t as good at paying off the card as I assured Scott we would be able to. The spending limit we had to reach was way more than our monthly expenses, so we had to kind of think outside the box to spend the amount of money that we needed to. We started off by purchasing a very expensive camera and lens, then went on even more travel excursions, all the while swiping that beautiful card for gas and food. I think I even bought some new clothes to help reach the credit limit (I’m so thoughtful and nice some times).
Now we’re here, almost a year after we got the card, still paying off our original debt. Wow, I am so stupid when it comes to finances… Scott always tells me that I need to be more involved with our online banking programs so I can be aware of how much money we have and such, but I have always just smiled and said, “Okay Scott,” and rolled my eyes as I look away. I think he’s even see me roll my eyes before! He is so patient with me.
Back in January—no wait, we went on a spontaneous trip to Mexico in January—so back in February, we sat down and looked long and hard at our finances. We calculated how much we need to have saved up for our Twelve Countries trip, how long it will take us to save up that much, and how long it will take us to pay off every cent of our debt. We came up with a plan, and though it definitely hasn’t been easy, we have been able to stick to the plan pretty well over the last six months and we’re right on track with where we need to be.
#2 and 3: Vaccinations and Vacancies
When we first signed our apartment contract for September 1, 2012, we planned on being there for one year and leave for our Twelve Countries trip when the contract was up. We struggled with pregnancy so we didn’t think that we would be having kids for some time, and we felt very confident that we could leave for our Twelve Countries trip by September 2013. It was going to be perfect.
A few months later, we found out that our third time pregnant (unplanned) had actually stuck and we were officially due August 30, 2013. We were obviously excited, but also extremely confused… this was a huge kink in the plans we had already made! We started reevaluating the situation and realized that it would be best to wait until the baby was six months old so he could get the vaccinations and immunizations needed to travel to the countries we are going to.
So our trip has been postponed until March 2014, and we’ll have a baby sometime around August 30th… and our apartment contract ends August 31st, a day after our due date. What the heck are we doing? Where were we going to live for six months? And if the baby comes later than the due date, which is pretty common, where is a 9 months pregnant woman going to live after we have to move out of our apartment??
This is the part where we get to rave about how amazing our family is. Scott’s parents heard our situation and invited us to stay with them (just 30 miles north of where we live now) for as long as we need to before and after the baby comes. We plan to move out of our apartment around the middle of August so we can be settled at Scott’s parent’s place before the delivery to hopefully help with an easier transition. Once the baby and I are healthy enough to travel, we will all move down to Texas to live with my parents, who have graciously lowered rent so we can save more money for our Twelve Countries trip. Seriously, our families are incredible and have been so helpful every step of the way. We cannot even begin to express our utmost gratitude for all they have done for us.
#4: What To Do With Our Stuff
I am definitely not a hoarder, but I admit that I do enjoy collecting items that might or might not actually serve any real purpose. Basically, I LOVE antiques. Since Scott and I have been married for over two and a half years, I have acquired quite the collection. I would love to keep everything in storage while we travel, but that’s just not ideal. It would cost us a lot of money to have a storage unit for about two years. Where would we even want to have the storage unit? After our trip we think we’d like to settle down in Austin, TX, but we just don’t know for sure. So do we pack up a moving truck and take all of our stuff to a storage unit in Austin? Do we get a storage unit here in Utah and come back for our stuff once we know where we’re living? Everything costs us a ton of money, money we don’t have when we’re having to save every penny. So, our only option is to sell everything we can’t fit in our car.
I made a pretty big deal about my antique collection, but Scott is giving up way more than I am. He is having to give up his music equipment. Music is his passion and he is so talented, it breaks my heart to see him have to part with the instruments that he’s had for several years. He’s been in and out of several bands, done several open mic nights, and competed in some competitions with these instruments. I am so proud of what he has accomplished in his music, and I hope that one day when we’ve finish our travels he’ll be able to buy all of the music equipment that he needs to continue his music.
In selling everything we hope to make enough money to help us save for Twelve Countries. We are making some big sacrifices in getting rid of some of our most prized possessions, but we really feel like it will be worth it in the end to help fund our trip.
#5: What The Heck Are We Doing
Number 6 is probably the scariest one for me. I have always wanted children, but I never realized how unprepared I would feel. Even if I knew everything there was to know about being a parent, I don’t think I would feel fully prepared. Pregnancy has been such a beautiful experience for Scott and I as we have watched this little miracle grow inside of me and we fantasize about what he’ll be like, who he’ll look like, who he’ll like more, how smart he’ll be, what he’ll love in life, what his passions and hobbies will be, etc. Scott and I are far from perfect and I’m sure we won’t be remotely close to being the perfect parents, but we hope and pray that we will be able to provide an atmosphere filled with love for each other, love for God, love of learning and experiencing, and love for others. It will be interesting to raise a child when we won’t really have a home for the first 18 months of his life, but Scott and I have determined that we can make any place we’re staying our home as long as there is love.
Even though our baby most likely won’t be able to remember anything from our travels, we hope that we’ll be able to document as much as possible so he can always be reminded of our love for him, our love for God, our love of learning and experiencing, and our love for others.