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Is Travel Worth It?

in Do What You Love, Rants, Travel

IsTravelWorthIt

By the time this post is published, we’ll have around 24 hours before we move out of our Auckland apartment.  Our rag-tag schedule looks like this:

  • Next 2 weeks driving, camping, and hosteling the South Island of New Zealand.
  • First week of the new year in Melbourne, Australia (working and visiting).
  • A minimum of 9 weeks in Thailand.  Probably the first in Bangkok, but after that unplanned.
  • Rest of our lives?  Still up for debate after that.  :-)

Only in the last day or two has it really started to sink in.  As we go about the normal routine of canceling utilities, re-minimizing and packing our stuff into backpacks, and double-checking flight itineraries, we’ve had some time to look back on our experience thus far.

Over a month ago, when we first revealed we were heading to Thailand, reader Kevin M. wrote:

I can’t believe no one has asked this, maybe it’s premature, but do you think your time in Australia & NZ has been worth it*?

*By “worth it” I mean spending time and money to move across the world, not being able to pay down your debt other than the minimums, losing potential income while traveling, and being away from your friends and family for a year?

Maybe I’m reading into it, but it seems like after all the preparation and effort that went in to moving you’re giving it up rather easily. Perhaps it wasn’t the experience you hoped for?

These are just the kind of things we’ve been pondering the last few days.  I think at one point or another any one who devotes time to long-term travel is confronted with the same question.

Is Travel Worth It?

There are only two ways for me to approach this question.  The first is strictly what my gut tells me.

My gut tells me this is the single best decision we’ve ever made.

I think I’ve grown more as a person and we’ve grown more as a couple/family than I could have ever imagined.

This doesn’t mean that it’s been all roses and skipping down sandy beaches.  There have been some extremely trying times.  Both Courtney and I (me longer than her) spent nearly 5-6 weeks in a rut a little after we had come to New Zealand.  The only one who has seemed to remain consistent and strong the whole time has been Milligan.

But the point is we did it.  We proved to ourselves that we could do it.  It may seem like nothing to some, it may seem borderline heroic to others.

But we got on that first plane.  We showed up in Cairns with no job, no connections, and not knowing a single person in the entire country.  We hit hurdle, after hurdle, after hurdle throughout the last 8 months.  But, we found a way over each time.

Sometimes we went to bed angry.  Other times it took a chunk out of our wallets.  Some decisions took hours of research, while other much larger ones were made in mere seconds.

But you know what?  We’re still here. We still have a little in the bank.  We’re still together as a family.  We’re still excited about what the future holds.

We’re the same family we were just a few months ago.  We’ve just picked up a few new international friends, a slideshow of lifetime memories, a shit ton of flexibility and patience.  You know what, I’ll take that.

That’s what my gut says.

But I don’t want to totally ignore the specifics of what Kevin brings up (the second way to approach the question).

Giving up on what we had ‘hoped’ for.

If I haven’t already been clear above, let me be so now.  This has been nothing like what we had in mind when we left.  So, as far as being the experience we had hoped for…  definitely not.

It’s fallen far short in some of the more shallow visions we had.  But I truly feel it’s been much more rich in ways we had never anticipated.

I guess we had kind of honed in on the naive view that we would just find a couple minimum wage jobs in the tourism industry and work somewhere on the beach.  After all, our expenses were low.  Our stuff was minimal.  We didn’t mind taking a break and working some basic jobs for some fun and relaxation in the sun.

Um, well…  it didn’t work out that way.

Like I pointed out, we didn’t know anyone.  Plus, a couple months before leaving we found out that we were ineligible for working-holiday visas that would make this sort of arrangement much more realistic.  No beach-side Scuba store had any reason to sponsor a work permit.  They have a million people wanting to work already on legit holiday options.

After the second day it hit us.  All the pre-trip planning in the world wouldn’t make up for just having one friend or connection in the area.  If we were going to last more than a glorified tourist-filled month, we were going to have to learn to adapt.  And fast.

Monetary sacrifices

Of course, given the nature of the blog this was a big one for us.  I’ve written about finding this balance many times, so I won’t regurgitate everything.

I think almost all of our tangible monetary sacrifices have been a trade off.  For example, we could have stayed home, worked two jobs, put Milligan in daycare, and been debt free in towards the the summer/fall of this coming year.

I’m not sure what our debt levels will be like towards this time next year, but I’m confident they won’t be at $0.

At the same time, Milligan would have had less time with one of her parents being home.  There would be no Man Vs. Debt, as this was started after I sold my Real Estate business and before we left.

Even ignoring the benefits gained from travel (flexibility, growth, experience, etc…), I strongly believe that Man Vs. Debt alone will eventually make up the tangible monetary sacrifices.  I’m far from proving that.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t bet against me.

Sure, we’ve made some costly errors while traveling.  Also, being cheap-asses has led to unnecessary stress on several occasions.  So money plays its role, I wouldn’t claim otherwise.  But this is another area where I feel the trade offs have been worth it.

Hopefully the next 6 months will prove this to be true.  :-)

Time away from family and friends

And here we’ve come to the kicker of this discussion.  If there is any one single part that would make me second guess myself, it would be this one.

We drastically underestimated what it would be like being away from our family and friends.  Especially from a social standpoint.  Back in Indiana, we’d commonly drop by family and friends. I dramatically miss spending my Sundays watching football at each of my own parents homes, playing cards once per month with Courtney’s extended family, or staying up all night playing board games with our old friends.

It’s been really lonely on the road so far.  Couchsurfing stepped up early on to help a little.  I’ve been blessed with many new and surprisingly close friendships with other bloggers and readers.  Courtney’s gotten a little bit of a fix from other teachers, who went out of their way to welcome her.

But there’s a big gap from home still left to fill.  Much bigger than we anticipated.

Have we missed out on having ‘real’ travel experiences?

There’s yet another side to this coin.  As Tyler K. commented on a more recent post:

Meanwhile, for all your travel emphasis, you’re posting about the X-Men and losing weight. I don’t mean it to be insulting, although like I mentioned at the top, it’s obviously critical, but it just seems that you’re missing out on the part of travel that makes it travel. You seem to just be at home, but in a different city.

Why go to Australia and New Zealand and Thailand to “be settled” and “not travel” and not write about travel? Doesn’t that feel like a bit of a missed opportunity to you?

The short answer is no.

I don’t feel like we’ve missed out on anything, because for me, in order to miss an opportunity it has to be within your grasp.  You can’t miss a free throw, if your standing on a baseball field and there’s no basketball in site.

When we started we simply didn’t have the means to travel long-term without tackling it from a more settled standpoint.  We could have made it 2 or 3 months.  We could have traveled even more cheaply than we did trying to experience all the deep, cultural, life-changing, ‘religious experience’ type of travel events you hear people refer to.

Frankly, we have had some life-altering experiences so far, but it’s been far from a daily or weekly experience.  We’ve had to tackle things from a more practical approach for the time being.

Courtney leaves to catch the train at 7:30 a.m. and gets home at 4:35-5:00 p.m.  We try to spend some time as a family of three before I start writing and working on the blog and online ventures you see pop up.  I usually work from at least 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. to myself.

Did I mention that Milligan was only 13-months old when we started this little detour?

During the weekends, we’ve tried to get out and meet some people.  Going to school functions, barbeques, picnics at the beach, and the usual landmarks you hit in a new city.

Is that the adventurous, scuba-dive-instructor-in-a-small-hut-by-the-beach life we had dreamed up before we left? Nope.  But does that mean it can’t also be part of the experiences that make travel, travel?

Regardless of that answer, now it is our time to take center stage.

We get our two weeks of renting a car and driving the scenic South Island.  We have our tent ready to test camping in the countryside with a soon-to-be two year old.  Courtney’s camera is warmed up, my Flip will be by my side, we’ll be bungie jumping, glacier climbing, and celebrating Christmas in a town we’d never heard of 4 months ago.

We’ve both worked our butts off to have the chance to be more mobile now.  To experience a little more of a variety for the next couple of months.  But it’s all part of the give and take.  It wouldn’t have been possible to last this long without 4-5 months of living a more settled life abroad.

My response to everyone is…  why not?  Why pay rent in Indiana when you could be paying rent in Auckland?  Maybe not the rest of your life, but at least for a little while.

That’s how we presented the question to ourselves.  We could have sat on our asses in Indiana the rest of our lives.

We could have plotted and planned, waiting for the perfect time to really be able to travel.

We could’ve waited til we paid off our debt, saved for Milligan’s college, started our retirement, and had a down payment for a house.

We could have done all that…

But we didn’t.

We chose to get on the plane.  We chose to fight to stay.  Its not been perfect, nor will it ever be.

But you know what?

Tomorrow, while much of the U.S. bitches about the cold weather, we’ll pack our bags and catch a plane to what is widely considered one of the most beautiful places on the planet.

Had we not made the sacrifices we did, I’d most surely be scraping the ice off the window and trying to start the car to head into work.  When I think about it that way, it’s hard to even consider this topic a real question.

And it’s summer, here.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

{ 75 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason Ford December 14, 2009 at 12:12 PM

You will LOVE the south island of New Zealand. It is absolutely gorgeous. Try and visit Milford Sound if you get the chance. That was my personal favorite part of the month I lived on the south island.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:26 PM

We couldn’t go and miss Milford Sound! Well, at least that is what we hear from everyone. It is one the list for sure. :-)

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Money Funk December 14, 2009 at 12:24 PM

Even if it’s not the small hut on the beach experience you were looking for… what matters is you took (you=family) that risk, that dream, that plan, that trip into frutation while the rest of us keep dreaming about it. Great job Baker & Family. Truly an inspiration to many of us.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:27 PM

Thanks! And I’m not sure the specific small-hut-on-the-beach would have been as rewarding or as ‘worth it’ as what we’ve done so far. Hard to tell.

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B Kinch December 14, 2009 at 12:30 PM

A few more on the pro side:
1. Milligan is having a far richer experience traveling the world with her mom and dad than she would have had in daycare. She’s with the people who love her the most each day, and her brain is getting loaded up with an astounding array of sights, sounds and people. Taking her to Thailand in her formative years is going to make is SO much easier for her to learn a second language when she’s older.

2. You never put yourselves in the “we will travel when the kids are older” box. This is huge. That box is a particularly hard one to climb out of.

3.You’ve inspired countless others to do something different, do something new, do what they want to do.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Thanks, B. I really do hope there is some tangible benefit to Milligan’s development. I’d like to think staying home with her these first two years has helped as well (and was part of our ‘worth it’ decision, too).

It’s impossible to measure, but I also hope we can keep up the flexibility as she *does* get older and will start to remember parts of it. :-)

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Live for Improvement December 14, 2009 at 12:43 PM

I applaud your decision to travel. Live is a rollercoaster full of ups, downs, twists and turns. The hurdles that you face now will ultimately make your family stronger. One day you and your family will look back on these crazy adventures with wonderful stories and experiences that most people only dream about. You had the courage to explore life, instead of settling for the same day-in-day-out routine in Indiana. It may not seem like it at times, but your travels are definately worth it, and the experiences are priceless. Just wait and see.

I partially agree with Tyler, I would also enjoy reading more about your day-to-day adventures, because it gives those of us with mundane lives a chance to live vicariously through you.

-Dan Malone-

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:31 PM

I’d like to have more day-to-day adventures! ;-)

Seriously, though over the next two months there will in all likely hood be a much more intense concentration of travel posts. This is obviously just due to the nature of what’s coming up compared to what we’ve just done.

Thanks for the kind words.

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Tom December 14, 2009 at 12:58 PM

Baker, I applaud you for your honest answers to this question and your ability to not become the least bit defensive.

Interesting to think what your answers might have been if you had decided not to get on the plane and someone had asked you now “Was staying home worth it?”

There are a ton of “lifestyle designers” out there but you guys are one of a kind. It is a piece of cake to go solo for an international romp for a month. It is quite another to take along your wife and small child. Now THAT is an adventure.

Cheers!

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Haha, yeah. Along I’m pretty sure my wife and child are taking along me!

Seriously, though, I thought your “was staying home worth it?” approach was a great way to look at this. I agree that the responses would have been interesting. :-)

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Lisis December 14, 2009 at 1:04 PM

I think it’s worth it for the adventure alone. What’s the alternative? To spend that same amount of time back “home”, in suburbia, doing what everyone else is doing (and trying to escape it)?

It’s TOTALLY worth it… hands down… no doubt about it.

:)

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:34 PM

Haha, thanks Lisis.

There *is* a little bit of pull from the other side. Technically, in another year we may have been able to be debt-free with an increased savings and more flexibility from a monetary standpoint.

Like I pointed out, I’m glad we *didn’t* wait for that point, even if I do find myself getting called over to it from time to time.

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Ginny December 14, 2009 at 1:14 PM

It seems to me that you are more a Man Vs. Norm than a Man vs. Debt.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:40 PM

Yeah, right now we’ve prioritized travel over debt repayment.

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Foxie | CarsxGirl December 14, 2009 at 1:40 PM

If you can do this with Milligan, I have no excuses for not finding a way to do it sans children. :) Well, there’s the whole military thing…. But I’m still hoping to make my own career location independent, so that we can at least take four-week vacations to Asia and Europe when we’d like. (In this way, the military isn’t so bad since we wouldn’t lose any of my husband’s income if he were to take leave. If I can sort of do the same, we’d be really kosher then.)

Either way, you’re a huge inspiration, Baker. Thanks. :P Now I just gotta use that inspiration for good!

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:41 PM

Go for it, Megan! Although don’t underestimate the sacrifices it’ll take even without children. It still requires some work, but from everything I know about it you, it seems you’ll love it!

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Steve December 14, 2009 at 1:50 PM

Kudo’s to you and Courtney for making the leap Adam. As I plan for our permanent move to Thailand I struggle every day with the idea of “Why not just go now”. If it were just a year or two that we were planning on traveling I’m pretty sure we would do just that. However, knowing how difficult it is to make decent money in Thailand, being a bit older and needing to save for retirement and the imminent birth of our baby (well 6 months away), keeps me here in the U.S. for the time being showing up in my cube every day.

It can be hard to delay something you want so much, but I think in the long run we will be better off having paid off all of our debt and built both a cash cushion and a retirement account.

I’m anxiously awaiting your posts from Thailand so I can live vicariously through you, Courtney and Milligan.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:45 PM

Thanks, Steve.

Each persons situation is different. Plus, you are planning on relocating 100%. We are simply ‘playing it by ear’ and moving around. If we knew we wanted to spend say 5-10 years in Thailand, our considerations would be much different than they are now.

From what I know about your own story, you guy are tackling your goal passionately and in a way that will help it last a long time (aka permanent). Also, if Courtney was 3 months pregnant I doubt our plans would be the same, hehe.

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Jason Ulsrud December 14, 2009 at 2:20 PM

You know… At 40 I’ve come to realize life isn’t about making money, cars, and women. Ha!!! just had to throw that one in. I am committing myself to making changes in my life that will give me the freedom from it all.

Unfortunately, I will always be enslaved to money as that is what gets me anywhere I want to go. However, it’s no longer my driving force. I have nearly zero dollars in the bank right now and there’s no better way to realizing I have to create happiness elsewhere.

Anyway, Love your blog and love the fact you have chosen the journey you have. That takes courage to face uncertainty.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 3:48 PM

Awesome, Jason.

As you probably know, we have very little ‘in the bank’ either. At times it can be a little frustrating, but you are dead on about making up for it in other areas.

We aren’t completely ignoring money as a part of our life, but we aren’t relying (or waiting) on it to change the other parts either. Kudos to you for tackling this along side of us, too. :-)

If one of us figures it out, let’s let the other one know asap. ;-)

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Stephanie Walker December 14, 2009 at 2:21 PM

What a great post. And wow can I relate. When we were planning our big move to this island (San Juan), we had all kinds of fantasies about how amazing it would be. Forgetting that reality is never perfect. We imagined a movie life. The truth is that picking up your life and moving it to another place far away from friends and family is extremely hard.

I agree that the biggest challenge is missing friends and family. That has been the hardest part for our adjustment. And we’re still in the U.S. I can only imagine how hard that’s been for you guys being down under.

As we’ve shared our challenges, friends and family have reminded us that we will look back on this time and be so happy we did it. They encourage us to not miss out on what’s right in front of us.

You and Courtney are incredibly bold and courageous to be doing what you’re doing. And Milligan has such a rich childhood as a result. And yes, you inspire many others to not put off their dreams.

You are ManVsNorm… I agree with Ginny.

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LobotoME December 14, 2009 at 2:26 PM

Love this post and love following your adventures! Wishing you many more amazing adventures in the New Year! Cheers, Jenny

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Jeffrey Tang December 14, 2009 at 2:55 PM

Actually, my idea of traveling fits quite well with what you’ve described here, Baker. For me, traveling isn’t about going on daring adventures and gawking at cool landmarks (although that’s obviously part of it). I want to travel as part of living. In other words, I’d like to go somewhere, see a few sights, then settle down for a while and just live there, instead of being the constant tourist. I’d like to experience what it’s like to be somewhere, not just passing through.

Keep it up!

On an unrelated note – in my Google Reader, the byline of this article reads “By Corbett” – wondering if something went screwy during the design update.

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Karol Gajda December 14, 2009 at 3:02 PM

I know we touched on some of this in our conversations. It doesn’t what anybody else thinks. You’re doing what you want to do. You’re living your life, taking chances, in ways most people only dream about. And even though Milligan probably won’t remember much of what’s happening now, you can bet when she’s older and you tell her about it she’s going to think it’s awesome.

“We could have plotted and planned, waiting for the perfect time to really be able to travel.” I love this sentence, because that’s precisely what most people do. Waiting for X is a sad way to live life.

Tomorrow, while you’re heading to South Island, I’m heading to Michigan to freeze my ass off for 6 weeks. :)

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Simon December 14, 2009 at 4:16 PM

We went travelling for a year and it was the single greatest experience either of us had ever had. We had more new experiences and met more new and interesting people in that one year than we had in the previous ten. It was so liberating, in fact, that we’re selling all our stuff, renting out our house and going away again – this time indefinitely.

So many travellers are concerned with the ‘right’ way of travelling – doing this or seeing that or going there – that it’s easy to forget that there are no rules. If you’re happy doing what you’re doing, it’s right. And the fact is, you’re travelling with a baby! So many people we have come across use having a young child as an excuse not to go – I just send them here.

I have absolutely nothing but admiration for what you’ve attempted, Baker. I was a lot like you – imagining all of these romantic experiences that never quite materialised – but, like some smart dude (or dudette) said, we aimed for the moon, totally missed it but ended up hitting some damn fine stars instead.

Mind-blowing, life altering stars that ended up being a whole bunch better than some boring ol’ moon anyhow.

Good luck to you!

Si

P.S. We really loved the South Island when we were there. Some amazing drives through some amazing mountain scenery and the glacier hikes were amazing!

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April December 14, 2009 at 4:17 PM

Your travels are an inspiration. I always hear “travel now, because one you have kids…” and I *hate* hearing that. People take their own limitations and impose them on my hypothetical, future family, so I love to read your blog and see someone who is making it work and doesn’t need a trust fund to do it.

Debt and finances are important, but at the end of your life, I know you’ll never regret travel. I went to Europe on a credit card, and while it wasn’t a smart financial decision, I’d be lying if I said I regretted it. In fact, it’s what inspired me to get my shit together and quit wasting my money on stuff so that I could afford to travel more.

PS. My friend is just coming back from a month in Thailand, where she trained in Thai boxing. She LOVED it. I’m jealous and can’t wait to hear about your adventures!!

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Kevin M December 14, 2009 at 4:20 PM

Wow, who knew I would ask such probing questions? :)

I really do appreciate your candor in the answers you provided above, although I bet any long-time reader who read the original post I commented on could guess things didn’t happen the way you hoped. But who cares?! Par of the fun in life is when things hit a snag and you have to get creative! I think a huge problem with our society right now is the lack of being challenged or even challenging yourself. Clearly you and Courtney don’t have that issue.

While I’m somewhat envious of what your family has done, I do think the concept of “lifestyle design” is a bit romanticized these days. I’m glad you talked about the bad with the good, unlike a lot of other “lifestyle designers/gurus” seem to do.

I have to take issue with Lisis comment above that the only way to experience adventure is to travel and live outside of suburbia away from “home”. It’s that kind of dismissive comment that turns me off.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 10:37 PM

Kevin, yeah thanks for asking it! :-)

And you are right, in general ‘life design’ is romanticized all the freakin’ time. The genuine folks are showing both sides and making sure that people know it’s a ton of hard work and stress. :-)

I don’t consider myself ‘one of the genuine’ crowd as far as a guru is concerned, but we do make our honest attempt to share both sides. The truth is, readers like and appreciate that even more. At least, that’s the experience for me.

Plus it’s just easier, when you’re not fake. I don’t have to try to be somebody I’m not. :-)

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Christi December 14, 2009 at 4:33 PM

I know that most of my regrets in life are missed opportunities, not mistakes. Always go for it!

My husband, three children and I lived in europe for three years. It was stressful, expensive and awesome and life changing. We would take any opportunity to live abroad again- even with our now 5 children.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 10:39 PM

Woah… woah… woah…

Calm down. Traveling with 5 children? Let’s keep this conversation civil. ;-)

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Norcross December 14, 2009 at 4:38 PM

This is, by far, one of the best things I’ve read in a while. So many folks talk about how great travel is, but rarely do they have a family or relationship to deal with. Since I have both, it’s been interesting (to say the least) to watch how you’ve done it. I can honestly say that I wouldn’t do the same things that you’ve done, but all the more reason to keep it up.

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Kate December 14, 2009 at 4:39 PM

I think it is great what you are doing. Making the choice to do something completely unexpected – that you never dreamed you would do, is courageous. While you might not be paying off your debt, are you taking on a ton more?

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 10:41 PM

Kate, not taking on additional debt is one of the fundamentals we agreed to for the trip. It’s also one of the reasons we’ve had to work while abroad for parts of the time, etc…

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Jessi December 14, 2009 at 4:46 PM

Hey Baker!

I’m not entirely sure I have posted a comment before, but I highly look forward to my Google Reader updates from you :)

Either way, I wanted to mention that when I read this post, it struck a major chord in me because I have been getting asked much the same questions as you lately. Long story short is that 3 years ago, I left a promising career in firefighting/EMS to move to Israel after having visited a few times, made some connections and thought I could combine the two quite easily.

What I didn’t expect was the lack of jobs (even with the connections I fought HARD for), the language barrier (5 months in a language class and still I can barely speak and have confidence in what I know), and having to settle and take jobs that I pretty much hate (even though they are freelance and allow me to work from home and have lots of spare time). My bank account dwindled…you know the drill. Like you said – it wasn’t what I had ideally pictured.

HOWEVER – The people that I have met, the experiences I have gained, the amount of personal development I have achieved and surprise! how I learned to save and budget like I never had before (I only started reading PF blogs like yours and GRS/Simple Dollar while in Israel!), has been way worth the downsides.

So I’m on my way back to the States in May and will never look back on this time as a bad or let down chapter of my life – it was worth it, even with the constant struggles.

So I applaud you and wish you the best and safest of travels with Courtney and Milligan. Keep doing what your heart desires (and wallet allows) and keep us posted!

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 10:43 PM

Thanks for the passionate comment, Jessi.

I’m going to shoot you an e-mail response soon. :-)

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Bugsy December 14, 2009 at 4:48 PM

If by traveling you mean going on a cruise or going from hotel to hotel while stopping at tourist shops, theme parks, and giving into every little touristy gimmick, then it is absolutely not worth it.

But if by traveling you are meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, sharing valuable experiences that are new and rewarding with family, friends, and new people you meet, than absolutely, it’s worth every dime you spend.

If you’re idea of travel is going to the same spot in the Caribbeans each year where you sip on fancy drinks, don’t meet a new soul and experience nothing new, no thanks, don’t sign me up for that.

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Four Pillars December 14, 2009 at 4:48 PM

It’s interesting that being away from friends and family has been one of the larger drawbacks of the trip.

It’s hard to see how the trip “wasn’t worth it” since “it” isn’t really anything – nothing bad has happened to you, your debt hasn’t increased. In other words there doesn’t seem to be any major cost to the trip other than delaying “normal life” a bit.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 10:44 PM

Yeah, just theoretical losses. Loss of income, career opportunity, and the other ‘normal life’ stuff you point to. :-)

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Wojciech Kulicki December 14, 2009 at 4:59 PM

I think what struck me the most about this post was one of the first things you said: “I think I’ve grown more as a person and we’ve grown more as a couple/family than I could have ever imagined.”

It’s the experiences that test us which bring us so much closer together. Much luck to you on your upcoming travels, and we’ll see you on the Flip side (no pun intended).

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Early Retirement Extreme December 14, 2009 at 5:06 PM

If you want to do this for a living, going to “PhD school” in a sciency field is a good way to go about it (and get paid an average wage for it). You will practically be forced to live in other countries (I’m on my third country) and you will have to go on conferences to many more (I’m counting 14). It is a slightly more remunerative way of going about it than volunteering (where you typically get room and board + a very small stipend and sometimes the plane ticket). In retrospect, has this kind of travel been worth it. I would have to say no. What I have learned is that the cultural differences between countries are smaller than the socioeconomic differences within a country. If you want to grow personally, try to live as a daylaborer for a year, work in a soup kitchen, live in a van, or do whatever is a few sigma beyond your normal range. That’s my 2c.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 10:45 PM

All great ideas and things for us to consider once we arrive back home. I like the concept of taking on a project like some of what you’ve mentioned as sort of a ‘culture’ experience.

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Dean December 14, 2009 at 5:11 PM

Hey Baker, great post as always. I have been following your adventures in New Zealand for a while now and have loved your open and honest thoughts as you have done and experienced things first hand.

The key really is to appreciate each day and live in the now. I’ve been travelling the last 7 months or so as well and have been guilty of focusing on the negative unimportant things rather than loving the fact that I am where I am in the world experiencing new things.

I’m actually from Christchurch, New Zealand and it is funny to hear about your planned 2 week trip around the South Island. My job before I left in May this year was as South Island territory manager. I spent my days driving between the spectacular scenery of Dunedin, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Lake Tekapo, Christchurch and Nelson. To some that would sound like the best job in the world (and in hindsight it was pretty good) but at the time I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I always had the idea that I would be better off (and happier) travelling the world.

Funny thing is, now that I am travelling, it makes me think about how great it is in New Zealand.

Things don’t usually turn out exactly as you expect but if you are open minded enough to go with the flow and accept whatever comes your way then what ever you are doing will be worth it.

It would have been great to catch up with you over a coffee in Christchurch but I don’t arrive back until the 20th January. If you do come back to NZ drop me a line.

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Nancy L. December 14, 2009 at 5:19 PM

This post obviously touches upon a sensitive spot for me–coincidentally I just got back yesterday from a ridiculous weekend expedition to almost the other side of the country, and I know that were I to write about it on a PF blog, I’m sure I’d be flame roasted for the “stupidity” of my choices.

First of all, there is NO guarantee that remaining at home would have put you anywhere further along in your goals than you are right now in NZ. You *assume* that you’d be earning more money and paying more debt down. But how are those assumptions any more based in reality than the assumption that you’d be living along a beach and working in a scuba shop on this trip? Even if you HAD a job that you would hold onto by not traveling, there’s no guarantees in this economy that you would have kept it through the year, and if you did lose a job, it’s not like it’s always incredibly easy to go get another one. As for disappointments and unrealistic expectations, I’ve heard just as many friends at home saying “This new job is going to be much better than my last one!” only to realize a few months later that they are miserable beyond belief in the new position. It’s just natural optimism to look towards the best in a new situation–there’s no magical property of travel that makes you more susceptible towards expecting too much.

It sounds to me like your trip has been perfect so far. You’ve had some great experiences, you’ve had a few disappointments, and you’ve faced a lot of challenges along the way. You’ve also gotten beyond your comfort zone and pushed yourself in new and different directions. If someone did all that while staying at home, I think we’d all agree that the year was well spent, so why does it suddenly seem irresponsible when you say that you did it in New Zealand rather than Indiana?

The friends I traveled with this weekend come from all over the country. We live all over the country (a few internationally) and we all save our pennies so that we can afford to take these trips and share experiences. I can tell you that if I had to choose my top 10 most meaningful moments of my life so far, at least 3-4 of them would center around these trips. I can’t imagine EVER trading any one of those experiences just so that I could have a few thousand more in the bank when I get to a certain age. To me, THAT is what wouldn’t be worth it.

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Anastasia December 14, 2009 at 5:23 PM

“I yearn to be homesick,” a friend once told me. He wanted a fuller experience of the world — and his world, in particular. He wanted to see it from a new angle, and to miss it and know that it was something he chose. Being homesick — and missing those football games and seeing your toddler relatives take their first steps — is a bittersweet price of going out into the world. As a longtime expat, I know it well. I just posted about this nostalgic baggage today (http://tr.im/HAXg ). For some reason (holidays coming, end of the year) it feels like old-home week all over the Internet….

Good luck with your next set of adventures. You’re right, they stretch you and show you not only new dimensions of yourself and your family, but also new depths which will come in handy some day soon.

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Casey December 14, 2009 at 5:29 PM

I think the NZ trip will prove to be an extremely valuable experience. Aside from living in the north island and soon traveling in the south, you got to get some travel skills under you, grow MvD, and meet some fellow travelers throughout the world. Those travel & patience skills will prove immensely valuable in SE Asia, which should blow your mind. The people, sounds, smells, food…it will be amazing. I look forward to seeing how that unfolds and seeing everything grow. You think you have stuff to write about and video record now…JUST WAIT!

Good luck & enjoy!

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Cynthia Daly December 14, 2009 at 5:39 PM

I read your blog and it seems as if you took offense to a reader asking thought provoking questions. I believe we all are just enjoying this experience with you and your family. I do not think that the reader was trying to judge you. I usually enjoy reading your blog but I was a bit disappointed in your response in this one especially with the profanity. I would hope we as readers can make comments without you lashing out at us. Some of us do not mind the cold weather.

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Baker December 14, 2009 at 10:49 PM

Sorry for giving that vibe, Cynthia. It’s not at all what the truth is.

Both Kevin and Tyler are among two of the most regular commenters on the site. I’ve had several discussion with both of them through the months. I appreciate other people chiming in (especially if they do so constructively) and almost always respond in the comments.

Today, I just decide to incorporate a couple into a blog post I already had planned. I think they both bring up solid issues and I wanted to give my gut response to both.

I realize towards the end it got a little ranty, but that’s usually just my style. After 1500 words I go into impulsive mode and what you see is what you get. :-)

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Kevin M December 14, 2009 at 11:16 PM

Hi Cynthia – I’m the one who originally asked the hard questions. I hesitated at first to even ask, since it is a hard thing to talk about, but decided to go ahead with it since he is so open with most if not all of his life. I don’t see anywhere in the response that Baker has taken offense to what I asked. Actually, I would have probably understood if he did. Don’t mistake his edgy writing style and use of four-letter words as lashing out…it’s all in good fun.

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Suzanne December 14, 2009 at 5:49 PM

I think that travel is an important rite of passage. I spent a year in France in my early 20′s – it helps you broaden your horizons, understand the world around you, see life from another perspective, and create memories that last a lifetime. I’m betting that your trip to Thailand will be even more valuable.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and one becomes infinitely harder once you’re a couple with careers mid-way up the ladder that require your consistent time.

I don’t think you’ll necessarily realize all of the value you will have gained until later in life, but I think it’s great that you took the opportunity. You’ll be home soon enough, putting debt-reduction, careers and family back in priority.

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Gordie December 14, 2009 at 7:33 PM

In regard to missing on time spent with family.

You three have made your core family unit more tight as you’ve toughed through long-term travel. Also, being away for a year or more is not that long and will help you appreciate your friends and relatives all more when you get back.

Enjoy the South Island my friend!

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Steph H. December 14, 2009 at 11:02 PM

Having just come back to the US after several years traveling/living in South America, my husband and I are so very familiar with what you are thinking/processing right now. You know what? You don’t regret your decision now and you most likely won’t when the travel/living abroad someday ends! Travel is almost always worth it, even when travel sucks. Even then, it’s almost always better than the status quo here. Travel is one thing no one can ever take away from you, and it is one of the best gifts we can give our children. You guys rock on!

Enjoy NZ, one of the most beautiful places we have been.
Safe travels,
Steph

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Fabian December 14, 2009 at 11:21 PM

Heh! It’s summer here, too, and hell, I really LOVE this pipe! A great post… I totally agree on the “don’t pay rent in Indiana if you can see the world” approach!

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NomadicNeil December 15, 2009 at 2:27 AM

Hey,

I enjoyed reading this. It fits really well with my experience of travel and moving around. I only make a rough outline of a plan these days because things always change once you are actually out there.

Also I don’t think many people realise that it’s almost impossible to actually do work when you are travelling around. You really need to settle down somewhere in order to get stuff done.

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charddavi December 15, 2009 at 7:33 AM

I always said the reason I travel is to have something to talk about when I’m in the retirement home (Death Camp)

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Jonny | thelifething.com December 15, 2009 at 7:59 AM

Hi mate,

I have recently returned from three months in Thailand and I can definitely say it was worth it. Most amazing time of my life.

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Financial Samurai December 15, 2009 at 9:00 AM

There’s some study that says that only 60% of Americans have traveled abroad, and only 20% of Americans speak another language well.

20%? Seems shamefully low, and a reason why many think Americans are so self centered. I’m glad you are traveling and experiencing the world. It’ll make you a more understanding person when you come home.

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L December 15, 2009 at 10:28 AM

Perfect!!! Travel is what you make of it! Most important is to enjoy the process. And like you said you could have paid rent in the US, but you chose not to!

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Eric December 15, 2009 at 10:35 AM

Man – we did the exact same thing you guys have done (sans child), and having been back in the US for about 2 years, I wouldn’t have traded anything for that experience. We lived in Brisbane for about 5 months, but spent time in NZ, Thailand, and Fiji making our total trip time about 9 – 10 months. Sure, I gave up some income, sure I’m about a year behind my age group in my “career”, but I’m telling you, the experiences we have and the places we’ve been, beats anything I’ve accomplished in my career.

This article seems like it’s something straight out of my travel journal, but its reassuring to me that you, and likely other people, go through the same trials and tribulations. We’re expecting our first child, and fully intend on moving to Thailand within the first 2 years of having a baby.

Thanks for the article Baker – and enjoy Thailand. Go up to Chiang Mai, it’s unreal.

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Valentina December 15, 2009 at 12:57 PM

Hi Adam,

Came here via Glen’s Viper Chill …. love your blog. Most recently I have been knoodling about a several month road trip throughout North America. Additional income is where I’ve been stuck as all the current bills will still need to be paid & traveling costs etc. need funding … also have a travel project for the coming year which will only be a month … ok, I’ve got travel on my mind :-)

best…………..valentina

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Living with Balls December 15, 2009 at 1:39 PM

Sounds pretty exciting. I’m sure you’ll bring back memories that will last forever. If you can make it work financially go for it.

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Roger December 15, 2009 at 4:25 PM

Fantastic article, and wonderfully encouraging. Although I’ve been outside the country a few times in my life (and never with a significant other or child in tow), I will say emphatically that travel is worthwhile. The experiences you have will last the rest of your life, and while the economic impact can be large, even larger is just how deeply it can affect you. Good on you for traveling, and keep up the excellent blogging.

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brian | No Debt World Travel December 15, 2009 at 5:04 PM

There will never be a perfect time. There will never be a perfect time. There will never be a perfect time…

That is why I took off after losing my job. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I may have never gotten a better chance to do this. I’ve come back with my mind expanded by all I have seen and done and the feeling that ANYTHING is possible.

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Sherry Ott December 15, 2009 at 5:27 PM

You are heros…living abroad – going where you know no-one is hard, very hard – and you have all of my respect. Thanks for this very honest look at taking a big leap and being adventurous. I just spent the last year living in Vietnam by myself and it was one of the most challenging years in my 39 years – as well as one of the loneliest. Yet I wouldn’t change a thing – I know that I can do it now. I learned a ton about myself and my relationships. Plus – I was able to experience different cultures – regardless of traveling thru them. I personally think living somewhere is better than traveling – you get to see the REAL culture…the day to day stuff.

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Lindy Mint December 15, 2009 at 6:33 PM

Kudos to you for jumping in head first.

It is not exactly Auckland, but when my husband and I were newlyweds we moved from Phoenix to live in Boston (where we knew not a soul) so my husband could attend his dream school. We had little time to plan ahead and save money, so we just did it. We racked up tons of debt and a lot of hard knocks, but it was one of the most enriching experiences of our lives. Had we waited, it may not have ever happened because shortly after we moved, we found out we were pregnant. And neither one of us would choose to do it any differently if we could do it again. Sometimes you just have to DO it, to get it done, and deal with things later.

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Brandi December 16, 2009 at 12:19 PM

You followed a dream, and I think that’s always worth it. I mean, what an amazing experience. Sure, it never turns out exactly like you think it will. I moved with my boyfriend last year to Vancouver BC ( a long-held dream for both of us) so he could attend art school. Due to some underpreparation and some bad luck that we couldn’t anticipate, the experience turned out to be extremely stressful and sent me into a depressive episode. We ended up living in a furnished, 440 square foot apt in a noisy downtown area. Our stuff went into storage. He had no time due to school (which he ended up not liking). I was supporting us (as a nurse, I was able to find work easily, but had to wait two months for the medical exam and work visa to clear, and dealing with government agencies and paying the necessary fees was never pleasant) and constantly worried about our diminishing savings and the problem of paying off US debt on a Canadian salary. Living in Canada was much harder than I thought it would be, and I desperately missed the support we had at home. Gary had no time, and we had no money. As a result, we did very few touristy things and saw less of BC than we did on our previous weeklong trip. After six months, we threw in the towel and moved to Oregon to be near friends. Now I’m back in Iowa City working at my old job and he’s coming back soon as well. Not sure we want to stay here forever, but it’s cool for now.
As grim as this all sounds, I am damn glad we did it. Having the experience of living in Vancouver was amazing, working in a Canadian hospital was amazing, looking at the mountains and the ocean every day was an experience I’ll never forget. It broadened my worldview so much. Even being depressed was worth it because I know better now to how to take care of myself. I deal with stress much better. I know much more now about traveling and moving and living in large cities and managing money. Most importantly, I know what works for me.
Very well said, Baker.

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Peter Juhl December 16, 2009 at 6:08 PM

Hi Baker

You said: My response to everyone is… why not? Why pay rent in Indiana when you could be paying rent in Auckland? Maybe not the rest of your life, but at least for a little while.

I live in the “happiest country in the world” Denmark, but chose to move to California, at least for a while.

As a family, with no savings and no job lined up, hoping for the best we went west. We ended up butchering our retirement savings (we are in our 49′ties) and raking up new debt.

Would we have been without our year in sunny San Diego? No way.

Its the best thing we ever did. Our family unity is out of this world, our horizons are expanded but most important, we had a common dream that we decided to realize, and we did it!

Peter

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Earl December 17, 2009 at 1:16 AM

There is nothing specific that makes travel, travel. Once you put yourself out of your comfort zone and into new surroundings, you are traveling, whether you are constantly on the go or choose to live in one city for several months. And it is also important to consider that many of the benefits of your experience overseas will not even be revealed until you return home or until a later stage of your journey.

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Ryan December 17, 2009 at 7:31 PM

Baker, this post totally hit home for me. I bought a one way ticket to Hawaii from
Wisconsin after planning for a year – with a ton more debt to pay off – and have been having an amazing time. Productivity, fun, and life experiences have all seen a huge increase along with jealousy from friends back home who are sitting in four feet of snow!

I think you guys are making the right choice and will grow a ton because of it. Keep it up.

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jforestphotos December 18, 2009 at 12:23 AM

Fantastic article Baker! My girlfriend is currently pregnant, but I’m hoping to be able to make enough of a living either online, or as a remote systems administrator that we can slowly travel somewhat fulltime. I see nothing wrong with taking a few months in each location. It’s good to have a home base to explore from as well. High speed travel through a bunch of cities and countries doesn’t mean you SAW the country. It means you got a high level tourist eye view of the country. I think living there gives you an even better perspective. So what if it took you 5 months. I think that’s a good use of 5 months!

Enjoy your 2 weeks living it up!

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jinushaun December 22, 2009 at 3:04 AM

To the gentleman, Tyler K, who said “You seem to just be at home, but in a different city,” I say:

While many people travel to escape or experience something new and exotic, there’s one thing that will always remain true: you can’t run away from yourself. Spend enough time somewhere and the shine wears off and it feels like home. You fall into a routine and your true personality comes through. You will run out of exciting new things to do. Even jumping out of a plane or diving with sharks gets old after a while. Sure you can keep moving, but then you’ll be like that druggie who has to keep doing more and more often to maintain the same high. Eventually, it will all crash down on you. Eventually, when you’ve seen and done everything, you will have to learn how to live with yourself. That’s when “real” traveling really happens, IMO.

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Brooke December 28, 2009 at 4:38 AM

Baker:

I just had to chime in. Spouse, kids (9 & 11) and I are engaged in our own world trekking adventure this year, exploring parts of Oceania and homeschooling along the way. We’ve been in Fiji the past four months and are ourselves headed to Thailand in February after a quick pit stop in Melbourne and Tasmania.

Your comments and the exchanges above were most thought provoking. Having just finished our first Christmas away from family, I was right there with you as you described the difficulty of being away from family. Your reasons in favor of the trip rung true as well. I have one more to add in the form of an anecdote.

While chatting over Christmas Eve dinner about the past year and the year that is to come, all of us us realized how far away in time and experiences last Christmas seems to us. What a change from the past fifteen years in suburbia when the refrain was, “Christmas?! Already?!”

It has such been a rich year for us, not only in terms of just getting ready for the trip but learning the million and one things you need to figure out when assimilating into a new culture.

It is funny but we were just as busy as at home with work, school, sports, etc. I guess it is the newness of it all that makes life on the road so much more rewarding. Unlike the past handful years, the four of us — whether together or apart — will always remember 2009-2010 and the adventures we’ve had. This trip has changed us forever. And THAT, to me at least, is worth the extra years that my husband and I may have to work before retirement.

Another well-traveled friend labeled it another way — “Memory Insurance.”

Good luck in your travels! Keep up the adventure!

Brooke

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Jon January 8, 2010 at 6:43 PM

Ofcourse traveling is worth it. You see, experience, learn…..you live

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Kristin January 13, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Those first years of a child’s life are such a precious time of bonding, as well as phenomenol growth and change. And it doesn’t stop! I know it’s hard to not have family around to share it with. But putting her in daycare I think would have been a bigger loss.

We live more than 2000 miles away from our families. We only get to see them every one or two years, only for a short time, and at considerable expense. But it has meant my husband having a good job that has (so far) allowed me to stay at home with our children. Sure, there are sacrifices. But it is worth it.

It has meant learning to make new friends, adapting to new places (and cultures!), a broadened horizon, and view of the world.

Very Best wishes on your journey.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and…
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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Alyssa Domanski January 8, 2011 at 4:46 PM

This is a quite interesting post, I came across it browsing through Google. I think majority of people will agree with your point. At last – someone with common sense!
PS I really like the template you are using – where did you find it?

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Dianne Keegan February 3, 2011 at 3:45 PM

Travelling will give you and your family some amazing experiences – make sure you photograph as much as you can. We travelled extensively in the early1990′s and wished we’d taken (and not lost!) more photo’s of our travels. Seems so long ago now )o:

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