Success Stories: Why Dave and Vicky Gave Up Good Paying Jobs to Travel

dave and vicky from acoupletravelersLast December while I was in Africa, I did a weeklong series of reader success stories to help inspire you to travel more. My goal was to show that I’m not special and my advice doesn’t work for just me – it can work for anyone and that anyone can travel if they just put their mind to it. Knowing I wasn’t alone really helped me when I started traveling.

So I decided to highlight more success stories from people to keep encouraging you to follow your dreams (a lofty goal, right?). Today, I’m featuring Dave and Vicky to talk about their leap into the unknown.

Nomadic Matt: Thanks for doing this interview! Give us some background on you two.
We’re Dave and Vicky! Vicky and I are in our mid twenties. We met in high school in a small suburb 40 minutes outside of Boston called Ashland where I lived my entire life and she moved to after a series of previous moves that took her from Russia to Australia to the US. After we graduated college, we worked for two years and are now setting off on a two year journey around Asia and Europe. We left for Japan in September 2012. We’re planning on heading to almost 50 countries throughout Asia and Europe. After that, who knows! Home? South America? Africa? Anything is possible.

What was your original inspiration? What made you decide to go jump ship and travel?
In September 2011, we went on an 8 day trip to Greece that took us around Santorini, Athens, and the Peloponnese. It was a great trip but it was only 8 days. We thought “this doesn’t make sense.” We just spent $5,000 for an 8 day trip to Greece. There has to be a more efficient, cost-effective way to travel. The answer for us was long-term travel and backpacking. We could stretch this budget much farther and see other amazing places if we saved our money and took off for a year. Then out of nowhere, one year became two – and here we are!

dave and vicky from acoupletravelers

I’m always curious: how did you find this site?
One of our friends sent us your site. It was really the first of its kind that we had ever seen; I don’t think either of us even fathomed that people were doing this sort of thing. It really got us motivated to set a date and start planning. It was a valuable resource from the start due to the wealth of information it has. When we were planning our country-by-country itineraries and the guides really came in handy – they were really the first of their kind we had come across. Also, since we were new to the game, we didn’t know a lot about what travel sites to use, i.e, what to use to book a hostel, airfare, tour companies, etc.

Well, I’m glad the site was so helpful! Were you afraid before you went on your trip? A lot of people get nervous going away for 6 months and here you were planning to be away for two years.
We were definitely very anxious about our travel plans a month or so before the trip. All these questions were spinning through our head:

“Are we going to like traveling as much as we THINK we will?”
“What if it isn’t the experience we’re hoping for? What if it doesn’t change us?”
“Are we going to get mauled, maimed, mugged, or any other terrible M word?”

We blogged about our feelings extensively. There’s something about typing it all out that helps you assuage your fears. People comment and share their thoughts and stories and it provides that little extra insurance that makes you think everything will work out. It’s working out for everyone else, right? Eventually, we were committed as we had informed everyone we knew and there was no turning back.

Above all, we were comforted by the fact that there ARE people (plenty, in fact) who have traveled extensively and turned out just fine.

dave and vicky from acoupletravelers

What advice would you have for other people who are thinking about traveling but might not think they can?
If you’re serious, you need to think long and hard about what it would take to allow you to travel in the way that you desire. People love to throw around the phrase “anyone can travel”. Personally, I think that’s largely overblown. For some people, travel really IS difficult. This is the case for many people with very specific obligations, or who don’t make an adequate income, or perhaps those who live in countries with very strict regulations. However, in most cases this fear about not being able to travel is largely in one’s head. Focus on saving money and cutting out the clutter from your life that is eating up your time and money. Once you’ve done that, the rest will follow. Do the math, plan it out, and take a chance.

Was money a problem? How did you save for your trip?
Absolutely money was a problem. We intended to save around 50,000 USD for this trip to last us for two years (hoping to maybe make a bit on the road). We also had 25k in student loans that needed to be paid off. So, that’s a total of 75k that had to be saved between the two of us in only two years at entry-level jobs while living in expensive Washington D.C.

How did we do it? Let’s start with our salaries. I was making between 70-80k a year and Vicky was making around 50k. Those are nice salaries for two kids who are 24 but alone wouldn’t save you 75k in two years. There’s no magic formula other than cutting down expenses. The big things were:

1. Always cooking. We barely ate out at restaurants and when we did (once a month) always used a coupon. On top of this we used leftovers from dinner to bring our lunches so we were never buying lunches at work.

2. Not buying crap. I drove my same crappy car that I had since high school. No monthly payments, just gas. We used hand-me-down furniture that Vicky had from a previous apartment, so the only new things we bought were a TV, bed, and computer in two years. No clothes, couches, etc.

3. We had modest monthly apartment expenses because we were a couple and could go in together on a $1,600/month one room apartment.

The key was to really understand where your money is going. It’s amazing what you’ll uncover when you actually track your expenses for a month.

dave and vicky from acoupletravelers

How do you stay on budget when you travel?
The key here is really to keep track of your costs. If you’re not doing that, I find it hard to believe you can really stay on budget, other than to just hope that it will all work out in the end (and to be fair, sometimes it does). We keep track of all our costs and check our spending daily in a dedicated excel spreadsheet for each country. We break it out into a few main categories like Food, Transportation, Accommodation, Entertainment, and Utilities. It’s easy to compute your daily average on the fly and thus adjust your budget accordingly. Travel is very flexible because it’s rare that you really have to DO anything, only if you want to. So, if you’re coming in high you can make adjustments on the road, like doing some last-minute Couchsurfing.

Do you find it hard to travel as a couple? Any advice on that?
Traveling as a couple is not for everyone but we had done it a few times before our big trip to know that we’d be OK. We traveled Italy and Greece together. Our trip took this to the extreme but we still practiced the same basic principles that made it work the first time around. Above all, I think the key is really compromise. You have to understand that not everyone is always on the same page all the time. One person might not be feeling well, or is tired, or has seen their fair share of temples. You have to make concessions to accommodate your partner. Vicky and I make concessions all the time from food, to transportation, to lodging. It’s all about communication and compromise.

dave and vicky from acoupletravelers

What one thing that you thought would be a challenge has turned out not to be? (i.e. I thought it would be hard to meet people but it isn’t.)
Being a minimalist! I thought at first having only one pair of pants, two pairs of shirts, and a handful of t-shirts would be difficult. In reality it feels great! I’ve completely eliminated the decision of “what to wear?” from my life.

My only problem is I haven’t figured out how to successfully wash one pair of pants AND see the sites. If anyone knows the secret, please share.


While their jobs made it very easy for them to save money for their trip, what I like about their story is that it reminds me so much about mine and is so similar to others I hear: you’re on vacation, you realize you want to do this more, and despite the fear and uncertainty surrounding such a big change, you make it happen anyway. Sometimes it is just comforting to know that you’re not alone or crazy and others are doing this, too.

  1. Gutsy to quit $125,000 a year at 24 combined, but I like it!

    Compromise really is the key when traveling w/ someone for so long. Hard not to get a little annoyed at nuances. The best thing to do would be to start a blog and record the travels. So much fun!

    This story makes me very bullish about America and the world. Don’t need lots of money to be free and happy.


    • Thanks! Yes we definitely do get annoyed with eachother at times, but that passes quickly and at the end of the day we’re getting along better traveling together 24/7 then when we were living back in DC and fighting over whose turn it was to do the dishes!

    • Yes that’s true. We understand that not everyone has the same opportunities that we had but this is simply our story and how we were able to make travel work for us. We are certainly not trying to project this on everyone else.

  2. Great post! I love it! Right now, I’m considering leaving my safe, secure job for teaching English in Spain. It’s still going to another job, but I’m doing it for the chance to live abroad and travel. Plus leaving $50k to 700 euros a month is quiet a dip in salary.

  3. Vee

    1) Wow… inspiring indeed!
    2) I wish I was getting paid that much when I was a teacher at age 24… wait, I will never get paid that much regardless how old I am as a teacher. Hehe.
    3) It’s very difficult to travel as a couple and since you guys are doing it so well, much props to you!

  4. Great story and gives hope to all of us about travel. Saving is the hardest part! When I first read the amount you guys were saving I was like WHUTTTTT then realised its for TWO, not one…panic over haha. I’m going to go find you on Twitter now 😀

  5. It’s great to ready about people following their dreams.
    I also really identified with the point about being a minimalist. You think that you’ll miss all of your stuff but in the end when it’s not there you just don’t think about it. I remember when everything I owned could fit into a car and I don’t really think that I’m any happier now that I’d need a semi to move all my belongings.

  6. Dana

    My boyfriend and I are going to hopefully go through Germany and Italy next summer! He has explained to me that we need to only have a backpack each! Ahhh! lol For our last summer road trip I brought my own suitcase! lol This summer for our road trip (we are trying to finish the USA before going overseas) he told me I HAVE to share a suitcase with him!

    Great article!

  7. I love hearing how other people sacrifice in order to travel, to me it’s totally worth it. I have the same car I’ve had for 13 years (Toyota Prius, it’s such a great car). Every time I think about getting a new car I think about a new country I want to explore & how I’d hate to have money I could be spending exploring going into a car. I don’t spend more than I make and I stay out of the mall. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Another great success story Matt! Very inspirational.

    Good for you guys, it can seem really scary to quit good paying jobs, sell everything and leave the familiar behind. However, once you’re in the road, any doubts you may have had about whether or not you made the right decision are totally forgotten!

    We’ve been travelling now for 3 years and counting…and loving it.

    Enjoy the rest of your adventure Dave & Vicky!


  9. TightropeTraveler

    Great job Dave and Vicky!

    In the end were you guys able to reach your goal of saving 75k in two years?

    Curious to see if 25k is really enough to travel the world for 2years? Wondering if any ‘cushion’ money was saved for when you return?

  10. Brandon Yahn

    Matt – is it true that someone approached you for an interview for concept like this for a book and you used that concept for these “reader success stories”?

    • NomadicMatt

      Nope, not at all. I copied the idea from a friend of mine who does these on his blog and thought “hey this would be awesome for my blog too!”

  11. I loved the tips on how they’ve made traveling as a couple work – I’ll definitely be referring back to this when I move to Spain with my boyfriend in a few months.

    Awesome interview! :)

  12. An awesome story of two awesome people. I was recently very fortunate to cross paths with Dave and Vicky in Bangkok while on their journey!! I think this is a perfect example that anyone is capable of following their dreams, no matter what the age, with the right commitment and mindset behind it :) I left my job nearly 2 years ago now, and have been travelling continuously the past 1.5. It’s really possible for anyone! Thanks for featuring these two, Matt.

  13. That is a great story. I travel from time to time, and sometimes I do feel like I wanna travel more.. but there are things that are holding me back; like my family, and my job.. they are my life. In the future I do hope that I get to have a chance to travel even just for a month.. maybe that drive me not to go home and continue my adventure in the different side of the world.

  14. They are both so amazing! We live the kind of life that they have. When we started towards our travel dreams, it was really hard and was thinking is the travel lifestyle really for us? But as long as you love and you’re happy of what you’re doing, everything will work out just fine. That’s the most important. Making a lot of adventures and sharing them to others, that’s the kind of thing we’re passionate about. I’m glad I have found this post Matt.

  15. Gabor

    “I think this is a perfect example that anyone is capable of following their dreams, no matter what the age, with the right commitment and mindset behind it”

    Yeah, sure, for a middle class American it probably is possible to do that.
    For someone from my neck of the woods (Central/Eastern Europe)? Not so much. An average Hungarian makes $5000 dollars a year. That’s 5 years of work for $25,000 which is just money you make, not money you can save.

    Still like the story. It just kind of makes me sad when you throw around words like that and I think to myself ‘Hey, hell yeah! Oh wait, even if I get really lucky and find a job with a good pay, I still wouldn’t make more than $1000 a month.’

    That being said, I’m not trying to be overly negative or say that this life style (one I would absolutely love to commit myself to) doesn’t take sacrifice even on well-paid people’s part. It just kind of makes me cringe when I read stories about someone with a “below-average measly” $3000 monthly salary give all that wonderful advice on how to save money.
    Like…don’t eat out. I never eat out. I can’t afford to if I want to pay the bills and have enough left over for basic food and the occasional extra items (a couple of beers every 2 weeks or so, things like that). I can spend, and I’m not kidding here, $5 a day (whenever I spend more than the equivalent of $15 I feel awfully wasteful) and then I read about how you just have to give up on your $5 coffee every day.

    But keep these coming, I love reading these, just try to keep it all in perspective. :-)

    • I think your comment is spot on. I tried to touch briefly on this by saying that I don’t think it’s realistic to say that ANYONE can travel, or travel the way some do. Yes, we’ve been very lucky – we know that. We’re just trying not to take it for granted. Best of luck!

  16. I left $80,000 + bonuses, in Australia to continue traveling at 25 only 3 months ago… Even though all of my friends and of course my family all think I am crazy. I left Ireland -$20,000, got a really good job in Oz and left that once I made a choice about what I really want to do.

    Now I am in New Zealand on a working holiday visa, working as I go, planning the next big travel adventure with no worries except feeding myself!

    Live the life you want to live


    • We called them entry level jobs because they were starting positions straight out of college. We don’t define that based on income. I’ve known plenty of people who are making more right out of college (and many making less).

  17. Jack

    Same here. It’s a modest salary in D.C. but it’s still a lot of money for an average entry level job. I would say it’s around 45k but not much more than that.

  18. Matt Have subscribed to your site for about 6 months now. One thing I see very rarely is an item from older travelers (and I don’t mean 40 something)
    During my working life (I quit at 56) I never made more than $45k/year. Had kids,a wife more month than money, and on occasions a pet. We quit work, sold some stuff (about $1000) and went to Mexico volunteering. Did some TESOL teaching to make a little money. Sold most else that we owned, then in 2009 and with $9,000 in our pocket set off around the world. We (wife and I) went through Europe staying with relatives, through Europe which wasn’t cheap, through SE Asia and on to Australia again staying with relatives. Drove around Australia for 81 days sleeping in a mini-van and got back to Canada 11 months later. Total cost for 2 $21,000.
    Next year (at age 65) we are doing Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Oz and NZ. In 2016, Europe, Russia and SA.
    The point of this is that you really don’t need that much to travel AND there is no age limit. D = making the DECISION…not DOLLARS.

  19. I like their story – it’s always great to hear about people quitting their jobs and just going for it! While it’s definitely a “success story” I don’t think their situation would apply to most people… These two are making waaay more than any 24 year olds I know! I would have found it pretty easy to save money if I was making that much. But still, good for them :)

  20. Marcia

    Dana: That’s funny, my husband told me the exact same thing. Do you think you can do it? I’m not so sure. I’ll give it my best shot though.

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