How we made the move and how we support ourselves and our travels financially.
So how exactly did we do it? How much money did we have? How were we funding this trip? This is probably one of the things most people are curious about and we want to share with you all how we did and are doing it. Sean and I had talked about traveling full time for several years, but we wanted to wait until our older daughter finished school because she was already so well established in school and was almost done. So, we waited, in the mean time we made goals that would help us with our travel dreams. This included Lorena going back to school to get her master’s degree, one of the adults becoming a licensed architect, and starting our own architecture firm. We made a list of all the things that needed to happen and worked hard at checking them off as quickly as we could. That list is below.
- At least one of us needs to pass our architectural registration exams and become a licensed architect-Sean did this, Lorena is still working on passing her last two exams out of 7
- Mireya and Lorena need to graduate-They both did this Mireya got her high school diploma and Lorena got her Master of Architecture
- We need to sell our house
- Figure out what to do with our animals (two cats, one dog, and four chickens)
- Minimize-sell all of our stuff in a garage sale that we would not be taking with us on our adventure (we each brought 1 checked bag, 1 carry on, and one personnel item)
- Book our one-way tickets to New Zealand as soon as we got the money from the house
- Apply for our visas (Sean, Lorena, and Gaby would be applying for visitors’ visas for 9 months, Mireya would apply for a working holiday visa)
- Sell our cars
- Work on getting as many clients as we can that would be willing to work with us while we travel-this is an ongoing thing in order to support ourselves overseas
- Pack our bags and GO!!!
Short Quick Version:
For those of you who do not have the time or just want the numbers do not worry. I will provide those now.
- We sold our house-Profit $17,000
- We sold our stuff-Profit $2,000
- We sold our cars-Profit $2,000
- One-way plane tickets from OKC-NZ -Cost $4,000 (for 3 adults and one child-Mireya is 18 so she is an adult now Gaby is now six so she usually has to get a full price ticket as well but NZ Air gave us a child discount)
- Airbnb for two months $3,000
- Carry-On Bag fee-Cost $50 each so $200
- Lugguage/cloths for trip/etc-Cost $2,000
- Travel in USA to visit friends and family-Cost $5,000
- Cost to buy a used mini van in NZ-Cost $1,000
- Total we have left once all is said and done to fall back on if we need it or to get us back to the states if we need to do that is $6,000 and we also got a credit card before we left as an emergency fund with a limit of $6,000. So cushion is $12,000
- We plan to continue to work as we were in Oklahoma for our firm as much as we need to to pay for our monthly cost of living etc and hope to not touch our little nest egg but it is there if we need it to help us along our way or get us back to the USA if need be.
The Full Breakdown:
For those of you who do want a full break down of how we did all of these things and tips to save you money please do continue reading this post. We spent a lot of time writing this information in the hopes that it would help others who are dreaming of doing this same thing so if it at least does this with one person we will be happy.
Number 1 & 2-Hard Work and a time for celebrations
Sean passed all his architectural exams and became a licensed architect and we celebrated! Lorena went back to school and received her Masters of Architecture and passed five of her seven architectural registrations exams while in school, we celebrated again. Mireya graduated from high school another celebration. We also started our own architecture firm (MC2 Architecture) and you guessed it we celebrated again. Things were happening, and they were happening fast. We all had a lot going on and were very busy, but we also had lots of fun exciting accomplishments happen for us all. Including Gabriela starting real school and graduating from Pre-K. This was an amazing blessing as it meant we no longer had to pay for daycare and she was able to attend an all-day Pre-K program right down the street from the University Lorena was attending. She loved it and it all worked out so great with our new schedules.
Number 3-Selling of Casa McDow
This was a tough one. We spend the last eight years in this house making it our home. So many memories happened here, we went from a family of two (Lorena and Mireya) to a family of three (Lorena, Sean, and Mireya) to a family of four (Lorena, Sean, Mireya, and Gaby) in this house. It was our first home and we knew this would be difficult on both an emotional level and a financial one as the house did need some repairs.
This is when it really started getting real. We had given thought to selling our house ourselves, but we were intimidated by the legality of it as neither of us were very familiar about that process or the necessary paperwork. We both had so many things going on that we decided that this was not the time to try and educate ourselves in home realty. It made more sense to just take the hit (financially) on hiring a realtor and focus on working as much as we could for our firm to try and lock down some clients that would be willing to continue to work with us while we traveled.
We hired a realtor and had them come out to the house and talk us through the process. Originally, we were told they would take 3% of whatever we sold the house for but then we were informed that it would probably end up being more like 6% because if the person who bought it had their own realtor then that person would also want 3%. We were shocked! Like I said we did not know anything about selling a house and did not expect to have to pay someone this much for helping us sell it. So be prepared for this. We were able to talk our realtor down to 5% we just had to talk with them and ask. We even had them agree that if they were the only realtor then it would only be 3% but if there were two realtors, they would only charge 2% and give the other realtor 3%.
We felt a little discouraged by this as this meant that much less for our trip however, we just tried to keep our head up and keep going. We crossed our fingers that we would get what we were asking for our house and that in the end we would come away with around $20,000. We walked through the house inside and out with realtors and made another list. If you haven’t noticed this by now, we are big list people. The list included things like, paint bedrooms, paint siding, trim bushes, get new carpet in rooms. We did most of the stuff on the list and had the house photographed and put on the market within one month of the realtors first visit. It was a lot of work and it created a lot of tension in our house for that month. Trying to keep a house clean non-stop with 2 kids, a dog, and two cats is nearly impossible. The list of things that needed to be done was stressful and expensive. We did it though and considering it only took us a month I am pretty darn proud of us. Overall, I believe we spent about $3,000 (roughly) on all the repairs so deduct that amount from what we make on the house because we used our credit card for all the repairs and had planned on just paying it off with whatever money we made from house.
With all the repairs done and the house photographed we put the house on the market. We had four people lined up to see it that first week and the first person who viewed our house made us an offer. A low offer, we weren’t happy, we renegotiated, they renegotiated, and in the end, we took a hit but decided we HATED trying to sell a house, the staging, the keeping it spotless 24/7, the loading up of all the animals, etc. We walked away with a profit of $17,000 which was $3,000 less then what we had hoped to get. This was the total after paying all the realtors fees, and all the other fees associated with selling a house. As soon as the check cleared our bank, we bought our flights to New Zealand. No backing out now!
Number 4-What to do with our pets
What would turn out to seriously be the hardest thing we had to do for our move. Harder then selling our house, harder then selling our stuff, and harder then reading through the millions of different visas and paperwork we needed to do for the move. We needed to decide what to do with the animals. In the end we decided that for health and financial reasons it would be best for us and the animals that they stay in Oklahoma. We worked hard to find them homes and we spent many weeks crying about this part of our move.
The chickens were the first to go. We had got the chickens a while back and loved having them. There really is a simple joy in getting up in the morning and going to get fresh eggs from your chickens. I’m so glad we all got to experience this. Because they were laying eggs and were not very old, we knew someone would want them. We also knew we were not going to be traveling around the world with chickens in tow. So, we put them up for sale and they sold the next day to a nice family who wanted to have fresh eggs. They occasionally would send us photos of the chickens and it seemed they were doing well.
The cats were given to us when they were kittens as a birthday gift for Lorena but over the years, they became Mireya’s cats. Originally Mireya was not sure if she would be coming on this trip and had wanted to keep the cats. As the days started approaching for us to move out of the house, she made the decision to come with us. The cats were older, and we knew bringing them with us would be very difficult on them. So, we started a search to look for them a new and loving home. They spent several weeks living with my mother while we looked for them a forever home. This turned out to be so hard because most people do not want older cats. My parents are not in situations where they could take the cats and so that was not an option and most of our friends already have animals of their own. As the days got closer to our departure the only place that would take them was an animal shelter in our hometown which was a no kill shelter, so we have high hopes they were adopted. The shelter people seemed very nice and said they would keep them together and had high hope they would be adopted because they really were cute cats.
Originally our dog was the only animal that we had planned on bringing with us. He was not young, but he was not super old either. He was in good health and we read that we could do it that we would just need to do some paperwork and he would need to be quarantined for around 2 weeks. We weren’t looking forward to being away from him or him to be in a quarantine facility for that long, but we were going to try and bring him. We investigated cost, paperwork, pet visas, pet carriers, etc. Originally, we thought this was going to cost us around $2,000 for the necessary paperwork, quarantine, and flight. However, we were then informed that we would need to get a pet exporter and that Logan would need to receive a series of vaccinations before he could come to New Zealand and that these would roughly take 6 months. Our flight was scheduled for two months away so we started to stress and wonder how we were going to do it. Who could take him while we were away and take him to the vet, and airport and what not.
We began looking into pet exported and soon found out that this would cost us around $5,000 in addition to the $2,000. We were not in a financial situation where this was an option. We raised the $2,000 we originally thought it was going to cost to bring him by selling all our stuff in a garage sale the week before we left. However now that it was going to cost us $7,000, we knew we would not be able to take him. We put him on a German Shepard adoption website for and got two emails that same day with people who were interested in buying/adopting him. We got lucky and found a nice family who wanted to adopt him. Their living situation was very similar to what Logan had been used to in that they had two kids and two cats just like us. They also said they would come pick him up that next day which was a day before we were scheduled to leave our home, so it really did just feel meant to be. We are still in contact and really do believe this was the best decision for him and our family. No quarantine, no flight, and he really does seem to have bonded with his new family. I cried for two weeks after he left and still till this day get teary eyed thinking of him. However I know he is enjoying his new home and I am so happy he is happy and that we get to see him still. He really was such a sweet and loving dog. We will all miss him forever.
Number 5-What to do with all our stuff.
This is something that originally, I thought I was going to have a really hard time doing. How do you go through years and years of stuff and decide what to keep and what to get ride of? This was actually a lot easier than I expected, and I was surprised the amount of stuff we were all willing to part with. We had sort of already began this process the year Mireya started her senior year and after having watched a documentary on minimalism we were inspired and began getting ride of things. However now we had to get really serious. What would we take? What did we want to keep but not take? What could we part with forever and what would we give away to friends and family?
We took it one room at a time and made 3 piles. Pile#1 What can we part with, donate, and sell, Pile#2 What did we want to keep but not take, and Pile #3 things we would be taking with us. Originally, we had thought about just donating everything we were not going to take as we did not want to hassle with having a garage sell and did not think we had that much stuff but soon and I mean really soon the donate/sell pile was huge! So we decided that instead of just donating all the things we had once spent money on we would try and recoup some of our money and put it in our travel fund. We did give some things away to our loved ones and had several people come over and tell us what they wanted before we had our garage sale. Some of our friends and family even gave us money knowing that we were trying to make money for our trip. We then had our garage sale one week before we were scheduled to leave our house and made around $2,000.
Number 6-BOOK TICKETS!!!
One way tickets for the four of us to New Zealand cost us close to $4,000. We booked two separate flights which saved us around $1,000. Our first flight was from Oklahoma to Los Angeles. Then one from Los Angeles to New Zealand. We highly suggest you research your options when it comes to travel. Just because you are in one place does not mean that you need to book your flight from that place to your destination. Nor do you have to book through the same airline or travel company. Just make sure you give yourself time for all the check-in stuff at the airport. I would actually even recommend considering staying a night in one place then heading off to the next place. We looked for tickets from OKC to AKL and were surprised that most flights had several layovers and did not just take us from OKC to one of the direct flight locations to New Zealand so after seeing this we started researching which airports and airlines offered direct flights to New Zealand and found several. Including Houston, Hawaii, LA, and San Francisco. So, we started looking at how much it would be to book separate flights and after doing A LOT of research we found flight from OKC to LA for about $200 each and then from LA to Auckland for about $800 for the adults and $600 for Gaby. Keep in mind this was for one-way tickets for flights in September. There are always offers and specials out there and dates can change prices significantly so keep this in mind as well.
Next, we had to do something we did not put on the list, figure out where to live in between the time the house sold and our flight to New Zealand. We posted all about this in a separate thank you post to all our family and friends who we stayed with and visited along in this time. You can read it here https://directionofourhearts.com/2018/11/06/that-time-we-were-couch-surfers/. We basically floated around Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Colorado. In that time we spent roughly $5,000 over the next 2 months traveling to see our friends and family in the United States.
Number 7-Visas and paperwork
While we couch surfed our way through the next couple month and a half, we did a lot of paper work. Not just for our travel to New Zealand, but also for schooling for Gaby and Mireya, and things for our business. This process took us quite a while to do and involved lots of backup documentation. We may write another post about this if you guys are interested in knowing more about this process. It took us a full day of reading and entering information, but this does not include the time/hours/days we spend on gathering all the necessary paperwork needed including passport renewals, bank statements, and so much more. We did it, we got approved, and we jumped for joy because it took a while to get approved and we were starting to worry that maybe we did something wrong. Mireya was approved much quicker and the process was also a lot shorter and easier.
Number 8-Saying goodbye to Glen and Maggie
(yes, we named our cars and yes their names were based on TWD characters who remind us of ourselves)
We needed to sell our cars. With a departure date in hand we tried to wait till the very last min to sell our cars, so we would not be completely carless, and this worked out well for us. We sold Sean’s car about a month before we were scheduled to leave, and it basically covered the amount we owed on the car, so no money was made there. We sold my car 2days before we left to New Zealand and made $5,500 but we owed $3,500 so we made roughly $2,000.
Number 9-Finding work and being your own boss
Although this was number 9 on the list, we worked on this almost every day for over a year before we left. We have been pretty lucky when it comes to work finding us and have not had to search very much but the reason for this is because we have put in the work in networking, being good and hard workers in our past, and just being good people, who people are happy to work with. Sean and Lorena are both hard workers and enjoy learning everyday to make themselves more appealing, versatile, and competitive. Sean is great when it comes to the technical side of things and Lorena is great when it comes to the business side of things and they both have an eye for design.
Before we left, we had several business meetings, projects, research, and paperwork to do for our business which we planned to be our main source of income for our trip. We weren’t exactly sure how it would all work out with the internet and time differences, but we had/have high hopes and truly think that with technology being what it is today and are careers being so broad we shouldn’t have to be tied down to an office and a 9-5 schedule. Out of all the people we met with we were able to get five projects for ourselves to work on for the first several months of our journey. However, things do not always work out like you plan and we are two months into our 9month stay here and after wrapping up a few projects we are on the search again for more work to continue to life this travel life. We are strong believers of the saying “where there is a will there is way” and know that we will find something soon.
Because of the visas we received we are unable to work in New Zealand which makes things a little tricky, but we have started working on a few other side projects and means of extra income to hopefully help fund this trip. We opened an Esty shop to sell digital high-quality photographs from our travels, we are working on getting a few books published, and are constantly looking for more ways to earn money and support our family.
Number 10-Packing our Bags and Flights
Packing our bags was such a huge deal and took several nights of organizing, reorganizing, weighing, and reevaluting the things in our packs. We wrote a full write up about what we take with us daily https://directionofourhearts.com/2018/10/24/backpack-gear-list-auckland-nz/
and are planning to write a post about what we packed with us for the trip, what we actually ended up needing, what we wish we hadn’t brought, and the things we wished we had. That will be up very soon.
We made sure to check what the airline requirements said about bag weights and prices. We were each allowed 1-checked bag under 50lbs, 1-carry on, and one personnel item (think purse or backpack). These were all free of charge, so we made sure to weigh our carry on but did not worry so much about our carry on. However somehow, we seemed to have overlooked that for our second flight from LAX to AKL traveling on New Zealand air you were only allowed 1-checked bag and a personnel item and carry-on bags cost $50 a piece so there was $200 we weren’t expecting to pay added to our travel. Also, our carry-on bag could not be heavier than 7kg (15lb). This was a problem because we were homeschooling Gaby and her carry on was basically just a ton of HEAVY books, as was Lorena’s as she was bringing several of her study books to work on finishing her architectural registrations exams. So needless to say they were both heavier. The front desk worker with New Zealand air was so sweet and helpful and let us pull to the side reassess and rearrange things in order to get to the 15lbs. If we had not done this it would have been an extra $100 for each bag because they would be considered an extra check bag. So Lorena ended up chunking one of her books and we put some of Gabys books in Sean and Mireya’s carry on bags and were able to make it work without paying extra fees on top of the $50 each we were already paying. Needless to say double check the airline requirements and if you have multiple flights make sure and check them all because even if it is the same airline bag fees can be different from one place to another.
Our first flights left Oklahoma at 6:15 a.m. so we made sure to be at the airport by 4:30 a.m. because you never know what can happen and we always try and give ourselves plenty of time especially when traveling with kids. Then we had a very long layover at the LAX airport while we waited for our next flight that would take us to where our real adventure begins. We landed in Los Angeles at 7:26 a.m. and our flight from Los Angeles to Auckland was scheduled to leave at 9:30 p.m. So when I say long layover I mean LONG layover. It was ok and we enjoyed having some time to walk around and stretch our legs before our 12hr flight to New Zealand.
So after everything was said and done we made $17,000 on the sale of our house $2,000 on selling all of our stuff, and $2,000 from the sale of our cars. We spent $4,000 on our plane tickets, $200 on our carry-on luggage fee with New Zealand air, and $5,000 traveling all over the United States to see our friends and family before we left, we also spent about $1,500 on purchasing things we needed for the trip and on hotels in Norman, Arkansas, and St. Louis. We had roughly $10,000 left in our savings.
We went ahead and booked our first two Airbnb’s so that we wouldn’t have to worry about rent for the first two months while in New Zealand. This was roughly $3,000. So, we have a $7,000 cushion while here. We planned to work just as we were doing in Oklahoma and had people that were willing to work with us. We would basically just be living off the same income we were living on in Oklahoma but in New Zealand. We had investigated rental places, transportation, and food and thought if we were willing to make some adjustments this would work.
We would probably be staying in a much smaller space then the 4-bedroom house we had in Oklahoma but we were willing to do this and this would turn out to be one of the best things about the trip so far because it has not only taught us that we don’t need a lot of things to be happy it has also strengthen all of our relationships especially Mireya’s and Gabriela’s. We wouldn’t have a car and would be using our two feet and public transportation and try our best to make most of our meals at home. *we actually ended up purchasing a car for $1,000 after our first month to get us to all the other places on the island as public transportation is not as great once you get out of Auckland.
Originally, we wanted to pay back what we spent on our credit card for our home repairs but after seeing our “profits/travel funds/nest egg” dwindle we decided we would rather just pay this out in payments and keep the money we had for our travels. So, after deducting the amount we spent on a car we had $6,000 as back up incase our business plan didn’t work out or if we needed to come home because we realize we made a horrible mistake. Not much of a nest egg or a cushion but it would get us home if we needed it to or pay our rent for a few months if we decided to do that. We also got one other credit card to use as an emergency fund if things really got bad. The limit we had on this emergency credit card was $6,000.
As you can see, we are just a normal family who believed in our dream and have decided to take the risk of traveling. Some people hear our story and think we are crazy or don’t understand and that is ok this story isn’t for them. Its for anyone who has ever had a dream of traveling, of taking a risk, of losing it all to make a fresh new and better start, this is for the dreamers, the believers, and the doers. It really does take quite a bit of guts to believe in your dream and yourself enough to take this risk. However there hasn’t been a minute that any of us have regretted this choice.