2 twentysomethings. 9 weeks. 8 countries. 0 trust fund.

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As twentysomethings living in a Pinteresting world, it’s now easier than ever to lust after far away, exotic places. Pictures of sparkling blue ocean scenes, majestic mountain ranges and towering skyscrapers flood our screens daily (thanks, technology).

However, it’s probably not the “Dream Destination” Pinterest boards and stock photography that get the wanderlust dreams flowing. More than likely, it’s seeing the photos of our friends on Facebook and Instagram, as they travel to their preferred destination while you photo stalk in your pajamas. You start to wonder, why do they get to go do cool things while I’m stuck in endless routine and responsibility?

There are many excuses to be here and not there. Whether you don’t have enough money, vacation time, experience or travel know-how, the reasons not to go always seem endless.

But, according to twentysomething married couple Peter and Melissa, while it’s true that having certain resources readily available make world travel easier, it’s also true that not having certain resources doesn’t make world travel impossible.

This past spring, Peter, a teacher, and Melissa, a nurse, took off for a 9-week trip to Spain, Morocco, Italy, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland and Iceland. However, this trip started out as a seemingly impossible feat for the couple.

“My sister had moved to Morocco and invited us to visit her for Easter,” explained Peter. The couple politely responded, “Oh, that would be so nice, we’d love to,” knowing that the probability of it actually happening was slim to none. Still, the invitation prompted them to try and find a way to make it work.

The window of opportunity opened when Peter was accepted by Teach for America, but had a few months gap before his program would begin. At the same time, Melissa’s traveling nurse position was coming to a close. The simultaneous unemployment period would open the door for extended travel.

Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. First, there was plenty of planning and budgeting. Because Peter wasn’t working full-time and Melissa’s position hadn’t yet ended, he made it his job to get all the details ironed out.

“It was awesome,” Melissa says of the planning process. “I got to pick out locations and Peter did all the leg work to figure out how to get us there.”

Peter remembers it quite clearly. “She would be on Pinterest and say, ‘I want to go to the Isle of Capri,’ and I would go figure out where the Isle of Capri even was and how we could get there.” To prepare, Peter read blogs and tourist reviews, browsed vacation rental sites, train schedules, and plane ticket deals.

Once the travel dates were set and the tickets booked, Peter and Melissa had to tie up all the loose ends at home. This included moving out of their apartment and putting their belongings in storage—on the same day of their international flight.

“We were in the taxi on our way to the airport and I looked over to see that Peter was still wearing his moving jeans,” Melissa said. “I thought ‘Oh, well, I guess those old things are going to Europe with us!’”

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Peter photobombing Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena in Madrid

So, how much did this 9-week travel extravaganza end up costing?

“Well, we spent 3 weeks with family which helped costs significantly,” Peter said. “But, for the other 6 weeks of travel it costs around $4,000 total. A lot of costs were paid for by credit cards.”

Some of those blogs Peter explored happened to be reward program aficionados. “We both applied separately for a card that gives you 80,000 points just for signing up,” Melissa explained. “You can book hotel nights for as little as 5,000 points and we both had 80,000 points each.”

They also used reward points to pay for flights. “We paid $5 to fly to Madrid,” Melissa said. “The key is to not sign up for cards that make you earn all your points along the way; go for the cards that throw a lot of points at you just for signing up.”

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The couple cut travel costs buy purchasing ingredients in from local markets and cooking their own meals

Sites like Airbnb also provided cheap accommodation with kitchens to cook meals.

“We ended up cooking a lot of our own meals,” Peter said. The couple described being in places like France and Italy and having fresh ingredients available to them daily through the street markets.

“We knew we couldn’t do everything, so we decided ahead of time what our non-negotiables were,” Melissa said. “For example, I knew that I wanted to eat gelato everyday while we were in Italy, so that was something we didn’t scrimp on and just enjoyed it.”

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Melissa enjoying one of her many gelato purchases while in Italy

When asked to share one (more) piece of advice to their twentysomething peers, they answered, “Don’t be afraid of the unknown.”

Peter and Melissa’s Travel Toolkit:

  • Airbnb.com for cheap accommodation
  • millionmilesecrets.com and noobtraveler.com  were crucial for reward program information. That’s how we found our Holiday Inn credit card (80,000 points each) that we got before we left that doubled as our method of payment overseas. A “no foreign transaction fee” card is also crucial!
  • There are numerous blogs of people who have traveled, we used followed Steph’s Travels post for our route (only we had 6 weeks, not 3)
  • Seat61.com has great information on trains
  • Navigating the train websites in foreign languages saves TONS of money. There are english equivalents (rail-europe.com), but they charge a premium for a) English and b) getting your tickets in advance.
  • A young persons rail card in England saved lots of money too. Anyone under 26 get 33% off train travel so we both were able to use this discount.
  • Travel off season, if you can. That usually means before summer for European travel. We traveled April and May.
  • Lastly, just booking well in advance saved money. We paid only 9 euros (about $12) for a three hour train ride across Italy.
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