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To get a better understanding of how much money we’re spending on the road, Lisa created a spreadsheet, breaking out our daily expenses.  We’re aiming for $100 (US) a day, ($50/person), which is very doable, especially in some countries like Bolivia & Peru.  However, there will be other countries, like Argentina & Chile, that will be more challenging if we’re not careful.  We know that at times we’ll be over budget & other times under, so things should even themselves out in the end.

We knew before entering Argentina that it would be one of the most expensive countries on our itinerary & it doesn’t help that we were there for almost 3 months!

frontier

Daily Accommodation Average: $20 per day

It’d be nice to say that we stayed exclusively in hostels during our time in Argentina.  However, Corey still had a few crappy days in Cordoba, so we did spend 4 nights in a hotel.  I realize that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but at $94 per night, that’s a pretty big hit to the accommodation expenses, especially considering that the average cost per night in northern AR is about $24 per bed.  Luckily, we saved a ton during our stay in San Rafael, since we received free accommodation in exchange for our help.  Six weeks of no fees for room & board was no doubt one of the main contributors to remaining under budget.

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Daily Food Average: $38 per day

Food is expensive in Argentina!  It was very shocking to go from the cheap street food in Bolivia to the pricey menus of Argentina.  Granted, you can find “menu del dias” all over the place, but you do have to be choosy, as some just aren’t very tasty.  I think we’ve had 4 meals of the day that were actually good.  Usually though, it’s pretty gross & you’d be better off going grocery shopping & cooking your own meals.  Which, we finally started doing in Bariloche, the first Patagonian city in Argentina.  Patagonia is just too touristy to eat out every breakfast, lunch & dinner.

I attempted to wake up for the free breakfasts wherever we happened to be staying & we got into a habit of pricing out all eateries if we did decide to eat out.  That being said, we did regress & fall back into eating out often by the time we ended up in El Calafate!

Daily Transportation Average: $15 per day

Another pricey thing in this country is transportation.  Fifteen bucks a day doesn’t sound too bad for transportation, but when you compare the cost for long distance bus tickets in Bolivia versus Argentina, you’ll see that the fares are outrageous!

18 hour bus ride in Bolivia = $24 per ticket

18 hour bus ride in Argentina = $140 per ticket

The most expensive bus ticket was from Esquel to El Calafate, a 26 hour bus ride that cost us a total of $322!  We learned very early on that taxis aren’t much better.  Like most cities in the States, you’re better off taking a city bus.  You might have to ride around for a bit longer, but you’ll be saving a decent chunk of cash.

Daily Entertainment Average: $12 per day

There’s so much to see & do in every part of this beautiful country.  We didn’t even come close to scrapping the surface in terms of site seeing.  There were a lot of things that we missed out on because you have to go through a tour company in order to experience some of the fun touristy activities.

Goat counting Sheep

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We’re very happy that we spent money on the Glacier tour & white water rafting in San Rafael.  However, there were times, like the Cachi tour, where it seemed like a waste of money.  Had we gone in with 2 other travelers & rented a car, we could’ve done the same thing on our own, saved some money & still gotten some great pictures!

In the end, we were in Argentina for 78 days & spent a total of $7,296, which averaged out to $94 per day.  It’s great to know that we came in just under budget, but we know now that we could’ve spent even less had we cooked more often.  Hopefully, we learned enough in AR to improve our Chile budget!

 

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To get a better understanding of how much money we’re spending on the road, Lisa created a spreadsheet, breaking out our daily expenses.  We’re aiming for $100 (US) a day, ($50/person), which is very doable, especially in some countries like Bolivia & Peru.  However, there will be other countries, like Argentina & Chile, that will be more challenging if we’re not careful.  We know that at times we’ll be over budget & other times under, so things should even themselves out in the end.

Bolivia should’ve been one of our cheapest countries & we definitely would’ve been under budget, had it not been for medical expenses.  Between Corey’s visits to the clinics & hospitals, and my trip to the dentist, we spent a total of $1,607 on medical expenses alone (this includes money spent on medication).

Daily Accommodation Average: $26 per day

For the most part, we attempted to stay in hostels in an effort to save money & also meet other travelers.  However, we did end up in a hotel for 11 nights in Santa Cruz, which definitely increased the daily amount spent on accommodation.  The silver-lining, we spent nothing in this department while volunteering in Samaipata!

Manhole in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Daily Food Average: $18 per day

We found that La Paz was one of the best places for street food & it was definitely very easy to find local, cheap options close to our hostel.  There were also cheap options in Santa Cruz, but once we got closer to the city center, those became harder to hunt down.  Plus, we’d already found a few places that we really enjoyed eating & found ourselves returning often.

Lorca – Favorite Restaurant in Santa Cruz

Tasty Treats

Tasty Treats

Daily Transportation Average: $6 per day

Taxis in Bolivia are super cheap, especially considering that you get to negotiate your fare before you even get in the car.  This took a bit of practice, but once we had the layout of each city, it was easy to tell if a driver was trying to take advantage of us & then haggle our way down to a reasonable price.  One thing we never did in Bolivia was take a local bus, so I’m sure more money would’ve been saved, had we attempted to use that mode of transportation.

First Bus - La Paz to Santa Cruz

First Bus – La Paz to Santa Cruz

Daily Entertainment Average: $5 per day

The following are included in our entertainment expenses: tours, souvenirs, park/museum admissions and any items that may cause us joy, but aren’t necessities (ie: clothes, headphones, jewelery, etc.).  We only went on one tour, while in Bolivia, mainly because we know we’ll be back in the new year for the Salt Flats tour.  Also, we didn’t find anything in the cities we visited that appealed to us enough to spend a lot of money.  However, it must be said, that in comparison to tours in other parts of the world, entertainment in Bolivia was VERY cheap – the Tiwanaku tour was only $25 per person.

Tiwanaku Tour

Tiwanaku Tour

Unique Church in Santa Cruz (only thing worth photographing)

Unique Church in Santa Cruz (only thing worth photographing in this city, besides the food!)

Do you think they'd notice if we took that dollar?

Do you think they’d notice if we took that dollar?

Plaza in La Paz

Plaza in La Paz

In the end, we spent 31 days in Bolivia, with a total of $3,502, which is an average of $113 per day.  Take out the medical expenses & we would’ve spent only $61 per day & that’s if you travel like we did.  You could definitely spend less than that, by always staying at hostels & eating local food everyday.

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In the course of planning for our trip, we knew that in order to extend it for as long as we were hoping to that we would need to make use of two programs. There is CouchSurfing, a site designed to link up travelers in need of a place to stay for free with hosts that allow them to stay in their house/apartment on their spare bed or couch. The second option is a program called WorkAway. This site is dedicated to families, people, hostels and other organizations who are looking for volunteers to help with projects big and small around their property. In exchange for that work, the volunteer is allowed to stay, usually for free or a small fee, on their property (either in the house or in a tent outside the house). In addition to this many workaway opportunities feed their workers for a least one meal a day, if not all meals for workdays. Programs like this allow travelers on a tight budget, like us, to extend their trip much longer, while meeting interesting people along the way.

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On November 14th, we left our hostel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia for our first workaway assignment. The family was located about 5 km outside of the sleepy, laid back town of Samaipata on 1 hectare-acre of land on the steep cliffs going down to the river that runs through that valley. Based on the workaway page, we knew they needed help clearing land and general help with house work. We definitely had some preconceived notions about what we would be doing. We knew ahead of time that we would be sleeping in a tent and that the family was vegetarian. We made the assumption that this tent would be right outside their house, that we’d be eating in their home, that we’d be able to shower (in their house) at the end of a day of work, and that when we needed to use the bathroom that we would be able to use the bathroom in their house. As it turned out, our preconceived notions couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

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When we were dropped off at their property that afternoon, we had to hike down their long dirt driveway. Where we met their other workaway volunteer, Ignaz from Germany, who was staying in a tent inside a mud hut on the hillside. He took us to meet Udo, also from Germany, and his son, Aoni. Christina, Udo’s partner and Aoni’s mother was in town getting supplies. After dropping off our stuff, Udo gave us a tour.

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To be honest, we were a bit taken aback by what we saw. The bus, which is pictured on their workaway page, doubles as their house. It has a small kitchen, table, and two separate bedrooms. It looks much nicer on the inside than it does on the outside. The shower was not on the bus, but in a cut out area in the brush. It was just a hose with a shower head on it, with hot water only for a few hours in the afternoon. The bathroom (see below) was a five gallon bucket with a screw on cap connected to a 1 gallon drinking contraption for liquids. The property in general was very, very beautiful, with great views all over, however, as we went to bed that night we didn’t know if we were going to be able to handle the absolute lack of amenities.

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The next morning we decided that we were going to suck it up and try to make it a couple weeks. On my end the work was actually quite fun. My first day I started work on another tier of their garden. Despite battling rocks all day, I did enjoy myself. The next day I helped Ignaz & Udo finish the barbed wire fence along the road. Although it was treacherous land to be working on – we all had the ground drop out from under us on a number of occasions & I was attacked several times by fire ants – I really had fun! Lisa, on the other hand, was not too enthralled with her daily duties. She ended up helping Christina around the bus, doing dishes (using as little water as possible), helping with meals, & doing general “house” work. In the end, she felt more like a house wife than anything else & thought she’d be doing more of the “hands on” jobs. She did get to work on their “tile” shower floor, which was a mosaic of flat rock & mud & she enjoyed that particular project.

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Breakfast was bread, tea/coffee, oatmeal and on 2 mornings eggs were available. Lunch was the biggest meal of the day, usually a casserole/stir-fry. Dinner was bread, tea/coffee & oatmeal. All meals were eaten outside by the campfire pit, with dinner being eaten with the fire going. After dinner we sat around the fire and talked. It took a bit, but we started to kind of get used to the routine. We worked 2 days and then had a day off. Although it was going to be tough, we planned to honor our commitment of 2 weeks. However, something came up that prevented us from doing so.

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First, I didn’t sleep at all one night, and then the same the next night. That third night, I don’t think I sleep at all either. I was really nervous about how work was going to go this day, but I ended up getting a reprieve. Some friends were getting together to swim at this amazing waterfall. Although I was still dragging, at least we weren’t working. We woke up the next morning, Lisa after a good night sleep, me having not really slept for the 4th night in a row. As soon as the sun came up, I knew we needed to leave, that I was going to be no help for them in the condition I was in.

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We both felt very badly, mainly because Christina & Udo were such nice people and they had treated us both like family from the first moment we set foot on their property. It took a little bit to sum up the courage, but after breakfast Lisa & I told Udo & Christina that we thought it best if we left that morning. They couldn’t be more understanding and both did their best to make us feel as good as possible about our decision to leave early.

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Long story short, our first workaway experience didn’t go quite as we had planned, but we’re not giving up on workaway. Around the beginning of the new year we are planning to do an assignment in Mendoza, Argentina. As long as they have indoor plumbing, I think we’ll be fine.

 

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Our favorite independent travel website, BootsnAll, has a great travel forum with all sorts of advice for those planning to travel. 

Recently, one of the members posted this:

What’s the hardest part of planning your round the world trip?

It’s a good question.  It’s one that we have to deal with on a monthly, weekly & even daily basis.  When you’re planning something this big your life tends to turn into a questionnaire:

  • Do we really need that extra camera lens?
  • Should we really be eating out again?
  • Can we wait to see that movie on Netflix?
  • Do we really need to get that car part fixed? 
    (Yes, breaks are important!)
  • If you buy those shoes will they come on the trip? 
    If not, why do you need them? (Lisa?)
  • If you already have 300+ books, do you really need more?  (Corey?)

You get the idea.  Every single day we have the choice to spend or to save.  Whether it’s in the morning & we decide to make lunch or at the grocery store wanting to purchase something that you know you’re picky-self probably won’t like.  Should I start cutting Corey’s hair too?

haircut by me

Last weekend, we had no choice.  The money needed to be spent.  The Escape not only needed new rear breaks (which we suspected), but the entire break system had to be redone!  You don’t even want to know how much that set us back.  On top of that we’re still paying off a hospital visit from last summer.  We’ve been in a good saving stride for more than a year now, so we’re not that surprised to have a set back.  (In case you were wondering, luck has never truly been on our side.) 

So, as you may have guessed, we’re pushing the trip back.  Don’t worry, it’s not a big push.  The departure date has changed from August 31, 2012 to October 15, 2012.

our reminder to remain focused!

So, what’s the hardest part of planning the trip?  The answer to that question 4 years ago would’ve been saving.  To say we were awful at it would be an understatement.  The answer to that question now is patience.  To have the trip so close, but still have to deal with rude, ignorant, arrogant, pompous people on daily basis has been a struggle.  We were hoping that this last leg of the race would be a breeze, but in fact, it’s been the most challenging yet!

The planning/saving + patience has been one large HUGE GYNORMOUS test!  After 4+ years, I think we’re finally passing!  Yeah, it’s probably a B+, but there’s always room for improvement!  As long as we stay in the right mindset, we’ll be able to get out of here by October.  Maybe you guys could do us a favor & wish us luck(?) . . . like I said, it’s never really been on our side!

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Some of the female members in my family have been asking questions about the state of my hair & in general how things have been going since the start of my journey.  For starters, no I don’t wear my hair like this when I’m at work or out with friends.  That was taken on a weekend morning when we knew we had zero plans – in other words, I’m not taking the time to do my hair if we’ve got nowhere to go!  Lately, this is how I’ve been wearing it:

I wash my hair 1 to 2 times a week, depending on how well it maintains it’s appearance between my reckless tossing & turning at night & the elements during the day.  Before going to bed I put conditioner in & I either wrap my head with a silk scarf or just lay the scarf on my pillow if I have a head ache.

Today was the second time that I trimmed my own ends & I wish I would’ve started doing this sooner.  I’m sure in the eyes of a stylist it’s uneven, but I’m pretty proud of the results.  While it takes a while, we’re saving a lot of money & I know I’m cutting my hair the right way.* 

I’ve even received compliments on my new haircut!  Sorry, you don’t get to see it today because (yup, you guessed it) we’ve got no special plans & I won’t be going out of the way to redo my do for you. 

I also wanted to show you guys a close up of the progression of my recent hair growth.  You can actually see the line of demarcation aka where the natural hair & relaxed hair meet.  In the photo below the straight section is unnatural & the wavy/curly part is all me!  Part of me REALLY wants to cut the remaining relaxed hair off, but the logical part of me realizes that the temperatures have been dropping & I won’t be a happy camper if I have a cold noggin.

Have you thought about going natural?  Or are you already on your journey?  If so, I’d love to hear your story!

*Most hair stylist are taught to cut all hair types wet.  Cutting curly hair wet is a big no-no, because of shrinkage.  (No, not the Seinfeld kind).  The shrinkage I’m referring to relates to the length of your hair wet vs. dry.  Most people with curly hair have longer hair when it’s wet & shorter hair when it’s dry (this has also been referred to as the spring factor).  So, your stylist cuts your curly hair right after washing it, then it starts to dry & poof, you have a horrible haircut.  This is why so many people with curly texture (no matter their race) leave the salon upset, miserable & defeated. 

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SAVINGS

So, Corey decided to look back on the last year and see just how far we’ve come in terms of saving.  Turns out, we’re doing better than we thought!  In 2010 we were able to save less than a 1/4 of the money we planned to save.  It seems as though we really didn’t start saving until March and it doesn’t help that we took a trip to Raleigh for the holidays.  In the last 6 months alone we’ve been able save that same amount.  At this point we are past the halfway mark, which means that if we keep up this pace (knock on/touch wood), we’ll actually be over our initial goal for this big trip! 

International Money Pile in Cash and Coins
Image by epSos.de via Flickr

GEAR

We’ve also been going through our gear and we’ve crossed most of the big-ticket items off our list.  We got our tent last night from REI!  We’re hoping to do a test run in the next couple of days.  Thank goodness REI has a great return policy, so if it’s not the perfect fit for us, we can always exchange it for another one.  Here’s to hoping that we made the right choice.  Anyone have any feedback on the Big Agnus Copper Spur UL2?

Anyway, some of the remaining big-ticket items will be coming to us as Christmas presents from family members or each other.  We found our sleeping bags which Corey’s parents have graciously offered to get us.  Corey’s got his eyes on the REI Halo +25 & I fell in love with Marmot’s Ouray +0 (I get cold VERY easily).  I’ll probably get Corey his Kindle for Christmas & we still need to invest in an external hard drive.  We’ll need a netbook/tablet & travel clothes (all of which we won’t purchase until we’re about 2-3 months away from our trip), camera accessories, toiletries and other small miscellaneous items (like duct tape,  zip ties, sunscreen, bug spray, etc).

Some of you may have noticed that our gear list has grown a bit & it’s due to the decision to make camping a bigger part of the trip.  The idea is that the more we camp, the more money we’ll save on the road and the longer we’ll be able to travel.  That’s our theory anyway . . . we’ll see what happens!

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I feel like every post we do starts off with, “sorry we’ve been gone for so long, we’ve just been busy!”  The truth is, we’ve been really busy!  We’re still saving like crazy and we still plan to depart on our big adventure next August!  Summer, in general, has always been a bit hectic for us, with all the birthdays and anniversaries in our family this time of year usually flies by.  Plus, Corey’s been working like crazy (with his real job & tile setting on weekends) and I’ve started a 52 week photo project.

Anyway, we wanted to share some of the things that have kept us motivated to accomplish this big dream!

1. The Lost Girls: this book features 3 girls, Jen, Amanda & Holly, from New York who quit their jobs and travel the world for a year.  Sound familiar?  Each chapter comes from a different point of view of one of the girls.  You learn about their struggles pre-trip and join the adventure as they try to figure out what they want to do with their lives.  A great read if you’re looking for something uplifting and fun! 

2. A Map for Saturday: a documentary about a young man, Brooke, also from New York, who also quits his job to travel around the world for a year.  This documentary focuses more on the other travellers that Brooke meets on the road and their journey.  It’s interesting to see who he meets while on the road: from a family who’s lost their home from the tsunami in Thailand to a 70 year old man travelling around the globe and sleeping in youth hostels!

3. 180 Degrees South: a documentary about a surfer/mountain climber, Jeff Johnson, who decides to follow in the foot steps of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, the founders of Patagonia Clothing and North Face respectively, in climbing a rarely ascended mountain, Corcovado in the Patagonia of Chile.  As with all journeys, this one is full mis-steps and set-backs. To us, this documentary inspires us to maybe step out of our comfort level and do things that we may not normally see ourselves doing.  Maybe even be a little more unconventional, using Johnson and friends attempt to sail from America to Chile as motivation.  Corey is deathly afraid of heights and even he became enamored with mountain climbing.

4. Motorcycle Diaries: is the true story of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and friend Alberto Granados’ attempt to travel by motorcycle up the spine of South America.  If Corey had to pick a favorite movie, this would be it.  Upon leaving for this trip, Ernesto is only a semester away from becoming a doctor.  As their adventurous trip comes to close
Ernesto knows that his life must move in  a much different direction.  We all know about his revolutionary future.  To us this film is a constant reminder of just how life altering a trip of this magnitude can be.  I don’t think we’ll end up becoming violent revolutionaries at trips end, but I do know that upon completion of our journey our lives will never be the same.

5. The Geography of Bliss: Eric Weiner, a veteran foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, decides to visit 10 of the so-called, happiest places on earth to see if he himself will find happiness.  This book had me smiling the whole time!  Some places he visits, we already had plans on going to and others that were only a thought are now on our itinerary.  It’s a great read if you’re looking for something to cheer you up & if you want to learn some interesting facts about some of the world’s most content places!

 

6. Long Way Round: a documentary about 2 actors, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, who travel through Europe, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia to ride the Road of Bones through Siberia, over to Alaska, through Canada, North America and finished in New York on their motorcycles.  It’s a 20,000 mile journey with plenty of ups and downs along the way.  I was already a huge fan of Ewan McGregor, but this documentary shows you that not all actors are rich, snobby jerks.  Both man are likable and very relatable.  Four years later they documented their journey through Africa in the Long Way Down.

7. A desire to see the rest of the world!  We realize this isn’t a tangible item, but not a day goes by where we’re not thinking about our trip.  At this point, everything we do, every decision that is made, is directly correlated to our trip.  When making money decisions, we think to ourselves, “Is this going to help us go on our trip or set us back another day?”  I told that to a friend the other day and he said he could never think like that because he’d be mad at himself all the time.  My response is that we have to think like that if we really want to save enough to reach our goal.

Where do you guys look for inspiration & how do you stay motivated?

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