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May 15, 2009

Cathy’s Story

Funding a Year in Asia

In 1985, I took my first sabbatical and spent almost a year traveling in Asia with my then husband. It was an exciting time to be there because China was emerging from the shadow of Communism and other countries like India and Singapore were becoming business powerhouses.

My husband worked for the Senate Commerce Committee and I worked as a professor at American University. We left our jobs…..were “between gigs” as we call it, so did not have any income from our employers. We planned to look for new jobs, and maybe even careers, when we returned.

We were able to fund the entire eleven-month trip by using a combination of savings and a windfall inheritance, making money while we traveled and cutting costs at home.

Using Our Savings and a Windfall Inheritance

We created a budget for the trip as well as an estimate of costs at home. Based on that, we decided to borrow $40K from our savings….mostly from an inheritance from my mother, who had passed away the year before.   We allocated estimated expenditures by day, week, and month, allowing for extras and a cushion upon return to the U.S. We paid off all our credit cards so that the only debt we had was the mortgage. We kept track of expenses each day and adjusted as needed. Sometimes we splurged, such as staying in a fabulous hotel in India and compensated by staying in modest guesthouses in Thailand.

Making Money While We Traveled

Because of our expertise in public policy and business, we arranged to be part of the USIA program that brings experts to foreign countries to expand relationships. The US Embassy, academic institutions, and newspapers in the countries sponsor the lectures. We were paid a small per diem, expenses in the country, and were entertained by our hosts.

It turned out these lectures and meetings in the countries were the highlight of our trip. By doing the lectures and preparing for them, we met fabulous people, had wonderful experiences, and learned far more about the country and culture than we would have just being “tourists”.

We also probably added $10-15K in revenue to the trip budget from doing the lectures.

Cutting Costs at Home

So that we could minimize what we took out of savings to maintain our home and expenses in DC, we rented our house furnished. The rent covered the mortgage and utilities. We parked our car at a friend’s and canceled the insurance for the period. We canceled exercise club memberships and prepaid big one-time bills. My cousin and a friend paid our bills monthly, checked the mail, and oversaw the house renters. We traveled feeling everything would be well taken care of and it was.

The point is…..there are many ways to fund your freedom if you are a little creative. Any ideas that you have would be great! Please write us.