Trip Preparations

 

Now, that our grand tour is semi official, we need to kick our preparations into high gear. The “D” day is July 12 th 2011, which means we only have 105 days left until departure. To put it in perspective, it’s about how much time passed since last Christmas and I still have a bottle of unfinished holiday’s eggnog.

To get things started, Nadia helped me compile a list of CDs, DVDs, VCDs and other media with tons of music no one listens to and movies we don’t have the time to see. Actually, I was making the list, while she was learning how to use the camera. We ended up with a bunch of pictures and a list of almost 300 items that we need to get rid of. Granted, most of them are used and especially the cartoons are fairly beaten-up, but even if I was to sell it for a buck per CD and VCD and couple or three bucks per DVD, that’s still several hundred dollars which just may extend our trip by a few weeks. Without further delay, we’ve cleaned them all, matched with their sleeves and packed into 11 boxes. Instead of selling them one by one, which would take forever, I will put them up for sale on eBay in packages. I started with a collection of classic Polish cartoons on 21 VCDs. I put it up for auction with no reserve, starting at $0.99. Let’s see if there is any demand for Polish cartoons and how much are they really worth. Once that’s sold, I’ll list the other 10 boxes. In the meantime, we need to prepare all our books.

I hope to read a lot during the trip, but taking a lot of books is just not an option. The van is only so big anyway. We’ll take a Kindle and load it with electronic books. Apparently it holds up to 3,500 books which is much more then I’m capable of reading and definitely more then our entire collection gathered in the last nine years. If the experiment described above is successful, I’ll take similar approach with the reading materials and sell them in batches packaged thematically.

Some of our household items have found their new owners already at the party last Saturday. Apparently, our junk yard restored furniture has many fans and won’t go back to the dumpster. We’ll keep some things in storage, so that we don’t have to buy everything new upon return, others we’ll give to our friends for them to enjoy in our absence. I’m still freaking out though passing through our garage as I realize how many things we still need to get rid of, but Agnieszka keeps saying that a house Sale or two will do the trick. I certainly hope so, but I’m still skeptical.

In the same time, as we’re getting rid of stuff, we’re also acquiring new items. I mentioned the Kindle, but I’m also looking at headset monitors for the van, portable TV (well, maybe), car chargers, camping canopy, and many, many more. Which triggers another problem: how are we going to fit into our small van…? And how to organize all the smaller items to unloading and loading the car every time you need to find a clean towel or a new shirt…? I was thinking of plastic, transparent or clearly market containers stacked on top of each other, but that seems like a terrible waste of space. I’ll have to research that subject once we get closer to July.

On a related note, we plan to take Nadia’s keyboard and let her practice piano, as she really seems to enjoy it. I hope in larger cities we’ll be able to find inexpensive tutors, and who knows… maybe even pick up some Spanish in the process. As far as math, English, Polish and other second grade subjects, we’ll take the teaching responsibility upon ourselves. We have yet to talk to Nadia’s school principal and pick-up some materials. We plan to spend few hours everyday going through the material and maybe even adjust it to the places we’re about to visit. I hope we’ll be able to make it interesting for both our kids and no doubt learn something ourselves. Quite frankly, I’m already excited about the prospect!

Finally, we need to research insurance and immunization options. Actually, I think Agnieszka has it already well under control. She’s been contacting local health providers and institutions in Poland to figure out where would it be cheaper to get the shots and insurance.

Serge, our rental agent will take care of the house while we’re gone. He’s already seen it and is quite optimistic as far as our options. I hope he’s right, as being able to rent the house is the single biggest obstacle in our otherwise “perfect” plan. When we find renters for our house I’ll be able to share the news at work. I’m sure they’ll understand…

Announcing Sabbatical

Up until recently our trip didn’t have an official start date. Yes, we knew it will start probably some time in July or August, but we didn’t have a fix date. That has changed yesterday, when Agnieszka committed my hard earned 200,000 frequent traveler miles and USD $2,400.- (taxes and other fees) in exchange for a round trip to Katowice. Well, not exactly a round trip. We will departure from Rochester on Tuesday, July 12 th 2011 and return to Toronto on August 29 th 2011.

It means that our North American sabbatical year will start in Europe. We’ll spend that time with our friends and Family, show our kids where we grew up, travel around Europe. We’ll probably visit the Czech Republic, Germany and Norway, but those will be rather short trips. I’d like to use the time in Chorzów to better plan the details of our trip, get necessary insurance, immunization shots, etc.

We’d like to rent the house out mid July, right after our departure. Therefore we need to sell all the junk we’ve accumulated over the past nine years, put our valuables in storage, sell one car and motorcycle, pack our van and park it on our neighbors driveway for the summer.

Last Saturday at Alex’s third birthday party, we announced our plans to our friends. Most of them were surprised, some seemed shocked, but all congratulated our decision. I think we all agree that life’s too short to waste it in a cubicle cell, working long hours and weekends for a paycheck, with no satisfaction. Anyway, that’s not what this post is about…

Once back to upstate New York, we plan to pick up our car and drive down to Allegany State Park for the Labor Day weekend and a farewell party for our Rochester friends. Where will we go next? Well, that’s still to be decided. We know that the ultimate goal is Mexico and Central America, all the way down to Darien’s Gap. Rough budget shows that we might be able to support ourselves for 15 to 18 months on the road, maybe a little longer.

On that trip there will be a few points that we “must see” and a few things that we “ must do”, but overall it will be about going slow and enjoying the surroundings. Among the places that we absolutely have to visit is the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks in the US, Morelia and Yukatan in Mexico, the Panama Canal and a few other places. We all want to learn Spanish, Agnieszka wants to complete Yoga instructor course in Guatemala, I want to learn the ropes of DSLR photography and write, write, write. I hope Agnieszka and Nadia will help me with that task and that we’ll be posting here often.

The Sabbatical

I’d like to begin saying, that it all started one Valentine’s Day evening, when me and my wife were laying on the carpet, next to a gas fireplace, with lights off watching the imaginary stars on our living room ceiling. However plain and unromantic it sounds, it was the day when we decided we want to change something about our life. Not that we didn’t like the warmth of the fire safely enclosed in a metal box, not that we didn’t enjoy the comfy pillows supporting our heads or the quietness of our large house, with our kids sleeping soundly upstairs. We did appreciate all that a lot, and yet we decided to throw it all out…

We could afford our suburban house in safe neighborhood, good school, two IRA’s, two 529′s,  and occasional Caribbean vacations. All that  from just one paycheck. A really good paycheck, considering we lived in an inexpensive  part of country. My job, that provided this income wasn’t bad at all. Actually, at times, I think I even enjoyed what I was doing.

So, what exactly happened that Valentine’s Day night, under the living room stardom…? I’ll never know that for sure. Maybe it was the wine, or the “magic of the moment”, who knows…? Bottom line, we decided to trade all that safety and security of our Family for an open road and the thrill and danger of an unknown adventure. Nuts, obviously…

We couldn’t sleep that night, we couldn’t sleep for many more nights thereafter. It started with an idea of a short sabbatical trip to South America. By next morning, it evolved into a full fledged, multi-year trip around the World. Details, like trip funding yet to be defined.

Obviously, the economic aspect of that idea soon rose to be it’s greatest obstacle and it wasn’t until I’ve laid out a solid plan that convinced my wife to give it her blessing. The plan involved selling all our means of transportation, most household items, putting our retirement and kids education savings on hold, renting the house, anticipating tax returns and researching travel and accommodation options in various parts of the World. Turned out, living on the road was going to be much less expensive than staying in our own house. Or to be exact, staying in the house owned by our bank.

What happened next is an uncommon story of a very common Family, starring  Mommy and Daddy (a.k.a. The Nuts), a six years old girl and an almost three year old boy. The story is shared here with the rest of the World as we discover it.