Planning Our Trip to Europe, Africa, and Asia: 2018 “Slow Travel”

In Review

As I talked about in   my last post  2018 is going to be a crazy year for Whitney and me as we transition into semi-retirement. We plan to work the first half of the year, January-June, and then “slow travel” internationally the second half of the year, July-December. Our one-way ticket to Europe is booked, and we fly out on July 16th. In between finishing work and taking our trip, we plan to sell both our camper and our truck in order to minimize monthly expenses while we’re gone and to give us additional money to live on for those 6 months without having to withdraw from our investments. Financially, I believe that not only will I be able to survive while not working and being out of the country for 5-6 months, but that I’ll actually come back with a higher net worth than when I leave due to investment returns and income generated from this blog and other sources.

Trip Itinerary

I have a rough outline of where we will be going and staying for the 5-6 months, but it is definitely subject to change as we continue to research about the areas. We have the first month planned and mostly set already. We will gradually book the rest of the trip a month at a time as we get our plans finalized. Here is the plan so far:

  • 7/17-7/21: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • 7/21-7/28: Dublin, Ireland
  • 7/28-8/4: Agadir, Morocco
  • 8/4-8/9: London, England
  • 8/9-9/20: Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • 9/20-10/4: Phuket, Thailand
  • 10/4-10/11: Bangkok, Thailand
  • 10/11-10/18: Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • 10/18-11/2: Phnom Phen, Cambodia
  • 11/2-11/9: Krong Kaeb, Cambodia
  • 11/9-11/24: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • 11/24-12/1: Hanoi, Vietnam
  • 12/1-12/15: Hai Phong, Vietnam

Typing all of that out gets me very excited. My first time out of the country was September of last year (a resort in Jamaica), so I’m far from a world traveler. This trip should be one of the coolest experiences of both of our lives. We are also considering visiting Myanmar while in northern Thailand and Laos while in northern Vietnam, both to see the countries and to make sure that we don’t overstay our Visas, but we haven’t got that all planned out yet. We are staying for 6 weeks in Chiang Mai because we’ve heard such great things about it and because we want to have some time during that part of the trip to rest, recharge, and work on the blog.

The Logistics

  • In regard to our trip itinerary, we have chosen to spend the majority of this trip in Southeast Asia. A big motivator for this is the low cost of living and affordability of traveling there, in addition to the awesome things we have heard from other travelers. In the future, we plan to travel to other areas, but for this first trip since we’re not quite to financial independence, we thought this would be a good start.
  • Most of our flights will be free with credit card reward points, but some of the shorter, less expensive ones we will pay for out of pocket.
  • In Southeast Asia, most of our traveling between cities will be by bus which is extremely affordable there.
  • Most of, if not all of, our housing will be through Airbnb. We know we could probably save some money by staying in hostels, which has been recommended to us by several other travelers who have taken similar trips. But we like the idea of having everything planned out ahead of time and being able to read reviews about where we will be staying, especially for our first major trip out of the country.
  • We plan to do a lot of walking and sight seeing for free, like we have always done on our trips. We will take some excursions and paid tours, but we are going to do our best to keep expenses reasonable. I’m planning to budget between $1,000-$1,250/month for me while out of the country, and Whitney is budgeting a similar amount. As I said about Chiang Mai, some of our time there will be spent relaxing and enjoying “living” in the local area, which is the essence of “slow travel.” We don’t want to over-plan our trip and be exhausted from doing so many “touristy” things.
  • We will both only be taking a big backpack and a small day pack with us instead of worrying about taking big suitcases on all of the flights. Not only will this save us money on the flights due to not checking bags, but we also won’t need to worry about lost luggage or hauling heavy bags since we will be traveling on so many different airlines, buses, trains, taxis, etc. This is certainly going to be a challenge for us packing-wise (especially Whitney), but we know that it’s going to make our trip so much easier. And, we can always buy some things while we’re there if needed.
  • We plan to forego health insurance while out of the country and instead buy travel insurance for any major medical problems if they happen to arise.

Whitney and I are both very excited about this trip and can’t wait to go! As I said earlier, this is only a rough outline, so things will probably change as we research and talk to others that have taken similar trips.

If you have been to any of these countries and have recommendations of things to do or places to go, please comment below or send me an email! Thanks for reading!

 

Semi-Retirement in 2018!

*The picture above is from an amazing trip to Aruba my brother and I took in December.

⇒⇒⇒Update 1/17/2018: Click here for PART TWO: our travel agenda! ⇐⇐⇐

Taking The Leap

In my November monthly update, I mentioned that Whitney and I have been discussing transitioning away from full time employment to take time off and travel internationally. This is something that we have both been very excited about since we have limited experience traveling outside of the United States. As of two days ago, we booked our one way trip to Europe (a little scary) in July to start our journey (which will include the UK, Morocco, and SE Asia). Now that the trip seems somewhat real with the first leg booked, I want to share our plans with you guys. This post will mainly focus on the strategic and financial planning that has gone into this trip, and I’ll write a separate one about the trip itself.

By taking this trip, I will be cementing my semi-retirement starting this year at age 29. For those keeping count, this will be after only 3 years of full time work with a massive 80-90% after tax savings rate and the benefit of a huge bull market. Why am I referring to it as semi-retirement you ask? Our current plan is to continue to work 6 months per year taking travel physical therapy contracts, while traveling both internationally and domestically the other 6 months of the year. We plan to do this for a couple years, depending on how this first one goes in 2018. And then later we may settle down into a more “permanent” home. Or maybe not.

I have to admit that for the past 2.5 years since first finishing PT school, I have been extremely focused on my financial independence number and getting to it as soon as possible, which has occasionally added additional stress to my life. I’ve spent as little as possible (including traveling for work in our fifth wheel camper the past two years), taken minimal time off of work, worked overtime whenever possible, taken part time work to make extra money, made a hefty amount in bank account and credit card sign-up bonuses, and started this blog which is now bringing in some income as well. After so much dedication to working as much as possible and focus on finances, I’m excited about the shift to a more relaxed lifestyle with more built in travel and leisure time!

Taking a Look Back

Working so hard and being so focused on finances may sound crazy to some of you, and sometimes it sounds crazy to me as well, but Whitney and I have also had some amazing experiences since graduation and made sure to not limit ourselves just because of my financial goals. We have taken countless weekend trips all over the east coast, staying in Airbnb’s or using free hotel nights. Some of our favorites have included: New York City; Boston; Bar Harbor, Maine; Newport, Rhode Island; Stowe, Vermont; Quebec City; Montreal; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; Greenville, SC; Charleston, SC; and Savannah, GA. We also took a 6 day all-inclusive vacation to Jamaica for free with credit card rewards. Whitney went on some trips with her family, and I just got back from 6 days in Aruba with my brother. The reason I mention all of this is to emphasize that even though Whitney and I have both saved a lot and made huge strides toward financial independence, we have made sure to have fun and explore during this time in our lives.

A big reason for me wanting to no longer work full time all year and transition to semi-retirement now is due to the stress I’ve put on Whitney and myself by always trying to work as many days per year as possible within the IRS guidelines for travelers. We’ve made sure to spend at least 30 days per year at our tax homes and duplicate expenses to ensure that we have everything in order legally, but besides that I’ve pushed us to work nonstop. The times that this is a problem is between assignments when we have only a weekend to pack, hook up the camper, drive to the new location, unhook the camper, unpack, and start our new jobs two days later. If everything goes smoothly then it isn’t a big deal and works out well, which we thought would always be the case for us and was a huge perk with living in the camper compared to having to rent an apartment and get all of that set up like other travelers do. However, we have found out that it rarely goes as smoothly as we expected. Between truck and camper problems, there is almost always something that causes delays which puts us in a bad situation and becomes stressful very quickly. We have been fortunate that our camper/truck problems have never caused us to be late to an assignment, but it has certainly made it stressful and we have cut it very close. From this point on, I’m done with rushing from one contract to the next and have decided that it will be much better for us to have a week off between assignments to account for delays and problems. Money is important, but reducing stress in our lives is invaluable. With all of that said, I’m extremely proud of how hard we’ve worked, the quick moves we’ve made, and the amount we’ve been able to save in this first 2.5 years of being travel physical therapists, so I wouldn’t change anything, even though I have learned along the way.

Looking Toward Our Financial Future

Let’s look at where my finances are now, where I should be in July, and how I’ll be able to afford to transition to semi-retirement. Some of you might think that only working 6 months or less per year after a full time working career of only 3 years is not possible and irresponsible. I don’t blame you for that, but in reality I’m very close to full financial independence right now, so working only half the year is way more than enough to cover all of my expenses. As I mentioned above, I’m currently saving between 80-90% of my after tax income each year. By transitioning to working only 6 months per year, my taxes will decrease significantly. So, even though I’ll be working about half the hours, I’ll still make over half of my normal yearly take home pay! I’m estimating that when working 6 months per year, not only will I be able to cover all of my expenses for the year, but my savings rate will still be around 50-60% due, in part, to a decrease in my taxes!

My original goal was to work full time for 5 years as a travel PT to reach FI. Over time my savings rate has increased and I’ve decreased expenses, which has caused my FI goal to get progressively closer to the present. (And as you can see from our Plan for the Next Four Years that we wrote in May 2016, our actual travel PT plans have changed a lot from then to now). I noted in my post from June 2017 that when I updated my financial independence number based on a more realistic expectation of my future expenses, my FI date jumped much closer. In my original projection from about two years ago, I was on track to reach full financial independence (based on increased future expenses) by September 2020 at age 31. As of writing this on 1/7/2018, my projection to reach 25x my predicted future expenses is April 2019 at age 30. In addition to gradually reducing expenses, making more realistic projections regarding future expenses, and increasing income, I have benefited greatly from the bull market that has persisted since I first began investing which has pushed my FIRE date closer and closer. Based on my current expenses, I am getting very close to financial independence already, but since my expenses will increase in the future with children, I am basing all of my projections on that. As I’ve mentioned in posts in the past, my goal has always been based on the “4% rule” which means I’ll need 25x my future anticipated expenses to consider myself financially independent. With this in mind, below I’ll list where I am now, and where I’ll be in July when we embark on our trip based on my projections.

Current:

  • 20.17x current expenses
  • 16.81x future anticipated expenses

Prior to leaving for Europe:

  • 25.17x current expenses
  • 20.97x future anticipated expenses

There are a few things between now and July that, in addition to my normal savings rate, will boost my net worth. The first is a decent sized tax return (around $2,500) from 2017, due to maxing out my 401k and traditional IRA this past year. The second is my HealthyWage weight loss competition that will end in April. Each month I’ve been making $500 payments toward my bet and haven’t been including that money in my net worth. That means that assuming I win my bet, my net worth will jump by about $5,000 in April, even though $4,000 of that will have been my own money that I bet with. The third thing is that we plan to sell our truck and fifth wheel camper before we embark on our trip, in order to avoid additional costs to store them, personal property taxes, and registration/inspection. I don’t currently include my half of these assets in my net worth calculations, so depending on how much we are able to sell them for, I should get a big bump in my net worth there.

Being at a projected 25.17x my current expenses in July is what has really given me the confidence to make semi-retirement a reality. I’m anticipating that since the majority of our trip will be in southeast Asia and most of our flights will be free with airline miles, my expenses while traveling will actually be very close, even possibly less, than my current expenses. This means that I could potentially spend the second half of 2018 outside of the country while living on 4% of my net worth! While out of the country, I plan to spend extra time working on and growing the blog. In 2017, income from the blog (including referral bonuses from helping some of you get started with travel therapy) covered about half of my yearly expenses! In addition to those travel therapy referral bonuses, the other income came from affiliate and referral links from things that I use such as: MedBridge, HealthyWage, and credit card referral links that I’ve shared in various posts. That is without having any ads on the site, which is something I’m considering implementing in the future. I really appreciate all of you that have supported the blog financially! I’m conservatively planning for income from the blog to cover 25-50% of my expenses in 2018 and also planning to make some additional money with more bank account and credit card sign-up bonuses throughout the year. I’m fairly confident that, if I can keep my spending in check, I’ll come back in December with a higher net worth than I left with in July, which would be amazing after a 5+ month trip. My goal is to spend $6,000 or less in the 5-6 months that we will be out of the country, but I can afford to be a little lenient there if needed.

I have certainly spent a lot of time strategically planning out my finances in general and in regards to this trip. I have encouraged Whitney to do the same, but at this time she doesn’t have a formal financial plan or budget like mine. She is considering tracking her expenses for 2018 more closely in order to better see her financial picture. But in general she has been able to save a significant amount of her income as well and will be in a good position to take the second half of 2018 off of working. With the way that we have planned out the trip, we will definitely be saving a lot through the use of credit card rewards and AirBnBs, as well as generally the low cost of living in SE Asia which will make up the majority of our trip. Overall we are very excited for this next phase, and we are very pleased with the flexibility in our work/travel lives that travel physical therapy, our savings rates, and our financial choices have allowed us.

⇒⇒⇒ CLICK HERE to check out the next post (part 2)⇐⇐⇐ to see the specifics of our trip!

Guest Post on NewGradPhysicalTherapy: “Repaying Student Debt with Travel PT”

In October 2017 I had the opportunity to write a guest post for the blog New Grad Physical Therapy titled “Repaying Student Debt with Travel PT.” I somehow let it slip through the cracks and never shared the post on my blog. I thought it was a very applicable post for physical therapy students or newly graduated physical therapists considering pursuing travel physical therapy as a means to conquer student loan debt. Check it out below and let me know what you think!

Repaying Student Debt with Travel PT – NewGradPhysicalTherapy.com

Partnering with Medbridge: An online CEU resource for PTs, OTs, SLPs, and ATCs

-by Whitney-

Affiliation

We recently began an affiliation with Medbridge, an online resource for continuing education, as well as other clinician and patient tools, that is available for physical therapists (and assistants), occupational therapists (and assistants), speech language pathologists, and athletic trainers. I (Whitney) already had a Medbridge membership for several years and found this to be a helpful resource for access to continuing education material and for maintaining licensure and certification requirements, as both a physical therapist and athletic trainer. I have also discovered many other perks to my subscription, as you’ll read below. We are very pleased to begin this affiliation with Medbridge so that we can share this resource with fellow healthcare professionals. By signing up through our affiliate link or code (fifthwheelPT), you will receive a discount on your annual membership, and in addition you will be monetarily supporting our blog. I’d like to share the different ways that Medbridge can be a resource to you.

Maintaining CEU Requirements

As I mentioned, I am both a physical therapist (PT) and athletic trainer (ATC). I first started my Medbridge membership when I was in physical therapy school and needed to maintain my certification requirements as an athletic trainer. I was able to count some of my PT coursework toward my ATC certification requirements, but I still needed some additional CEUs. Through Medbridge, I was able to get unlimited CEUs online at my own convenience with my annual membership. Each course will list how many and what type of credits you will receive for your specific license/certification and state. So for example, as an ATC you need a certain number of credits in the “Evidence Based Practice” (EBP) category, and then the others can be from various other categories. Similarly, PTs in Virginia have to specifically have a certain number of “Type 1” CEUs. Medbridge has access to all different categories and types of CEUs for PTs, ATCs and other disciplines.

Another perk of using Medbridge as both a PT and ATC is that many of the courses will be eligible for CEUs as both an athletic trainer and a physical therapist, so I can “double dip” and get credit for both. Medbridge’s website makes it so easy to see which courses qualify for what discipline, category/type, number of CEUs, etc.

Medbridge has also been very helpful while working as a traveling physical therapist, because it has been more challenging for us to attend on site continuing education courses. As traveling PTs, we do not necessarily know where we will be located far enough in advance to sign up for courses. As well, once we are already on assignment, it can be more difficult to ask for time off to attend courses if the time off was not previously requested in our original contracts. In addition, as a traveler, you don’t necessarily get an allowance for CEUs or CEU reimbursement from your employer like a permanent employee might. While on site courses may in some cases give you  more benefit than watching an online video, you can’t beat the price and convenience of the annual Medbridge membership which provides unlimited CEUs, when you compare it to the cost of an on site course.

For those who are not travelers, Medbridge is still very beneficial. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to attend some on site courses, but it may or may not be enough to meet all of your continuing education requirements. I’m sure that even as a permanent employee where you may have a CEU allowance, there may be some years where it is more feasible than others to take time off of work and travel to continuing education courses. As I said, you can’t beat the price and convenience for a one year unlimited access to all types of CEUs.

Learning for the Sake of Learning

Besides just maintaining your required licensure or certification, we have both found access to the continuing education very beneficial to us as clinicians. There is a huge variety of clinical material on the website, from evaluation/treatment of various body parts and conditions (for all disciplines PT/PTA, OT/OTA, SLP, ATC); to research methodology for the healthcare professional; to use of prosthetics and adaptive equipment in rehabilitation; to up and coming research on topics like pain science; to educational materials for health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease; and the list goes on and on. Not only is there a large variety of material, there is high quality content from well known and respected presenters. We were pleasantly surprised to see presenters such as Chad Cook and Adriaan Louw. For the lifelong learners in all of us, this is a great website for expanding our knowledge in a variety of areas or refreshing our knowledge on familiar topics.

In addition to clinical materials, there are also videos for the following areas: compliance (OSHA, HIPPA, fire safety, cultural competence, etc.); documentation, business, and marketing (Medicare, documentation, fraud, etc.); ethics and licensing requirements (medical errors, harassment, legal issues, etc.).

Live Webinars, Certificate Programs, and Certification Prep Programs

I’ve recently learned that the continuing education resources go beyond individual videos that count for CEUs. They also offer live Webinars that you can sign up for and then tune in live, as well as ask questions to the instructor in real time. This is a different type of learning experience which may provide more benefit to you than just watching a recording, and it may even qualify as a different category for CEU purposes depending on your license and state. They also offer “certificate programs” which are a series of many videos on a certain topic, which individually will count for CEUs, and at the end you will get a certificate of completion on that specific area. This can be a more comprehensive way to expand your knowledge and skills in a certain area.

The next one is huge: they offer online prep programs for advanced certifications, including OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist), SCS (Sports Certified Specialist), GCS (Geriatric Certified Specialist), NCS (Neurologic Certified Specialist), and PCS (Pediatric Certified Specialist). These prep programs are already included in the membership. This means you do not have to pay extra for these prep programs! I do not hold a specialized certification in any of the above areas, so I do not personally know the quality or depth/breadth of the prep programs compared to other prep programs. But I do know that this is a huge value already included in your annual membership, without paying extra. It’s definitely a good place to start if you plan to pursue one of these advanced specializations.

Patient Engagement Tools: HEP & Patient Education

In addition to the benefits of having access to online continuing education resources, Medbridge has also expanded its website to other materials including customized Home Exercise Programs (HEP) and Patient Education tools. You have access to a HEP builder that not only has pictures, but also has videos. You can change all the parameters and descriptions for the specific exercise, and you can even write to them and request a modification. You can print a paper copy, email, or text the HEP to your patient. They will also be given a link and code to access it on the internet at their leisure. This means they can see the interactive video instead of just the picture. You can even track if the patient has logged in to the website to use the HEP, including how many times per week they’re using it. You can save templates and use them again for future patients. There are also patient education videos you can send to your patients which give an overview of anatomy, pathology, and potential treatment options for their condition. This really takes patient education to the next level!

Conclusion

Overall, I’ve been really pleased with my Medbridge subscription for the past several years. I have mainly been using mine for CEU requirements, but now that I’ve researched all of the other benefits to my membership, I am going to be getting so much more out of it (for the same price!).

By signing up through our affiliate link or using our affiliate code below, you will receive a discount on the annual membership price, and a portion of your membership payment goes to support the blog. We know that your membership with Medbridge will be a great asset to you as a healthcare professional, and we greatly appreciate the support you would provide to us by using our affiliation.

Please don’t hesitate to message us if you have further questions about Medbridge, our affiliation, or our experience with using the site.

Promo code: fifthwheelPT

Affiliate link: https://www.medbridgeeducation.com/fifth-wheel-pt

Please note, if you click the above link, it will display “physical therapy,” but that is just a default because we are physical therapists and it’s our link. But the link and discount will apply to you regardless of your discipline (PT/PTA, OT/OTA, SLP, ATC). You can also just use the promo code at check out instead of the link.