The Light at the End of the Tunnel!
Yah, it’s kind of a long road, but it’s doable and it’s worth the trek. The Road to Financial Independence. The Road Less Travelled.
Let’s visit the Millennial Revolutionaries for the last instalment of their story on their journey to early retirement.
Excerpted from Millennial Revolution
HOW WE GOT HERE, EPILOGUE: THE REAL COST OF TRAVELING THE WORLD
It’s been two hours since I resigned, and I’m still shaking.
Part of me is relieved, but part of me is also terrified. And since I never told anyone at work about what I’m actually doing, this matches the reactions I get.
“You’re QUITTING with no job lined up? Are you nuts?”
“Travel the world? How the hell are you going to pay for it?”
“Why would you quit? Don’t you like working here? ” (I couldn’t answer the question. I was too busy rolling on the floor laughing.)
The next two weeks are a blur. Goodbye lunches, concerned friends (mostly asking if I’ve lost my damned mind), and endless knowledge transfer sessions for my replacement fill my days.
And after work, Wanderer and I are busy packing, selling as much stuff as possible, and consolidating the next year of our lives into 2 backpacks. It’s actually surprisingly easy, making me wonder why the hell we EVER needed suitcases just for 2 weeks of vacation.
On my last day, I have a great time shredding anything and everything I can get my hands on. But as I pack all my tchotchkes and hug my friends good-bye, I start to wonder.
What if they’re right? What if this is a mistake?
But then, I flash back to our last meeting with Garth. Together, we had carefully dissected our plan with surgeon-like precision; making sure all our T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. We are engineers, after all.
We go over the following scenarios:
Black Swan Events? We delay our end date to June and set aside 3 years of living expenses in cash.
Inflation? We hold Real Return Bonds and Equities.
Childcare costs? $6000 childcare credit, and NOT keeping up with the Jones’s.
Check, check, and check.
It’s all going to work out. We’re going to be fine.
As Wanderer and I board the plane, and wave goodbye to the city that’s been home for the past decade, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for us. As excited as I am, in the back of my head, fear still churned like big, angry, tornado.
But as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.
OUR WORLD TRIP
15 countries, 42 cities, crossing 3 continents. We travelled across North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, all on our…*raises eyebrows dramatically*…trip around the world!
The last team to arrive…sorry I’ve been watching too much “Amazing Race”.
Anyhoo, I’m not going to bore you with every single place we visited, but I will provide you some of the most memorable, in order of most expensive (blegh) to least expensive (yay!)
You know that scene in “The Sound of Music”, where Julie Andrews is standing on a mountain, twirling and singing “The Hills Are Alive…”?
Well, that’s pretty much what I did the ENTIRE time we were there. And because I have the leakiest brain ever, that was the only line I know from the entire movie. So of course, I spend all my time singing that line, and ONLY that line, at the top of my lungs, over and over.
I CANNOT understate how both exhilarating and annoying this is.
I can’t, but Wanderer can, based on him finally getting fed up and grabbing me by the shoulders saying, “BABE, if you DON’T stop singing that song, I SWEAR TO GOD I’m going to jump off this mountain.”
I’m…not allowed to watch The Sound of Music anymore.
One thing that isn’t beautiful though, is the prices, as Switzerland ends up being the MOST expensive place we visit:
- Accommodations: $87/night (Air BnB)
- Hotels in Zurich start at $300/night, so Air BnB saved our asses.
- Food: $20/day
- Good GOD food is expensive in Switzerland. So we ate at grocery stores and smuggled in pastries from Germany. This works because we only stayed in Switzerland for 3 days, but it’s the most beautiful 3 days of our entire trip. Not the tastiest, but definitely the most beautiful.
- Activities: $75/day
- Since we can’t just parkour our way up a mountain, we had to pay $70CAD to ride the lift, and another $150CAD to get to the Alps by train. Ouch.
- Transportation: $40/day
- Just getting around the city was PAINFULLY expensive.
The city that taught me the true meaning of the lyrics: “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you.”
PROTIP: If you’ve never dabbled with weed before, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, eat an entire space cake by yourself, jump on a ferry, and then attempt to pedal two miles to get home.
Trust me. Just don’t. I’m still not sure how we managed to get home, but by the time we did I thought the squirrels were trying to eat me and Wanderer was declaring, “We’re never going to get back. Hope is lost. All is lost.” Every 5 minutes.
- Accommodations: $80 CAD/night (Air BnB)
- Food: $30 CAD/day
- Amsterdam cuisine very much caters to its audience: Hot, cheap, and tastes AWESOME when you’re stoned out of your mind.
- Activities: $20/day
- You know, in my buttoned-up white-collar cubicle dwelling days, I would have pooh-pooh’ed Trudeau’s campaign promise to legalize weed in Canada. I now stand corrected, good Sir. Weed is AMAZING.
- Transportation: $20
- Our Air BNB host is a bike mechanic, so he lends us bikes for the whole week. We biked everywhere for free.
- The only cost was the $142 flight (for 2) from Copenhagen to Denmark, which average out to be $20/day over 7 days.
We ended up hopping a bunch of islands in Greece, but Santorini is by far our favourite. Hiking up and down white-stoned streets with the Aegean Sea on one side and rolling white clouds on the other, eating a lunch of fresh locally caught fish drizzled in olive oil, and then getting on an ATV and motoring out to a beach of black volcanic sand. This is why our host in Amsterdam kept insisting, “Go to Santorini! Just go!” Right before bellowing “LET’S DO A JOINT!”
- Accommodations: $60/night
- This was a crazy good deal, as we were off-season. This is actually a big discovery of ours. Since everyone else has a similar vacation schedule (Summer when the kids are out of school, or the holidays), whether you’re high-season or low-season can make a huge difference. By travelling when everyone else is at work, your costs drop dramatically.
- Food: $38/day
- We alternated between eating out and cooking every other day. An AirBNB host from Belgium taught us how to make Waterzooi (it’s cheap and delicious, Google it!) and we are milking that shit like you would not believe.
- Activities: $0/day
- In Santorini, nature is the main attraction. And it’s free! Plus I probably lost like 10 pounds from all the hiking.
- Transportation: $5/day
- We rented an ATV for 2 days while we were there to get to some places that were further away.
CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
We almost skipped Thailand because of the Bangkok bombing in August, but we are SO glad we didn’t. Out of all the places we visited, Thailand somehow felt most like home. The food in Thailand is like nowhere else. It completely changes your palate. (I thought Asian food in Toronto was good, but now I can’t even look at it) And it’s cheap. For a measly $3, you can have a full meal—main, dessert, and a smoothie. What can you get for $3 in North America? Half a coffee from Starbucks? Blegh.
And Chiang Mai in particular had all the modern comforts of home. Fast Internet. Good cell coverage. Even those douchey Work-Sharing places with those beanbag chairs were all over the place.
That’s why there are so many entrepreneurs and digital nomads there. I couldn’t even get a haircut without being thrown two job offers.
No matter where we are in the world, we’ll always consider Thailand our second home.
- Accommodations: $19 CAD/night
- We stayed at a brand new condo in the middle of the city, with a pool, gym, and sauna! All for $575 a month! What can THAT get you in Toronto?
- Food: $20/day
- Strangely, eating out at the hawker stalls and local restaurants is cheaper than cooking. I don’t think we cooked at all our entire time there.
- Activities: $10/day
- The Thais love their elephants, and aren’t afraid of showing you.
- Countless Buddhist temples in the city, all of which are free.
- Also, Thai massages. My GOD, there were so many massages. And the cost of one of them was actually less than just the tip we gave to a masseuse back home.
- Transportation: $5/day
- You haven’t truly lived until you’ve driven through someone’s front yard in a tuk-tuk whose driver insists “This a short-cut!”
And to all those wondering how we managed to fly to these exotic locales without breaking the bank, I have three words: Frequent Flyer Miles. Actually, four words: Frequent Flyer Miles & Ryanair.
So, how much did it all cost?
Are you ready for this?
Just $40,000 for the TWO of us for the WHOLE year.
That’s $55 per day per person .
Yup, you read that right. The ENTIRE trip costs less than what we spent in Toronto every year from 2006-2011 (before The Plan turned me into a Budget Nazi)
Turns out traveling isn’t really expensive at all. It was only expensive when we were working because we had to package everything into a hectic 2-week vacation package. And when you’re not limited to weekends, fighting for flights and trains with the rest of the corporate drones, the cost plummets. Heck, we even got a bus ticket from Amsterdam to Brussels for $4 each. I’m pretty sure they LOST money just driving us there!
Meanwhile, what happened with our portfolio?
It continued paying us a solid 4% dividend throughout the year. But while we were overseas, oil plummeted all the way from $110 a barrel to a low of $30. Taking the stock market and especially the TSX along with it.
Our portfolio swung from +5% to -3%. But we had seen this crap before, and we knew exactly what to do. So together, Garth and us agreed to take the extra cash generated by the dividends and rebalance into the storm. And lo and behold, by the end of the year, we were sitting back at our original position.
A yearly gain of 0% doesn’t seem that impressive, but for comparison, the return from the TSX in 2015 was -12%. We had now survived not one, but two catastrophic financial collapses with no money lost.
And now, knowing that the real cost of travelling the world is actually the same as simply living in Toronto, we realized 3 things:
- Living in Toronto (and by extension many North American metropolitan cities) is WAY overpriced.
- Travelling is not expensive. Travelling with other corporate drones is.
- And most importantly, we could do this forever.
And why wouldn’t we? My last year of work showed me the damage that outsourcing could do. When a worker in India can do the job of a worker in North America while being paid half as much, we all collectively freak out. Nobody seems to win except the company. But what if we could turn outsourcing on its head? What if we could outsource ourselves? What if we could do our jobs, earn our North American income while living in a country where the cost of living is a fraction?
Right now, the press is starting to notice what we’re doing on millennial-revolution.com, and friends and family members are starting to ask us “Are you serious? Is this real?”
Yes. This is serious, and this is real. I have travelled around the world, and as of June 2016, a combination of dividends, portfolio gains, and a small income from coding and writing has resulted in a net worth that’s somehow HIGHER than when I left.
That’s right, I just travelled the world. For free.
Why was I so scared to quit again?