Hi! My name is Amy and I love discovering new places, meeting people along the way, and dreaming about my next escape from reality. Here’s where you can find out more about me and my travel adventures with my family.
How I Became a Traveler
Growing up in a small city in Wisconsin, I was never a big traveler. When I was a kid, a vacation typically meant a 5-hour drive through northern Wisconsin to the city of Hayward, where my grandparents lived. Ironically, as an adult I’ve realized how awesome a vacation spot this is. When I was in elementary school we took a couple trips to Disney World and one to California where we drove around in a convertible and listened to the Beach Boys. That was it. We didn’t do spring break trips or any kind of exotic vacations.
In college at the University of Wisconsin, I joined two engineering student organizations, the Steel Bridge Team and the Concrete Canoe Team. Yes, these are actual organizations, and yes, concrete canoes really do float. Initially, I joined to meet other people with the same major as me so we could become homework buddies and I could somehow figure out how to actually be an engineer. What really happened is that as a member of these organizations I got the opportunity to travel to regional and national competitions at other universities around the country. And, I got to go for free…or pretty darn close since most of these trips were sponsored by generous alumni.
In 2004, one of these trips was to Colorado. A friend and I decided to drive out early ahead of the competition to spend a few days in Colorado Springs, Denver and Boulder. At some point during the trip, Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” came on the radio. As I listened to the lyrics, I got goose bumps and started to feel really inspired. He talked about going skydiving and Rocky Mountain climbing and spending time with his family creating lasting memories. I realized there was so much out there in the world to discover and explore. And I wanted to see it all.
Unfortunately, I was broke. I was going to school, working part-time and had student loans that grew every year. I had a $5 per weekend budget for entertainment that barely bought me a cup of beer at a house party. But I didn’t care. When I graduated from college I convinced one of my friends to join me on a backpacking trip in Europe for 1 month. I made a crazy, detailed itinerary that had us visiting 9 major cities in 6 countries with jam-packed days of sightseeing and activities. It was awesome and exhausting. When I returned home, I had $272 in my bank account and had to borrow money from my roommate to pay my next month’s rent. But I had memories, stories and experiences I will never forget. Since this trip, I have strongly believed that I will never regret a dollar I spend on traveling, meeting people and trying new experiences.
Where I am Now
Fast-forward a decade and I’m married with two little boys under 5 years old. I still love traveling and always anxiously look forward to my next trip. Granted, it’s more difficult with kids, but my husband and I have taken several vacations with our kids and our fair share of trips alone. I’ve visited dozens of places around the United States and returned to Europe twice. But I’ve always wanted to take my adventures to the next level – to really LIVE somewhere abroad, unpack my suitcase, meet locals and experience a new culture. Unfortunately, in the United States we get somewhere between zero and barely-more-than-zero vacation days per year which makes it almost impossible to do any real traveling. And when you have kids, you use up the majority of your vacation days taking care of them when they are sick or dragging them to doctor’s appointments. So, I decided I needed a plan if this long vacation was ever going to happen.
I’m someone who really likes goals. Why? Because without them we’re kind of like hamsters. We keep going around on the wheel without really paying attention and then 10 years later we wonder why we’re still in the same spot. When my oldest child was 1.5 years old, it finally dawned on me that life was never going to be “normal” again. I kept thinking we were somehow going to transition out of this difficult, tiring phase and into some kind of bliss, but what I realized is that each phase just morphs into the next. None of them are easy, the challenges are just different. To deal with my desire for something else, for more freedom, I read the book The 4-Hour Workweekby Tim Ferriss. You’ve likely heard of this book, it’s been around for 10 years. If you haven’t read it, I recommend you do as it will inspire you to travel even more. The message I really took away from the book was to stop talking about doing things and start doing them. Or, as I interpreted it, make someday today. I thought about my dream to spend a longer period of time abroad and convinced myself that I could make it a reality. I could make it a reality even though I had little kids, a working husband, a career, and no trust fund.
That was July 2015. Three years later, the dream has become reality. This summer, my husband, Brian, and I are taking our two boys to the Netherlands for two months. We’re going to live like locals, bike everywhere, eat cheese and constantly talk about how thankful we are for the opportunity to live out our dreams.
So we must be rich, right? Because, you know, traveling is crazy expensive. And who can afford to take 2 months off work? Well, we’re not living paycheck to paycheck, but, we’re also not swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck. What we do well is plan. Remember the traveling epiphany I had in July 2015? Well, that fall I convinced my husband that we could make extra money by renting our house on Airbnb when we left town on weekends to visit family and during the vacations we took each year. We planned to put the money into a savings account to fund our eventual trip to Europe. I also researched housing options for our trip and decided to create a profile on HomeExchange.com. I figured that if I loved Madison (where we live) so much, I could convince someone else to as well and then we would exchange houses and our housing costs would disappear. Guess what? It worked. And the family we are exchanging houses with even lives in our ideal province in the Netherlands. And the last way we’re funding our trip? By spending time with our kids. Sounds silly, but if you want to talk about crazy expensive, look up day care costs for two kids. Its nuts. By simply bringing our kids on this adventure, we’re saving thousands of dollars each month that we can spend on making memories together.