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Chapter 1. Leaving it all behind
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Five Years Before We Left
Occasionally I would say to Cindie, "What if we left and bike toured until retirement." At this point, we didnít have the necessary funds, so the whole concept seemed unrealistic. Time would work this dream into a reality, but it took baby steps.
We were already saving money. Our original goal was to save enough to pay cash for a new truck. This was logical because Cindie used her four-wheel-drive truck for work. She was always going to remote locations on sketchy roads. Our thinking was that it was only a matter of time before age rendered her truck undependable. When the time came to replace it, we didnít want to go into debt.
Saving money made sense to both of us, but I was thinking of something better than a truck. I always had the dream of seeing the world and that requires money. We worked out how much we were earning and our expenses. The difference was surprising. We were amazed at how cheaply we could live. Cindie calculated a monthly budget to pay our mortgage and other essential expenses. She then added enough money so that we could be comfortable and have small extras. She calculated that if we could tighten the belt a little more we could live on 25% of our income. The remaining 75% could be saved every month. We stuck to this budget for five years. In fact, whenever we received pay raises we didnít increase our living budget, but instead increased the percentage of our saving.
Our secret to being able to save this aggressively was simple. We cut out the big-ticket items that other couples with similar incomes were buying on credit. We never made car or credit card payments. The only debt that we allowed was the mortgage for the house. We had purchased a 1,000-square foot, two-bedroom house that was half of what we could afford. We were approved for a mortgage that would have put us into financial bondage. We had no use for a showy house with 3,000-square feet of living area. The payments would have been a substantial percentage of our income. That wasnít our American dream.
After about thirty months, we reached our original savings goal of $30,000. Now we needed to decide what to do with the money. We could buy a flashy four-wheel-drive that would be the envy of the neighborhood. We could buy many tempting toys that are essential in American culture to announce success. I kept thinking that this money could be used for something more. I told Cindie that we could use this money to travel for two or three years. She didnít believe me. Cindie had traveled to numerous countries before I met her. Her previous traveling experiences to Europe, Asia and New Zealand had always been more expensive. We compromised. We had her old truck painted and tuned up instead of buying a new one. Keeping our growing savings in the bank kept our options open. This was my first sign that Cindie was considering my dream to travel.
I started telling all of our friends that Cindie and I were going on a multi-year, around-the-world-bike tour. I even speculated the month and year that we were leaving. They would turn to Cindie and ask her for confirmation. Cindie said, "This is Timís dream. Itís good for Tim to dream, but we have a house and careers here."
I felt on my own. This didnít stop me from talking about my dream all the time. Iím sure that I annoyed many people. I couldnít help it. The idea burned inside of me. I thought that the more I talked about it the more likely it would actually happen. I thought of it as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Leaving it all behind doesnít sound so romantic when you are the one risking everything. Cindie liked the idea of saving money and traveling. The thought of living in a tent and completely changing our lifestyle was difficult for her to accept at first.
I worked the idea into her head slowly but steadily. There were a few facts on my side. Cindie has a passion for travel. She previously had traveled by bus through numerous countries. She wanted more. She, like many Americans, was also tired of working long hours at her job. My big dream tempted her because it offered more to life. My idea promised freedom itself.
I bought every book I could find about people who had previously ridden around the world on bicycles. I made sure that these books were visible in our house. Cindie, who is an avid reader, eventually read a few of them. By reading these books, she learned that such trips are possible. I needed a tool to push her into commitment. I was getting close.
For most people, including Cindie, thinking and planning several years in advance is difficult. I needed a tangible way of showing her that we were making progress in reaching a start date. I made a calendar on our computer. It had thirty-two pages representing the number of months until the date we left. Every page had a large number at the top. The first page started with "32" and counted down every month until it reached "1." This represented the last month before we left. Instead of a random picture for decoration, I had a map of a different country every month. Under each map, I put information about the weather and the best time to visit each country. For example, the month of December had a map of Guatemala and said something like, "The dry season is from November Ė May. Weather-wise this is the most pleasant time to travel in Guatemala." These countries didnít flow in order, but instead randomly jumped around the globe to build excitement. At first, Cindie didnít think much of my calendar. Thirty-two pages felt thick and the number of months still looked like a lot of time to wait. I hung it up in our house and it became our working calendar. We wrote various appointments and activities on the corresponding dates and consulted it often. As time went by the numbers decreased and the stack of paper became thinner. Tearing a page off every month took on special meaning. I think that this tactile and visual reminder of time passing was powerful.
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|Chapter 1. Leaving "It All" Behind.
PART 1. Background START HERE
PART 2. Five years before we left
PART 3. Two years before we left
PART 4. One year before we left
PART 5 The week before we left
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