Travel

Find out how this couple's finances fared after travelling the world for a year

By: Alexandra Bosanac on April 5, 2018

Newlyweds Hailey Coleman and Mauricio Alanis left their jobs in Toronto to travel the world last year.

When we caught up with them on the first leg of their trip — they spoke to us from their Airbnb in Rwanda — they had saved $100,000 in two years by living off of one salary, renting out the spare bedroom in their waterfront condo, cutting back on nights out, signing up for as many credit cards as possible for the intro offers, and setting up a ‘honeyfund’, which friends and family could donate to.

While a six-digit vacation fund sounds like a lot, they had to make it last a whole year. That amount seems even smaller when you take into account the kind of adventures the couple were intent on taking, like a gorilla trek in Rwanda that cost $3,000.

Setting out on the vacation of a lifetime (and still having the ability to feed themselves) meant they would need a solid financial roadmap. When we first met them, Hailey and Mauricio laid out how they planned to make that money last, a strategy that boiled down to:

  • As often as possible, using credit cards that paid back in cash back and travel points

  • Keeping their money invested so they could continue to grow their savings

  • Keeping their itinerary flexible, so if an emergency comes up, they can adjust accordingly

We caught up with them a year later to see how it worked out.

By staying invested, they didn’t miss out on a record-breaking stock market run

The pair decided to keep their savings invested in the stock market, betting that they could earn extra income this way. They picked individual stocks instead of investing in a fund for three reasons: the process of selling stock takes longer when your fund is managed and they needed this money to be liquid as possible (“We didn’t always have the luxury to time the market,” says Mauricio. “We didn’t even have internet some days.”); they wanted to save on fees; and finally, they were looking to invest in high-growth, high-risk sectors.

“You should have a diversified portfolio, but we were exploiting knowledge we have about the industries we work in,” says Mauricio.

“I know the food industry really well and we invested in a few stocks of companies that I follow and have jumped on their earnings calls. So did Hailey [who works in tech]. Weed stocks were a booming opportunity for us.”

When it came to their goal of visiting 27 countries, they had to lower their expectations

In the end, they went to 18 countries.

“We readjusted our trip and slowed things down,” says Hailey. “We scrapped Southeast Asia, we went to Indonesia twice and we did the same thing in Mexico.”

But they didn’t trim their itinerary for budgetary reasons: they did it because moving around every two weeks was getting exhausting.

“I would tell my former self to do way less countries and slow it down more — pick a handful of places and live in those places,” she says.

Mauricio recommends staying in one place and absorbing the local culture. He attended a month-long Muay Thai bootcamp in Thailand, which he says was “an immersive, high calibre experience.”

Hailey took an intensive Spanish course in Colombia which meant she had to spend five hours a day in class.

“It was cool to come out of it with a new skill and a new dimension to ourselves,” he says. “I would dial up the experiential lessons.”

They got into a lot of debt — but there’s an upside  

Mauricio got a job offer at his old company while they were still on the road. Knowing their financial situation was somewhat more secure, the couple ended up taking out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to purchase a property in Mexico, which also happens to be Mauricio’s birthplace.

The couple purchased a two bedroom, two and a half bathroom Spanish Colonial home in the picturesque city of San Miguel de Allende for $168,000 U.S.

“We figured out how much we can rent it out for and put together a business case for it,” says Mauricio. “It’s a good way of creating more wealth and more security for our future.”

He estimates they’ll have both their waterfront condo in Toronto and their Mexican abode paid off in roughly four years. They were fortunate, too, that Hailey was also offered a new role with her former employer, Shopify. They’ll be earning roughly equivalent to what they were making before they left on the trip — actually a bit more. They both got small raises.

Getting back to basics

Mauricio and Hailey may have upward mobility in one of the most expensive cities in the country, but they’re not planning on living like your typical high-earning urban couple with no kids. They’re planning on cutting back.

“Coming back to all our stuff was like a ‘whoa’ moment. We couldn’t believe how much stuff we had,” says Hailey.

“I used to really love smoky scotch and cocktails, but I don’t need to have those,” says Mauricio. “We don’t want to be that couple [that never goes out], but we’ve been repositioning and reframing what we think is normal spending here in Toronto.”

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