When we told some Dutch neighbours at a campsite on Texol Island in North Holland that we were travelling for a year, they said “You must be millionaires!”
We do feel incredibly rich and lucky to have a whole year to be together as a family, exploring a few parts of the world by bike and happening upon fun activities and amazing sites – like the filming of a movie in a castle in Ghent or an international para tennis tournament beside our campsite. But the good news is you don’t have to be millionaires to live the dream.
We explained that as a teacher Derek was able to take what’s called an “X over Y”. In his case, he took a 3 over 4 and has been saving 25% of his salary for the last three years and will receive 75% of his salary this year. We started Derek’s X over Y after a serious health scare that reminded us that life is full of surprises and it’s important to make time for what you think is really important.
For the past 10 years, we have also been making extra lump sum payments on our mortgage whenever we can. We started doing this when I was mostly at home with the children and earning a little money once in a while through freelance writing. I wanted to feel like my hard earned cheques (usually with writing done while the kids were napping or after they went to bed) was going farther to justify the effort involved. By paying down the principal on our mortgage, we could see all the interest we saved.
Just before we left, we paid off the mortgage completely.
We’ve rented our house out and are able to use that income for major expenses like property tax, travel insurance and flights as well as our general budget.
My work generously granted me a leave of absence during our travels, so Derek and I will both be coming home to full time employment.
We’re starting with a daily budget of 80-90 Euros. This is possible when camping costs 22-38 Euros and our food and other items costs 30-40 Euros (including ice cream to keep Anna Sierra fuelled and pain au chocolat for our morning snack).
We usually shop at grocery stores both because it fits our budget and because Jasper’s lactose intolerant and I’m allergic to peanuts. So far groceries have been very reasonably priced.
We often have bike expenses like new tubes, oil or a new pump. Sometimes we have travel expenses like ferry or tram tickets. And if there’s a special museum or art gallery, we like visiting and will either go over budget or spread the expense over two days.
We’re still working out our system and will happily modify the budget if food costs more – it’s actually very reasonably priced, we just eat a lot because we have cyclists’ appetites.
We also will need to modify the budget if it’s not possible to camp and we need to pay significantly more for accommodation. For now, camping is delightful. We like cooking our own food, meeting other campers and sleeping right next to our bikes. There are usually playgrounds for the kids and if it rains, we have good rain gear and a mighty tarp.