The Big Trek: We Sold Everything to Travel the World

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Soon to be trekking full time!

Big news: we’re going to be full time nomads! After months of preparation, we’re nearly ready to depart on an open-ended travel adventure to the other side of the world. Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand – we’re looking at you.

Since early this year we’ve been hard at work selling nearly everything we owned, including our house, furniture, clothes, electronics, tools, and most other material possessions that we’ve collected over the years.

We both recently left our jobs.

We’re ready to embrace the simplicity and freedom of the travel lifestyle.

Ok, so this is actually kind of a big deal.

We’re checking out of the 9-to-5 (or more realistically 7-to-7) corporate jobs and American Dream life that we’ve both worked basically our whole lives to achieve.

Why are we doing this?

We worked hard, got good grades, and went to good colleges. We got degrees in science and engineering. Then for good measure we got more degrees.

the-big-trek-beach-walk

It certainly wasn’t all bad – we tried to jam in some great experiences on weekends – like beach walks with kite surfers in the background – but this was the exception rather than the rule.

We worked for big companies internationally known for excellence in their respective fields.

We bought and renovated a lovely home on a spectacular piece of land in a desirable suburb with highly rated schools.

We had twins… the most perfect, charming, wonderful twins the world has ever known.

We bought a minivan.

But still something wasn’t quite right. Somewhere along the way we started living every day in the future. Always figuring out the next step. Making plans. The passion for life in the moment was too often missing.

We didn’t send much time in our lovely home. We worked all week and jammed life into the weekends. But after errands, housekeeping, and bill paying there wasn’t much time left for friends, family, hobbies, exercise, or even just reading a book.

On top of all that we were both working all the time to earn enough money to pay someone else to watch our kids just 3 days a week. The other two days? Yup, Kat pulled out her Hermione time warp watch and did both simultaneously.

We were stretched thin and feeling the strain. It occurred to us that travel might be the cure.

Why Travel?

We’ve always loved to travel. We’ve made travel a priority for as long as we’ve known each other and now we love to bring the kids along for the ride too.

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Kat and the twins at Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

We felt like we were bucking societal norms by taking “long” vacations (by American standards).

We traveled as a family to Ireland with the kids in 2012 for 3 weeks, and New Zealand and Rarotonga for a month in 2013. Kat and I went on several trips of two weeks to a month in duration before the kids too.

When we were in New Zealand we met several travelers who were on the road for a year or even longer. Suddenly our month-long trip seemed rushed.

One English gentleman we met had recently spent several months driving a campervan around the US and was in the middle of doing the same in New Zealand. He intended to be away from England for over a year.

We envied these long term travelers but without questioning we initially assumed such an adventure was something “other people” could do, but not us.

If only we were so lucky to be able to do that.

New Zealand Waterfall

Loving life in New Zealand. If only we could live like this all the time…

Realizing that assumption – that only other people could travel long term – was wrong was a huge step, and it took some effort.

Over the winter between 2013 and 2014 Kat and I alternately raised and dismissed the idea of quitting our jobs, selling everything, and traveling.

We noticed during this time of debate that nearly all of the photos in our annual Christmas letter were from those 3 or 4 weeks each year that we traveled. Most of the rest were from weekend getaways, special events, and family gatherings. Almost none depicted what we did on a daily basis.

Why were we spending 11 months out of 12 not living life as fully as we wished we could?

Travel indefinitely?

Selling our stuff at a tag sale.

One of the many tag sales where we sold and donated our stuff. Yes, most of what you see was ours. Scary.

Early in 2014 we came to the conclusion that if we wanted to do it, we could do it. It was our life and the choice was in our hands.

Of course would have to sell or rent the house…

…and quit our jobs…

…and sell most of our stuff…

…and we would need to save like crazy…

…but we could do it.

We started moving in the direction of long term travel by selling and donating the things we obviously didn’t need. Old clothes and items we never wore. Baby stuff we weren’t using anymore.

We sold at tag sales, listed items on Craigslist, and hosted our own yard sale.

It took several months before we totally committed and listed the house for sale. We’ve been picking up steam since then. The house sold quickly and moving out gave us even more incentive to simplify.

So what’s the plan?

Now we’re in the final countdown.

To be completely honest we still don’t know for sure where our first stop will be. We will book flights in the next several days and we’ll certainly post an update when we do.

We’re currently considering the Philippines, Bali, Thailand, and Vietnam as first destinations. In any case we plan to make a stop on the west coast of the US first to visit friends on our way to Asia.

Our rough plan is to travel slowly through Southeast Asia, followed by some time in the South Pacific (Fiji? Vanuatu?), Australia, and New Zealand.

We have no time line or itinerary. We have no reservations.

We’ll buy one-way tickets and move from one place to the next when we feel like it. We’ll come home when we are tired of traveling or when we run out of money.

Or maybe we’ll buy a beach house in Thailand.

How do you prepare for indefinite travel?

Start to finish it’s looking like about a 9-10 month process from when we first seriously considered the idea to getting on a plane.

Given the years that went into building the life that we have almost completely dismantled, that actually feels alarmingly short.

We’ll be writing more about what’s gone into the preparations over the next several weeks. We’ll get into budgeting and funding for long term travel, selling your stuff and simplifying your life, and lots of travel planning logistics.

How can you afford it?

Right now, we’re pretty good savers. We’ve been thrifty and made travel a priority for years. We’ll write a lot more about this strategy.

It’s also a lot cheaper to travel in most parts of the world than to live where we lived in the US. We will leverage this fact to stretch our savings.

Going forward, we’re hoping to make some income as we travel. We have lots of ideas of how we might make that happen so we’ll see how it goes and share our successes and stumbles. If we can keep money coming in we can travel for longer and just give ourselves more options.

Let the adventure begin!

Fruits of Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Looking forward to more of this!

We’re taking a big leap into the unknown, a leap towards a reinvigorated life. We want to share that with you and hopefully give you the confidence to make your own leap.

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Author: Matt

Husband to the lovely and talented Kat. Father to Aurora, Jasper, and Piper – the smartest, cutest, funniest, and most adorable minis on the planet. Traveling the world with all four. Overall a pretty lucky guy.

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Matt, I’m a friend of Nancy and Don Copeland. Nancy shared with me your website about your upcoming adventures. I would love to follow you around the world if you don’t mind, places I’ll probably never get too :))).

    Looking forward to following your travels

    Thanks, Nancy Crocker

    Post a Reply
    • Nancy, thanks so much for reading and taking time to comment!! We’d love to have you on board – keep in touch! The world is getting smaller every day though, so never say never 🙂

      Post a Reply
  2. Saw this on Facebook courtesy of Bruce Woodin. So excited for you all, and eager to learn how you’ve made your dream a reality.

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks for stopping by the site Eli! The biggest step was deciding we were going to make it happen. We’ll write all about the logistics too (because it did involve a whole lot of that!), but the key was realizing it was actually possible if we made the commitment.

      Post a Reply
  3. Hi Matt & Kat, what exciting times!
    We did the same thing, setting off just under 6 months ago (minus the twins!) and can’t recommend it highly enough! It sounds like you’re at the brilliant stage of having made all the scary decisions and putting in all the hard work to save and clear out for going – now comes the fun bit of getting out there and enjoying it!! Really looking forward to following your journey, happy travels!
    Claire

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Claire, thanks for writing! I clearly remember stumbling on your site right around the time you guys announced your plans… and looking forward to the day I could do the same! I’ve enjoyed keeping up with your travels so far and sounds like you’re having a terrific time. Maybe we’ll see you on the road!

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  4. Amazing! This is absolutely the best thing to do! Your kids are extremely lucky to spend so much time with their parents and experiencing all this! We are looking forward to following your adventures! It was great meeting you yesterday, Stefanie & Christoph

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Stefanie and Christoph! We had a blast diving with you guys at Balicasag and hope we cross paths again someday. Thanks for all the support. It’s so much fun to meet other travelers on the road! Best of luck with your journey as well, and keep in touch!

      Post a Reply
  5. amazing story, same happening with everyone, some prepare themselves to live with it and some dare to challenge it and also change it.

    lots of wishes 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Thank you Amit! Cheers!

      Post a Reply
  6. I’m here in Penang and found your blog very helpful in finding places to visit for my kids.
    Thanks and hope you are having great fun with your family 🙂

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks!! We loved Penang, and we’re so glad you found the tips useful. I’m dreaming of those food markets now!

      Post a Reply
        • You’re very welcome! We’re really looking forward to getting back into writing some more, so hopefully there will be more tips and fun stories soon! 🙂

          Post a Reply

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