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Apr 302013
Jul 282014

The yearlong round-the-world trip was an adventure of our lifetimes. A lot happened on the road. Meanwhile, back in Portland, Oregon, our adopted hometown, life continued without us: Babies were born (Welcome to Earth, Alder, Dylan, and Eliáš!), jobs were changed, houses were sold and bought… Aside from all the personal news and updates, in the first few days back I also noticed a few other changes in the City of Roses.

New in Portland #1: Murals

Creating a mural in Portland, Oregon, isn’t a simple process, so imagine my surprise discovering a slew of new murals around town. Some of these may not be new per se but they are new to me. Maybe, as a permanent traveler, I’m paying more attention to the world around me. Or maybe it’s because I used to live in Southeast Portland whereas I now live in the Northeast quadrant. One thing is for sure: there are plenty more murals to discover.

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New in Portland #2: Citrusy ales

Portland is said to have the most microbreweries per capita of any medium- to large-sized American city. In 2013 Travel and Leisure magazine named Portland the Best Beer City. Earlier this year, no fewer than 8 new breweries were slated to open in Portland in 2014. Not all that surprising considering my adopted hometown’s nickname is Beervana.

It wasn’t as much the number of new breweries that opened while we were gone as the unprecedented number of citrusy ales on tap this summer season. As of this writing I’ve only been in town for 10 days but I’ve already sampled Citrus Mistress by Hop Valley (grapefruit), Superfuzz Blood Orange Pale Ale by Elysian (blood orange, duh), and Fresh Squeezed IPA by Deschutes (lemon from Citra and Mosaic hops). At Oregon Brewers Festival, I sampled Lorenzini Blood Orange Double IPA by Maui and Blood Orange IPA by Payett (I skipped the Blood Orange/Dragon Fruit Florida Weisse by Cigar Brewing and Orange Avenue Wit by Coronado chiefly because these aren’t my favorite styles, and Citrafonix by Oakshire because, well, you can’t drink everything).

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A taste of Payette Blood Orange IPA at Oregon Brewers Festival, 7/25/2014.

Granted, none of these are from Portland-based breweries (they’re from Eugene, Seattle, Bend, while the OBF beers are from Maui, Garden City, Tampa, Coronado, and Eugene, respectively). But Portland sits in the middle of the Pacific Northwest region, which is awash in microbrews and should be called Pacific Beerwest.

New in Portland #3: Condos

Runaway construction of boxy condominium complexes, particularly those without off-street parking spaces, was a topic of controversy long before we departed on our trip. Every day I drove or biked by condo construction sites. I should have expected to see them finished and new ones being started. But in these first few days back it feels like I’ve been seeing many more than I should be. Just around the corner from our new place, a new condo building sprouted while we were gone, and another one is going up one block over.

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All these new condo buildings are changing the look and feel of the city, particularly on the East Side. Good thing beautiful murals and tasty microbrews keep things right.

What changes did you notice in your city after a long absence?

 One year later in Portland, Oregon

Jul 252014

Besides “What’s your favorite country/place?” and “How does it feel to be back?”, queries about our travel budget and spending top the list of questions people ask about our trip. Lindsay already covered reasons and methods behind our $100/day budget. Now that the trip has concluded and we closed the accounting of our year on the road, it’s time to recap.

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The jin chan money toad we got as a present to bring us good luck in saving for the next trip.

Most importantly, we kept things simple. Keeping things simple allowed us to stick to our budget and to not spend too much time on money issues at the expense of enjoying the trip.

Budget vs. actual RTW trip expenditures

The $100/day, or $36,000 per year, budget Lindsay had created included accommodations, food, ground transport (we tracked flights separately), activities, and any other trip-related expenditures.

To adhere to the budget, we decided to track our spending conscientiously. I was in charge of expense tracking. First I considered using an expense-tracking iPhone app but I decided against it for the following reasons:

  1. Even before the trip my relationship with my smartphone oscillated between love (pocket thumbing) and hate (bottom of the backpack).
  2. I knew I had to record expenses right away lest I forget.

Thus an app would have been an unreliable way of tracking our expenses. So since I used my laptop almost every day to work on this blog, I went old school: a no-frills spreadsheet with columns for each expenditure category and rows for each day of the trip with SUM formulas in all the right places.

Expense tracking allowed us to see how we’re doing against our budget (or daily maximum) every day. We tightened or loosened our spending accordingly: if we saw we’re way under budget, we treated ourselves, and if we saw we’re getting close to the daily max, we tightened the purse. There were only a few days that the daily average exceeded the $100 mark. We concluded we could travel on a much tighter budget (and, of course, on a much more generous one). Overall, tracking expenses worked out really well for us.

The trip expenses only include those we spent while traveling together for 365 days. The tally on Day 365: we spent a total of $36,539 with the daily average of $100.11. That is only $39 or $0.11/day over our budget.

Breakdown of RTW trip expenses

Travelers who track their expenses in greater detail than we do (see for example here and here), break their travel spending down by month/travel period or by country or both. We decided against doing so for several reasons:

  • In any given month we could have been in more than one country or traveling differently (staying in an apartment versus taking a multi-day tour, for example), which would have made the months impossible to compare. A year, i.e. the entire duration of our trip, made more sense.
  • In many countries we used different kinds of accommodations and particularly staying with friends/family or housesitting would skew the picture of spending in that country.
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In my parents’ apartment building, Košice, Slovakia, July 2013.

Here’s the breakdown of our expenses on the year. All figures are rounded to the nearest dollar.

  • Food/beverages: $15,168. This included restaurants, street food, fast food, snacks, and groceries, as well as water, juice, soda, tea/coffee, beer, wine, and cocktails. In short, we ate well.
  • Ground transport: $4,081. This included car/scooter/bicycle rental, busses of all sizes, boat/ferry, train, metro, and monorail.
  • Activities: $2,314. This included entries to museums, parks, various attractions, cinemas; excursions and tours; and other trip-related activities.
  • Miscellaneous: $4,975. This included clothes/shoes, backpacks (we downsized midway through the trip), camera, toiletries, gifts and souvenirs, postage, medications, books, money transfer and ATM fees, laundry, language school tuition, and other minor trip-related expenses.

Cost of flights around the world

We tracked flights separately: flights didn’t figure into our daily expenses and we financed 90% of them, a debt we were willing to undertake to make our dream happen.

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On the flight from Cusco to Lima, Peru, June 2014.

We considered buying round-the-world plane tickets, which would have cost us about $5,000 each for the itinerary we had planned. In the end we decided to buy one-way tickets as we went, even if it meant spending more on flights. This allowed us greater flexibility, which we came to appreciate as the trip progressed and we loosened our own limits on the itinerary. Round-the-world plane tickets are also complicated so figuring out the best deal also seemed like extra hassle (to me anyway) while we had to deal with other issues before the trip.

We took 12 flights:

  1. Portland, Oregon, to Boston
  2. Boston to Amsterdam via Reykjavik
  3. Paris to Budapest
  4. Belgrade to Athens
  5. Athens to Santorini
  6. Athens to Istanbul
  7. Istanbul to Amsterdam
  8. Amsterdam to Bangkok via Abu Dhabi
  9. Singapore to Sydney
  10. Sydney to Buenos Aires
  11. Lima to Mexico City
  12. Mexico City to Portland

These 12 flights cost us a total of $8,796.28, some $1,200 less than what we’d thought we’d have to spend on flights. As with our daily expenses, we were happy about the final amount.

Money on the road: Scattered lessons and surprises

  • An obvious one: One-way plane tickets purchased on the go cost us less than round-the-world tickets.
  • Places that turned out to be more expensive than we’d anticipated: Istanbul (mostly accommodations – food was inexpensive); Central Europe (while still affordable, prices have been climbing steadily as the standard of living has improved); Singapore (we knew it was up there, we just didn’t realize how much); and Peru (locals told us prices had gone up in the previous three-plus years, chiefly in response to increased tourism).
  • Places that turned out to be less expensive than we’d anticipated: Thailand (inexpensive as advertised but offering a plethora of ways to spend more than we wanted); Malaysia (street food was so good and cheap it made no sense to cook at home even when renting an apartment).
  • Thailand, Chile, and Peru shocked us with exorbitant ATM fees for withdrawals from foreign accounts.
  • When not staying with friends/family or housesitting, we planned to stay mostly in apartments. Staying in private rooms at hostels turned out to be much more fun and a great way to meet fellow travelers, and it often cost about the same as apartment rentals.
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Our favorite hostel on the entire trip, Bariloche, Argentina, April 2014.

  • We also never considered couchsurfing. But in Mendoza, Argentina, we encountered a lively community centered around Couchsurfing.com, and now we want to try it on the next trip. We also learned about WorkAway, which allows for exchanging a few hours of work for free accommodation in hostels and such.
  • Though we never tracked the actual expenditures, we spent way more than we imagined on Coca Cola, a fast cure for digestive ailments and hangovers, a substitute for afternoon coffee, and a pick-me-up before a night on the town.