Alex and Mina of Sending Postcards gave up secure jobs, sold their house and got rid of their possessions to travel the world. My wife and I also went through that exact same process so I can attest that it was one of the most stressful times of our lives. Alex and Mina make it look easy in comparison. They share some of their experiences in this interview.
Please tell us a little about your background.
We have enjoyed reading the JetSetCitizen over the past year and are excited that we have been asked to be interviewed.
Our story begins in Canada, on the icy cold prairies. We were both born and raised in the city of Winnipeg. I’m 27 years young and Mina just celebrated her 26th birthday during our stay in Guayaquil, Ecuador.
We met in 2004 while we were both studying at the University of Manitoba. I started work as a software developer/programmer analyst shortly after graduating. Mina had several business endeavours, as well as a part time job, while she was completing her degree. Her business background led to a job in banking a few days after her convocation. She left her position as a financial advisor a few months before we left to go on this trip, in order to facilitate selling our house and belongings. I left my job only a few weeks prior to our departure from Winnipeg. We decided to get married before we left because we thought it would be romantic to go on an around the world honeymoon.
Why did you decide to go on a round-the-world trip?
Each of us had 3 weeks of vacation per year. During this allotted time, we would end up taking long flights to the other side of the world (Tokyo, Paris, Dubai etc…). We would come home, in the dead of winter, exhausted and wishing that we were still traveling. We both knew that Winnipeg was not where we ultimately wanted to settle down and decided that we could not brave another winter (of the -40 Celsius/Fahrenheit variety) . Since we would have to sell our home and find new jobs anyway, we figured it would be the best time to take a break to travel.
Where are you now and where have you been so far?
We are currently in Capetown, South Africa. We started the trip in Mexico and worked our way overland into Central America. We used buses to travel between Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. From Costa Rica we flew to Ecuador and visited the Galapagos Islands.
We had intended to travel around South America, but landslides in Peru prompted us to change our plans. We decided to fly to South Africa via Miami and return to South America at a later date.
How long are you planning to travel on this round-the-world trip?
Originally, we planned on traveling continuously for one year. We are toying with the idea of heading back to Canada for the summer before leaving again for the winter. From the start, our plans have been very flexible so we have no definite end date.
Have you been saving for a long time to fund this trip?
In terms of finances, nothing was specifically done to save for this trip. Generally, we saved for savings sake and were fortunate enough to not have any debt (aside from the mortgage on our house). We feverishly paid the mortgage down by making weekly, accelerated payments. So, in addition to our 5 year accumulated savings, and the money we made from selling belongings, we have allocated a very small portion of our sale proceeds to fund our trip.
Living frugally typically denotes sacrificing the finer things in life to save money. In this sense we did not live frugally, since we feel we were able to save money and still enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, however, we were continually tracking our income and expenses. Instead of viewing this as a burden we saw it as an opportunity to eliminate needless expenses and identify strategies to increase the growth of our investments.
Are you earning money while you travel?
We are not currently working while we travel, but are earning some money through investments and petty larceny.
From your blog posts it looks like you are staying in some nice hotels and eating in nice restaurants, are you not under any budget constraints?
We have eaten at a wide range of restaurants on the trip so far. Some have been trendy, upscale restaurants, others have been stands on the street. Several of the nicer ‘sit-down’ spots we have dined at have been surprisingly inexpensive – especially in Mexico. We also buy groceries whenever possible since nothing beats a good grilled cheese sandwich!
We feel we’ve been fairly successful at finding great restaurants and accommodations at affordable prices. Due to the fact that we’re planning the trip as we go, we’ve been able to get some amazing deals on 3 and 4 star hotels booked at the last minute. In addition to hotels and B&B’s, we look into alternative accommodation options, such as self-catering/short stay apartments. We scour the internet to ensure that we feel that we’re getting the best value for any given destination.
How much do you estimate you will spend in a year of traveling?
If we travel continuously for one year, we have projected that the costs, based on our average daily spending thus far, will be approximately $50, 000 CAD. This is in line with our expectations, based on the research we did before leaving.
Did you buy round-the-world airfare?
Nothing was purchased in advance. Our only plan for this trip was not to have one. We take each day as it comes. This has resulted in some great opportunities to stay longer in places we’ve enjoyed and escape from those we haven’t.
We have been using kayak.com to book our plane tickets and have been very pleased with how it aggregates flight deals. While in Mexico and Central America, we chose to travel between countries by bus which gave us an opportunity to occasionally save on a night of accommodation. Bus tickets were never more than $50, and they were as (un)comfortable as flying.
Will you return to Canada after your trip or will you try to live abroad?
We adore Canada. The more we travel, the more we appreciate all the amazing things Canada has to offer. Having said that, we are still not interested in moving back to Winnipeg. The summers on the prairies are gorgeous, but unfortunately they are short and the rest of the seasons, in our opinion, leave much to be desired.
As we wander around the world, we’ve been weighing the possibility of living in each place that we visit.
You mentioned that you are going to keep enough money to buy a house on your return, does that mean you are not interested in a nomadic lifestyle?
The nomadic lifestyle has it’s appeal, however, we have plans and goals for our lives that would be difficult to complete if we continued to do this. We will definitely continue to travel, but probably on the scale of days or weeks, rather than months at a time.
What mistakes did you make in preparing for your RTW trip?
We didn’t prepare enough!
We underestimated how large some countries are (i.e. Mexico). Also we didn’t take into consideration how much time would be involved in ensuring our pictures were uploaded, our costs spreadsheet updated, and scheduling sightseeing & activities.
I think the biggest mistake we made was packing too much stuff. It becomes tedious to unpack and repack items – especially when you haven’t used them in months (i.e. a mosquito net, extra clothes, etc…)
Have you had any major problems on your trip?
Thankfully, no. We almost missed a flight connection in Quito – but that’s about it!
What have been the best and worst places you have visited so far?
Tokyo, Japan has been our favourite destination. The food is delicious, the culture is so interesting, and ever since we left we’ve been dying to go back.
We wouldn’t want to give the title of “the worst place” to anywhere we’ve been. Ask us again in 6 months and we might have an answer!
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