It’s not uncommon to go on a vacation or two to another country every few years. But for Utah couple Mark and Britnee Johnston, a vacation for two weeks out of the year wasn’t enough. They were hungry for more.
In 2011, the couple went on their first big trip as a couple — to Vietnam, using all their vacation days for their two-week stay. But as they spoke to travelers in Vietnam who planned to spend the next months (in some cases, years) traveling the globe, they realized they’d have to wait another year to travel again, and it just didn’t seem like enough. “When we got home we were somewhat unsatisfied, we were left craving far more,” Mark told Forbes.
And then, Britnee got an idea that would change their lives forever. Why not just drop everything and travel the world?
Britnee was working as a communications director and was looking for a change. “I’ve always been career-focused and had been working a lot,” Britnee, 27, told Forbes. “I started feeling like I was missing out on something.” For Mark, 35, he was starting to feel like his job as a photographer at a local newspaper was a dead end, and he had wanted to change his career to public relations anyway. They didn’t have kids or own a house. So the only thing holding them back? Money.
The couple kept on working, knocking out debts so that they could quit everything and travel for an entire year. Neither of them had student loans, but they paid off all their credit and car loans, leaving them with a balance around zero. And then, they saved. After researching, the couple decided that $40,000 was the perfect number (along with $10,000 for a “coming home” fund), and each saved up $20,000 on their own, which came out to about $1,000 a month per person for two years. “We knew people who talked about big things and never did them. We didn’t want that to happen to us so we kept it on the down low,” Mark told Forbes.
But that meant a lot of sacrifices. They picked up freelance work, stopped going out on the town, and started taking advantage of Netflix and hiking outdoors. “We realized we didn’t have to go extremes for this,” Mark said. “At first we were intimidated by cutting expenses and living really frugally, but it wasn’t that bad.” After quitting their jobs and moving out of their apartment (and paying a hefty early lease termination fee), they kept one car and sold the other, then jammed everything they owned into a storage unit.
Then, they were able to see the world. They spent two months in Japan and China, took the Trans-Siberian Railway through Mongolia and Russia, toured throughout Europe, went back to Southeast Asia, and finished the trip in South America. Um, sounds like living the dream to us! Staying in hostels and with friends and family around the globe, they budgeted, but not too much. “I decided to be a lot more lenient,” Britnee said of her decision to scrap her spreadsheets. “I realized it wasn’t that fun to keep track of our finances every day.”
They did go over their budget by $8,000, but considering that they went to 26 countries and 78 cities over one year, we think that’s pretty darn awesome — and they were able to pay it off quickly with tax refunds and their coming home fund. Now, both have jobs and are working to get their finances back on track. Totally worth it. “You don’t have to be a millionaire to travel, which is a misconception I had growing up,” Britnee told Forbes.
And their next vacation? A relaxing beach trip sometime during the winter. Hey, they already went big — now it’s time to relax. You can read all about Britnee and Mark’s travels on their blog, One World One Year. Thanks, Britnee and Mark, for the awesome inspiration! We love seeing people grabbing life by the horns. (Anyone wanna be my travel buddy?)
(Images via Instagram.)