Riding my motorcycle home from work late on a cold October evening, I realized I was losing motor control of my fingers. Braking and shifting were becoming difficult, which is never a good thing while going 65 mph on a two-wheeled vehicle in the dark. My eyes were starting to tear, and my head was getting fuzzy. “Here we go again”, I thought. The first stages of hypothermia were setting in.
In hindsight, I probably should’ve taken the car. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it at the time. My motorcycle gets about 55 miles per gallon, and the car averages about 28. It might not be worth getting hypothermia on a motorcycle, but I understood: to get something you want, you have to sacrifice.
As Becki and I prepare for joining the weird and noble ranks of the willfully unemployed, we’ve had to give up a lot in order to save our money. Our household income is nothing amazing – in fact we make less than most of the couples we know – but it’s still possible for us to save money and travel the world.
Our Grandparents Had One Car, and They Turned Out Fine
After going through our budget, it became apparent just how much money we could save by getting rid of one of our cars. We sold our Subaru, because over the last three years it cost us an average of $626/month for total cost of ownership. That’s a huge chunk of money that could go towards traveling!!
Unfortunately, the time of our grandparents has come and gone.
We knew winter would be hard on us. During the warmer months, I took the motorcycle to work pretty often, Becki had the car, and that was that. Sometimes she’d drive me to work, sometimes I’d take the bus, but the important thing is we could make it work.
But winter has been brutal.
It always is in Wisconsin, and especially Milwaukee. We get plenty of cold weather, but before the snow comes there’s really not much you can do outside for fun. No snowshoeing or skiing, no ice fishing or snowmobiling. And unlike other cold places like the mountains of Colorado, it’s often grey and cloudy during winter. Not to mention when it is sunny, it’s only here for about 10 hours out of the day.
Slowly, without realizing it, I had begun to hog the car. Taking the bus to work is much less appealing in sub-zero temps, and the motorcycle is obviously a no-go. Unwittingly, I had taken away much of Becki’s freedom, leaving her stuck at home while it was cold, dark, and altogether unappealing outside.
We both knew we’d have to make sacrifices, but between talks and tears we knew we’d pushed it too far. In the end, budgeting is a balancing act between what you want in the future, and what you want now. You do have to sacrifice something in order to save, but it also has to be sustainable. Push too hard, and your whole plan can end ruins.
Planning is Great, But So Is Staying Flexible
I’m taking the bus to work much more now. It’s not easy getting up at 4:45AM, getting dressed in the cold and the dark, waiting on the frozen streets for the bus, all in order to make it to work by 6:15, but I’m happy to do it. I was asking Becki to sacrifice too much while I wasn’t doing enough myself.
So for the last month, our RTW planning has had a much better feeling to it. In some ways, being a solo traveler is much simpler, because you’re able to be more “selfish” – it’s all about you. But when traveling as a couple, it’s paramount to keep communicating and to adapt as needed. That’s the only way to make it through a dark and dreary winter and into the sunlight of summer.