Monday, November 30, 2009

Financing my Dream

Faith is forward motion. –Karen Maezen Miller

Money is always a part of reality... unfortunate, but true. To make my dream a reality, I have to revise my personal lifestyle and daily budget to make it happen. I've been looking at other travelers, talking to friends and crunching numbers. I'm great at research and ideas but not so good at the follow through. I'm not good or used to telling myself "no".

Living the Dream decided on a budget of $30,000 for a little over a year (415 days). It's a flexible plan and it allows for cheaper countries to make up for more expensive countries. I want to travel for a longer time, at a slower pace and experience more of living like the locals. I plan more home stays, work for board, jobs as I move around the world so I can limit my expenses and continue my income. Plus I'm hoping to have another source of income (more on that later) besides whatever I'm earning at my work/stay job.

I need to do more research on:

1. Costs of Visas

2. Transfer Taxes

3. Shipping Charges (Gifts, Souvenirs, Holidays, etc - sending packages home)

4. Health Insurance (Cobra? Travelers? Job Provided?)

5. Pre-Trip Purchases (what do I need?)

How much do these cost? What's my personal needs? What's my comfort level? What am I forgetting?

One thing I've learned is I need an international bank, with partnerships around the world, and offering a 4 digit PIN (I didn't even know PINs came in larger numbers). The most highly recommended bank was HSBC so I've looked into their account choices - I'll be able to link my international account with my current local bank through a money market account. Maintaining my local bank account will allow my parents to have emergency access - I'll have to set that up before I leave - they don't currently have access but it's a small town with a small town bank and they know we're related but if I make it official, it could save some time and make it easier on everyone.

  • $1500 in travel savings to open checking account
  • $1500 for Money Market account to meet free account minimums.

TOTAL = $3000

I have over $3000 in savings but I don't want to pull any of that money for travel (yet). My savings are for home or pet or human or car emergencies* and I want to leave them for those purposes until those responsibilities are no longer mine.

So that's my first task - Save $3000 to open my new accounts and begin earning money on my money (every penny helps!). Of course I decide to do this in the worst economy, after my salary has been cut and right before the holiday season. But if I can save money with all this going on, then it'll just get easier from here.

Spending cuts (how I'm going to start living a more frugal life)

  1. No high speed Internet at Home - I have a Sprint card and DSL at my office so it was over kill to begin with and easy to let go.
  2. Cable TV - This one is going to hurt more but I'll get over it. I can watch at my parents' house or at the gym (it may help me get there more!).
  3. Eating Out - I eat out a lot for networking purposes and a lot for convenience as well. Breakfast @ $5/day = $25/week = $1300/year. I don't eat out breakfast every day but pretty often so that will be a huge savings. I'm going to limit my lunches and dinners - those will be harder but necessary.
  4. Shopping in my pantry - I love to cook so I'm fine with cutting out my expensive restaurant meals but I'm not much better at the grocery store. I'm the queen of standing in my kitchen, looking at my full refrigerator, saying "there's nothing here to eat". I'm sure I'll be telling stories about my progress in this area.
  5. Non-Necessity Spending - shoes, purses, clothing, home decor, etc. I've got a lot of stuff around here... I need to trade, sell, give away or barter some of it to help me achieve my dream. I've already been selling some old clothes at a local consignment store so I'll continue, maybe add some ebay selling, and continue to declutter my life.**

*Such as my car not cranking this morning, keep your fingers crossed that it's just a need for a new battery as we think.

**Some of it will be hard to part with, as I decorated my Christmas Tree this weekend, I loved pulling out my decorations plus I have some nice things (ie. china, crystal, etc.) which were gifts and will have to be stored. That may be another cost I need to factor in my budget.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Daily Inspiration

If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them. - Henry David Thoreau

I haven't listed my favorite websites lately, so I thought I'd share what's motivating, inspiring, and pushing me to be more. Check them out.

Shutter Sisters - A collection of gifted photographers, storytellers and artists. These ladies inspire me daily to create, explore and make more of myself.

More is Better - This is one funny chick, her antics crack me up but she's also exploring the world at 24 in way which I envy. She's got a list and she's traveling around the country/world (so far just the US) to accomplish her bucket list.

Sara France - As you know, my love of photography is growing daily. This is just one of the photography blogs/websites I check frequently to see what they're doing and receive inspiration. On the west coast, she's got amazing coastal shots.

Chookooloonks - I found her through Shutter Sisters, she inspires me, makes me laugh and is utterly relatable. I love her post about finding what you love - it's nice to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this.

Jurgen Nation - A new find: crazy humor, great stories and a reality you can't deny. She's crazy smart (getting her PhD in Neuroscience) and it comes across in her writing. I love how she'll refer to herself in third person b/c she's just saying...

The Nichols Blog - A husband & wife team out of Austin, Texas who are unbelievably talented. Peoples... Places... all beautiful. I can spend hours looking at their pictures, getting inspiration and admiring their talent.

Nomadic Matt - My new favorite blog, Matt's got his MBA and he's given up the corporate life to be a nomad. He's completely one 18 month, round the world trip and he's living in Thailand, running his blog and supporting his traveling lifestyle. He believes in slow travel and he's motivating me everyday to make my trip happen.

Almost Fearless - Found Christine through Nomadic Matt and I love her stories, insights & suggestions just as much. She and her husband have traveled around the world after cashing it all in and inspiring me to do the same.

So that's it, a bit of what I'm reading, you can see where my head is: travel & photography. Working on a way to make both of them more of my life. Stay Tuned!

Friday, November 27, 2009


"Gratitude is noticing the extraordinary in the ordinary. And then taking the nanosecond to feel it." - Karen Krakoer Kaplan

Over the past couple of days, I participated in Tweetsgiving, a round the world effort through twitter to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was a great reminder to me of how great my life is, how much I have to be thankful for, and why I should remember this and be happy everyday. On the afternoon I started, I was in a funk, tired of work and the daily drama - after my 5th or 6th twitter, I was smiling, feeling better and more optimistic about my life. I know people who pray daily, others who meditate, and after completing this exercise, I KNOW I need a way to remind myself of this daily.

Here's some of my list... Enjoy & Be Grateful.

6 of 100: Thankful for the love given to me

7 of 100: Thankful for the ability to dream, it keeps me going

8 of 100: Thankful for being a woman - strong, smart & feminine

17 of 100: Thankful for my ability to think & act, ignorance is not bliss

18 of 100: Thankful for my ability to always ask why?

32 of 100: Thankful for all the blessing I've received & haven't desearved

38 of 100: Thankful for the people go about their day, silently kicking ass & not needing recognition, my heroes

50 of 100: Thankful for my mom who should be woman of the year

51 of 100: Thankful for this beautiful day

54 of 100: Thankful for an interesting & engaging family, never dull here

60 of 100: Thankful to have been taught to value who a person is vs what they are

68 of 100: Thankful for new blessings

72 of 100: Thankful for those who challenge the status quo

73 of 100: Thankful for the bacon, it makes everything better

74 of 100: Thankful for the possibility of what's to come & finding my 'thang'

76 of 100: Thankful to always be learning

83 of 100: Thankful for the realization that stuff is just stuff

86 of 100: Thankful for my room full of cousins sharing stories & glasses of wine

88 of 100: Thankful for the humor of family stories

89 of 100: Thankful for a full belly

98 of 100: Thankful for the holiday season & the potential of the new year

99 of 100: Thankful for my friends, new & far, who've sent wishes to me today

100 of 100: Thankful I have 100 things to be thankful for & a place to share my gratitude

Monday, November 23, 2009

Not Me

"Depression is nourished by a lifetime of ungrieved and unforgiven hurts." - Penelope Sweet

I took my laptop home this past weekend and had plans upon lists of things to accomplish. And I couldn't make it happen. I got the bare minimum done. I was in one of my funks last week - it grew and grew until I couldn't stand myself. One of my poor friends had to put up with my on Saturday night and she's been where I am now, so she got it. Even so, it still makes me want to stand up and scream, this isn't me. Not the me I know or who I want to be.

So it's time for change. I've been analyzing for a looooooooooong time now. Time for action. This post about traveling was a good start. Now, I have to really buckle done, create and define specific goals. Work hard and make it happen. Otherwise, in a year, I'll still be sitting here. Whining to the internets only because I won't have any friends left.

Just saw this on a friend's facebook post, hitting so close to home today
"When I was going through a similar situation, someone told me, "everything will be different in a year". He didn't say everything would be fixed in a year, but I felt very assured by that fact that in a year I wouldn't be going through what I was going through that day. So I leave you with that same advice. Next year will be different, probably better." He was right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Who I Aspire to Be

*I've mentioned Jennifer Lancaster's books before: here. She's a funny lady and I rarely visit her blog without taking away a good giggle.

Today's post about her obsession with Twilight's New Moon release this weekend does me in, I thought I was going to loose all control of my bladder (somehow, saying pee my pants in writing makes me feel ridiculous). Her action figure play by play of the movie and accessories for the characters are hysterical!

Just had to pass it along... Everyone needs a good giggle every now and again. Just wish I were that funny...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Planning, Wishing, Hoping

'For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again." - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

So, I'm going to lay something out there. Put it in writing to make it a little more real. Give a thought that's running around my brain a little more room to stretch it's legs. As I've mentioned a million times, I love to travel and I want to do more, see more and explore more of the world. Lately all I've been reading are travel blogs and websites (I'll list them later). I escape my world of budgets, decisions, markets, target accounts, and deadlines by becoming absorbed in their adventures.

And I want more. Instead of reading about koalas, I want to see one myself. Instead of researching work/stay vacations, I want to have one. Instead of being green with envy everytime I hear of a friends' trip, I want to be the one creating the jealousy. And I'm not just talking about a trip to Panama City Beach (nothing against the Redneck Riveria, but I want to see the original one). I want to go on my own gap year.

When I started this blog, I was living in Chicago because I had wanted something different in my life. I still do. I loved Chicago and I'm glad I was there but a part of me looks back on the money I spent and time I wasted which could have been spent seeing the world. Instead of thinking: "that's what I should have done" - I'm going to take this desire and turn it into that's what I'm going to do. And actually make it happen. Here's what I'm thinking about:

I just bought a house and I have several remodeling projects going there. I need at least a year for multiple reasons before I'll be ready to leave so that will allow me to complete those projects. At this point, I think I'd want to rent the house but selling it would give me a little more money to travel with... Decision to be made. If I rent, then I have to arrange for property management and designate money for those costs. If I decide to sell, then I have to wait until March 2011 to avoid any capital gains taxes. Either way requires a little research and planning. I love my house, hate to let it go but I'm not going to let it prevent me from taking this trip.

I'm sure the timing for my departure will have more to do with work and finances than capital gains. However, my house is an obligation I can't ignore. Plus in today's climate, it's hard to expect any return on an investment in real estate. By holding it longer, I'll get a better return but it will also delay my trip... things to consider.

I have a couple of other financial goals to accomplish before I can devote all extra money to a travel savings. Nothing huge so I'm currently going to add an additional line item in my savings spread sheet until it become necessary to seperate the money. Currently, I keep it all in the same account for a greater percentage return but I know how much is designated to each priority. Since I now have another looming priority, I will be sticking to a more strict budget and pushing through these nagging debts to increase my savings potential.

Everything I've read about how much money I'll need basically boils down to one question - how do I like to travel? If I can rough it and share space, then I'll be able to stay on the road longer. I know myself well enough that I'll want to spoil myself every once in while and I also know that missing an experience because of the price tag will be frustrating for me.

My goal is to travel indefinitely for an extended time. Work my way around the world and experience different cultures for extended time periods - this is going to take some crafty budgeting. One thing, I've already read about and think is a good idea, having fly home money in a CD. Place a designated amount in a different account, earning interest so that it's there when you're ready to come home.

So I think I'll set my goal at $25,000. That's a lot of money and I know it'll take me a while to achieve that goal outside of my other financial goals. But I think it'll be money well spent.

Since the only place I've been outside of North American is New Zealand, I know I want to start my trip in Europe and go around the world from there. I have friends living in England, France, Germany, Japan, Argentina, and Australia. I need to refresh all of these connections and see if I can find make some new ones:) Anyone know of safe places to sleep?

I'd prefer to leave in either September or January; either way I'd avoid the crowds of the summer. If I depart in the fall, then I can enjoy traveling for a while before finding a job for the winter season and if I leave in the new year, I can travel before finding a job for the summer tourist season. Or I can go straight to a work destination. I'm open to suggestion. I'd hate to feel trapped somewhere but working vacations knock out your biggest expense: lodging.

I have an awesome backpack which my parents gave me for my trip to New Zealand. It worked perfect before and I know I didn't fully utilize it then so I'm confident it will work.

I have a bad ass camera and a point & shoot little camera. That would be a tough choice. A friend who has traveled extensively said electronic equipment makes you a target. But I couldn't image not taking one.

I have clothing for every situation and I'm a pretty good packer when limited with space. Shoes will be my biggest obstacle - I like to have options.

I think I'd like to be able to take a computer with me so I'll be on the market for a new laptop for traveling. I need/want a new computer anyway so I'll just make sure it fits the needs of my trip as well.

Passport is burning to be used so no worries there:)

Those are my thoughts for now... I'll keep you posted on achieving my dream. Cross your fingers for me.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Being Human

As usual, the best parts of my blog are steals... I don't have any references with this so I'm not certain where it came from but I love it. I remind myself that I learn the most from my mistakes so enjoy and continue to make some mistakes...

"Have you made any big errors lately?

If so, congratulations! You're human!

And chances are you are not a wimp, afraid to make a wrong decision that just might not work out perfectly. You see, the people in our world that become famous in anything are not those who do things perfectly, but those who do things well after screwing up a bunch of times. The difference between the top performers and the average, however, is that the averages are often frozen by fear of not doing something perfectly. So they don't try it, don't make the big decision, don't ask for the sale, don't take that business risk, or don't reach out to that long lost friend.

Because the fear of "what if" and the paralysis that it brings can bring about a harmful stagnation in our lives. Life is about movement, either up and down, and if you aren't moving down from making errors or moving up from learning from them, than you aren't moving at all. And if you're not moving, the world is just passing you by.

So this week, think of that big decision that is scaring the heck out of you and go for it. It might not work out perfectly, but even that less than perfect decision will be better than no decision at all."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Traveling Pet Peeves

"Why don't they make the whole plane out of that black box stuff?" - Stephen Wright

I flew to Minnesota yesterday for work, in and out in the same day. Traveling like that, for work, having to think and be "on" is not for the lighthearted. I applaud people who do it everyday and I'm thankful I'm not one of them. I am, however, a pretty savy traveler and I thought of some suggestions to help those who seem to bumble through to make the whole process a little easier for all of us.

1. Wear easy shoes to remove - Ladies, I love my shoes. I understand the delima. They must be cute, fashionable and complete my outfit. Unless I'm traveling. Then there are only two options: my danskos or merrels. Both are easy to slip on and off and I can walk easily in them. High Boots that must be wrestled off and on are a NO-NO sista friend.

2. Have your boarding pass and ID out and ready - they tell you this 15 times before you get to the little security dude. You hear it ad naseum.... and why is that? Because there's always some one too important to be considerate of others' time. When you arrive at the airport, take it out of your wallet/purse/money clip and keep it in your hands. Pack so that you don't have 8 things to carry in your hand to prevent this.

3. Pack smarter people - smaller bags and no tolietries. I don't know home many people are on an average flight but I DO KNOW that no all of us can carry a rollerboard on the plane. I agree the airlines are cheap bastards for charging for bags in an effort to encourage less baggage in the cargo hold only to require you to check at the gate but if we all packed smaller bags, less is more here people. Backpacks, duffle bags and messanger bags will all fit under the seat in front of you. Briefcases too. Don't put them in the over head bins unless it's absolutely necessary.

4. Take a chill pill. I have to do this alot myself, take a deep breath and remind myself to chill as I travel. Remind myself to be patient and let the line or person move at their pace. Especially when it comes to traveling, me pushing my way through a line or crowd generally makes no difference. If you have made it to your gate area and are certain to board the plane, then your pushiness will not save any more time. (Notice I said pushiness - I appreciate people who move conservatively and don't cause delay but rudeness isn't necessary).

5. Push off your seat - Don't PULL ON MINE. This is quite easy and it AMAZES me other people haven't figured it out. When getting up for whatever reason, push off your seat instead of pulling up on the seat in front of you. I know most people don't mean to disturb others but plane seats aren't stable so grabbing them moves the seat and those around it. Little kids kicking your seat is one thing but a grown adult pulling my chair drives me nuts.

6. Be NICE. Smile and treat the airport employees with courtesy. They have thankless jobs and they are not trying to prevent you from getting where you need to be. Weather, traffic and other unpreventable problems are NOT their fault. Be polite, yet firm when trying to get their help. Yelling, Being Rude and/or Insulting the customer service representatives will get you no where fast.

Just my thoughts... if everyone just takes a deep breathe and smiles, all will be better.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sharing Ava's Story

"God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons we could not learn in any other way. The way we learn those lessons is not to deny the feelings but to find the meanings underlying them." - Stanley Lindquist

Everyone who reads my blog knows how much I love my nephew, William. I have been overwhelmed and surprised at how easy and complete these feelings are.

I, along with the rest of my family, delight at his ever achievement and exploration. We laugh at his language and enjoy playing with him. He is in love with trains, bulldozers, planes, and trucks. He stops playing when outside and a big truck drives by. If you pull into the driveway, he gets in the car with you and plays with the steering wheel.

So when I read stories like this and I think of how easily it could be him or one of my friends' children and how lucky we've been so far and how lucky we'll be if none of them have to face a child's death. It makes me think. And say a word of thanks.

Spread the word of this story (if you can't read it, click here) and let others learn from her life.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Getting Better?

"I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma." ~Eartha Kitt

I'm new to my hobby of photography and I'm trying really hard to get it. To see what I want and to make it happen - lenses, lighting, fstops, ISO, wide angle, aparature... a whole new language to learn in between everything else I have to do. I get discouraged, I think I don't have the talent, the eye or the passion. I put down my camera for days at a time because life takes over.

Then, then I'll take a shot like this one. Everything works. I got the image I was trying to capture. And I'm hopefull again. I can do it. And I keep taking more really bad pictures hoping to get another shot like this:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

"Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans" - John Lennon

And we're moving full steam ahead, Halloween came and went before I realized it and now I'm thinking about Christmas gifts and travel plans for NYE. It's a little nuts. So, again I apologize for my tardiness even thought there have been small benefits for my schedule - 1/2 off pumpkins on the day of Halloween appealled to the bargain shopper inside me. October was a flash of planning ahead, living in the moment, examining some of my beliefs, travels, houseguests, and lots of work. My pace is good, my head is clear, and my heart is full - I love my life when I feel like this.

Working in a retail based business, I'm always amazed at how much we do and how little time we seem to have this time of the year. We approach fourth quarter with a different energy level - it's a great adrenaline rush as we start the final marathon of the year.

There's not anything quite like working retail - selling products, solving problems, and hearing the cash register clang. It's in my blood and as much as I complain about it, I love this time of year. The energy, the constant pace and the delight of wrapping gifts.

Lately, it's been about reflecting personal attacks for lack of poor planning and/or lack of money. Last year it was all about the money (too much to buy with too little funds) for our customers and I'm sure we'll see that issue come up again this season. It definitely bothers me. I don't know anyone who hasn't been affected (I don't run in 'those' circles) and people who are working retail generally are feeling it worse than anyone. Generally, hourly employees who weren't making enough money to begin with to deal with the crap that gets heaped on them daily. And now, their hours are cut, people are ruder and money is tighter. Show the shop keepers and sales associates some love this season and realize they aren't as lazy, stupid or as uncaring as you might assume.

I love dealing with the public, delighting customers with the 'perfect' idea or gift or invitation, instilling confidence in their decisions. I love to shop for gifts and I love helping other with theirs - I'd make a great personal shopper for someone who could keep me in the lifestyle I've become accustomed too - until then, there's this. And the rush that comes with it. I love it.

A local radio station does a retail vent line every holiday season and I get a great deal of pleasure listening to it. I can't wait to hear it this year. Because laughter is my new therapy and my cocktail of choice. People who have never expereinced it, just don't get it. And when you hear the stories of retail clerks, how they're treated, the ridiculous demands of the public and the unreasonable expectations, you have to laugh. Otherwise, you'd pull your hair out.

So, as we approach the retail maddness of the gift season, look for stories, forgive my sparatic posting, and enjoy the holidays. I know I will.