By , February 4, 2011 11:14 pm

It’s official, our house is finally on the market.  You can check out the listing on our Realtor’s website Rock Bridge Realty. If you know anyone that’s looking to purchase an affordable character home near Saskatchewan’s capital of Regina, please let them know about our place.  We’d be very grateful.

It’s unlikely that we will postpone our travels if our house does not sell before July, but it sure would be nice if it did.  We are selling it partly to eliminate the stress that comes with finding someone to rent, and partly because there is very little chance that we will move back to Qu’Appelle when our travels are over. We are not, however, financing our trip from the value in our house.  That’s what our Travel Funds are for.  What money we do make selling our house will be locked away safe in our bank until we decide to settle down again.  It’ll make a reasonable down payment on a new house or business somewhere down the line.

We’ve done a lot of work since I last posted about becoming unfettered two and a half weeks ago.  In order to get the house ready to list we had to do some major de-cluttering.  If you ask Ashley, she’ll say she did more work than me, and she’d be correct.  I threw my back out last Friday and left a lot of the heavy lifting to her and my father.

So what all did we do? Well, we…

  • sold some stuff online, most noticeably  our shelving units
  • re-arranged the living room
  • took all of our empty liquor bottles in for a refund + $100
  • hauled all of our garage sale items over to my parent’s garage
  • put everything we could into a closet or cupboard
  • dusted
  • vacuumed
  • swept
  • washed the floors
  • did the laundry
  • put away the dishes
  • filled the garbage bin on the curb
  • hauled a lot of garbage to the dump in the pickup

To give you an idea of how much work was done, here are some before and after photos.  Now that the place is finally clean, I’d be lying if we haven’t started to reconsider our decision to sell.  It really is a charming character home with lots of space when you get rid of all the clutter.

living room before

living room after

kitchen before

kitchen after

spare bedroom before

spare bedroom after

It sure is nice to finally be done.

By , January 30, 2011 5:29 pm

“You’re from Whitehorse, cool. What’s there to do in Whitehorse anyways?” I asked the nameless girl from, of all places, Whitehorse.  I’ve chosen to protect her identity and not use her real name for two reasons.  First, I don’t have the foggiest idea on how to contact her to ask permission.  And perhaps even more importantly, I can’t remember her name for the life of me.

Continuing with the story…

“Not that much,” she replied, “but I’ve always wanted to canoe from Whitehorse to Dawson City for the Dawson City Music Festival.  The music festival is about the biggest thing that happens up there.  It takes about two weeks to make the trip, and the river is beautiful.”

From that brief conversation in 2008 with nameless girl from Whitehorse, I too wanted to canoe the Yukon River and experience the Dawson City Music Festival.

There were a few steps along the way before I eventually accomplished my goal in the summer of 2010.

Vacation Time

To do the trip, I needed time off from work.  The problem is, I was working, am working, soon will not be working for a construction company.  Summers are busy, and it’s somewhat difficult to take holidays.  I wanted 3 weeks vacation in July 2009.  What I got was 1 week.  As you can imagine, it’s near impossible to plan a 2 week canoe trip with 1 week of holidays.  We went to Yellowstone that year.

Fortunately, the stars aligned in 2010.  The way my projects were fitting together, I had an opening for a full month of holidays right when I needed them.  Hurray!

Convincing Ashley

Although I had known for a little over a year that I wanted to canoe down the Yukon River, Ashley was not so convinced.  She brought up a couple of good points.  The big ones were:

  • We’ve never been in a canoe before
  • We don’t have any real experience camping outdoors in bear country, let alone for 2 weeks

Fair enough.

Finding Some Travel Mates

I thought that I could put Ashley’s fears at ease if I could just find someone who had all the knowledge and experience that we were lacking and convince them to go with us.  So I set straight out asking everyone I knew with a bit of canoeing experience and/or bear country experience to join in the fun. One by one they all had to decline.  It seems I’m not the only one that has a hard time getting summer vacation time, and those that could had already made plans.

Realizing full well that I would have to utilize the internet, I posted an add on the MEC Trip Partners.  Within a few days I had a response.  After a brief phone conversation, I had a good vibe and put a deposit down on two canoes rentals.

The Deceit

Apparently, as I discovered about a week into our trip, my good vibe was not completely mutual.  Keep in mind that I did not maliciously set out to lie and deceive, it just happened to work out that way.

In reality, after our phone conversation, our trip partners who we jointly call Jananna were still humming and hawing over weather they wanted to go or not.  When I sent the email explaining that I had put a deposit on the canoe rentals, it was just enough to make them feel obligated to commit.

Meanwhile, I was busy telling Ashley that I had found two experienced canoeists to join us on the trip.  I probably threw in a few extra phrases like, “they sound like a couple of good looking girls” and “you don’t have to come if you don’t want to, I’ll only be alone in the woods for a couple of weeks”.  Needless to say, Ashley agreed to join the crew.

Again, I didn’t realize how I was playing everyone.  I was so blinded by excitement that I thought everyone was as gun ho as I was about the trip.

Getting In Shape

Now it was time to burn off some winter fat, and learn how to canoe.  Ashley and I both spent a fair amount of time in the gym over the next two months.  We also enrolled in a couple of canoeing classes to get the basic skills down.  It turns out that the classes were actually supervisor classes that certify you to take a group of school children on canoe trips.  It was generally expected that we already knew how to canoe, or had at least been in one before the first class.

The first class was a bit rough, and I’ll admit even I felt like maybe I was in a bit over my head.  Fortunately, our instructor was fantastic.  Eventually we both got the basic technique down, and were really having a lot of fun by the end.

That’s enough for part 1, part 2 will have some information about the actual trip… and photos.

By , January 24, 2011 5:30 pm
bottle of coins

Bottle of Coins

For roughly the last 10 years I’ve been emptying the loose change from my pocket and tossing it into a novelty sized beer bottle piggy bank.  I never seem to miss the stuff, so it’s been an easy way to save.

After our recent unexpected expense we decided it was time to open that sucker up and see just how much was in there.  My initial guess was somewhere between $500 and $600 dollars.  Turns out I was right on the money.  Ashley declined the chance to speculate.

During our last visit to the bank we picked up a stack of paper coin rollers for free.  Finding some time in the evening, we sat down at the table and got to work.  Right off the bat things were not going well for me.  Having never really rolled coins in bulk before my technique was terrible.  Coins kept getting stuck in the tubes sideways, and I was mangling the paper edges quite badly.  After some colourful language, Ashley showed me the way.

For your benefit I’ll try to explain:

Ashley’s Technique.

  1. Count out the coins you are going to put in a roll.
  2. Cup your hands, and shake those coins lightly.  This gets them to start lining up and speeds up the next step.
  3. In one hand, line all the coins end to end the way they would fit into the roll extending from the edge of your outstretched fingers towards the palm.
  4. Take your free hand and open up the paper coin roller by placing one finger inside of it.
  5. With the coins all in a row and slightly leaning back, slide the paper roller over all the coins at the same time.  It helps if the roller’s folds line up with the top and bottom of the coins.
  6. Fold over both ends of the roller and repeat.

Once I got onto Ashley’s technique, I was much more productive.  In total, it took the two of us 1 hour and 50 minuets to get everything rolled.  In the end, we managed to add $547 do our travel funds.

finishing the last coin roll

Ashley Finishing the Last Coin Roll

By , January 21, 2011 7:30 am

Disclaimer, we are not trying to advertise for TD Canada Trust, they just happen to be the bank we use.  I highly expect that you can find similar accounts and options at any of the big 5 Canadian banks.

Important Update:

We have not been able to access our funds using our TD bank cards at any of the ATM’s we’ve come across in Guatemala.  The ATM’s all have appropriate symbols indicating both Plus and Visa, but still they do not work.  Be warned.

This ATM no longer charges fees

This ATM no longer charges fees


We visited our bank yesterday, to prepare our accounts for traveling. There ended up being quite a few things to consider, and the whole appointment took us about 1 hour. Even at that, I felt a bit like we were rushed out the door. Probably because we were referred to a 1-800 number for the remainder of our questions, and the lady helping us was glancing repeatedly at her watch.

Avoiding Fees

The first thing brought up by the bank staff, after we explained our travel plans, was ATM fees.  Outside of Canada our bank charges $3 for each bank card transaction in the U.S.A. and Mexico.  This price increases to $5 for transactions anywhere else.  This foreign access fee is on top of the $1.50 fee for withdrawing from an ATM not owned by TD, and whatever the ATM owner decides to charge, so we would have to pay $6.50 per transaction in most countries plus an ATM convenience fee.

Now if we were to upgrade to their premium account (called the Select Service account) the bank promises to allow us unlimited transactions, anywhere in the world, without charging us access fees.  To get an idea of what this could add up to, let’s assume that we will use this card approximately once a week for the next year to withdrawal cash.  At the end of 52 transactions the fee total comes to $338!  That was enough to convince us to upgrade.

Best of all, the monthly charge on this new account is $0 per month, sort of.  We have to keep a minimum balance of $5,000 to waive the normal $24.95 monthly service fee, but we’ll be reserving that minimum amount as a safety net anyways, so not a problem.

More Savings

This premium account comes with a free travel visa.  Normally, there would be a charge of $120 + $50 for an extra card annually for this card if you did not have the upgraded bank account to go with it.  This card offers us some improvements over our existing no fee visas that give us 1% cash back dividends.

  1. Earn points that can be cashed in for any travel expense.  The rate works out to 1.5% of all purchases and we should have no trouble finding eligible expenses to cash in our points.
  2. Delayed and lost baggage insurance.
  3. Car rental insurance.
  4. Trip Cancellation and Interruption Insurance. No need to buy that as an extra.

So, all in all, a worthwhile upgrade from our current 1% cash back no fee credit cards.

Safety Deposit Box

Free safety deposit box.  Yeah, how cool is that.  Now we have a place to leave things like our birth certificates, copies of our passports, and our Last Will and Testament (when we get around to writing one up).  It took almost no time at all to set this up, and you are allowed to designate a deputy to have access.  That’s perfect for us, allowing someone at home to access our documentation just in case we run into some trouble abroad.  This normally costs $42.50 per year without the account upgrade.

What else did we learn?

Anyone can deposit checks into your account without a signature from you.  Handy if you have relatives mailing you checks for your birthday.  You simply instruct whoever is collecting your mail to write the following on the back of the check then deliver it to your branch.  In the case of TD, you can also mail the check to the branch and it will be deposited.

For Deposit Only:
Bank Name
Account #

If you need to pay a bill while you are away you can grant Power of Attorney to someone you trust.  This enables them to look after your finances while you are away.  They can cut checks from your account, request loans on your behalf, etc.  I’m not sure if we are going to go this route yet or not.  If you have a need for it, you’ll want to find someone you really trust.  Once you’ve given out Power of Attorney they can do pretty much anything they want with your bank account.  We were also told that we would have to physically come into the branch to remove the Power of Attorney if we had problems.

USD$ Account. Our fancy new account gives us a free USD$ checking account.  It sounded like a good idea to be able to take advantage of good exchange rates now, by converting some of our CAD$ into USD$.  There is one big problem with this plan.  You can not associate a $USD account with your Canadian bank card.  At least you can’t at TD.  This leaves us with no way to access our funds from our USD$ account while on the road.

Copies of Cards.  It’s a good idea to have access to the numbers printed on your access cards.  If a card becomes lost or stolen, you will need these numbers to deactivate your account and reverse any unlawful charges.  This also requires:

International Calling Numbers. Both our Bank Card and Visa have 1-800 #’s to call if your card is lost, or stolen.  Unfortunately these numbers don’t work outside of Canada, so we needed to find out the international numbers to call and bring them with us on our trip.

Putting It All Together

Here’s our general plan for accessing funds while on the road.  The bulk of our funds will be stored with the online bank ING Direct and earning a small amount of interest (currently 1.5%). If you are interested in opening your own ING Direct account, feel free to use my Orange Key: 14780906S1 and we can each earn a sign-up bonus.

As required, we will electronically transfer funds from ING Direct into our TD Canada Trust account to maintain a balance somewhat higher than the $5,000 minimum to avoid account fees.

When we need to make a purchase, we will use our new travel VISA wherever possible and earn our 1.5% reward.  We will set up our bank account to automatically pay off the balance of the VISA each month, so if we do not have access to internet banking we won’t be charged any interest fees.  If VISA is not an option, we’ll use local currency.  To get at it, we’ll use our ATM card in ATM machines to withdrawal from our fee free account.

Do you have advice for us?  Please leave a comment.

By , January 19, 2011 6:57 am

I had just filled up with gas and was heading out of the parking lot to return home when it hit me.  Not some grand epiphany, not a great travel idea, but a small blue car driven by a female in her 20s.  This random act of idiotacy (maybe not so random for said individual in the small blue car) is a $700 dollar moment I will never get back.  Which means $700 out of the travel savings…. ugh.

The woman in the small blue car drove off before I could get her license plate, or even the make of her car.  So I am left standing at the police station, feeling like a naive idiot, telling the police officer that a woman in a small blue car sped off.  I had no details for them.  I honestly never actually considered that someone might do what she did – take off and not accept any responsibility for a mistake just made.  By the time I realized that my naive little bubble had just collapsed, the car was gone.

Dear Woman in the Small Blue Car,

You are scum.  Your selfishness on Monday cost me a small part of my trip.  And I’m angry about that.  I suppose I should thank you though, for reminding me not to always expect people to do the right thing.  I have surrounded myself with good people and almost forgotten who else is out there.  So thanks for the reminder that I need to be diligent when dealing with strangers and that while I will still hope for the best, I will also expect the worst.  This lesson will be very valuable on my trip around the world that I will take while you will probably still be driving the snowy and icy streets of Regina.  I hope the other motorists stay out of your way.

So I’ve actually decided not to let the woman in the blue car ruin any part of my trip.  I will pay my $700 deductible to fix my car since I have no one to claim against, but I will find the same amount to cut from our current living expenses before the trip.  Lesson learned.

our car, post accident

By , January 17, 2011 4:44 pm

released from physical or mental bonds; unrestrained

The prospect of selling our stuff is finally upon us. At this point, we have decided not to decide when, where, or if our trip is going to end. We may travel forever, we may travel for a year, we don’t know. What we do know is that if our trip does end, we don’t want to move back into our same old home here in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Even if we do decide to live in Saskatchewan again.

Our Home in Qu’Appelle

What we want, is the freedom to resettle wherever we decide when our trip is over, or to continue travelling until we are old and grey.  So, for us renting out our house while we are away, and putting all of our stuff into a storage locker is not the ideal solution.  And so, we’ve made the big decision to sell our house and most of our belongings to become… unfettered. To give us that freedom to go wherever we please without the constant worry and expense of looking after our belongings while we are away.

The big ticket items that are going to take some time to dispose of are the house and the car. The car we’ll need for Ashley to commute to work with until the end of June, so we can’t sell it quite yet. The house goes on the market Wednesday, and can really go anytime.

We’re lucky that way. Ashley and I currently live just a few blocks from my parent’s home. A home with a spare room in the basement that we are hoping to live in from the time our house sells until the time we catch a ride to the airport.

That brings us to the small stuff. And, we have a lot of it. It never really felt like we were wasting money on items that we hardly use, but now that we have to clean the place out, there is no denying that there has been some impulse buying in the past.

A photo of our spare room with a growing collection of stuff to get rid of

The first step was to divide everything into two basic categories, things we still use, and things we could do just fine without. The latter category was then divided further into the following groupings. (note by dividing I mean separated into their own piles on the floor)

  • Garbage that nobody would ever want
  • Stuff that may sell for a few dollars in a garage sale
  • Items we hope to sell online

The same room as above, with our stuff organized into piles.  The junk is in the bottom right hand corner, garage sale stuff near the centre, and the stuff we think we can sell online is sitting on the table.

The garbage we have been diligently throwing out whenever there is still space in our garbage bin on collection day. Most of the junk went in about two weeks, so we probably had 8 bags or so of junk that we tossed away.

The garage sale stuff has been cluttering up our floor, and I’m not sure if we’ll just leave it there for a summer garage sale, try to hold a winter garage sale (unheard of, at least by me), or just throw it in the trash so the room does not look so cluttered. I guess the decision will partly depend on what our Realtor tells us when he comes to list the house.

That brings us to the last grouping. Since November, we have been trying to convert everything in this group into cash for our trip. Primarily we’ve been using two different online tools to do this.

The first is a free online classified add website called Used Regina. I realize that this is very specific to the Regina area, but that same website has links to affiliate sites all across Canada. There are a few great things about this website. The most important is that it’s free. Second it targets local buyers. Every sale is done in person and is as simple as exchanging items for cash. The buyer and seller communicates by email, agreeing on a price and a location for the trade. Finally, there are a lot of people who use this website. I’ve actually been quite amazed at the success we’ve had finding people to buy our used items. I even managed to sell an electric floor fan in January when it was about -20 degrees Celsius outside.

Aside from used Regina, I’ve also taken my first plunge into Ebay. The problem with Ebay is the fees. So far I’ve only sold one item, a 35mm film scanner. I was delighted that I was able to find a buyer, and the price got bid up to about what I paid for it, $811.25. Now take a guess how much cash I get to keep from this sale? After Paypal and Ebay fees I’m left with $615.29. I paid $195.96 in fees, or about 24%. That’s a lot of fees. I think in the future, I will reserve Ebay as a last resort for the items I can’t get rid of on Used Regina.

In summary, use your local free online classified websites before Ebay.

By , January 9, 2011 2:34 pm

At this point we have no idea how much our around the world trip will cost. I suppose, we won’t know the total cost until we stop travelling and compare what’s left in our bank account to what what we started with.

Regardless of how you intend to travel, you will likely need at least some funds for plane tickets, meals, and hostels. We are no different. Some people are lucky enough to have jobs they can generate an income from regardless of where in the world they are. These jobs include many online jobs such as writing columns, translating, proofreading, writing computer code, and similar. These jobs could be a good source of funds while you travel, reducing the amount of pre-savings that are required.

We don’t have any of the above mentioned jobs, nor do we want them. Our goal is to get jobs or volunteer in the various countries we visit. We want to experience the culture, and the lifestyle that our various destinations have to offer. Unfortunately, there is no way for us to guarantee that we will find jobs or be able to subsidize some of our living expenses with volunteer positions in each country we travel to. This leaves a fair amount of uncertainty when we sit down to estimate what our total trip cost will be. Not knowing the total cost makes it just as hard to decide how much we need to save.

Our approach has simply been to save as much as we can, and not worry about how long we can afford to travel for. We’ve been telling people we are leaving in July, and we are going to keep travelling until we get sick of it, or we run out of money. On the right side of this screen is a progress bar under the heading Travel Funds. This represents our total trip budget. This bar should slowly but surely increase toward our savings goal of 100% until we receive our last paycheck. Once we quit our jobs and start travelling, our progress bar will slowly but surly decrease toward 0%. Once it hits zero, it’ll be time to quit travelling and start working again.

I’m not going to say how much we plan to save up for our trip, but I will say that we have been living a fairly modest lifestyle since Ashley and I were married in 2007. We live in a small affordable home, own only a single fuel efficient vehicle and don’t really have any expensive hobbies, aside from travel. Our biggest expense has definitely been our honeymoon trip to New Zealand in 2007.

That said, we still benefited greatly from a quick budgeting session in December 2010. By making relatively few lifestyle changes, we’ve managed to increase our monthly savings considerably. Here’s a few tips that may help you.

  • Invest your savings. We put our savings into ING Direct. It pays a modest amount of interest monthly and allows us to take advantage of our Canadian Tax Free Savings Accounts. If you would like to start a new account, please use this Orange Key: 14780906S1 when you sign-up and we will both enjoy a sign-up bonus
  • Look at your bank account plan. We have a checking account with TD Canada Trust, and are able to save about $5 per month on account fees by upgrading our account and keeping a minimum balance of $5,000. This higher level account also comes with free ATM withdrawal fees when used outside of Canada. The ATM fees are normally $5 per transaction, quite staggering
  • Take a look at your reoccurring monthly bills. We managed to save about $60 each month by re-arranging our Television bill
  • Set a budget for entertainment. We lumped together all the little things we enjoy that cost money into this category. Eating in restaurants, going to the bar, going out to the movies, etc.
  • Car pool. We were always fairly good at carpooling, but we are making an extra effort now. We set a gas budget and are trying to stick to it
  • Carry forward your budget from one month to the next. If you didn’t spend your whole budget, great you can reward yourself next month.  If you spent too much and are over budget, you’ll have to subtract that from next month’s goal so you can get back on track.
  • Most importantly keep track of how much you’ve spent as you spend it. There should be no surprises at the end the month and you should always know if there is money left in the budget for you to spend or not.