RTW? WHAT IS AN RTW?
6 Months ago, I had never seen the acronym “RTW” (which does not mean “return to work”, as my friend Thom suggested not too long ago, almost killing the entire excitement about this story).
Then, almost as if orchestrated, we started hearing about people making “long trips”. The “I need to rent out my place until I’m back”- type of trip. A Peruvian friend -Dutch wife and kids included -, our Dutch neighbor from upstairs (who split from her boyfriend not too long before), a colleague from work… All of them planning trips longer than 3-4 months, as if they were planning a long weekend in Brussels.
And next to this of course the usual articles you see online, about the happy couple who sold everything, bought and pimped an old VW Kombi and went traveling the globe with their dog.
It was a sudden overload of examples.
DID I MENTION WE ARE PERUVIAN?
In Peru, where both Sandra and I were born and raised -despite our Italian heritage-, you are born right into a relay race. At least in my times, you were. If you were privileged enough to come to this world in a Peruvian mid to high-class family, you went from being breast-fed to kindergarten to school to university to internship to a paid job without taking a break (read: breath) to watch your first 20 years pass by. You would take summer courses to accelerate your studies (or re-take failed courses) and then get an internship before finishing with university. If by the age of 21 you had your university diploma and had found a job, you were winning in life. And so were your proud parents.
In my youth, very seldom did I hear about “gap years” o even “backpacking”, nor did I know many people making long trips. I remember two German girls who one year showed up in Mejia, the lovely beach town where I spent all my summers as a kid. They stayed for a while and I found them a bit weird, as they didn’t shave their armpits and rolled their own cigarettes. I concluded they were just hippies. Then, there was the adventurous North-European backpackers you met every now or then, more in Cuzco than elsewhere. And that’s about it. In my case it was, at least.
Anyway…. since we came over to Europe, 7+ years ago, I’ve heard of many people who at some point in their lives took that type of “break”… so I was aware of it and knew that it was a somewhat common practice in this part of the world, mostly for people in their 20s …but that’s about the mind space I gave it. Never, EVER, thought it would be a concept applicable to me.
WHEN ALL STARS ALIGN
But then, that mysterious avalanche of examples started. And to make the conspiracy theory complete (replace with “coincidently”, if you don’t believe in the Illuminati and all the secret signs in the $1 bill), this was happening during a time in our lives where…
- I had just turned 40.
- We found ourselves having the never-concluded “we are not getting any younger” conversation about the kids we still don’t have, more often than in the past.
- Both of us, despite working for one of the best companies out there, were not exactly at the peak of our career motivation. I was in the same role for 5 years and had been searching for an internal move for a while, with no success. Sandra, even if she had managed to move to a new role, was still suffering from the sequels of a long, highly demanding and emotionally exhausting project, which had almost made me forget the times when she used to smile non-stop .
- We had 6-7 years of a double-income/no-kids life (DINK, some say), meaning we had some savings in the bank. Nothing breathtaking, but neither negligible.
- We maintained a sports-oriented lifestyle, meaning we still had plenty of strength in our bodies and energy in our minds (read: we still felt young and adventurous enough for a low-budget way of travelling).
Not to mention that we are living in times where almost every day we are reminded that life is not to be taken for granted. Particularly here in Western Europe.
(this start of the story is becoming longer than I had anticipated… sorry about that, to those of you still here).
THINGS ESCALATED RATHER QUICKLY
One day, almost like joking, I suggested “…and what if we take one year off and go travelling?”. It sounded like a nice dream to have. The one you read about, with that someone who quit the ultimate corporate dream job and left everything behind to go backpacking around the world….. still, just a story (like the “what will we do when we win the lottery” type of conversation).
Until one night, on Jan 19th (2017), after Sandra came back from a girls’ night out. I’m not sure what the conversation was about, but that night she asked: “remember that idea about a world trip?….why don’t we (Just) do it?” (ok, she might not have said “just”;) ).
The next day at the office, I asked out loud, to the folks around my desk: “how much do you guys think one year of travelling around the world would cost?”. One of the guys said 100K. He also reminded me about that former colleague of ours who had indeed done it, however most likely in the “luxury resort + Michelin-stars dinners” approach, so not really a reference.
But then good old Marcel did a quick Google search and then mailed me a link. The link was to a blogpost called ”Een jaar op wereldreis: Wat kost dat?” or “one year of world-travel, how much does it cost?”. This Dutch couple had spent 60K in a year around the world, with a private room and bathroom every night. And they spoke about people who had done it for 15K (most likely sleeping in train stations and surviving on Ramen soups, but still). So, it was not THAT crazy of a thought! In my previous life (Fran 1.0, as I call it) I had spent 50K in a new fancy car (well, the bank spent it on my behalf). Was that equivalent to a year around the world, for two?… hmm…. This was worth some more research….
The next day -a Saturday-, I went to a “Travel book store” on the Utrechtsestraat, not too far from home (like everything else here in Amsterdam, about a 5-minute bike ride) to get some inspiration or at least information…and I found “The Rough Guide to First-time Around the World”, by Rough Guides (highly recommended if you have already been somewhat bitten by the long term travel bug.. it’s the one in the picture up here on the header) . And as I read it and shared with Sandra what I was discovering, the thought of a long trip was becoming less of a crazy fantasy and more of a real possibility (btw by then even the 60K/year seemed to be on the high-end of the spectrum of potential costs).
Don’t remember exactly when, but one of those nights, after a couple of “do you really mean it?” in both directions (and a couple of glasses of wine), Sandra and I did a high-5 and sealed the pact… no looking back.
And yes, I found out that RTW meant “Round the World”, and that many many more people do it than I would have imagined. Even more, there are RTW tickets, RTW guides, RTW itineraries and specially many RTW blogs, vlogs and checklists already out there, all of which makes it very easy to find out what it would take to plan your own version of an RTW. It did for us.
And so it began (and in the process, “never say never” proved right, once again).
Amsterdam – 21.Apr.2017