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Imagine your bucket list dream vacation.  Go ahead, dream big.  You will assume that your travel is a pipe dream but open your eyes and look around you.  Not where you normally look because that is a place that promotes negativity.  Instead seek out the stories of people who have done crazy impossible things.  For example, last year, our family of seven travelled the world for eight months on a shoe string budget.  Then, hold fast to the idea that if those seemingly ordinary people can accomplish that extraordinary jazz, so can you.  Be one of the few who doesn’t wait for a catastrophic life experience before you get your butt out there.


One the of things holding you back in the early planning stages will be your misguided sense of the money needed for your bucket list trip.  Maybe you’re planning a gap year journey where you’ll be travelling without your parents for the first time.  You believe that you need thousands of dollars and you only have a few months working at  minimum wage to save.  Or maybe, you have kids and you’ve taken them, let’s say to Disney World and to London, England over the past 10 years.  You think back on how scarily expensive those two trips were and you multiply those one-week excursions by 52 to get your year away.  It doesn’t work that way.  A weekend in New York City will cost you almost as much as a month in New York City.  Airfares are fixed costs that don’t change regardless of length of stay.  Plus people spend silly money on short trips (cabs, fancy restaurants, five star hotels, clothes, souvenirs, museums, Broadway shows).  Visitors who stay longer spread those same splurges over the course of their trip and are more likely to seek out free events.

Mystic Muffin, Toronto

Mystic Muffin, Toronto

mystic muffin4


Separate your budget into discrete envelopes.  I have envelopes for: airfare, car and gas, other surface travel like ferries, accommodation, insurance, daily spending (including public transit, food, entrance fees), gear (not only backpacks etc but also passports and visas), and tolls.  These aren’t literal envelopes.  If they were, I would have misplaced them a million times over before the trip.  No, they are just separate sections in a budgeting spread sheet.  I believe that having these envelopes is conducive to more stringent spending control.  Each separate envelope has to come in on or under budget.  Coming in under budget is desirable because it means coming home with some cash.


Make sure to have an envelope for splurging.  This is your bucket list trip and no matter how much of a cheapskate you are, you need to put a good chunk of change aside for splurges.  BUT, once you have your splurge envelope, make sure you’re splurges fit in it.  The world is a big place with lots of amazing things to do and buy.  You can’t have it all.  Look at your envelope and determine what purchases to put in it to make it your best ever.  I’ll bare my soul and tell you that I had budgeted $8600 Cdn for splurges.  In reality, we spent $6800 over the course of eight months.  We spent it on a two-night cruise of Halong Bay, clothes, renewing our vows in Scotland (complete with bagpiper!), touring Coronation Street, replacing prescription eyewear, visiting Legoland, artwork, two new bicycles and a last minute trip to Ireland.  Yes, we could have gone without any of these things.  Except the glasses.  And the Corrie tour.  But honestly, these things are the ones that made our trip.

Portmeirion, Wales

Portmeirion, Wales


Obviously you still have to eat in the months/years of your planning phase.  I’m just saying stay focused and eat less.  When you get $1800 back on your taxes, stick it right into one of those envelopes.  Or pay off debt.  Debt is one of the biggest freedom killers and the reason that many people cannot travel.  Re-evaluate what is essential and stop spending money on non-essentials.  Learn to say no to people who want you to spend money.  In today’s economic climate, “I can’t afford it” are powerful words that will instantly get people to stop harassing you to make purchases.


Put effort NOW into giving yourself options for your at-home housing, vehicle and employment.    Start thinking about: asking for a leave of absence, quitting, getting a work permit, renting out your house, selling your car, subletting your apartment or whatever it is you need to investigate to give yourself more of a chance.

School pick-up, Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam

School pick-up, Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam


For some of you, this task will be pure joy and will rival the actual trip for excitement.  For the rest of you, all the research you will need to do will seem like an insurmountable challenge.  Start small, be eclectic and be consistent.  Read guidebooks, talk to every stranger you meet about their travel experiences, make lists, asks friends which gear they recommend and whether they will lend it to you to try out.


A good consultant not only has valuable contacts in the industry, knowledge of how to find required information and the capacity to advise, but also draws on years of experience.  That type of experience comes with time and is the most valuable asset he/she can share with you.  A good travel consultant will certainly save you time and money and may even save you a lot of aggravation.  Heck they might even be responsible for you not getting deported for accidentally ignoring residency rules.  A great consultant will also be adept at “reading” you and will enhance your trip by making personalized travel suggestions.  Find a great travel consultant by asking respected friends and fellow travelers.  Or hire me via my shop. :-)

Donut vendor, Sugarloaf, Maine

Donut vendor, Sugarloaf, Maine


Now that you’re armed with all the info you need, look inward.  Take that which resonates with you and leave the rest behind.  Maybe everyone who goes to Italy visits Venice and Rome but if you don’t want to, don’t.


The first dozens of kilometres along the Camino de Santiago are littered with expensive equipment, loving bought and tearfully abandoned by pilgrims who come to the realization that the benefit of said equipment is outweighed by, well, its weight.  There is no reason to buy a whole bunch of stuff before you leave.  As you grow into your journey you can add the pieces that would really make life simpler, safer or more comfortable.  You can buy just about anything just about anywhere.  And if you can’t, it’s probably a ridiculous piece of First World Extravagance anyways.

Hiking Poles, Saguenay Fjord Trail, Quebec

Hiking Poles and packs, Saguenay Fjord Trail, Quebec

Today’s Quote of the Day is not really a quote but it sure is a notable quotable.  In fact, if I were to get a tattoo, I think this would be it.  In a flowing cursive script on my forearm.  It is the actual name of an actual form, the existence of which categorically proves the value of a travel consultant.  This IRS form allows some foreigners to divulge information on a two-page form in lieu of filing a US tax return.  There is a tax treaty between Canada and the US that ensures that citizens aren’t double taxed.

Form 8840:  Closer Connection Exception Statement for Aliens