Traveling 12 countries in 12 Months
By Kelly Neufeld
For seniors, the number one goal after retirement is travel. While retirement frees up your time to travel, finances can be an issue. But what if you could travel the world, for the amount it would cost you to live at home? Sound impossible? It’s not, Rick and Irene Butler managed to spend a year abroad while spending the same amount they would have spent at home and they’ve written a book to show you just how to do it too.
When Irene and Rick Butler retired they wanted to be more than just occasional tourists they wanted to travel the world. And since they are a talented writer and photographer respectively they documented their year of travelling the world in their book, Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps.
Their book is a mix between a guide book, travel story and a history lesson. The book is an entertaining journey of their adventures across four continents. Along the way, they share their experiences and mistakes. If you happen to travel the same path you’ll know people and places you should avoid and attractions you absolutely must visit. At various points, Irene details little known historical and geographical facts. Even if you can’t travel yourself, you’ll feel like you are there with them while reading the book.
Irene and Rick have always loved travelling. But managing a retail store gave them little time to travel. When they managed to get away they had be home at month’s end for all the necessary paperwork. They travelled to various exotic locations but because of the time crunch they could only visit the main attractions. They often went on tours in order to fit everything in. But they were frustrated with the strict schedules and the lack of contact with the people and culture of the land.
When they had the opportunity to sell their store they jumped at the chance. They rented out their condo and began planning the trip of their lifetime.
Some people may get overwhelmed when trying to plan such a long and varied trip. The Butlers bought a plane ticket that allowed them to travel the world in one direction. They wanted to stay in places during their summer seasons so they planned accordingly. They had a general idea of how long they would stay in places but remained flexible. They took some guidebooks along and bought others along the way. They prepared for each new country before they arrived. They stayed in cheaper countries longer to stretch their budget.
The couple established a few ground rules for their upcoming year of travel.
- They were going to live on the same amount of money they would have spent being at home.
- They were not there to suffer.
To achieve these two goals they would seek out hotels that the locals frequented or they stayed in hostels. While hostels are typically thought of only for the young, they are used by travelers of all ages looking for reasonably priced accommodations. Because they spent much of the day sight-seeing they only needed a place to sleep. They did pay a little extra in order to get a private room instead of shared dorms.
Before their trip they studied Mandarin for 6 months. While they could remember the words to many of the things they struggled with remembering the correct tone. In Mandarin, words can have different meanings based on the tone used when speaking. When you see that Ma can mean horse or mother depending on the tone you can see how misunderstandings can arise! The couple speaks French and Ukranian and learned the basic sayings for any country they travelled.
A previous trek of 75km on the West Coast Trail with their adult children gave them a reality check on how much they should carry in their backpacks. Irene recommends, “packing what you think is the bare minimum of clothing and then cutting that in half.” Hauling around a heavy backpack while travelling makes you realize what and what isn’t essential. They made sure to pack things like a first aid kit and vitamins but bought other things like clothes to replace their worn-out garb along the way. They were in such good shape after 5 months of backpacking that they were able to make a life-changing trip to a base camp up Mount Everest.
The couple stayed in 12 countries on four continents over 12 months. They got to know the locals, their traditions, cultures and food. They transformed from tourists to travelers who immersed themselves in the culture of their host country. They tried to tread gently but as the ‘mostly’ part of their book title alludes to there were some missteps. There were encounters with rats, an vehicle accident and one sad story where their generosity to local children begging on the streets may have gotten the children into trouble.
With an entire year of experiences, the Butlers had a hard time picking their favorite memory. Slovakia was one of their favorite places that they had never even planned to visit, but a visa restriction got them kicked off a train travelling to Poland. India was another favorite location because of its frantic, friendly, and eclectic culture. There was no language barrier and every day “just kept getting better.”
The Butlers even had trouble thinking of their worst experience because looking back things always worked out. They quickly learned to “expect the unexpected” and to change plan A to plan B or C all the way down to Plan F. You can see more pictures of the countries they visited on their flicker account.
At the end of their trip they had managed to travel without suffering and according to Rick’s detailed budget they only overspent their budget by a mere 86 cents a day! Their careful planning allowed them to have an adventure of a lifetime for the same amount it would have cost them to stay at home.
Now that their big year of travel is over they continue to travel. They purposely bought a condo so they could easily leave it unattended throughout their various travels. This summer they will be travelling Canada and the US while promoting their book. They are also planning to visit Israel, Jordan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries this winter. They have already visited 72 countries and plan to visit many more while enjoying their retirement.
If you’re thinking about travelling, follow Irene and Rick’s advice- Just Do It! For Irene and Rick, it was the best reward they could have given after working their entire lives.
Are you interested in reading Trekking the Globe with Mostly Gentle Footsteps?? You can purchase their book on their website Global Trekkers. You can also enter to win the book by leaving a comment below this article. Just fill in your name and e-mail address (which remains hidden) and any comment. We’ll pick a winner at random. Contest ends on June 30th at midnight.
Congratulations to Katherine Williams for winning a copy of this book