How to afford to travel

I have people say to me that they would love to travel but don’t have the money for it. In many cases, if I can afford to travel, they certainly can! I am convinced that more people living in the 1st world could afford to travel if….. if it became a priority. My husband is a pastor and I am a social worker. Together, we have been to: Mexico, Northern Ireland, Puerto Rico, spent a month in Australia, California, Grand Cayman Island, and various other places in the US and Canada. I don’t say this to brag by any stretch but to demonstrate that it is possible to travel with average incomes and to do so without going into debt! Here’s how we’ve done it:

1. we bought a house with only one of our incomes (instead of getting a mortgage based on two incomes). we could have become house-rich and life (i.e. travel) poor by purchasing a home grander and bigger than we really need. instead, this decision has freed up some cash to put more money towards paying off debt and for travel.

2. we evaluated our priorities. for us, it is more important to be able to travel then to buy newer/better vehicles. we are happy driving our current vehicles as they are paid for in full. having one less bill frees up money to afford to travel.

3. we cut costs in little ways that add up over time. for example, I don’t pay for parking @ work. instead, I park for free and walk 10 minutes to my office. sure, it can be inconvenient in the cold, rain, and snow, but it saves us $50-60 dollars per month. we also don’t have internet or cable at home. small “sacrifices” for us that add up over time and helps there to be room in the budget for travel.

We’ve tried to live our life in balance. We are passionate about being debt-free and living within our means. We also realized that if we wait to have our mortgage paid off to travel, we could be waiting quite a while. We want to do some traveling as we are young and more energetic. So we’ve tried to strike a balance between paying off debt AND travel.

Maybe it’s snobby of me to assume that many people in the 1st world that want to travel but say that they can’t afford to really can. Besides the need to make it more of a priority with regard to budgeting, it also depends on where the person would like to travel. Certainly some places are out of reach for most. I still believe that many could travel debt-free if there was more planning and intentionality given to it. It also comes down to delayed gratification. What I want today (i.e. take out, a new outfit) is at war with what I want ultimately a year from now. For us, as long as we have our memory, we are grateful for making traveling a priority. There are times that we reflect on certain trips and experiences and its pure gold. We wouldn’t trade those experiences for any material possession.

If you are seriously thinking that you’d like to make some budget/lifestyle changes to help afford travel, I encourage you to sit down and plan, plan, plan. You may be surprised with what you are capable of with intention, desire and perseverance!

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You are richer than you think

I surprised myself when I found it difficult to write about my bucket list here. You see, I’ve grown up in the 1st world. I was born into middle class. It was assumed that I would attend University right out of high school. I’m Caucasian and whether I like it or not, I have experienced “white privilege”.

I felt conflicted writing about all my wonderful accomplishments and goals while at the same time knowing that 25,000 people will die of starvation each day. During the process of writing my bucket list several people died of hunger. At least one person will die of starvation while you read this post.

The more that I realize how rich I am in comparison to the rest of the world, the more my wealth and privilege make me feel uncomfortable.  If you are reading this and you or your family own a vehicle: congrats! You are in the top 8% of wealthiest people in the world. That’s right, for 92% of the world owning one vehicle is not even a possibility.  And get this,  if you and your family earn $50,000 per year, you are the richest of the rich in the WORLD. Really, those who earn $50,000 or more are in the 1% of the world’s wealthiest. You see, the problem in North America is that we are constantly comparing our own wealth to those in the upper upper 1% like the Kardashians. We assume, “I can’t be rich” because we don’t own a private jet.

Where does this leave me and my “bucket list”? I am often conflicted. I LOVE to travel…we make sacrifices in other areas to afford to travel. We also give to others on regular basis. Is it OK to do both? What I mean is am I “off the hook” and given permission to live out my bucket list if I balance this with giving to others? Again, this question reveals my privilege. The fact that I’m wondering this instead of when my next meal will be tells so much.

How does one balance having goals and dreams that are WANTS when so many people in the world have NEEDS such as food, water and life-saving health care? I don’t have the answer for this, but I am wrestling. I wrestle with this all the time. I wrestle while on vacation and while at home (I can buy food anytime I want and there are Canadians in my backyard who can’t say the same).

I have loved the quote, “I am blessed to be a blessing” for a long time. To be honest, I don’t know if I am blessed or just lucky. Lucky to be born in Canada and into wealth (wealth when compared to the rest of the world). While I continue to wrestle with my good fortune and think about poverty, I know this much: I must pass it on/pay it forward. I need to use my blessings and/or luck to bless others; this is for certain.

Bucket List

For as long as I can remember, I have lived my life with an awareness that no one is guaranteed to live a certain # of days here on earth. I have never been one to assume that I will live to a ripe old age. Statistically, there may be evidence for me to assume I’ll see retirement. But can anyone guarantee that I’ll live to 80? No. As a result, I have often lived life like a woman on a mission.

I have a bucket list.  A “bucket list” is a saying for the things you’d like to experience before you die. Up until now, my bucket list has mostly been in my head. But I’ve been working on ticking off items whenever I can.

I have conflicting feelings with the whole concept of a bucket list.  Ultimately, it’s people rather than places and accomplishments that matter most in my life. Often, a bucket list is focused around self. I believe that the best way to live a fulfilling life is to be more others-focused than self-focused. So while this list seems so me, me, me, I firmly believe that I have been blessed to be a blessing.

The following is my bucket list:

Get certified as a lifeguard (this was a lesson I gave to myself on not giving up…when I returned to swimming lessons I was a lot older than those in my classes!).

Attend Roberts Wesleyan College (this was a dream of mine in high school. For some reason, I felt God leading me there…).

Get married (We met as a result of me going to Roberts Wesleyan College, even thought we never over-lapped while I was attending).

RD @ Roberts (I loved being a RA so much that I put on my bucket list being a RD).

Masters in Social Work (This became possible as a result of being a RD).

Work as a social worker in mental health  (Due to moving to Canada for Derek’s job, I was able to find a great job in mental health).

Pay off all student loan and consumer debt (including car payments) (Money was tight those first years of marriage while Derek was in seminary. As a couple, we worked hard and sacrificed for the ultimate goal of financial freedom. It took years but we are now debt free except for the mortgage. It’s the best gift we could have given each other and our marriage. It’s also the reason we were able to see Australia).

Keith Urban in concert (he’s my favourite country artist. Derek agreed to come and as a result, he was converted into a Keith fan).

Travel Australia  (Ever since I did a presentation on Australia in elementary school, my ultimate dream was to see Australia!).

See California (esp. bike the golden gate bridge) (This didn’t disappointment. One of our most favourite days ever was the day we biked in San Fransisco).

Loose weight (this wasn’t always on my bucket list but joined the list after weight gain. We’ll see if I can keep it off!).

Read often (started a book club to help this end).

See Nashville and Charleston

See professional figure skating in-person

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Items left on my list:

See England (and maybe Wales and Scotland too).

Go on a cruise where we’d see Greece.

See Western US and Western Canada (drive out through the US and back through Canada).

Visit the Grand Canyon.

Go white water rafting!

 


Volunteer at local Children’s Aid Society.

Combat mental health stigma.

Help break the cycle of poverty for at least one person.

The last three are a little more complex. What exactly will these look like? I don’t know. But I can keep you posted.

Do you have a bucket list? Why or why not? If so, has your bucket list evolved over time? Are you actively plugging away at yours?

5 tips on how to pack lightly for a vacation

While in college, I decided that I was done with over-packing when traveling. I began to hate lugging around heavy suitcases when only 1/4 of the clothes were used by the end of vacation. Since then, I’ve developed a system to ensure that I don’t over-pack when going on vacation or traveling for other purposes. I now take pride when people comment, “is that all you brought with you?”. Here’s what has worked for me:

1. Pack outfits. This is the #1 tool to ensure that you aren’t over-packing. Most people can’t be bothered and just throw a bunch of shirts and pants/shorts in their suitcases. If you take a minute and match up pants/shorts with shirts, you will find that you end up eliminating some tops and bottoms that you otherwise would have packed but not worn on your trip. Disclaimer: I am not a person who plans my outfit the night before while at home. But when packing for vacation, I take the time to match up shirts/sweaters and bottoms. Seriously, this is the golden tip to not over-packing. Trust me on this one.

2. Count how many days that you will be away. Pack enough clothes for the days that you will be gone (ex: if you are away for 7 days then pack only 7 outfits) and then throw in 2 extra shirts and 2 extra pairs of underwear. You only need this amount of “extra” considering the fact that if your plane is delayed, you can wear a pair of jeans or shorts another day. Really! Also see #4 for why you don’t need more outfits than days you are gone.

3. In this day and age, the excuse “I didn’t know what the weather was like so I packed everything” doesn’t fly any longer. If you have access to internet then you can pack your suitcase according to the weather. Make sure to check current weather as well as historical weather (you can learn what the weather has been like over the last several years for the month that you will be away).

4. Remember that you will often wear clothes twice while on vacation (such as shorts or a sweater). And if you don’t already re-wear items while on vacation, I’d suggest trying it. The beauty about being on vacation is that people will likely never see you again. So wear your jeans multiple times, no one will care and you’ll save a bunch of space in your suitcase!

5. Try on your clothes before putting them in the suitcase. Doing this is especially important if there has been any weight loss or weight gain in recent months.  For example, while on vacation last week, hubby was frustrated because most of the shorts that he packed no longer fit him due to weight loss.  Also, this can go the opposite way. Sometimes the shorts that fit us in the summer time don’t fit quite as well when we go on vacation over the winter months. By trying on clothes before you leave you are likely to avoid packing clothing that doesn’t fit comfortably.

I encourage you to attempt to pack light for your next vacation. It is truly liberating. Happy travels!

For more tips, click here: http://www.getmorevacations.com/wp/minimalist-packing-how-to-pack-light-without-compromising-what-you-need/
For more tips, see here:
http://www.getmorevacations.com/wp/minimalist-packing-how-to-pack-light-without-compromising-what-you-need/

A review of 2013: The good stuff!

As I reflect over the past year, several highlights come to mind. Here’s a re-cap of the positives of 2013:

1) I can’t seem to choose between financial health and physical health. What I mean is that I’m grateful that in 2013 we were able to pay a little more than just the minimum for our mortgage. Also, in 2013, I advocated for my health (hypothyroidism) and have seen improvements as a result. Running a client group on assertiveness and presenting at a conference re: teaching assertiveness skills must have paid off! 🙂

2) I joined a small group @ church called, “The Daniel Plan”. This 6 week small group series taught me a lot about sugar, processed foods, and eating for health. “The Daniel Plan” was the push I needed in the right direction. Looking back now, I can barely believe the results! From June to November of 2013, I lost the weight I had been trying to loose for over 4 years!  I will be forever grateful for the health and nutrition that I gained in 2013.

3) We took a vacation in the summer and saw Colonial America (lots of former presidents homes, Williamsburg/Jamestown) as well as Washington DC. From Baltimore, we flew out to California and drove from LA to San Fransisco stopping along the way. Then we drove back to LA via the desert to see Yosemite and Sequoia National Park. This was a CHECK off of our travel bucket list and a great time together.

4) Summer of 2013, I rediscovered my love for reading. It had been a couple of years since I read a book cover to cover. I forgot how much I enjoy reading and how greatly it nourishes my soul. Since the summer, I have read 6 books cover to cover and started a book club!

5) Derek and I have grown in our relationship in 2013. Our communication has improved, patience with one another has grown, and our love has deepened. I can honestly say that our relationship has never been better than it was in 2013.

Another year has come and gone. 2013 will be no more. I am glad to document the positives of this “blink of an eye” year. It wasn’t a perfect year as loss and joy seem so intertwined to our human experience. But there was gratitude, self-improvement, and love. And there was always a roof over our head with plenty to eat. 2013: Thank you for your many blessings. Please give 2014 the memo to be kind. Au revoir!

 

Tips for NOT gaining weight while on vacation

Since I have been loosing 1-2 pounds per week recently, I must admit that I’m a little concerned about gaining weight while on vacation. It’s one thing to eat healthy while preparing your own breakfast, lunch and dinner at home. It’s certainly another to be on vacation where you figure out breakfast, lunch and dinner on the road. Maybe this would be easier if we stayed in one place for a week or longer at a time. We tend to travel “amazing race”  style where we are rarely in one place 2 nights in a row. The following is what we are going to attempt while on the road this summer. I’ll have to come back and report how well it worked (or didn’t). Here’s what we are going to attempt:

1. When able, stop into a grocery store to buy some fruit and veggies to snack on. We imagine that sometimes we’ll have to limit the fruit and veggies to ones that don’t need washing such as: banana’s, oranges, baby carrots, and peas (eating the inside only in this case).

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Taken from: http://mikelfrench.org/blog/faith-and-love-two-peas-in-a-pod/

2. When breakfast is not included in our accommodation, buy a tub of yogurt (provided we have a mini fridge) and fruit the night before . We’ll be utilizing any free breakfasts our hotel may provide and will be sure to head for the hard boiled eggs and yogurt if available.

3. Eat our “big meal out” at lunch as much as possible instead of dinner. This gives our body more time to burn the calories from the meal and will also save us money by having light dinners.

Do you have any tips to add re: eating healthy while vacationing? If so, I’d love to hear them. Comment away… 🙂

A life long dream: Australia

In elementary school, I did a class project on Australia. Ever since then, seeing Australia was on the top of my bucket-list. October 2012, hubby and I took the 21 hour flight to Oz. Prior to going, I spent months planning our trip via online research, we saved for over a year, and we took a month off work. We spent that month flying all over Australia. We figured that since this may be our one and only time there, we might as well see as much as we can. I must admit that I was teary a couple of times during our trip (like when we landed in the Outback and while on a tour of the Opera House). Seeing Australia was a dream come true & the trip of a lifetime.

Here are a few photos of our adventures Down Under:

Sailing the Whitsunday Islands - this is looking down at Whitehaven beach.  copy of: pinkcanuck
Sailing the Whitsunday Islands – this is looking down at the famous Whitehaven beach.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Flying over the Great Barrier Reef! property of: pinkcanuck
Flying over the Great Barrier Reef!
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
last croc tour of the day on the Daintree River property of: pinkcanuck
last croc tour of the day on the Daintree River
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Boyd's Forest Dragon (little guy) in in the Daintree Rainforest. property of: pinkcanuck
Boyd’s Forest Dragon (little guy) in in the Daintree Rainforest.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Where the Ocean meets the Rainforest (Daintree). property of: pinkcanuck
Where the Ocean meets the Rainforest (Daintree).
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
A Tree Kangaroo (at Lumholtz Lodge B&B) property of: pinkcanuck
A Tree Kangaroo (at Lumholtz Lodge B&B)
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
We saw a platypus in the wild (by a farmer's field) property of: pinkcanuck
We saw a platypus in the wild (by a farmer’s field)
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
We found a Cassowary father raising his chick on a beach the locals recommended to see one! property of: pinkcanuck
After not seeing a Cassowary in the Daintree, we asked a local where to find one while still in Queensland. We waited for half an hour and then saw a Cassowary father raising his chick!
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Uluru (formerly called Ayers Rock) in the Outback!  property of: pinkcanuck
Uluru (formerly called Ayers Rock) in the Red Centre/Outback!
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Kata Tjuta (the Oglas) is less touristy than Uluru but right next door.  property of: pinkcanuck
Kata Tjuta (the Oglas) is less touristy than Uluru but right next door.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
We got lucky - we saw our first Kangaroo in the Outback! This was while hiking in Kata Tjuta. property of: pinkcanuck
We got lucky – we saw our first Kangaroo in the Outback! This was while hiking in Kata Tjuta.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
I met this lady who was fostering a joey who lost his mother. This was my
I met this lady who was fostering a joey who lost his mother. This was my “greeting” to Kangaroo Island as she was at the airport when we landed!
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Evening Penguin Tour at Kingscote, KI. The Fairy Penguins come to shore at night to rest and can only tolerate the red light (flash bothers them).  property of: pinkcanuck
Evening Penguin Tour at Kingscote, KI. The Fairy Penguins come to shore at night to rest and can only tolerate the red light (flash bothers them).
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Echidna hear the side of the road. We saw several of these driving around Kangaroo Island. property of: pinkcanuck
Echidna near the side of the road. We saw several of these driving around Kangaroo Island.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Walking on the beach with wild Australian Seal Lions playing or sleeping all around us. This is at Seals Bay, Kangaroo Island. property of: pinkcanuck
Walking on the beach with wild Australian Seal Lions playing or sleeping all around us. This is at Seals Bay, Kangaroo Island.
photo property of: pinkcanuck
A Koala sleeping in the tree tops. They are surprisingly hard to spot. We saw about 20 while on Kangaroo Island (all in the wild) and a couple of them with babies! property of: pinkcanuck
A Koala sleeping in the tree tops. They are surprisingly hard to spot. We saw about 20 while on Kangaroo Island (all in the wild) and a couple of them with babies!
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
This is at the Remarkable Rocks, KI. Near-by is Admirals Arch which is breathtaking with New Zealand sea-lions playing below.  property of: pinkcanuck
This is at the Remarkable Rocks, KI. Near-by is Admirals Arch which is breathtaking with New Zealand sea-lions playing below.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Pelican's let us get up close and personal on Kangaroo Island! property of: pinkcanuck
The pelican’s let us get close on Kangaroo Island!
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
Photo taken from the Sydney Harbour bridge (you can walk the bridge). The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. property of: pinkcanuck
Photo taken while standing on the Sydney Harbour bridge. The Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
The famous Bondi beach. Lots of people even on a school/work day.  property of: pinkcanuck
The famous Bondi beach. Lots of people here on a school/work day.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox
A day trip from Syndey to the Blue Mountains. property of: pinkcanuck
A day trip from Syndey to the Blue Mountains.
photo property of: spinkoutsidethebox

Australia didn’t disappoint. We were extremely happy with our busy yet satisfying itinerary.  We saw so much wildlife (there’s countless photos of snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef not included here) and we did it all without going to a zoo or wildlife sanctuary. If you decide to visit Australia make sure to give yourself enough time to experience the many wonders. And don’t forget that Australia is very large (the same size as the USA!). If you’re up for the long flight to Australia and taking additional flights while there, you can experience this beautiful country and you’ll undoubtedly leave a piece of your heart behind.