Sunday, July 31, 2011

FAQs 1 and 2

1.  How can you afford to do this?

Well my first answer to this is that we plan for our 9 months of travel to cost less than it does for us to live in Los Angeles for that same time period.  We have rented out our house and guest house which (mostly) covers the mortgage and related expenses.  We are saving all the money we normally spend on private school, sports, lessons and the LA lifestyle (eating out, trips to Costco etc).  We even got rid of expenses like car insurance and registration.  As for income, we are blessed to have some that comes in even if we are gone - Mark from past real estate deals and myself from a family business.  Also our prospects for making anything additional should we stay home are not great.  The real estate market is dead and the prospects for the coming year are not improved.  We also borrowed from our 401ks.

As to expenses, our main flights cost just over $6000 per person.  There were other up front expenses like insurance, gear and shots.  Our daily budget is $250 per day, which must include lodging, food, entertainment and travel within major destinations (bus, trains etc).  This is of course making me exceedingly nervous.  It will certainly be a new experience for us to keep track of every penny.  There are plenty of other families out there however currently doing it and getting by on less.   I will have to get back to you about how it works out for us.

2.  What are you taking with you?

Well that would be "not enough" according to Mark, and "way too much" according to me.  We will each take a back pack that we can in theory carry.  My pack and Peyton's weigh in at about 15 pounds loaded and will hopefully meet carry on requirements.  Mark's and Wilder's are larger with wheels and will have to be checked.  The guys also have detachable day packs which will serve as their carry-ons and carry all of our electronics.  Each of us has 4 pairs of underwear and socks (yes Ted - JUST 4 PAIRS!).  They are however fancy expensive "travel" underwear which are guaranteed to be easy dry and low stink :)  We have 3 outfits each for hot weather and 2 for cold plus a bathing suit, a fleece and a rain coat.  Peyton and I each have 1 casual black dress and a scarf/wrap.  We also each will take a pair of hiking shoes and the requisite ugly pair of travel sandals.

As mentioned previously we have a ridiculous amount of prescription and OTC drugs - really this seems to me the biggest difference up front from traveling in my youth.  We are prepared for headaches, diarrhea, sea sickness, problems sleeping and allergy and asthma attacks.  This is in addition to the regular meds that are supposed to keep Mark and I from having a heart attack or stroke.  Still on top of that is the large amount of doxycycline we must take to keep us from catching malaria.  Everything is supposed to be in its original packaging which is terribly bulky.

But what takes up the vast majority of allotted space is actually technology and the cords and chargers that support it.  We are addicted, well Mark and Wilder are anyway.  Mostly I chalk this situation up to putting Mark, the techno junky, in charge of technology and security.  One especially extraneous gadget is designed to chart our whereabouts via GPS every 10 minutes and email it to our parents.  Mark wanted to "chip" the kids like they do pets, but apparently GPS isn't reliable enough yet to see through skin, so we will have to keep track of the kids the old fashioned way - by not letting them out of our sight.

We have less than 24 hours before we depart and are going to have to make some difficult decisions about what to leave out as everything currently does not fit!

Our next post will be from the road - first stop Ecuador!

Friday, July 15, 2011

2 Weeks

As I write this I'm sitting in the bedroom that Mark grew up in, our temporary home these last couple of weeks prior to our departure.  His parents have been great to take us in.  We are quite the explosion of people and stuff, as we are still carting around everything we need for all of our varied activities this last month.  We've just returned from a wonderful week with our friends in Carlsbad (thank you Watsons!) and a short girl trip to Oxnard.  Wilder is now the proud owner of a spanking new drivers license which, sadly for him, he is unable to use as we won't be obtaining insurance coverage until we return.  The activities still in front of us include: a week long visit to my parents and family in Phoenix, Peyton's 15th birthday party, church camp for the kids and endless last minute details to manage before our trip.

My biggest concern currently is that we have yet to find a tenant for our guest house.  This is income we need to make the house payment, and going without really isn't an option.  Second I'm having difficulty getting our health insurance to cover our medications for the time we will be gone.  Mark and I, being older than your typical world travelers, have medications we need to take daily.  Aetna is not terribly sympathetic to our situation and refuses to cover the 9 months needed up front.  The current plan then is to take the first 3 months with us, have my parents bring us the second 3 months when they join us in Europe in October and probably have the last three months shipped to us somewhere.  It isn't ideal, but it's better than paying out of pocket for all 9 months up front.  We are also still working out final details of access to our funds overseas (Charles Schwab account - no ATM fees ever), what specific technology to take with us (netbook, ipad, unlocked iphone), and how we can best manage our communication both locally as we travel as well as staying in touch with those at home (appointments to skype set up via email and of course facebook and this blog).

Another major concern is school for the kids.  They have been taking American History online this summer, both to meet this requirement as well as to try out the system in preparation for completing courses while we travel.  Wilder has found this style of instruction works really well for him.  He is moving quickly through the curriculum and doing really well in the course - Peyton not so much.  This is especially interesting as it is basically the opposite of how they function in a traditional classroom.

Finally, we are spending these last two weeks saying goodbye.  We said goodbye first to our house and pets, and now we are moving on to our friends and family.  9 months isn't forever, but it sure seems like a long time right now.  Making sure we spend quality time with those we care about is a top priority.  We are each amazed at the outpouring of love from those we share our lives with.  The parties and parting gifts are as heart warming as they are heart wrenching.  Through the process we have come to believe that we will truly be missed!

The sensation we are experiencing at this pre-departure point is akin to sitting in a roller coaster car as it pulls you steadily up the incline just prior to pulling you screaming into the abyss.  You aren't entirely sure you want to be on the ride, but there is no turning back.