Category: Wanderlust (page 1 of 2)

The planning of a MINI-RTW, continued travel hacking.

I figure I should start detailing a bit more about the adventures I go on and how we do it all on the cheap. (the “we” in this equation is my  hopefully -probably forever partner-in-crime and newly nicknamed Tom, because he is as persistent as Tom from Tom & Jerry when he sets his mind to something)    Most people don’t believe or understand,  It’s really actually possible to stay in a hotel for free for an entire week, to have lounge access in most airports, to fly in business class and to get 200,000 aeroplan miles in the span of a year and to redeem them for a round the world trip to many crazy destinations AND pay only a few hundred dollars in tax, without having to do anything crazy.

I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. Your definition of crazy may also be different from mine 😉

I first read about travel hacking on Chris Guillebeaus blog and was amazed at this idea of signing up for credit cards, getting bonuses and flying all over the world for next to nothing. I was enamored. This was right around the time where I started getting in shape financially, probably back around 2008/2009.  For my birthday in 2010 I received a signed copy of Chris’ book The Art of Nonconformity from my boyfriend at the time. He got me a signed copy of it which was so sweet!

That book was what I needed to read at that time. I won’t turn this into a book review and the book isn’t a literary marvel but I took some  key points from it to apply to my life. I share similar ideas with Chris I suppose.  I make my own rules and that book helped me on my path towards what has become my biggest  and most enjoyed time suck; travel. From 2010 I worked on my finances and in mid-2012 went on my first solo multi-country trip.

That trip wasn’t travel-hacked a whole lot, I paid a fair market economy price and got a few deals here and there and definitely did it on a budget. I got rolling with travel hacking moreso in 2013 and took off running with it from 2014 onward.  Key to my success with travel hacking has been meeting my boyfriend and working on it as a team. Together we have accrued and used over $16,000 in points in the past few years, that value is higher if you translate the value of our flights and hotel stays into what they would have cost if bought out right. We keep track in a spreadsheet that most of the time is hopelessly out of date.  We are currently working on a fairly huge (for us) trip that will hopefully take us from Eastern Canada, around parts of Western Europe, to Australia, through parts of Asia and around through the Western coast of North America and back home again.  Here’s an idea of what the return leg of the journey is likely to look like;

Travel hacking isn’t for everyone. There are a two key ducks you need to have in a row to really get the ball rolling;

Income; On my own I was able to do all right, I was able to earn around $500-$1,000 in a year in points and slowly build up my aeroplan balance to somewhere around 30,000-60,000 over a year orso but my income has varied in past years and I’ve noticed I’ve really been able to kick up travel hacking a notch since I no longer have a mortgage and my income has increased. Additionally teaming up with Tom has been beneficial for us both. You can refer eachother for credit cards deals etc, and get around income requirements you don’t quite have yourself by claiming household income etc.  Having one member of your household earn in the range of 60-80k annually and the other 40-60k allows you to take advantage of the best creditcard deals due to income requirements, you can do it on your own, but together is a double whammy.

The other key to it all is TIME. You need a lot of time, and a lot of persistence and some skill to apply for, spend and then accumulate a nice pile of points to be able to take advantage of what you’ve earned.  It also helps to date a nerd. 😀 I’m sitting next to Tom right now who has programmed a java script to scrape itinerary results that we’ve collected to put together the best itinerary and times with our requirements; minimum stop over hours in certain cities, excluding certain airlines etc., which we will then be able to call in and actually piece together on the phone.

A very helpful thread to get started with is the FAQ: FAQ: The Complete Newbie Guide/FAQ to the Air Canada Aeroplan Mini-RTW on FlyerTalk.

Prince of Travel (a blog I don’t know otherwise) also has a helpful post on the basics of planning a mini-rtw

Obviously this has to be of interest to you and it definitely takes a certain type of personality, on the whole it’s very achievable for many people. That’s all for me today though, I need to get ready to head to Cape Breton for the weekend to do the Cabot trail! 😀

Stagnation

I often write in my head while I’m driving or when I’m laying in bed at about 3AM trying to stop my brain from whirring a hundred miles an hour and just be still. I string up words and reorder them into coherent sentences and paragraphs, orderly arrangements, to put down on paper or screen the next day. Inevitably I always forget what I was going to write and I feel like if I had some method of easily recording these thoughts faster I would write more and better things. It seems the best ideas always come when I’m not sitting at a keyboard or with a pen in hand.

Some time ago I started the process of fixing broken links and editing the actual content of this website because I got annoyed with myself at the little errors I noticed regularly in old posts. Consequently, two weeks ago I deleted every single post on this blog and I am restoring them as I’m going through them one by one, proofreading and editing grammar and other simple mistakes. This means that while I’ve fixed all the original broken links already present, there are now new broken links because they refer to articles that have not yet been restored to the site. It will take me a few weeks to get through everything.

The reason I decided to do this was to do further proofreading and editing of one article at a time so this website reflects a progression in my life and not just progress in my financial life. It was a pain in the butt to scroll through them one by one so I decided to just start with zero. It’s been helpful to read through everything and remember things as I wrote them and experienced them then. This blog spans almost four years of my life now and I’ve written about many different things.

I admit that half the posts are of abysmal quality and are more suitable for a livejournal than a personal finance blog but… this is my blog, when I wrote those things I meant them. I’ve changed and grown since then. I can’t be embarrassed for falling on my face while I was trying to learn how to walk or bike as a child… I shouldn’t be embarrassed for my writings or feelings in the past given that I gave it my best effort at that time. So, while I am editing out simple mistakes I will leave the ideas as I wrote them. (as hard as that is)

Lately I feel like I am stagnating since I graduated last May. I haven’t been reading many books, something I do very much enjoy and my internet activities are spread between Imgur, reddit, frantic email checking and sporadic gaming sessions through Steam. When I’m bored I’ve been watching tv shows, too many to count, and sitting around too much. Too much? Stagnation.

It’s high time for change.

So I got my bachelor’s… now what?

2013-05-10 14.56.26

This is what ‘happy’ looks like after 8-years of snail-like progress. 😉

After I graduated high school, way back in 2003 I went on to complete a completely useless college diploma in Tourism. I suppose I can’t call it completely useless because I did learn two things; I love to travel and I’d much rather get into the business side of things. I graduated college in 2005 and enrolled part-time at my local university and began working towards a bachelors degree in business (with a major in tourism, due to the previously taken college tourism degree).

I quit a few times along the way, once because I didn’t think I could do it and had had an awful experience with a terrible prof (who no longer works there… for tax evasion, ha…) and other times because there were more interesting adventures to be had, like moving across country and buying a house and having a job, and taking off for weeks to travel in the middle of the semester (I did this three times actually)  getting a promotion and becoming self-employed.

Not all the reasons for my quitting school were positive. For almost two years at one point right after I bought my house I just quit taking courses, for no particular reason I just stopped enrolling for credits and just sortof… gave up. And then it became harder to go back because I just wasn’t sure where I was going with it until I had an enlightening conversation with C. in the summer of 2009 and went back that fall. Fast-forward almost 2,5 years later and last May I was finally able to cross the stage and pick up that darned diploma.

I’ve been working full-time and studying part-time since mid-2007 and when graduation day came I was actually rather surprised at how excited I was and how nervous! I’d been working towards it for so long that the end, the final hoop to jump through just seemed like a very far away thing. After I crossed the stage I felt a sense of accomplishment and I was pretty happy. I’m still happy of course!

However, since graduation day I’ve been sent into a bit of a tailspin. My company reduced in since in January, 2013 and having graduated…  I have all these complicated feelings about where I should or should not live. Work hasn’t been satisfying, it’s going well! but…. well, things have been meh, which has led me to start thinking. I have no real purpose to work towards right now and since I’ve been old enough to think about the future I’ve always said that I wanted to earn a masters degree and over the past few years it’s become clear that an MBA seems the most attractive option to me. Unfortunately…. they’re really expensive. So, what’s next? I’ve spent the months since May kind of floating about. Making money, investing it into my house. Focusing on my recent travels to Italy, Germany and the Netherlands, trying to stay on budget and just thinking a lot about my next move.

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The one thing I keep coming back to is that in 2007 I seriously considered completing my degree at a university in the Netherlands (RUG) simply because tuition is government subsidized and I pay substantially less for tuition than I do in Canada. (Um, perhaps Newfoundland excluded) I ultimately chose not to go there back then, because I was too afraid mostly and it didn’t make the most sense economically including living expenses, plus I ended up quitting my ‘day-job’ that year and going to work for my parents, which lead to me incorporating my own company in 2009.

The past few months have been an emotional roller-coaster for me. Still, over all the years that idea of going on to study and/or live elsewhere for at least a little while has never really gone away and it is one of the additional reasons I am considering moving away for a few months in the future. This idea has been simmering in my head for a long time now and it’s nagging at me, among other things. I started mentioning it already in a few past posts. I’m restless and through blogging, saving and planning towards this next big step I hope to make a little more sense of my thoughts, and chronicle whatever path I end up taking in the coming while.

How did you feel after you graduated?

Stay tuned for another post this coming week about my next move…

Image credit.

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