Jun 03

Around the World in 365 Days

by in Life of Arlo, Postcard Valet, Travel

Arlo and Oksana on their first solo trip together, Costa Rica, 2003

This is an announcement I’ve been looking forward to making for a long time:

Oksana and I just quit our jobs!

Okay, not really. I just wanted to get your attention.

But actually, really! It’s just that our last day of work isn’t going to come around until next summer.  That’s right; we’ve put in our one year’s notice!  Next June, all our crap goes into storage and we set off on a long-planned, round-the-world trip.

This is something we’ve been talking about since before we married.  Before we could commit to such a bold move, we had to make sure we were in a position of security – with our finances, our education, our work experience, etc.

(Funny thing we learned about financial security: Once you’ve got it, it’s surprisingly hard to let go.)

This is why we haven’t settled down.  It’s why we were so anxious to stay out of debt, why we haven’t bought a house, and most definitely one of the reasons why we haven’t yet entertained the idea of having kids.

So, as excited as we are to shoulder a backpack and set off for the ends of the earth, we’re also a little bit freaked out.  Will our jobs be waiting for us when we get back? (Magic 8-Ball says: Outlook Good.)  Will the economy implode while we’re gone?  Do any of the big security questions even matter if we’re off having the experience of a lifetime?

Nope.

Where are we going?  No idea.  We don’t have (and probably won’t ever have) an itinerary.

Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.
Wanderer, there is no path; the path is made by walking.

However, not knowing where we’re going isn’t the same as not having a plan!  Oksana and I have been brainstorming how we want to go about this for a long time and we’re going to use this coming year to solidify our goals.  We just bought ourselves a couple of Moleskin notebooks and we’re going to keep them with us so we can write down the ideas as they come to us.  This next year is going to be one long planning session…

Things we’re pretty sure we want to do:

  • I want to blog and podcast the heck out of our experiences.  I want to share them with anyone who wants to travel with us vicariously and I’m pretty sure I can pull it off a once-a-week format (The Transient Books video I posted from Argentina was sort of the pilot program.)  In this day and age, even the most remote areas have internet access.  I plan to set aside ample time for writing, editing videos, and posting photos.Neither Oksana nor I have any real experience in front of a camera.  I’m confident that we’ll be able develop on-camera personalities and a certain editing style to our podcasts, but it’ll take a ton of practice.  I hope that we can begin experimenting during this planning year.  I expect there will be learning pains, but I’m actually fascinated by the process of improvement.  That is, rather than looking forward to perfecting the podcast, I’m even more interested to see what the body of work will look like as a whole.  In my mind, it’ll only be a failure if the last podcast isn’t any better than the first.
  • We’re planning to do this trip on only $100 a day; in fact, that may become one of the “themes” of the blog and podcast (another might be “is it possible to create a decent podcast with the equipment in your backpack?”)  $36,500 seems to like a huge chunk of change.  On the other hand, $100 a day for two people means we won’t be staying in Holiday Inns.  It’ll be interesting.
  • I want to take advantage of the 8,000 to 10,000 unique visitors my blog gets every month and see if we can recoup some of our expenses on this trip.  My plan in the coming months is – if it’s technologically possible – to reserve a new domain name, install the WordPress blogging software, and see if it can pull just the travel category posts out of A Midgett Blog’s MySQL database.  Readers of my personal blog will get everything I ever post, while people that aren’t as interested about our personal entries can subscribe to just the new travel blog.
  • Oksana has her own interests and may contribute her own entries to the blog(s).  She’s thinking of giving weekly rundowns of the places we stay, the food we eat, and using her accounting skills to keep us apprised of how we’re doing on our $100 a day limit.

Things we’re mulling over:

  • When will we leave Juneau and what will our first destination be?  Mostly likely June or July 2010.  And we might start with either the lower-48 or head straight down into Central and South America.
  • Do we bring tents and sleeping bags to save on lodging?  Just how little can we bring with us?  Can we plan far enough ahead to have certain things shipped to and from home?  (“Mom, please FedEx empty hard drives #3 and #4 plus warm clothes to Siberia, and let me know when our box of souvenirs gets home!”)
  • Oksana’s enthusiasm for the trip doubled when I suggested that we could create a business plan as part of the planning process.  A business plan could certainly focus our efforts at making money off the website.  Assuming we can create content engaging enough to attract an audience, will we be looking at product sales (photos, calendars, DVDs, etc), website ad revenue, sponsorship deals, or donations?  What we decide will certainly influence the look and feel of the website I’m going to design.If we actually make some money, what would we do with it?  Do we add it to our own pool of money and travel in a bit more comfort?  Do we extend the trip by one day for every $100 we make?  Or do we simply bank it all to offset our initial $36K expenditure?
  • Can we take advantage of corporate donations and/or sponsorships to obtain some of the podcasting equipment?  Can we get a grant?
  • What’s the best way to travel from point A to point B?  We’ll become quite familiar with each country’s bus system, I’m certain, but what about continent-hopping?  Can we save enough money by stopping for a couple weeks in one place to afford a trans-oceanic flight?  Can we hitch a ride on a freighter?Would a last-minute cruise ship fare be economical?How many countries will we have to skip because of unfairly expensive visas?
  • Would any of our friends and family (or even people following along on the website) want to meet up with us somewhere along the way?  I’m sure seeing a familiar face from time to time would go a long way toward staving off the inevitable homesickness.
  • And most important of all, WHERE WILL WE GO?  Central and South America are a given; so is Russia and some of the old Soviet states.  Southeast Asia is looking good for its low cost and multitude of dive sites.  Can we afford the more expensive European countries, too?  What parts of Africa are safe?  Can we possibly do all seven continents?

Next summer probably seems like a long way off, but with all the things we need to figure out and all the things I want to accomplish before then, I’m already starting to feel the pressure.

Before we can leave, we’ve got hundreds of questions that need answers.  I’m planning to present them, research them, and hopefully answer them – all on this website – in the next 12 months.

Stay tuned.

Arlo and Oksana in Key West, Florida, 2008

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Welcome to Postcard Valet

Postcard Valet is a travel blog and video podcast by Arlo and Oksana Midgett. They just returned to Juneau, Alaska, after almost three full years of travel and living abroad. Many of their stories, photos, and videos have yet to be shared...

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