By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Tribune Newspapers
10:13 PM EDT, May 5, 2013
Vagabonding isn't only for the young and unattached.
Craig Hickson, 44, and John Mottram, 40, had lucrative jobs in Manchester, England, when the couple felt pressure to embark on an adventure they had been talking about for years.
"We were both working ourselves into the ground, accumulating wealth, property and fat pension funds," Mottram said, "and after witnessing some friends and family illnesses, we realized there was no guarantee in life that you would be around to enjoy them once we reached retirement."
Over six months, they sold most of their possessions, an emotional but cathartic experience, and lost sleep over whether they were doing the right thing. They planned a detailed itinerary that estimated travel costs, routes and even weather conditions, but they scrapped it soon after landing in Australia. Being more flexible allowed for cheaper travel because they could wait for the best deals.
Mottram and Hickson are what are known in travel circles as "flashpackers," which means they will pay a bit more than backpackers in order to have a private bathroom, hot showers and laundered clothes. Income from an apartment they rent out in England helps fund their travels, which they write about at flashpackatforty.com.
After 16 months and 20 countries, the partners of 22 years have felt a profound shift in priorities, away from material things and toward happiness, health, learning and giving. The gaps in their resumes likely will be seen as midlife crises and not help future career prospects, Mottram said, but returning to the old work pressures doesn't sound appealing anyway. They are considering making this location-independent lifestyle permanent, perhaps by teaching English in China.
Another couple, Shaun and Erica Kuschel, 29 and 30, who quit their good jobs in Austin, Texas, two years ago to travel through Latin America and Europe, feel optimistic that their "career break" might be viewed positively by employers, as traveling bestows language and other adaptable skills. The high school sweethearts, who drastically simplified their lives to save $16,000 for the trip, also left their company on good terms and with an invitation to return if positions were still open.
But the Kuschels don't feel pressure to wrap up their adventure. If they decide to have children, they likely would have the child overseas and consider road schooling, Shaun Kuschel said. The challenge now for the meticulous budgeters, who have endured by tracking every cent they spend, is to make more money while traveling.
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