I suppose it’s about time I introduced myself.
Hi, I’m Matt. I’m 28 years old, living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, USA.
In early 2016, my partner and I will quit our jobs, sell the bulk of our possessions, and hit the road. We’ve talked casually about this idea for several years now, but it wasn’t until our lonely day at Craters of the Moon last March that we set a date and started planning our adventure.
There are two versions of our plan:
In version #1, the plan we’ve shared with a small group of family and friends, we spend 12-24 months slow-traveling the world (mostly North America), then return from our adventures and presumably settle down again in the western U.S. and go back to normal life. We visit our friends, camp and hike in national and state parks, mix in some opportunistic international trips, and have some great travel stories for many years to come.
Then there’s version #2, my real dream. In this version, 12-24 months of slow travel doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the places we want to see, the people we want to meet, and the experiences we want to have. Month 24 rolls around, and we find ourselves on a beach in Thailand or in a taqueria in Oaxaca, and we say, “There’s no way we’re going back.” In this version, two years of frugal travel experience and a moderately successful “side hustle” income have made me more comfortable telling people I’m “financially independent” – or even “retired,” if I feel like being provocative. Sure, we may work occasionally for some extra income and to deepen our connections with the places we visit. Maybe I’ll spend five hours a week helping with a friend’s startup from the road. But returning to a desk job at home isn’t even on the radar screen.
I have no idea how things will play out. Part of the fun will be figuring that out along the way.
We’re planning to start with a road trip around the western U.S. and Canada, heading south to warmer destinations in the spring and then north as temperatures rise. Once summer arrives, we’d like to explore Alaska for the season, then return to the States and head to the Midwest for autumn. As winter approaches, we’ll start evaluating international destinations. We would be happy going just about anywhere, so we’ll likely optimize around flight deals, cost of living, and great weather.
Here’s a sampling of things we would love to do as part of our travels:
- Spend weeks backpacking along the Wonderland Trail (Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington), Zion Narrows (Zion National Park, Utah), and Lost Coast Trail (Pacific Coast, Northern California)
- Visit every National Park in the United States and Canada (even Quttinirpaaq?)
- Buy the ~$400 Mountain Collective ski pass and ski 28 days at world-class mountains in the US, Canada, Chile, Japan, and France
- Rent a room and become ski bums for a season in Park City, Jackson Hole, or Whistler
- Visit hundreds of craft breweries and taste every IPA and bourbon barrel-aged ale
- Buzz my hair off with $15 clippers instead of getting a $30 haircut every 6 weeks
- Buy a 20-year-old minivan, throw a bed in the back, and drive it across North (and maybe even Central and South) America
- Go a day without looking at my laptop or phone
- Not open PowerPoint ever
- Rent a lakeside apartment in Panajachel, Guatemela, and host friends and family on vacation
- Sleep in on weekdays without an alarm clock
- Eat $1 khao rad gaeng breakfasts in Bangkok
- Work part-time for a season at an alpine hostel
- Work part-time at a brewery, winery, or tasting room
- Drive to Mexico and take an immersive Spanish language course
- Camp overnight in The Enchantments
- Take a one-way 24-night Transpacific cruise from Seattle to Sydney and use the internet-free weeks to catch up on reading and writing
- Read 100 of the best fantasy novels [this one is Daniel’s alone!]
- Rent a camper van and spend three months driving around Australia
- Write a book related to my “side hustle” business to create long-term passive income
- Get free lodging across the world with hotel points, CouchSurfing, and house sitting
- Visit the Museo Nacional del Prado and eat jamón ibérico in Spain
- Be the random people just hanging out in a coffee shop at 11 AM on a Tuesday
- Attend Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin, Texas
- Take the train from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., then bike back
- Spend meaningful time visiting our friends and family in California, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York
- Try all of Yelp’s Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S., The Daily Meal’s America’s 50 Best Bakeries, and Thrillist’s 33 Best Burritos in America
- Attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, Maine Lobster Festival, Minnesota State Fair, and Great American Beer Festival
- Meet up for drinks with anyone we’re lucky enough to have read this blog
We’ve been fortunate enough to do a good bit of exploring the world already. I’ve been to 40 states; Daniel to 27. After college, I spent a month backpacking across Western Europe. Daniel lived in England and Hungary for six months. But the more I see of the world, the more I realize how little I’ve seen. There are entire continents (full of billions of people!) on which I’ve never set foot. We’re lucky enough to be able to visit them with relative ease. I can’t imagine not taking advantage of that opportunity.
There’s one major step I need to take before we can start our adventures: quitting my job. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am nervous about this step. Sure, there are plenty of things I don’t like about it, but status quo bias is hard to overcome. I have a unique and relatively fun position in a growing company, and once I’ve left, there’s no coming back. The golden handcuffs don’t help: good pay, the lure of an annual bonus, “Cadillac” insurance benefits, forfeitable equity, and the ability to work from home are, admittedly, attractive reasons to stay.
My point is that with all the positives of my job, it would be very easy to stick around a little longer, pad the savings account a bit more, and keep our travel dreams in the category of “someday.” It would be easy to say, “Just one more year. I can do that.” But thanks to the advice and wisdom of the online travel and personal finance community, I intend to resist those temptations. We’ve set a date (or at least a season), and we intend to stick to it. The timing will never be perfect for this type of adventure. Why not do it now, while we can?
In preparation for our trip, we’ve been saving as much as possible. We’ve always lived a relatively simple, frugal life well below our means, so this hasn’t been a huge change for either of us. Over the past six months, I’ve also been building a small side income that should help us pay the bills and reduce our monthly withdrawals from savings. It’s not passive (unfortunately, it’s the exact opposite – by-the-hour “active” income), but it is doable anywhere with a phone or internet connection, which should help us maintain our location flexibility.
My goal in launching The Resume Gap is to record our travel experiences, share some insight into our lives, and ideally provide some inspiration to others who are considering similarly “out of the ordinary” adventures. Along the way, I’ll surely pontificate a bit about life, work, and money – but we’ll try to provide some useful advice and practical learnings from our travels as well. We’ll also be transparent with our spending to give you a realistic view of what this crazy adventure entails financially. I don’t know exactly what to expect on that front, but I’m hoping our reaction and yours will be more like “Wow, that’s more affordable than I thought!” and less like “Good god, they burned through how much cash?”
Thanks for reading. We hope you’ll stick around.