Friday, August 19, 2011

Planning For The Unknown

Written by Karen
Our Packs
Optimism abounds with numbers, budgets, itineraries, rail/plane schedules, ideas, suggestions, things to do, places to see; all considered, some kept, some tossed aside. A Gap Year. Wow, time to go slow, explore, savor life. 
We both now maintain long lists of computer bookmarks to travel events for 2012, newspaper articles, travel blogs, couple travel blog sites and general research of places and activities that interest us. We have created multiple “To-Do” lists.  Somehow, this will all have to come together into some coherent plan.  It’s T-minus 6 months until life as we know it begins to change.  

Orsay Museum, Paris
Eventually, sooner rather than later, I should probably put together everything that we’ve gathered on excel spreadsheets, word documents or folders, assign dates, who is going to do what, break down the information into countries, or regions, or something easily accessible when we are on the road  – but doesn’t that feel like a work assignment?  Am I over-thinking this?  Making it more complicated than it is?  Our goal for this trip is to go slow, blend into the culture as much as possible, take life as it comes, see and experience whatever makes itself known to us, be on unscheduled time, and figure out what our next life chapter will look like.  
Salzburg, Austria
But, I’ve always been a planner, especially with the financial stuff.  I love to “crunch the numbers”, figure it out, and come up with the end result.  Develop a plan.  And a plan B.  And, even a plan C.  
And my number crunching reflects that. I’ve determined what our actual costs are: the annual costs of maintaining our home and life not covered by the rental income; the expected costs: the annual costs of travel, transportation, food, miscellaneous, and entertainment for the two of us; and, the worst-case scenarios of both.  What has to be shifted around; how much savings we will have to dip into...
But – and this is a big but – I also know that you can shift things around on the ground to make up for unexpected costs, or the occasional splurge. After all, this will probably be one of those watermark trips. The overused slogan of a “Trip of a Lifetime” might actually be appropriate in this regard. So, it’s about finding a balance between budget and experience.  
After reading some good couple blogs out there… A big shout out to those who went before and spend a lot of time putting information out into the internet universe. Many thanks to all of you. Doing a “gap year” when you are past your early twenties or before you retire in your sixties, isn’t widely done, accepted, or even understood in the United States. These couples have done it and have generously shared their experiences and information.  
Our travel budget is roughly $38,325. This breaks down in the following ways: 365 days at $105/day; or 90 days at $150/day and 275 days at $90/day; or 90 days at $175/day, 125 days at $90/day and 150 days at $75/day. We can control how much we spend by how much time we stay in a particular city, area or region. The lower cost regions will offset the higher cost regions, and hopefully, will eventually balance out at around $105/day.
We have additional funds available if I’m completely off base or if we want to splurge a bit, but based on everything that I’ve read, I think we should be ok.  This travel budget doesn’t include the costs that we are absorbing in advance.  Costs like our one-way plane ticket to Paris, some of the apartments that we already made arrangements for, visas, shots, etc.  So, this is a rough guesstimate.  But, I think we are not too far off the mark. 
River Seine, Paris
For example, Europe is pretty pricey. You’d think that we’d be up in the $150 - $175/day. And you can, pretty easily. But, by looking a little deeper and thinking more like a local, rather than a tourist, I think you can find some deals. We have rented a self-accommodating flat in Rennes, France for two weeks for around $56/night. We’ve also rented a self-accommodating flat in Budapest, Hungary for 3-1/2 weeks for around $42/night. In both cases, because we were staying longer than a few days, we were able to negotiate a better price. The pictures of the apartments look great, but it is still a leap of faith as there are no reviews to look at or to consider. Both of these apartments were found “off the beaten track” and not on the typical tourist vacation websites. (The Google Translate tool is a great resource to help you with the communication part. I had visions of getting “lost in translation”, so I used pretty simple sentences. It seemed to work out ok.) When we arrive at these locations, we’ll explore the area by walking, sipping coffee, people watching, cooking our own food, and trying our best to blend into the community. Our daily costs shouldn’t be that much more proportionately than our current daily lives are now.    
Salzburg, Austria
I have found from my research into planning for the unknown that you may find more options than you would have expected if you take the time to dig around a bit, begin thinking of yourself as a local in a bigger community, read what other people have experienced, and be willing to take a chance. 


David_SF said...

Can I just say that I think that you should really, really think about writing a book. I mean, seriously, this is such an interesting trip in so many ways, so many different aspects: the simplifying aspect, the travelling light aspect, the travelling around the world aspect, the reevaluation of life (and who wouldn't appreciate that, stuck as most of us are in the Rat Race?). Whether you line up a deal before you leave, you might want to at least keep notes/pictures as you journey so you could have the potential to write something afterwards :)

Observers of Life said...

Thanks David - very cool, and much appreciated feedback.

MoneyIQ said...

Great post! This is the meat-and-potatoes aspect that really balances nicely the earlier posts, showing the details of how this is actually going to work. Like you, I'm a planner, and I appreciate that level-headedness that you are showing in balancing spontaneity with good supports. It'll be nice to have that structure to support you as you can then relax into the experiences of just living- hey, sipping coffee and wine while living simply in France sounds really, really, really great to me! :)

moneyIQGuy said...

Your blog has opened my eyes to a new way of approaching life, thank you! After reading here, I did some research online and in the library, and have found that there are others who have decided to make similar changes in their lifestyle. I've always been drawn to Thoreau, and people who seem to encapsulate his approach to living simply and experiencing all that life has to offer, but now...now this seems like a real perspective, a real approach to being able to do so. Sometimes I feel like having that sense of freedom seems so theoretical, but reading your notes, and hearing other inspirational stories, first has shaped my perspective to acknowledge a different possible reality, and, more, to actually start crunching numbers, think of a timeline, for how to make it a reality. cool!