Sabbatical Fund

We reveal our strategy for funding a year long Sabbatical road trip, which will take our family around North and Central Americas.

Following on the post couple of days ago, I started the countdown. Sitting at my desk in my luxurious cubicle, I can’t concentrate on anything else. Today is Thursday and there will be only 14 more Thursday’s, 12 more Friday meetings (April 22nd and July 1st are holidays), 4 more monthly KPI’s, only three more Operations Reviews, one objectives setting and no more performance reviews! I just had my last one yesterday. During a phone conversation with my boss, who’s based in Spain, I was asked about my short and long term plans. Obviously I wasn’t ready to disclose all of them just yet. I’m afraid that an honest answer, at this stage could negatively impact my annual bonus payout calculation, or as I refer to it, the „Sabbatical fund”.

People often wonder, how is it possible to travel the World for extender periods of time. Most assume that it has to cost a lot of money and that you have to be born rich or acquire wealth before you can set of on an adventure like that. In fact, none of it is true. If you apply the right strategy, living on the road can be much cheaper then living in your own house. This however is a subject for a whole different post. Today, I’d like to discuss the savings we will accumulate to finance this trip.

My annual bonus is the single, most significant funding source for our big trip. Instead of putting it into savings or buying a new motorcycle, it will finance about six months on the road. Assuming we embrace the frugal way of living.

The second largest, or about four more months on the road will come from Uncle Sam. No, the government has not agreed to sponsor this extravaganza. The IRS is expected to return some of the monies, my Company has handed over on my behalf as income taxes. By the way, it’s a weird concept, isn’t it? You’re being taxed or penalized for working and earning a living. If you don’t, you don’t work and don’t earn anything, you don’t have to pay! I’ll join the ranks of non-paying citizens in about 14 weeks.

Coming back to our big trip funding, as I explained in some posts before, we’ll sell most of our possessions, and hope this will generate enough dough to stay on the road for another four of five months. First to go will be my motorcycle, followed closely by my car, then the big screen HDTV in our basement, lawn mower, snow blower (yippee!), all electronics, kitchen tools, furniture, etc. We’ll keep appliances and rent out them with the house.

I’m saving vacation days, so that I’m paid off for them, when we part our ways with the Company. Five weeks of pay can finance another three or four months on the go.

Finally, I have a little stocks portfolio, which is not doing so good right now, but it didn’t loose much value in the past year either. I’m hoping my fortune will turn while we’re on the road, so I treat that as an emergency fund or a home warming gift after we return.

All in all, we don’t have much, so being frugal on the road will be a must. At the same time however staying on the same continent, rather than circumnavigating the Globe will definitely help us keep our sanity in case anything bad (knock, knock) happens. Visiting places that are considerably cheaper then the USA is also going to help achieve that goal. The bottom line is, assuming our house stays rented thorough out the entire trip, we’ll be able to travel for about 18 months without having to work on the road. However, if we can find a supplementary source of funding, who knows where it will take us…? And I’m sure going to try to figure it out.

Trip Preparations

The decision about the Gap Year has been taken, now it’s time to start preparations to spend a year out traveling with kids. There’s so many things to take care of…


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…