If We Can Do It, So Can You – An interview with Getting Stamped

So far in the If We Can Do it series I have featured travellers who are currently on their grown up gap year or have already taken their dream trip. I’ve interviewed people who have taken sabbaticals, career breaks and even those who have just decided to pack it all in and set off on an indefinite adventure.

But what I love about today’s interviewees Hannah and Adam, aka Getting Stamped, is that they haven’t set off on their travels yet and are just in the process of planning their round-the-world adventure. So, as well as all of the excitement about their trip (which sounds amazing by the way), they’ve also been very honest about the concerns and worries they have about it.

Currently the couple say they are living the “American Dream”. They have great jobs – Adam is an engineer and Hannah is a tax auditor; they own their own house in a great neighbourhood and they have just got married. However, they have decided that “life was getting too normal” and that they needed to have a big adventure. I, for one, can’t wait to follow them on their trip!

1. Why did you decide to take your grown up gap year? Was it a difficult decision to make?

We didn’t even know that such trips were even possible until a recent trip to Belize. We met a few other travellers who were on their own gap year and this is where we first learned about a gap year/round-the-world (RTW) trips. Once we returned home from Belize we started discovering all the travel blogs of people our age who were on a RTW trip!  We realized we were at a point in our lives that it was now or never to take such a trip.  We had just got married, we have no children, we are in our late 20s and healthy.  We weren’t sure if there would ever be the chance to take a gap year trip again.

After going to Thailand and Indonesia for our honeymoon in April 2012, we discovered how much of the world has been developed and how tourism has taken over. We want to see so many countries before they lose all their culture, the world in shrinking at such a fast pace so we feel we have to go now!

It did take a lot of thought and it took a while to figure out how other people were doing it financially.  We crunched the numbers and figured out we could make this happen with a year and a half of severe saving!  We both hope our jobs will be back here waiting for us when we return, but we haven’t told our employers yet.  That’s on our June to-do list!

2. What were other people’s reactions when you told them your plans?

SHOCK!  Most of our friends and family thought we were crazy and were asking: “You’re going to do what??” Lots of people are concerned about our jobs and getting one when we return.  We both have good degrees that are always in demand, so we aren’t too worried about this.  No one has really feared for our safety on the trip, they have just never heard of such a thing as a gap year before.  After months of planning/discussing everyone realized that we were serious and that we were really going to travel the world for over a year.

3. How long will your trip be and where are you planning to go?

We are leaving on June 29, 2013 and flying to Central America, Belize to be exact.  We will be in Central America July-September before making our way to South America. We are going to take Spanish lessons in Guatemala and Nicaragua to help make this journey a little easier! Our Central America leg will include Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

We will then to South America and travel through Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Machu Picchu was one of the musts on our bucket lists! From South America we will be making a slight stop back at home for two days to replenish our backpacks with fresh clothes (sorry but a girl’s got to change up her wardrobe!) It was also more than $300 cheaper to fly from Lima-Milwaukee and then Milwaukee-Fiji than it was to fly from Lima-Fiji. Plus we had enough miles with Delta to make our flight back to Milwaukee free, SCORE!

We plan on Fiji for two weeks of sunshine and relaxation before making our way to New Zealand.  Once in New Zealand we’ll rent a camper-van and go around the South Island before heading to the Whitsunday Islands. In the Whitsunday Islands we plan on camping on the islands, as this is really our only option with our budget! We then will spend a few days in Sydney before heading to Southeast Asia.

This is when the plans kind of drop off.  We know we are spending five months in Asia, we just don’t know where we will be when.  We want to keep our plans open so that we don’t limit ourselves.  We know we will go to Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, Vietnam, India and Indonesia.  We want to make it to as many cultural festivals as possible. We are planning on going to Thaipusam at Batu Caves in Malaysia; Chinese New Years in Penang, Malaysia; Hoi Ann full moon festival in Vietnam and hopefully many more!

After Asia we are heading to Africa, where we are doing a four week overland safari, making our way from Nairobi, Kenya to Johannesburg, South Africa.  This was also a must on our bucket list and we are really looking forward to it! We will spend some time in Cape Town before heading to Spain for running with the bulls in Pamplona! After Spain we will make our way back to Morocco by boat, where we plan on touring the coast, visiting Marrakesh and then going to the desert.

By that point we are not sure how much time or money we will have left and that will dictate how much more travelling we can do.  As for Europe we have a few musts: Spain, Greece, Turkey, London and Paris.  Once our money is out, that will be our sign it’s time to head home!

4. Will you be meeting any family/friends along the way?

We will have our first visitor the third week into our trip! My friend is a teacher and has the entire summer off so she will be joining us for three weeks in Central America.  She will fly into Honduras and go to Utila with us. We will be lounging on the beach together while Adam is getting open water certified in diving.  She is also very interested in doing a home-stay and taking Spanish lessons, so we will all be doing that in Antigua.

Our next visitor won’t be until October, where my friend Andrea will join us at Machu Picchu for ten days. We plan on hiking the Inca Trail and then hitting some beaches in the Lima area.

Hannah’s parents will be joining us in Thailand for Christmas 2013 for two-and-a-half weeks.  We plan on taking them to Bangkok, Phi Phi, Krabi and then into Cambodia to see Angkor Wat and the killing fields.

Our friend Becky will join us in Spain, as she did a semester abroad there in college and has been itching to return!

We have other friends and family that plan on visiting us, they just haven’t committed to when/where yet. We welcome anyone to meet us!

5. What is your travel style going to be? (Ie. Budget hostels/Mid-range hotels/Luxury travel – less is more, traveling slowly/pack in as much as possible)

We plan on staying in budget hostels/guest houses for most of our time.  We mainly will be getting private rooms, since we are a couple the costs to upgrade from a dorm to private room is usually minimal.  Having a shared bath is not an issue for us, but the safety of our belongings in a private room versus dorm is worth the price.  There are a few destinations that don’t have true budget hostels, so we will be forced to spend the extra money.  When my parent’s come to Thailand we will probably stay in a mid-range hotel with A/C, hopefully they will foot the bill!

6. Do you plan to take any tours or do it alone?

We typically don’t take tours, as they are costly and on a time schedule. We like to go at our pace and are pretty good with figuring our way around.

7. What do you think will be the best thing about taking a grown up gap year?

Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the working world we have been accustomed to.  All we do is work, work and work! Hopefully we will learn to slow down and enjoy life.  We have so much stuff and we don’t really need almost all of it! Hopefully after this trip we will live a simpler life.

8. And are you worried about any downsides?

I (Hannah) am a worrier. I worry about expenses, not finding a job when coming home, not being able to rent our house, etc. While travelling I am worried about getting burnt out and wanting to sleep in my own bed! There are also some events we may miss likes friends milestone birthdays, weddings, births, etc.

9. What advice would you give to anyone thinking of setting off on their own grown up gap year?

Make it happen! You can do it, even though at first it may seem impossible.  Start living the life you want to live, not the one you are told to!

If you want to keep up to date with Hannah and Adam as they prepare for their adventure, visit www.gettingstamped.com. You can also follow them on Twitter @GettingStamped or say hi on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Gettingstamped.