As Lindsay and I stare down the last weeks to departure, we keep debating how we came up with the idea to travel the world for a year. Neither of us can remember the precise moment except that The House had something to do with it. I maintain we bought the 2-bedroom/1-bath fixer-upper in Portland’s Woodstock neighborhood in 2006 in order to sell it 5 years later and use the proceeds to travel. Lindsay opines we conjured the trip after we bought The House and decided to sell it to generate the needed funds.

The House is a cruel mistress

Despite this gaping hole in the ‘origin myth’ of Where Is Your Toothbrush?, we see clearly what happened next. For five years we poured the limited funds we had into the mortgage payment, building materials, and furnishings; we labored in sweat and bruises to transform The House into a home and prepare it for sale. We rejoiced as the value of the property rose for the first two years; in horror we watched it plunge like a roller coaster car, dragging our dream with it.

In hindsight, we should have known better. We should have seen the signs the housing market’s exuberance was irrational. We should have accumulated savings gradually over the years rather than making a big, single bet. But we were young and naive. The conversation with our realtors in early 2011 brought these realizations home: if we’d sold then, we would have made little to no money, and our departure, slated for that fall, would have had to be postponed indefinitely.

The new plan

We reevaluated our plan. We’d have to sell in a year and spend the time reducing our expenses, increasing our income, and preparing the house for sale with final fixes and by getting rid of the stuff we had accumulated over the years. I quit my freelance marketing consulting business, put a startup I had founded on hiatus, and got a full-time day job.

A year later, in April 2012, The House sold after mere three days on the market. We got our down payment back—that was it. After six years of paying through the teeth, of persistent financial insecurity, of our dream slipping away, we were where we had started.

But with The House off our backs, we knew we could do it. We just needed a better plan. We made a budget and stuck to it. We moved money to trip savings and left it there. We reduced our spending. We sold the car. And we watched the trip become reality: in December 2012 we booked our flights to Boston and on to Amsterdam and a cave apartment on the Greek island of Santorini for October. In March 2013, I gave notice at work and the final stretch to the trip began.

The seven year journey leading up to T-Day feels like a blur, a renewal hand-in-hand with our bodies’ cells, a life lesson. We wanted this more than anything; we did everything we could to make it happen. Now we are grateful for the experience, grateful our joint dream is becoming real. It was all worth it.

How did you make (are you making) your big trip happen?

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