By , April 27, 2011 5:00 pm

This last weekend, Easter weekend, Ashley and I made our way up to North Battleford, Saskatchewan to visit family and to celebrate my grandfather’s 77th birthday. We try to make it up that way at least once a year, sometimes for Easter, sometimes for Thanksgiving, so the trip was not a first for us.

With our imminent departure only 70 days off as of this writing, things didn’t quite feel the same as they had in the past.  It started with our drive up.  Passing through Saskatoon, the next major shopping centre outside of Regina, we had no choice but to stop for a couple of hours and try on backpacks.  We now know to budget more than two hours for trying on backpacks.  We could have easily used a couple hours more.  Sadly for us, but luckily for you, this won’t turn into a cliched “We Bought our Packs” post.  Though we will still subject you to one when we do.

We spent most of Friday eating and visiting.  Pretty normal, but the conversation seemed to keep coming back around to our trip.  I pulled out the camera and started taking a few photos.  Soon after, we started talking about camera gear we were taking with us on our trip.  One thing led to another and Ashley and I managed to convince ourselves that we needed an ultra wide angle lens for our camera.  I had no choice but to lock myself away for a few hours and do some internet research followed by a round of ebay bidding.  This process was a lot more painful than I first anticipated, mostly because of the old school 56k dial-up internet connection, and it certainly cut into my visiting time.

Saturday was the big family supper.  My great grandmother (98 years old) was there, as were my grandpa and grandma, uncles, aunts and cousins.  The whole works.  Again, we spent most of the day eating and visiting.  We talked about our trip, passed out Traveled Earth Business Cards, and started Project: Photos of Friends and Family.  The project itself is quite straight forward.  We are trying to collect photos of our friends and family to take with us.  It’ll be nice to have some photos to look at when we get homesick.

Saying goodbyes was perhaps the hardest part of this trip.  I think everyone was acutely aware that we may not see each other for a very long time.  Despite the tough goodbyes, it was nice to have the chance to visit one last time before our departure.

Here’s our project so far.  If you don’t see your photo we’d appreciate it if you reminded us to take one next time we see you.

By , April 17, 2011 8:35 pm
Rough Itinerary

Rough Itinerary - Click to go to itinerary

Cue the fanfare, today we present the Rough Itinerary for our RTW trip beginning on July 6th, 2011. If you take the time to review our Rough Itinerary, you’ll notice that we’ve left it quite vague.  So vague that we forgot to include any of the things we plan to do.

You’re telling me that you are supposed to put activities into your itinerary?  Are you sure?

To make amends, here’s a small list of some of what we are planning to do along the way.

Visit the runes in Chitzen Itza on route to Belize

Chitzen Itza

By Fcb981 (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We’ll probably stay in Belize for a week or so.


By Nepenthes (own pic) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Next up, learning Spanish in Guatemala. From what we gather, we’ll spend about 5 weeks in classes while living with a local family.

La Antigua Guatemala

By Joseandres96 (Own work) CC-BY-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Eventually, we’ll make our way to Ecuador where we hope to volunteer at Sacred Sueños for 1-3 months.


By The lifted lorax at en.wikipedia - Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Our next scheduled activity isn’t until the summer of 2012 when we plan to walk the 1900km Via Francigena.


By Laurom (Own work) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

We have to wait quite a while after the 80 day walk before we are allowed back into the Schengen Area due to visa requirements. This forces us to wait until July 2013 before coming back to Spain for La Tomatina in July 2013.  La Tomatina is a non-negotiable item on Ashley’s wish list.


By flydime (La Tomatina (25.08.2010) / Spain, Buñol) CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From there, we’ve got another winter to while away before we go horseback riding yurt to yurt though Mongolia in the summer of 2014.


By Bouette CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Everything else we’ll make up as we go along.

What do you think – too defined? Too ambitious? Not ambitious enough?

By , April 10, 2011 9:16 pm
Relaxing on the Beach

Virtual Photography Studio, “Relaxing on the Beach” April 10, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Our first plane ticket is booked and we finally have a “go” date… July 6, 2011.  No less than 6 days after our final day of work (June 30), we will be on a plane to Cancun, Mexico.  This is going to be a tight schedule to get everything arranged before our departure, but Mike and I agreed that the sooner we could leave, the better.

Why Cancun?  It was the cheapest flight into Central America – our starting point.  It turned out to be even cheaper to fly from Regina than our original plan of busing it to New York, flying to Miami, and catching another flight out of Miami… which means we don’t have to start our trip with 3 days straight on a bus (booyah!).  From there we can catch a series of buses to our true starting point… Spanish courses in Antigua, Guatemala.

This is a huge step.  We now have a date to count down to (86 days, if anyone’s keeping track) which means we can finally post a fancy countdown timer on the blog.  Check it out on the sidebar.

Aside from vaccinations, this is the first real expense of the trip.  The damage:  $859.60 for the two of us.  However, as we have so diligently been charging all those shots to our travel visa, we were able to apply $150 in travel points towards the plane tickets.  So, all in all, we only paid a total of $709.60 to start our amazing RTW journey.

And so it begins!

By , April 8, 2011 5:30 pm

It’s taken a lot of research to find a provider of long term medical insurance that fits our needs.  I guess I’ve been reading forums, blogs, and emailing companies on and off since I wrote my first stab at a Travel Insurance Article way back in December.

Before I get too far into my own analysis, I want to stress this:

Read the fine print – Don’t blindly expect my analysis will be the same for you.  Companies offer different underwrites and benefits based on your citizenship and country (sometime province) of residence.  Unfortunately, you’ll have to do your own research.

My process for narrowing down insurance companies vaguely followed these steps:

Step 1: Figure out how long you need to be covered for.  In our case, it’s likely to be anywhere from 1 to 3 years, and perhaps longer.  This immediately ruled out annual plans that have maximum single trip lengths of 30 days.  It also ruled out single trip plans with a maximum coverage period of 6 months or 1 year.

Step 2: Decide what you want your medical insurance to cover.  For me, I really only need insurance to cover the very expensive.  I can handle paying for simple doctor visits and drugs out of pocket, especially in developing countries.  What I can’t afford is long term treatment in intensive care units, expensive drugs that I may need to take for the rest of my life, and medical extraction where I need to take an air ambulance to another facility for treatment.

Step 3: Get a copy of the actual policy wording for various insurance plans.  Read them and make sure they fit your needs as determined in Steps 1 and 2 above.

Step 4: Send some emails to your shortlisted companies and ask for clarification on their policy.  I had a few questions, and was quite surprised by some of the responses I got.

Here are the results of this process on several popular long term plans.

World Nomads – This is a popular insurance program amongst travelers.  There are lots of travel blogs sporting large advertisements for this company, a few paid reviews, and endorsements from Lonely Planet, National Geographic, Rough Guides, and more.  Going into it, this was my front runner.  Unfortunately they were ruled out in step 3 above.  The policy had this to say about renewals past 6 months for Saskatchewan residents.

An extension of coverage is not provided for Pre-Existing Medical Conditions and/or for conditions You suffered during the term of Your original policy, or if You are 60 years of age or over at the time of the extension, or where We have not been advised of any circumstances that have or may give rise to a claim under Your original policy. Your coverage under this policy may be extended up to a maximum Trip length of 365 days provided You have obtained an extension of Your provincial health insurance plan

There we have it.  A maximum coverage period of 6 months.  Not going to work.

Expat Network – I ruled Expat Network out with a simple email.  I explained that I was going on a RTW trip and asked for some clarification on a few items in the policy wording.  The response I got ruled them out:

Thanks for your email regarding the Expat Health Plan and your round the world adventure.

Based on what you have said in your email and the nature of your trip I’m not certain this will be the best plan for you. I think it would be better to consider a very comprehensive (100% medical) single trip travel plan which will suit your requirements more closely.

Seven Corners – There are two programs offered that I thought would fit our requirements.  Reside, and Reside Prime.  Again, it came down to the full policy wording.  In this case, the cheaper Reside option capped payment on all of the items I was worried about insuring against.  For example, hospital beds were limited to $600 per day, ambulance rides $1,500, extraction $25,000 etc.  So, Reside was out.

Reside Prime, on the other hand eliminated these restrictions, so it is an option.  The cost of Reside Prime to cover both Ashley and I with a $500 deductible is $1,744 USD annually.  I chose IMG’s plan below over Seven Corners based purely on price.

International Medical Group (IMG) – IMG offers several levels to their Global Medical Insurance Plan.  Like the Seven Corners Reside plan above, their lowest level plan caps all of the things I’m worried about paying for.  Again, hospital beds are limited to a maximum of $600 per day, ambulances $1,500, extraction $50,000.  The Gold Plan eliminates these caps.

We’ve chosen to go with their Global Medical Insurance Gold Plan with a $500 deductible for an annual cost of $1,646 USD.

Email Questions:

I thought I’d include some of the questions I asked the various insurance providers by email.  Depending on your trip, you may want to ask some or all of the same questions before settling into a plan.

1. Do you pay fees directly to hospitals, or are we expected to pay and be reimbursed?

2. Do you cover medications in your plan?

3. If I required ongoing treatment for something that came up while under my first or second year of coverage, would I be allowed to renew the plan and continue receiving benefits, or would I be barred from extending the plan?

4. Are non-organized sporting events covered, for example we join in a pickup game of soccer?

5. Would we be covered on multi day trips traveling by hiking, pedal biking, and equestrian (horse riding)?

6. Is mountain climbing covered, specifically mnt. Kilimanjaro?

7. Is there a list of countries where there is no coverage (most other plans exclude Iraq, and Libya for example)?

8. Is there coverage for motor vehicle accidents? Does it matter if we are in the vehicle or struck by it?

9. Is there coverage for motorcycle and/or scooter accidents if we are driving?

10. Would there be any chance that I would be evacuated to either Canada or the USA for treatment where I may not be covered under the policy?

There you go, IMG’s Gold Global Medical Insurance Plan (excluding the USA and Canada) looks like the best option for us.  Who do you use for your travel medical insurance?

By , April 3, 2011 3:22 pm

Here’s a look at our custom made business cards for our blog. For $22 we got 500 of them from so we have lots to give away.

Business Cards

Traveled Earth Business Cards

I think these things are going to be great. For months now, I’ve been spouting off our URL to friends and family, usually to be greeted by a nod and a quick “can you email that to me?” or “I think might be able to remember that.”

Well, no more emailing or remembering required with the new Traveled Earth Limited Edition Business Cards! The primary reason we decided to pick these up was to hand them out on our travels. As we learned on our trip to New Zealand in 2007, napkins and spare scraps of paper were not an ideal medium to write email addresses on. By the time we were home, sitting in front of a computer; those precious notes had been lost or disintegrated in our packs. These should be a bit more durable.

We’re finding that they are also good at home. We’ve only had them a week, and I’ve already handed out about a dozen of them. They are great icebreakers, and people really seem to enjoy them. If you are thinking about doing something similar, I recommend getting them early so you have time to spread some around before you leave on your trip.

We first got the idea to print up custom business cards from the man who swam the amazon when he left a note for someone at Hootalinqua on the Yukon River. We never actually met the man who swam the amazon, but we did get a photo of his business card note.

The Man Who Swam the Amazon

Business Card Note








By , March 30, 2011 8:37 pm

It’s only three short months until we embark on our RTW adventure, so we thought it was about time we put down all the things we want to see and, maybe more importantly, do on paper.  OK, so we didn’t actually put this list on paper.  We typed it out.  But  I’m not sure what the digital equivalent of this expression is… encode in binary on a hard drive, maybe?

The result… our bucket list.  A list of things we want to do before we kick the bucket.  A starting point for an itinerary and an ever-growing work in progress.  We cheated a bit and retroactively filled it with things we’ve done in our past travels – they were on our previously unwritten bucket list, so we felt like they should be included here.

Check out our list and let us know if there’s any amazing experiences we may be missing out on.

By , March 24, 2011 9:24 pm

Update March 29th, 2011 – First off, we would like to thank everyone for the advice they gave.  We received plenty of emails, tweets, and face to face comments in addition to all the wonderful comments on this blog.

We seem to be in the enviable position of having to make a decision where either outcome will likely be good.

Last night, Ashley and I decided that we would continue trying to sell the house for the month of April.  If we have the opportunity to sell at a good price, we probably will (Ashley is still hesitant, so it will have to be a good price).  If we have not sold by the beginning of May, we will pursue a rental agreement.

Thanks again for all your comments.

Up until recently, Ashley and I have been 100% certain that we wanted to sell as much of our “stuff” as possible before embarking on our RTW trip.  In our minds, that’s always included the house.  Now, that certainty has come into question and we need to decide if selling our house is still the best option for us.

Our House

Why Sell?

To avoid worrying; to be free.  With a house, there are all sorts of things that could come up.  Most of our fears revolve around things breaking or problems with renters.  We didn’t want to be in the position of having to hire someone to touch up the roofing, change out the flooring, and replace the fridge, all while trying to find a new renter from halfway across the world.

Even if we never have a single problem with the house or renter, we would always have a lingering fear that any day something could go wrong.  How much that would bother us, I’m not sure, but it would be there.

We also like to make the argument that we wouldn’t want to move back into our house again, so why should we hang onto it?  Our preference would probably be to move into a bigger house somewhere closer to the mountains when/if we decide to settle down.

Why Rent Out the Place?

Right off the hop, I should mention a few things to help set the stage.  First, we owe almost nothing on our mortgage and will have the place paid off within a year.  The housing market in Saskatchewan is going strong, and there is a shortage of rental properties, especially in Qu’Appelle.

Despite what I just wrote, we are not having much luck selling.  Since the house has been on the market, there has been very little interest.  I’m starting to think that the house won’t sell before our departure date, and that’s causing me to worry.  I’d hate to be stuck paying utility bills and taxes for the first part of our trip.

Then there’s the fact that even though the house is not available for rent we’ve been propositioned by two people in the last week who are both willing to rent on a long term basis.  It looks like finding renters won’t be a problem.

I took the time to calculate an appropriate rental rate, and I think we’ll get it.  In theory, we should turn enough of a profit renting to equal investment income we would otherwise make on the proceeds from selling.  At least renting won’t cost us any money, unless the housing market crashes.

If down the road, we decide to sell the house, we won’t necessarily have to return home to do so.  We have family in and around Qu’Appelle that we could probably lean on to sell the house on our behalf if it came to it.

Plus we’ll have the advantage of owning a house in Saskatchewan.  There’s probably no better place to return to if we find that we’ve spent all our money and want to save up again for a second round of travel.  Living in a house we own will help us save up cash a lot faster than paying rent, and good paying jobs are easy enough to find… now anyways.

I posed this same question on twitter earlier today with only 140 characters.  So far respondents are 5 to 1 in favour of selling.  What do you think?  Do you have some horror stories to share about the time you rented out your house?  Did you sell your house before your RTW?