My calculations included paid camping sites and lots of store bought food and restaurants. As a super low ball estimate that, at the time would not have covered our expenses, we gave ourselves $50 CND daily or over $20,000 CND before the inclusion of 1 cent of emergency money, insurance, savings, cell phones, or rent back in our home countries. We didn't have that money.
So we kept on the 9 to 5, dreaming of one day being able spend our time actually doing what we wanted to. It wasn't until fall of 2012, on a bike tour of Ontario that David and I found that the realization of our dream did not depend on how much money we could make but how much money we could save! Let me tell you about it.
My family had planned a reunion in Central Ontario, about 300kms north of where we lived. We wanted to visit with everyone but we do not have a car and couldn't catch a ride from anyone else. Regretfully we had to decline our invitation. To console my family, who I hadn't seen in far too long, David and I decided to take a week off of work to bike to their homes around Southern Ontario and catch up. The problem was that we had just finished paying off my credit card debt (yippe!) and were without much cash. We would try to suffer with only $30 a day by cooking our own meals and wild camping if possible.
Totally new to the concept of wild or stealth camping, we asked and asked Uncle Google what he knew on the subject, very little. So we biked out of Toronto, a lot green and a little unsure. Your can imagine our surprise when we started looking for unused places alongside the roads we were biking and found more free camping sites than we could use! A good wild camping site does not have fences, no trespassing signs or any signs of recent use and is also not visible from the road. We camped in a new place every night and were never bothered or asked to leave. We found that we could take $30 CND off of our previous estimated daily tour budget as camping just became free.
My first few trips to the grocery store left me wondering if we could stretch our $210 CND to last the whole week. I should explain that in Canada, drinking and driving is illegal but not non existent. Instead, Canadian drinker-drivers drink and throw, littering the sides of the roads with empty beer cans and bottles. At the Ontario Beer Store, you are rewarded 10 cents for the return of each and every beer can and bottle and up to 50cents for larger liquor or wine bottles. We capitalized on this. David and I would each grab cans every time we felt like it, this frequent stopping also improved the selection of wild edible plants that we were consuming as they could often be found along the roads strewn with returnable cans.
Our wild camping, money making and wild food eating GREATLY increased the quality of our trip. Not just because we were eating better or saving money but because of the sense of achievement that our new found self reliance provided.
Treading water in Georgian Bay on the coast of Owen Sound, David and I both expressed our dread of returning to the city. That's when we came up with a crazy idea, calling our clients from the beach to say we would be out of town for another week, and biking all the way to the family reunion to give everyone a surprise (and ourselves more vacation). It worked!
Biking through Ontario was a great pleasure, we arrived at the reunion and really enjoyed gloating to our car driving family about our bike riding proficiency. Together we celebrated the anniversary of my Grandparents and had a great time. We biked back (with a ride part way, kind of stifling our future gloating) and arrived in the city to find that we had MORE money than we had left with! It was time to recrunch the numbers this time without paid camping, restaurants, cell phones, appartments, insurance or ludicrous amounts of money for food. We had enough.
We got rid of everything and left 4 weeks after we returned home from our trip to Central Ontario, the rest is history. Since acquiring a few more kms on the bike, we have figured out even more ways of saving and we just keep getting more efficient with our money.
So this has been a little story about realizing and living your dreams. I guess if there has to be a moral it is this: Figure out what you want to do, how you will do it and then do.
More about our lift off here