When Mark and Britnee Johnson took a trip to Vietnam in 2011, they found that the two weeks they spent on vacation just wasn’t enough. So the couple, who were profiled on Forbes.com, did what many people do once they catch the travel bug: they planned for a longer trip and saved some pennies.
But the way they did it — and the next vacation they decided to take — make their story unique: they decided they wanted to drop everything to see the world, so they saved $40,000 in two years to do just that.
At the time they got the inspiration for their plans, the couple lived in Utah and had no mortgage to pay or children to raise. Mark, now 35, was a photographer for a local newspaper, and Britnee, now 27, was a communications director at a non-profit.
After figuring out the math, the couple determined that they had to save approximately $40,000 to take a year off and travel. They did this by reading travel blogs, estimating the cost of food in certain locations, and pricing out the cost of visas and lodgings.
For example, if they had wanted to celebrate the 225th anniversary of France’s independence in Paris in 2014, they could have chosen from nearly 50,000 apartments on Airbnb. The site recently made the news because it began collecting a small tourist tax on behalf of apartment owners.
Back at home, however, Mark and Britnee had to wait and live frugally by each saving $1,000 per month. Overall, they each saved $20,000 for their trip thanks to their day jobs.
The also did some freelance work on the side — photography assignments for Mark and content writing and social media two or three hours a night for Britnee. This helped them provide a “coming home” fund for themselves worth $10,000, in addition to adding to their 401(k)s and health care plans.
They wound up terminating their apartment lease early to help cut some costs and moved in with Mark’s parents in March and April. After giving notice at their jobs, they then departed for their world tour in May 2014 and started with Tokyo.
Overall, Mark and Britnee visited 26 countries and 78 cities in one year. Although their budget was $40,000, they exceeded that by $8,000 based on the last-minute decisions to also travel to Bolivia and Turkey.
Since coming home, both were lucky enough to land jobs within a short matter of time. “We’re better off now than when we left, in terms of income and our standard of living,” Mark told Forbes.
The couple also moved from Orem, Utah, to Salt Lake City. They’re already plotting their next vacation, but they’re thinking probably something like a beach trip rather than a year-long expedition.
But now that they’re also making more money than they were before, they realized that traveling is possible on a budget — even in the long term.
“You don’t have to be a millionaire to travel, which is a misconception I had growing up,” Britnee said.