When we interviewed them, it was a typical dreary day in Western Washington, and they were sun-kissed on the breezy St. Thomas Virgin Island with palm trees swaying in the foreground of their hotel room. The Virgin Islands was stop one on their round-the-world trip, and they’ve since been to England, Spain, Switzerland, Hungary, and Ukraine.
Even though they decided to travel full-time about a year ago, they didn’t make any concrete plans, which freed them up to make extra stops and stay in a destination for as long as they wanted. They plan to be gone for about two years, but that isn’t set in stone, either.
When we heard their story, our biggest question was: How on Earth do people do this? (We know you are asking it too, so let’s find out and daydream together).
Pulling the trigger
In 2015, they bought their dream home in Newcastle and remodeled it from top to bottom. They lifted the ceiling, removed walls, ordered custom 9-foot couches with handpicked fabric — everything they wanted was incorporated into the fresh, modern design of their suburban home. And six months after owning the house, they felt like they got their money’s worth. Alex and Liana volunteered as youth and young adult pastors, so they had dozens of people over several times a week. The couple — who married in 2012 — love touring the globe and started talking more seriously last year about doing it full-time. The first step was parting from their house. “When we got the offer for the house, I was like, ‘I don’t know if I actually want to go now,’” Liana said. “It was a great house and a good location. And he had to convince me for like three days why we decided to do it in the first place. The hardest part was making the first decision. (The house) was the main thing holding us where we were. Once we got the offer, it sunk in that we’re leaving the comfort of home and the comfort of America.”
For Alex, the scariest part was leaving their lucrative jobs in sales. They’d spent years building relationships with clients, and their employer was predicting significant returns in the coming year. They were also active in their Ukrainian church and were going to be part of launching a full English service.
“That was another thing that was really hard to leave,” he said. “I watch young people grow up and become young adults and get married and do their wedding. That was a big thing to leave. It was kind of hard (leaving) our social circle in the church and things like that.”
When they sold their house in early 2017, the agreement included three months of rent-free living so they could stay there right up until they left. Last Thanksgiving, they dropped little hints to family about how amazing it would be to travel full-time, so that it wasn’t as much of a shock when they broke the news officially a few weeks before departing in April.
“The older generation was like, ‘Are you sure you want to do this? What about starting a family?’” Liana said. “But our friends and people our age were jealous of what we were doing. In a good way.”
They worked right up until the week they left, hopped on a plane, and didn’t look back.
Pulling it off
The Borishkeviches aren’t backpacking or staying in hostels. So if you want to have a more luxurious travel experience, they said to budget about $4,000 to $7,000 a month. Backpacking would likely cost closer to $3,000 a month depending on how thrifty you are, they said.
Another thing that helped was paying off all their debt beforehand. A few years ago, they were about $60,000 in debt, including student loans, car payments, and credit cards. Their monthly interest statements were vexing enough to buckle down, and itemize a detailed monthly budget.
“I was very fortunate to have had the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” Alex said. “I was responsible for 25 percent of the company’s profit in sales. I was doing very well there and within our first year of marriage we paid off all our debt.”
They downsized their cars and bought vehicles they could finance with cash, saved the down payment for their house, and were able to pay for all the renovations without financing. They used their credit cards to rack up travel points, and paid those off every month. They also squirreled away enough savings to live off of for at least a few years upon returning — to help them get re-established when they move back.
One of their traveling keys to success was researching and purchasing the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. They say the fees are $450 a year, but they earn cash credits, receive free medical and dental insurance, and rental car insurance, a 24-hour concierge service, and it gets them into airline lounges free of charge. They use the travel points to purchase airline tickets, and said if you’re traveling full-time, the points add up quickly.
A continuing education course
Alex likens traveling to an extension of their secondary education. There’s nothing quite like eating authentic four-course Ukrainian dinners or watching the sunset from the Swiss Alps.
When they were in St. Thomas, one of the locals told them to have dinner at a nondescript, little yellow house located outside of the regular tourist sector. Ask for the woman who lives there, the local said, pay her, and she’ll make you dinner. The pair said it was one of the best experiences they’d ever had. It was so personal and far removed from anything a travel book could offer.
When you’re traveling, make connections with the people around you, they said. Talk to the locals; have a meal with them. Some of their lifelong friendships have been forged during their trips.
All of these experiences are the prime reason they decided to do this now.
“When you’re 65, you don’t taste food as well,” Alex said. “We can jump off cliffs now. We can do all this stuff now. The biggest part of the experience for me has been just pulling the trigger. Even when people try to launch businesses — we can get so afraid of things unknown. ‘What are you going to do when you get back? When are you going to have kids?’ People are saying you’ve put your lives on hold. Not at all. This is a dream, and we are moving forward.”
Tips for traveling
Look for a credit card that will give you hefty rewards and other perks, like insurance. Also, find one that has no foreign transaction fees. They like the Chase Sapphire.
Just the essentials
Knowing that they were going to buy things along the way, they packed just a few clothing items each, and were able to stuff roughly 50 pounds of supplies into their carry-on bags with the use of compression bags – a must for long-term traveling. They have a video about this on their blog.
Their T-Mobile all-in-one plan comes with unlimited text and data all over the world. Calls are 20 cents a minute, which was a lot less than some of the competitors. Shop around for a plan that works for you.
Avoid ATMs, and carry only enough local currency to get you by for a day or two. Don’t leave money in your room, and avoid bringing jewelry. Look up established banks if you need to make a transaction.
Most hotels will grant upgrades when asked. Also, by creating accounts with websites like Expedia or Hotels Tonight, they were upgraded automatically because of their VIP status.
Around the world with a family
In 2015, Rodrigo DeMedeiros and his family set out on a 14-city, round-the-world trip to get away from their demanding lives. Rodrigo would spend hours in gridlock Seattle traffic as a photographer, director, and producer at an ad agency. His wife, Gretchen, had been working at Microsoft for nine years. He said even their two children were feeling languished at school. The idea to get away for a year ignited in 2011 after a six-week trip to Brazil with friends. After a couple years of planning and saving, the family purchased round-the-world tickets and set off on the unforgettable adventure.
DeMedeiros, a regular contributor to 425 magazine, chronicled the experience with vibrant photos and blog posts as they toured the world. He said they saved money by purchasing tickets that took them around the globe in one direction (backtracking makes traveling more expensive). He recommends making an outline for your trip, even if it changes. Doing so helps control your budget. You also save money by staying in one place longer, and renting apartments or homes instead of staying in hotels. Cook some of your own meals, and shop at local markets. It’ll add to the flavor of your trip and save money.
Similar to what the Borishkeviches did, the DeMedeiros family saved a “nest egg” with money invested in the United States to tap into upon return. It was a huge stress reliever to know they had a fallback.
He also recommends photographing, filming or journaling daily.
“It’s just as amazing as the experience itself to chronicle it and be able to trigger memories, and to be able to share it with friends and family so they can follow you,” he said. “In my case, I was able to claim the whole cost of the trip for my business (I shot a documentary of the experience and turned it into a web series – currently on season one). I received an incredible tax return for that reason.”