We've gotten a few questions about a somewhat life-changing decision we made that involves volunteering, unemployment and traveling with a backpack for 14-16 months. 

Below are some answers.

If you're still curious, check out this recent (July 2013) interview we did with Libby Vertz of AllAboardBeat. If that doesn't do it, email us or ask us a question in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you.

Are you really doing this?
Yes, it’s done. We're taking a trip around the world. We even have a website.

Boat trip near Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

How long will you travel?
We’re not real sure, but we’re planning on traveling for at least year or so.


Where will you go?
We took a one-way frequent flyer flight to Manila, Philippines, so there’s that. We also created a Google map of our itinerary, but that is being changed pretty often based on what we're learning and experiencing as we go.

Roughly, we were thinking the Philippines, Palau, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, Tibet, India, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Kenya, down the coast to South Africa, Madagascar,
West Africa  Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Egypt, England, over to Brazil, a quick stop in the U.S. before heading down to Central America through El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and eventually back to DC via Colorado. 

All that is, of course, subject to change, which is one of the best things about a trip like this.

How did you decide where to go?
Building the itinerary had to be one of the hardest parts--but it also proved to be the most fun. We talked about the adventures we’d always dreamed of going on. We discussed the places we’d always dreamed of seeing. We asked traveling friends. We read back issues of National Geographic and Outside, and we lived on Google and in Barnes & Noble. We sometimes argued. Liz always won. Well, almost always.

In the end, though, the itinerary has been just a rough outline. Discovery is what a trip like this is about. We had a one way ticket to Manila. That's all. The rest we're figuring out as we go. For the next 12 months or so.

How do you have enough money to travel for a year?
Because we don't know exactly where or for how long we'll be traveling, it's hard to know the cost.

But we've been saving. A lot. We live frugally and don’t eat out much. And both of us have been gainfully employed for a few years, luckily.

The smartest thing we did was rent out a room in our house to strangers. Around seven years ago, we discovered a website called Airbnb, where you can rent out spare bedrooms to travelers. Check out our Airbnb listing here. Since then, we've made enough money to take this trip. In addition to the rental income, the stories of our guests--travelers from more than 15 countries and 20 states--also helped inspire our journey.

Another thing is that we're backpacking, traveling cheaply along the way. Our tickets to the Philippines cost $11 each, plus 32,500 airline miles. Yes, that's $22 for two.

Finally, if you checked out the map, you'll see we’re mostly visiting places that are less than expensive, where a decent hotel is $10/night, a 12-hour bus ticket is $5-$10, and a meal is $2-$3. It won't be the lap of luxury, for sure, but a hammock on the beach ain't a bad way to spend a night or three.

What's 1 of 7?
On a hike along the Continental Divide in Colorado two years ago, we were surprised to see trash along the route. Drivers had tossed empty bottles on the roadside. Litter lined many of the trails and camp sites.

So we did what many people would do--we cleaned things up a bit. It wasn't hard, and it didn't take long. But guess what? We felt really good when we were done, and the area looked way better than before.

Since then, we've done some type of volunteer work at least one day each week. Cleaning up rivers and parks. Beautifying schools. Mowing a neighbor's yard or raking their leaves. Small things that have made a big difference, at least to us.

We aren't expecting to change the world. But we love how good it felt to give back, even just a little. So we decided to travel the world for a year and do some type of volunteer activity along the way. 

We've learned a lot so far.

As it turns out, giving back can be quite contagious, as we found out when five adorable girls ran down the beach from their mosque to join us as we picked up trash in Malaysia. Volunteering also opens doors to local cultures, as we discovered when a family in Burma invited us to their hut for a fish dinner after we helped their eight-yr-old daughter with her English homework. In addition, it’s educational, humanizing, eye-opening, and possibly one of the most under-utilized foreign policy tools around, as we've seen throughout our travels.

Considering taking a trip soon and interested in volunteering? Maybe you're sticking closer to home and want to give back locally where you live? Good. Make it happen. In case you need them, here are a few tips that may help you find what you're looking for. 

And we'd love to hear about your experiences--feel free to get in touch with usWhether you're at home or far from it, there are always things you can do to help. 
Do something good at least one day each week. You'll be glad you did.

How do you find places to volunteer every week?
It's not always easy to do, and sometimes we fail at our goal of volunteering at least one day each week, but our volunteer opportunities have been some of the highlights of our travels. 

If you're interested in volunteering on your next trip, read our top tips here and here

Remember, whether you're home or far from it, there's always something we can do to give back.


  1. Christina Reid BocoxJune 7, 2012 at 10:17 PM

    Very cool. Nice to hear of a fellow Conversian (just made that up!!)doing great things and getting out in the world!!!

  2. Hi Patrick,

    My name is Randy Lin and thought our project, the Silk Rail Road might interest you. The Silk Rail Road is a multimedia photography book that photographs the voyagers along the Silk Road. Our project aims to promote Kazakh and Chinese culture by telling the stories behind the people we meet along the way.

    Our link is:

    If you find the project interesting, it would an immense help if you could feature or share our project with anyone who might be keen.

    Thank you for reading.


    Randy Lin


Thanks for reading and commenting!