A 5-Year Vacation: How I Did It

PHOTO: Warren and Betsy Talbot, who spent 25 months amassing enough cash to fund a 5-year trip around the world.

Have you ever thought about chucking it all and going to live on a deserted beach somewhere?

Of course you have; we all do. But then we turn off the alarm clock, drag ourselves out of bed, and head to the job that funds our everyday life.

But what would happen if you gave the idea some serious thought?

In 2008, my husband Warren and I decided to do just that: quit our jobs to travel around the world for one year. We both worked for almost 20 years in successful careers and accumulated all the things people usually do in that time: a home, car, furniture, a busy social life with many friends. As a childless-by-choice couple, we thought we had freedom, but were just as chained to our jobs and the status quo as anyone else.

It took the one-two punch of my 35-year-old brother's freak heart attack, followed by a good friend's brain aneurysm, to wake us up to the life we were living (or, more accurately, weren't living) and prompt the question:

"If we knew we wouldn't make it to our 40th birthdays, what would we do differently right now?"

That single inquiry highlighted every single thing we were doing that didn't support our long-term dream of travel.

We had always spent a lot of our disposable income on travel, with local weekend getaways and bigger trips to Hawaii and Europe. We were very curious to see Antarctica, more of Europe, and to venture into Asia, something that just wasn't possible with only a week of vacation at a time. In fact, Warren took his last job just because of the insane frequency of travel and the knowledge we could build up an incredible amount of frequent flier miles for our personal travels.

Warren and I looked into each other's eyes and knew instantly that we weren't going to put our dreams off anymore.

Action Is a Girl's Best Friend

The next day, we brewed a strong pot of coffee and got to work planning. This is where it gets sticky for most people: learning to put a price tag on a dream. We decided our travel style fell somewhere above sleeping in hammocks and below a Hyatt, averaging $100 per day. Multiply that by 365 days, and that's how we came up with our initial budget number (and the one we still use after 16 months): $36,500.

We worked out how much we thought it would cost, divided that into a monthly savings number we could achieve, and then multiplied out how many months it would take to amass our getting-out-of-the-nest egg. The answer was 24 months. We added an extra month at the end to take advantage of a scheduled work bonus we hoped to get, and set the date for two years down the road. (In our former life, Warren worked in the business side at Microsoft and I worked as a consultant for women-owned businesses.)

Following Through on the Plan

Excitement makes the first days of saving easy. I mean, we were going to travel the world! But two years is still a long time to be on a savings plan, and if we hadn't put the following strategies into practice, I'm not sure we would have been successful.

Direct Deposit

We relied on the automation of direct deposit because sometimes the will is weak. Two years to the day from when we would board our first flight (to Ecuador), Warren and I agreed to deduct $ 1,000 from our bank account each pay period to go into our savings account entitled "The Vault."

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