How do you financially afford to quit your jobs and travel?
We saved for a couple of years prior to leaving on our trip. We stopped going out to eat, limited buying/drinking alcohol, decreased our driving distances for weekend activities, and most importantly stopped buying random crap we didn’t need. We also shared a house with three wonderful friends, which kept our living expenses extremely low.
Even now, in travel mode, we continue to live a minimal and frugal lifestyle. This has allowed us to extend our trip longer than we originally planned. While we are constantly analyzing our spending and ensuring we are doing our best to reduce unnecessary expenses, we by no means live uncomfortably or feel like we are missing out in any way. We don’t typically engage in high priced tourist activities. Our “off days” in Latin America are usually spent buying produce at the market, visiting panaderias, and walking around town. Our travels have been incredibly fulfilling and we are fortunate our activities don’t cost much: walking, biking, mountain climbing, and swimming at the beach.
Much of our trip has been spent traveling through Mexico and South America, where cost of living/traveling is much cheaper than being in the US. Although we spent five months in the US and Canada, we managed to keep expenses low by utilizing free camping and cooking our own meals.
Are you scared to travel through Latin America? Has anything bad happened?
No, we are not scared. However, we have been reminded multiple times that petty theft is a concern and we need to remain vigilant. This is sometimes difficult when we are bicycle touring and have things a bit scattered. Our theft experiences have occurred exclusively in tourist areas. Although petty theft may be higher in Latin America, we have had multiple items stolen in Colorado as well. Theft is a constant reminder to keep a close eye on our belongings, as things can be difficult and expensive to replace depending where we are.
Latin America is an amazing part of the world full of incredible people. Anyone who has spent time traveling in this part of the world knows just how great it can be- don’t let fear stop you from traveling and experiencing it.
This blog has a great write up on safety and Latin America. Check it out!
What do you do for food while traveling by bike? How about when you were in the van?
Luckily, we love to cook! We thrive on being able to assemble random meals with limited supplies/food options. Even though eating out in Latin America is much more affordable than the US, it is always cheapest to cook it ourselves. But, budget aside- we genuinely enjoy managing the busy markets, buying fresh and local produce from the farmer, learning how to make traditional meals and visiting tortillerias and small tiendas to assemble our meals. If we are staying at a hostel that has a communal kitchen to use, we love to take advantage of the extensive kitchen to prepare a nice hearty meal. If we are without a kitchen, we often find ourselves using our camp stove outside our hotel room.
We typically live on energy bars, trail mix, and snacks for our breakfasts/lunches while we are biking. When we are camping, we utilize our MSR Dragonfly stove for dinners. Since we only have one pot, we typically make a soup with some type of beans (lentil, black, refried, garbanzo, etc.), a grain (rice, quinoa, pasta), vegetables (zucchini, pepper, tomato onion), cheese, water, and spices. A great one pot, no mess meal! We learned some time ago that it makes no sense draining our pasta water, especially when we don’t have a water source nearby and we are probably dehydrated anyways. If we keep the water and made it into a soup, all the better (especially when it is cold!).
Cooking in the van is a bit more luxurious because we have a two burner cook stove and more/larger pots. We don’t have a fridge, so we typically purchase produce that lasts without refrigeration. We made lots of salads with cabbage, beets, carrots, apples, etc.
How many miles do you typically bike a day?
The amount of miles we can fit in a day greatly depends on the terrain and weather. When we were mountain bike touring in South America with massive climbing and loads of hike-a-bike, sometimes we would only make it 25 miles in a day. However, now that we are road biking and have more moderate terrain, we have been averaging around 70-80 miles a day.
What has been the biggest thing you learned from your travels so far?
People are people – no matter where we are, people are generally friendly and very curious, and kids act like kids!
Where do you sleep at night?
We have slept a little of everywhere: random spots just off the road, hotels/hostels, established campsites, anywhere we need depending on the situation.
Which mode of transportation is your favorite?
Which ever one we are doing at the time- they are all amazing! We are so fortunate that our trip turned into using three different modes of transportation! It is so easy to adapt to each form of transit. We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to learn and connect with the culture that is associated with each mode of transportation. They all have pros and cons, but each one facilitates exploration!
Do you worry about financial stability in your future?
We don’t. We are excited to see what our future will hold, but we are confident we have gained skills throughout our lives that will allow us to live a comfortable and happy life.
What have been some of the highlights?
Michelle: There are so many great things to say about everywhere, but I loved the high Andean villages and mountains in Peru. Everything about it totally blew me away. I also loved spending time in the eastern Sierras in California, Canadian Rockies, and so many of the special beaches we found along the way.
Evan: Everywhere has been great – but in particular – the challenging dirt roads and tracks of Ecuador, the Canadian Rockies, Mexican food and beaches, and spending a month back home in upstate NY!
Has there been any lows of the trip?
The motorcycle breaking down was very difficult to deal with. As of this writing, it has been exactly a year since the trip significantly changed. Although we appreciate the new opportunities the changes brought us, it is still very devastating thinking back to that doom and gloom. It brings so much sadness that an element of the trip that we planned an prepped for so much ended so abruptly and is no longer around to bring us pleasure.
What advice do you have for others beginning to prep for a big trip?
Have a plan, but follow it loosely. Be open to change and be open to new opportunities and things not going as planned. Our trip has changed courses a few times, but each time only brought us more rich and incredible experiences.
Has it been hard on your relationship?
Life outside of the crazy fast paced/ high stress lifestyle is so easy. We have thoroughly enjoyed spending all this time together. Even though we had been together for about 8 years when we left on the trip, this past year as brought us even closer.
What apps do you use most?
- ioverlander: a user generated database that includes camping, hotels, restaurants, mechanics, water, propane filling, and many other categories for travelers
- Spotify: without data on our phones, we love our shared spotify account, which lets us download various artists and playlists onto our phone. Having good tunes definitly helps get us through the tough days!
- Stitcher: An awesome app for podcasts!
- Gaia GPS: GPS app to download topographic maps for offline use, and pre load gpx tracks from online sources for route guidance
- Here Maps: a free app that works similar to Google maps, but you can pre download maps of states/countries, so you do not need data to have access to maps or on the go navigation
These are the most common questions we get asked. If you have any other questions for us, feel free to comment below!