Tea growing near Pu Mat National Park at Con Cuong, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Con Cuong (Pu Mat National Park), Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Ninh Binh, Vietnam.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

A few things to talk about...

After we got back from the elephant visit and jungle trekking, we just hung out at the guesthouse and relaxed here in Senmonorom the last couple of days. We had a lot of onward travel planning research to do, and some decisions to make, and really... we just needed to take a couple of days and do nothing!

But with that done, there's a lot to tell you about!

First up, we reported our January expenses yesterday, and we got a comment on our facebook page from a long time reader... 

"Sure have been living it up the past year, your expenses have gone way up."

And she was totally right. For anybody who has been following us for a long time, they might remember the early years when we were traveling in our North American motorhome. We would typically spend winters in Mexico, and then drive back up to Canada during the summer to work. 

During those years, we were very frugal travelers. We had sold our house in 2007 and set off at age 45, and didn't have a lot of money. If we wanted to travel, we had to learn how to do it on the cheap. But working during the summer in Canada allowed us to save more than we spent... provided we were frugal. There were some years where we spent a total of less than $15,000 CAD for the year. And we include everything in those figures. We are very diligent about counting the pennies.

The two young cats here at the guesthouse.

But since we set out in 2007, I was always looking for ways to make money online. And by 2016, it started to pay off. And by 2018, we felt we had enough of a cushion and a steady enough income  that we didn't have to go back to Canada to work anymore. (Of course we still pay taxes to Canada, and make contributions to Canada's public pension system). That income has continued to grow to the point where we have enough saved up for "retirement" that we are comfortable to actually spend some of the income rather than saving the extra. 

Also, during Covid, Ruth's father passed away and left her a small inheritance. Not enough to change our lifestyle, but enough to confirm to us that we were comfortable doing what we're doing. We haven't even touched that money, but it makes us feel like we can splurge once in a while and not worry about it.

On top of that, in 3 years when we turn 65, we will each collect two of Canada's public pensions. 

So yes, we are spending more. But also, everybody knows that inflation over the past three years is a worldwide problem, and we are not immune. Costs have gone up and as full time travelers, it is most noticeable in air fares and accommodation.

Another part of the equation is motorhome travel versus "senior backpacking" as we like to call what we're doing right now. Traveling by motorhome is by far our favorite method of travel. But there are some countries where it's not logical, so we do what we are doing right now. Motorhome travel is also the cheapest form of travel. For example, when we were traveling with Max, our European motorhome, we would typically spend about $1,500 CAD a month on the basics... food, fuel, basic necessities, alcohol, and entertainment. Including one time items like air fares back to Canada once a year, and laptops and cell phones and car rentals and new hiking boots we averaged a total of $2,386 CAD per month for the entire year of 2022.

Domestic buffalo on the road outside our guesthouse.

But in 2023, we started spending more money... we did two expensive trips... the Mauritania trip and the Turkmenistan trip... and we started spending more on accommodation. We've always done the very basic when it comes to accommodation, and wanted to give ourselves some more upgrades. Must have something to do with getting older! We don't mind roughing it every now and again though, for the sake of adventure. Anyhow, in 2023, we spent an average of $3,984 a month. 

We went a bit overboard last year, and it was that trip to Turkmenistan that sort of put us over the top. Our 2024 expenses will be less. But when we reported yesterday that we started the year off at $3,800, it really wasn't a very good start!

Anyhow, I just wanted to expand on the fact that yes, we are spending more money than we have in the past. We are still frugal travelers compared to many, and we will continue to get the best deal where we can. But we aren't going to sacrifice our travel experiences for the sake of a couple of hundred dollars.

And, there will be more motorhome travels in the future... we have some interesting stuff planned, that of course we will share as the plans come together.

Sunset from the back patio at the guesthouse.

Okay... next up... Phnom Penh. Yes, we are taking the bus to Phnom Pen tomorrow. Not in the original plans, but Canadians need an eVisa for Vietnam, and when I went to apply, the website wouldn't work correctly for me. And the nearest crossing to here isn't on the list as being an approved border crossing to use the eVisa at. We thought about heading directly up to Laos and doing our route in reverse, but it's a complicated route to the Laos border from here.

Anyhow, I finally got the website to work properly yesterday, but it takes up to three business days to actually get it approved. 

So we decided to take the Sunday morning bus to Phnom Penh. We'll stay there for three nights and hopefully the approved eVisa will come in by Wednesday. Then we'll take the bus to Ho Chi Minh City for a day there before carrying on north.

So, two big cities coming up that weren't in our original plans. We're going to do them fairly quickly, but it's still going to take up the better part of a week before we can get to where we really wanted to get to which is the much smaller city of Da Lat.

Vietnam is supposed to be the cheapest of the SE Asian countries, so hopefully we'll see that reflected in our February expenses!

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A bit of a price drop on the 4 Pack of Apple Air Tags.

And in Canada...

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