• Follow Us on Twitter!

  • Latest Photos

    photos_6

    photos_10

    photos_3

    condophoto2

    More Photos
  • Last Books Read

    Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - (K) Humorous and thorough history and science behind ultrarunners and long-distance running
    *****
    Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - (K) An autobiography covering his childhood, years as a freedom fighter and incarceration. Inspiring and informative
    *****
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - (K&T) A mystery set in Barcelona involving an old book, a failed writer and murder
    *****
    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
    ***
    The Chinese by Jesper Becker - (K&T) Modern history of my peeps, from the cultural revolution to the many failed economic and social attempts to move the country forward
    ***
    Setting the Table by Danny Meyer - A "how-to" on hospitality and business acumen by the restaurateur behind such NY institutions as the Shake Shack and Union Square Grill
    ***
    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.
    **

Answer: 21 Pounds

Question: How much weight have Kelly and Tim put on this holiday season? Ho ho ho.

Financial Considerations

Traveling to multiple countries means using multiple currencies. You might know that your bank and credit card will probably give you the best exchange rates, but at what cost? When you start exchanging money from one currency to another, you start running into fees.

I hate fees.

Especially fees to perform simple tasks. I’m still carrying around 100 Euros in my wallet because I did not want to pay the ridiculous $10 exchange fee at the JFK airport. 10% to exchange Euros for USD? That is crazy and I won’t do it on principle.

Even for a short trip top Europe or Mexico, you might be surprised to learn that your bank was charging you 3% + $5 or $10 every time you got money out of a foreign ATM and your credit card was taking another 3% on all your charges. It adds up and the next thing you know you have hundreds of dollars in fees. From my research, the worst offenders are the big banks like Bank of America.

You might not know this, but there are better options. For example, Neither E*TRADE, Fidelity or Bank of the Internet charge you any fees to use 3rd party ATMs, even outside the country. They might even refund you the fees the owner of that ATM might charge you (though this fee doesn’t exist in many foreign countries – it is mostly a US thing). Combine this with free checking and 3.3-3.5% interest and you might start questioning whether you should even have a Bank of America, WaMu/Chase or other bank account.

On the credit card side, the universal answer is surprisingly Capital One. Capital One has made a name or itself by offering credit cards to people with less that perfect credit and so Kelly doesn’t like using her new Capital One card, but I like it as not only do they NOT charge a foreign transaction fee, but they actually refund the 1% Visa charges so all transactions are totally free of fees. If you are traveling outside of the country, you can save yourself a lot of money by owning a Capital One credit card.

You can find out more information and a great comparison chart on all these fees here.

Decisions

Happy day after Christmas!

It strikes me today that we leave Seattle in just 3 days. Three days! It seems like we just got here. We’ve been so caught up in meeting friends and visiting family that we haven’t spent a ton of time putting together the final touches on our preperations. There are still a few things we need to get and a few decisions to make. I’m sure we’ll be taking a couple more trips to REI.

One decision we made several months ago was where to go and how to get around. Those two things are heavily connected because if your goal is mileage, then you either need a lot of money or some sort of special deal to help you out as flights can be expensive. A friend of mine told me about Round the World Tickets offered by some airline alliances (Star Alliance, OneWorld, SkyTeam) and pointed me to what would come one of my favorite websites: flyertalk.com.

I don’t know if it is because my father is a pilot and he spent hours and hours talking about planes, helicopters and the military in general or if it came from working at America West Airlines (now US Air) during college, but I do generally enjoy flying, even in the back of the cattle car airlines. While flyertalk.com caters to traveling in general, it seems to be more focused on flying. I like this site because you can learn a lot about how the system works and how to take the most advantage of it. Traveling a lot for work, this is particularly useful to me. I read a lot about RTW tickets.

RTWs are generally a good fit for the gap year traveler. They allow you to travel once around the world (in one direction only) and stop at multiple places along the way, for a lot less money. They also allow you to change dates of your travel along the way for no extra charge.

They are still quite expensive though. A RTW from the US, hitting 5 continents is easily $6k. Because the cost of the RTW is based on where you start, one way to cut the cost of this is to begin in Australia or New Zealand, where the cost is half of that. Even with a round-trip ticket to Oceania, you are saving significant money. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how we could make it work for us. The whole concept is pretty exciting…stopping in 20 cities on 5 continents. You get caught up in how many places you can go.

But then we needed to re-evaluate our travel goals. The more we thought about this, the more we realized that our goal was not mileage or quantity of places visited. Nor was our goal to hit all the major cities. While we like city life (we did decide to live in NY), spending our year in a bunch of major cities did not hit the same travel nerve as roaming around the country side on trains and buses and the occasional tuk-tuk or motorcycle.

The other problems that I found with RTWs is that they do not work as well if you want to travel one-way (I don’t want to have to always return to the city, what could be wasting valuable resources and time) and also, traveling to and from an airport can be kind of expensive. That is usually where I splurge on travel, after a long flight. With a limited budget, we are all about saving the entire time.

Luckily, we went through this analysis almost two years ago and that allowed us to focus on another option: using frequent-flyer miles. Since then, we’ve amassed about 700k miles on United and Alaska airlines, mostly as the result of extensive work travel and NOT using those miles to buy domestic tickets to save a few hundred dollars here and there. While we could use that to buy RTW tickets in economy, we decided that our goals above were still intact and decided to buy a series of round-trip, open-jaw (meaning you arrive in one city and leave from another), long-haul tickets in business classthat would easily cost tens of thousands of dollars if we had to purchase them and supplement that with one-way tickets on low-cost carriers like Air Asia.

As I mentioned in the last post, our first ticket is to Bangkok and returns from Tokyo. This allows us an open timetable to do whatever we want for several months and a goal (making our way slowly across Asia). We leave on the 5th of Jan. A quick hop from Phoenix to Los Angeles in first class, followed by a 13 hour flight to Seoul on the top floor of an Asiana 747 in business class. After 23 hours in Seoul, we hop on a Thai Airways 777, again in biz class and fly through Taipei to arrive in Bangkok on Jan 7th.

Our return leaves Tokyo on an ANA 777 out of Tokyo (though after further review, we might never make it to Tokyo – We’ve already been there – and might add on a flight from Osaka to Tokyo to connect) back to the US. I do look forward to flying all these Asian carriers as they are well known for their in-flight comforts, food and hospitality.

Annoucement

Sorry we haven’t updated lately. It has been a really busy couple of weeks as we moved out of our NY apartment, flew down to Nashville for a few days, slept on multiple couches, moved our stuff to Seattle and tried to see all of our friends and family in Seattle.

Oh. And we quit our jobs.

Well, kinda.

Kelly had to quit as her job was based in NY so that was a given at some point as our future isn’t in NY. I was able to arrange some extended time off from work. The benefits of working for 8.5 years for the same employer AND hopefully having done a decent job over those years.

We also rented out our condo and house in Seattle for the next year.

So, where does that leave us? Unemployed, homeless, with some money in our bank accounts and dramatically reduced monthly life expenses.

For the next 10-12 months, Kelly and I plan on hitting the road and seeing the parts of the world we’ve never had a chance to see before. We leave on Jan 5th and in the meantime we’re going to enjoy a couple weeks in Seattle, hopefully getting some turns in at Baker and then head down to Phoenix to see my son and family. After that, we don’t return to the US for several months.

Our rough itin looks like this:

1/5 Phoenix-Los Angeles0-Seoul(23 hour layover)-Taipei-Bangkok.

For the month of Jan we’re going to hang out in Bangkok for a few days and then head north up to Chang Mai, Chang Rai and then into Laos. We’ll either cruise back down into Thailand or come down into Cambodia. We just need to be in Saigon on Feb 14th because we’re meeting my parents there for 15 days of extensive Vietnam travel.

We finish that up on the 28th and we’ll either head into Sapa for a few days for some trekking or head straight south to the beaches of Thailand and hopefully some rock climbing and diving. I’d like to take the train down to Singapore but we’ll see how time goes. I have to be in Singapore to catch a flight to Phoenix to spend a few days there for Andrew’s spring break.

I’ll return to meet Kelly in Bali and after that we’ll head to Sydney and north Australia. We plan on renting a campervan there and zooming around the beaches. Then, we’ll cruise over to New Zealand.

After Oceania, we plan to fly to Hong Kong and spend the month of May traveling around China, including a little train trip to Tibet and hopefully a little time in Nepal. Finally, I’d like to take a ferry from Shanghai to KObe, Japan and spend a couple weeks in south Japan. We have a flight that leaves Tokyo in June 18th, just in time to make a week long Sale family trip to Panama City Beach, Florida.

As you can tell, that is a lot to fit into 5 months and I already feel like we won’t have enough time. But who knows what will happen, where we will stay or how we might change our mind along the way and the next 5 months or so is totally up for debate as we think we’ll head to Brazil, Argentina and Chile for a couple and then head over to Europe for a couple more. We also have a limited amount of money and so that helps determine what we can and cannot do. Luckily, all of our flights are on miles (and in Biz class at that!) and we can stay pretty cheaply in Asia and South America.

We’ll blog a lot more as we finish packing and hit the road. We have already gotten our shots (yellow fever, hep a, b, polio boosters, etc), picked up our malaria pills and emergency antibiotics and should have most of the very limited gear we’ll be taking. We’ll talk more about that later, but suffice to say we are packing ultra light, with just a smaller backpack each.

That is all for now. K is making lunch on this beautiful, snowy Seattle day and then I’m catching a ride up to the cabin at Mt baker for a couple days of riding. Maybe I can convince Kelly to write a much more humourus post while I’m aware.