After 6 years of saving for our family’s round the world (RTW) adventure, we had a fat bank account, shiny new travel gear, and an eagerness to explore the world. Two years and 26 countries later, our bank account is empty, our clothing (what little we have left) is in rags, and we have so many memories that it is mind numbing just thinking about the experiences we have had while traveling and visiting so many places. Traveling non-stop around the world for 2 years has been a riches to rags story and the journey is quickly coming to an end. As for our eagerness to continue traveling, I will get to that in a little bit.
We are currently in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the most expensive countries we have visited on our travels. The only reason we can afford staying here is that we were fortunate enough to score a housesitting gig for 6 weeks. We are taking care of two lovely little dogs and a nice old house that survived the earthquake, unlike so many others. If it weren’t for this housesit, we would already be back in the United States looking to resettle and trying to find ways to earn an income again.
Before leaving to travel full-time our plan was to scout the world and find a new home. Someplace outside the United States that would offer us a unique once in a lifetime experience of living in a different country. Our initial thoughts were someplace warm and tropical. But after experiencing 6 months of SE Asia’s heat and humidity, we realized that we really do like seasons and cannot possibly live in a place that is eternally miserable. Miserable sometimes, yes, but not all of the time. What we really wanted was someplace new to explore with a different culture.
The biggest hurdle of looking at immigrating to another country is obtaining a residency visa. This really narrowed down the search to countries that had a high need for our skills. We absolutely love Europe, but so does everyone else. The only way we were going to get into Europe would be through a large corporate sponsored visa, which didn’t look promising. In all of the countries in the European Union, only Sweden seems to be open to immigrants. The only caveat is that you must learn Swedish and be able to drive on packed snow and ice for 10 months of the year. I can do the driving part, but learning Swedish is much harder than it sounds and would take years to be even a little bit proficient.
In looking at other countries, we found that Australia has (or had) a high need for nurses. Since Kerri is a nurse, this seemed really promising. But after a lot of research, Australia would not be right for us. Too hot, too dry, and too many poisonous critters. But the deal breaker was the cost of living. We would never be able to purchase a house, unless we wanted to live in a shack in the Outback.
But just to the right of Australia is New Zealand. A beautiful country, not too hot, not too cold, we speak the language, and they are in desperate need of people with an engineering background to help with the Christchurch Rebuild after the devastating earthquakes. It just so happens that I have a degree in Civil Engineering and 13 years experience working in that field. After a little research, New Zealand looked very promising. So last January I updated my resume and sent it out to a few companies and agencies involved in the rebuild. I got a reply back from a recruiter that wanted to discuss a job with me. The discussion turned out to be an actual interview and before I knew it, I had passed the first stage of the interviewing process for a position with the Christchurch City Council. After looking all over the Thai island of Koh Phangan for a dress shirt and tie, which makes for another interesting story, I had a second interview via Skype and nailed it. The recruiter started discussing the process for obtaining the visas and school options for my daughter. It was looking so promising, but felt so strange.
If I were offered the position I would have to be in New Zealand in July to start work, which meant we would be cutting our RTW trip short by a few months. But for the chance of getting a residency visa for New Zealand and the option of a permanent residency visa after only 2 or 3 years of work, it sounded very promising. But I was torn. We had discussed business opportunities since leaving and we were really excited to have a go at owning our own business. This would delay our plans by at least 3 years when we could get a permanent residency visa. The other problem would be that we would spend all of our vacation time (and money) visiting family back in the United States.
After a third and final interview via Skype while we were in Cambodia, this time with the Christchurch City Council, everything seemed to be going great and I was just waiting for an offer. I had provided them references and we had even discussed a salary. But the offer never came. I contacted the recruiter and he informed me that the council decided to not pursue my application. I was bummed. I was annoyed. It was a sign.
Even though the position did not work out, there were still plenty of companies desperate to hire people with my experience. All I had to do was to apply. But during the interviewing process with Christchurch City Council I had some great discussions internally, and externally with the wife and daughter. While they were interviewing me for the position, I was interviewing myself for life 2.0. What do I want out of life? What is best for our family? Where do we see ourselves in 5 years? In 10 years? In 20 years? How do we get there.
The answer was that we wanted the freedom to continue having adventures. Yes, we are still eager to continue traveling. We wanted to explore more of Europe, and New Zealand is about as far as you can get from there. There were so many places that we have yet to visit and being tied to a job halfway around the world is not the way to get there. We also wanted to be close enough to family that a relatively quick plane ride was all that was needed to see them. And just like that, we figured it out. We knew were we should resettle.
Besides figuring out where we were going to resettle, we have also come up with a solid plan for not just one, but two business start-ups with additional business options later on. We have traveled around the world without earning money and just living off our savings. This has worked for this trip, but we would like to be able to have money coming in for future long-term travel. The best way to do this is to have a business that you can run from anywhere in the world. We think we have come up with the perfect business that will give us the money and freedom to continue traveling. We will discuss where we have decided to resettle and our business plans at a later time.
We have really enjoyed our time in New Zealand and we could see ourselves living here. It could have been a good life, but not the one we want. There are many paths in life and finding the right one is always a hard choice. Hopefully the location we chose for resettling will be all that we hope it is and that our businesses actually earn us enough money to live and travel on.
Even though our trip is almost at its end and we are broke and wearing rags, it has been a fantastic 2 years. We are now poor financially, but rich with the new friendships and memories we have made along the way. Our future looks promising, but only time will tell. I think the most important thing I have learned these past 2 years is to not give up on your dreams. If you want to travel around the world, set a departure date and start planning now. If you want to start a business, do it now. But whatever you do, never have regrets and live life the way you want!