After four years of nonstop career building, Jon and I are unplugging from our jobs and taking the summer off to travel in Europe. We will spend two months hiking and climbing in the Alps, then we'll go to Iceland for 10 days for Jon's conference in September. Our last long trip was in the summer of 2012, when we biked around Western Europe for almost three months after finishing graduate school. We moved out of our basement apartment and stored our stuff. We landed in Amsterdam with two bikes, a shoestring budget, a hotel reservation for the first night, and no solid plans after that. Jon didn’t even have a job yet. We pedaled our way through Europe, discovering its quiet villages, back roads, and scenic mountains. The trip was beautiful, but not without its challenges: torrential rain, a vague itinerary, tight budget, and appetite fatigue due to eating too much bread, pasta, and couscous. During the trip, Jon accepted a postdoc at the UW and we moved back to Seattle where we’ve been working hard ever since. Overall, it was a great first trip to Europe, but we knew that if we returned we wanted to leave the bikes at home and go deep into the Alps. We didn’t know when our next trip would be. Careers, houses, and kids tend to saddle people down and America is notorious for its stingy vacation times. We’ve heard it more than once: “Just WAIT until you have KIDS…”
A series of fortuitous events led us to our current sabbatical. Last summer, Jon accepted a corporate job, but then quickly realized he actually wanted to be in academia. When he won his own 3-year NASA grant, it sealed the deal and he left the consulting firm after just two months. Due to a gap in funding, the University of Washington could only fund him for 0.75 time this year. His supervisor said he could work full time all winter, then take the summer off. I am self-employed, so I make my own schedule. I will miss the Book 9-10 teacher training at the Japan-Seattle Suzuki Institute this summer, which is a bummer, and I will miss my wonderful students. But, those are manageable obstacles for me. Time off: check!
Meanwhile, we have been working hard, living well below our means, and saving diligently for a house down payment. But, Seattle’s real estate market going up faster than we can save. After tracking the market daily for two years, I think that the ship has sailed without us. We are not willing to put ourselves in risky financial territory, so we’ll consider ourselves priced out, for now. Why not spend some of that hard-earned cash on travel? The amount we’ll spend adventuring is just a drop in the bucket compared to the monster down payment required to get a Seattle house that’s in decent shape. Then, with some careful Chase Ultimate Rewards point use, we combined signing bonus points from two credit cards, transferred them to United, and got free roundtrip plane tickets for two. Our landlord agreed to let us sub-let our house, and we found a wonderful renter. The trip feels pretty affordable. The goal is to be frugal at times, but not skimp when it comes to basic comforts (such as eating protein, getting out of the rain, paying for lifts into the high alpine, staying in the occasional B&B instead of camping). Travel money: check!
We even did a much better job planning the trip this time, and we feel excited but not nervous or afraid. We’re about to board our flight. A car rental and AirBnb await us when we land in Geneva. Our itinerary will be flexible depending on the weather, but we’ve got great details laid out for our adventures in the Alps. Off we go!