Saturday, March 22, 2008

Picture perfect

It's the long weekend so I've been using the time to scan old pictures from the prehistoric days of film cameras and upload them to our flickr page. Feel free to have a poke around there

Thankfully (or not) there aren't as many photos from these earlier trips. I used to take photos as punctuation now I use them like narrative. Don't know if this new way is better. 

Just this week, I was having a conversation with a co-worker about people's facebook photos. Craig hates vacation photos. He says he prefers memories to pictures. I totally agree, especially when travelling. It's important to put the camera down and pick the brain up and remember to experience not just document. 

Unfortunately, I take pictures because I like taking pictures. A lot. So I'm constantly trying to keep the snap happy part of my brain contented while remembering to experience stuff. It's probably why I'm so torn about what camera to bring with me. I have a 4 year old point and shoot digital that has done me very well. It's been to Moscow, India, South East Asia, the UK, France, the US and Canada. However I know it's getting old. So before we go I will probably want to get a new one. So I get a fancy schmancy DSLR and try to take much better photos (snap happy says yes)? Or do I get a new and improved point and shoot digital? (traveller says please)?

When we get closer to leaving, I'm sure how much stuff we have will help make the decision. Adrian already wants to take his PSP. I just got a new 160GB iPod (free using my airmiles). And I'm also contemplating buying a laptop. So more gear seems kinda dumb at this point. 

Plus there's the money issue. All this stuff costs money and will we have it? 

So where are we now?

location: Toronto
savings: $12,200
ETD: November 15, 2008

Getting into the 5 figures feels good - we're officially more than 20% there. 

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Money makes the world go round (or us go round the world)

Money. If you're going to travel around the world you need it. And at the moment it's our biggest obstacle. Unlike other trips which we charged and then paid off on our return, the Big Trip requires cash in the bank before we go. 

In June of 2007, we had planned to leave in January but some quick calculations revealed we had a huge deficit. Too much of our savings would be needed to pay our student loans. So we refocused our money on paying them off. We did and I can't tell you how awesome it felt to be free of them. I think I was literally skipping and jumping around the day I saw a big juicy zero on the student loan website. Then in January we started saving to get the hell out of Dodge. 

How are we saving? Very simply we have a budget. Budget. Budget. Budget. I can't stress how important this is. Budget. Budget. Budget. And I can't repeat it enough. We wrote down what we needed to pay our bills, feed ourselves and have a bit of fun. Everything beyond that goes into a high interest savings account with President's Choice Financial that we can't touch. Almost daily I'm at the spreadsheet tracking our expenses - not because I need to but because it helps me stay motivated. I may post a simplified one here later so you can check follow along.

We also re-evaluated our day-to-day expenses to see where we could trim them and we stuck to them. We shop at No Frills not Loblaws (savings of $100/month). Rather than do take out we've learned how to make our favourite Thai, Mexican and Indian foods as well as homemade pizza (this costs less than $10 to make as opposed to $30 take out). I take a lunch to work - everyday (savings of $160/ month). No more cabs ($20/month).  We keep a minimum balance in our chequing account so we don't have to pay bank service fees and we only use our own bank's ATM machines ($40/month). These small changes add up to at least $350 a month or $4200 a year. Not bad for doing nothing

We also gave ourselves an allowance. $100 each every week. That's fun money for whatever we choose to spend it on. On paper that sounds generous and that was deliberate. We didn't want to be miserable; if we started hating saving then there's a possibility we'll loose sight of our ultimate goal. However, $100 doesn't go all that far - one night out with friends can easily eat up more than that. But recently, I've actually been underspending my allowance and socking the money away to take with me to the UK and Amsterdam later this month. 

Of course it helps that Adrian and I don't have kids. And that we're at a point in our career where we actually make money when we go to work. But I've met lots of 20-somethings travelling around the world and they find the money. I think it really adds up to if you want you'll find a way to make it happen. 

We've also started gathering up belongings to sell. Adrian got rid of 30 playstation games. And I've got 200 books to get rid of. The money is incremental but every little bit helps. Plus, selling things now is helping us get ready for the great purge before we go. 

I've also looked at other ways to bring in some money. You'll notice the google ads on the right hand side. Clicking on them ads pennies to our savings so feel free to click to help us out. We'd really appreciate it and we'll click yours. Currently we've made exactly  -42¢ and, yes, that is a negative sign. 

So where are we now?

location: Toronto
savings: $11,200
ETD: November 15, 2008

We've determined that $50,000 is what we'll need to get away so we still have a way to go. Since Adrian is still looking for a job, the savings have slowed down. The good thing is that they haven't stopped. I'm confident he'll find something soon and we'll be back on track.

Oh and here are some great resources on saving and budgeting:

This is just a quick list. There are also countless other travellers out there who have offered invaluable advice to us via the Lonely Planet Thorntree and their blogs. I just wanted to thank all of them. You guys rock.