How We Got Here, Epilogue: The Real Cost of Traveling the World

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FIRECracker is a computer engineer/children’s author, who used to live in one of the most expensive cities in Canada. But instead of drowning in debt to buy a house, she saved and invested instead. What resulted was a 7-figure portfolio, which has allowed her to retire at 31 and travel the world.
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This is part of a series called “How We Got Here.” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


It’s been two hours since I resigned, and I’m still shaking.

Part of me is relieved, but part of me is also terrified. And since I never told anyone at work about what I’m actually doing, this matches the reactions I get.

“You’re QUITTING with no job lined up? Are you nuts?”

“Travel the world? How the hell are you going to pay for it?”

“Why would you quit? Don’t you like working here? ” (I couldn’t answer the question. I was too busy rolling on the floor laughing.)

Photo credit: KAZ Vorpal @Flickr

The next two weeks are a blur. Goodbye lunches, concerned friends (mostly asking if I’ve lost my damned mind), and endless knowledge transfer sessions for my replacement fill my days.

And after work, Wanderer and I are busy packing, selling as much stuff as possible, and consolidating the next year of our lives into 2 backpacks. It’s actually surprisingly easy, making me wonder why the hell we EVER needed suitcases just for 2 weeks of vacation.

On my last day, I have a great time shredding anything and everything I can get my hands on. But as I pack all my tchotchkes and hug my friends good-bye, I start to wonder.

What if they’re right? What if this is a mistake?

But then, I flash back to our last meeting with Garth. Together, we had carefully dissected our plan with surgeon-like precision; making sure all our T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. We are engineers, after all.

We go over the following scenarios:

Black Swan Events? We delay our end date to June and set aside 3 years of living expenses in cash.

Inflation? We hold Real Return Bonds and Equities. 

Childcare costs? $6000 childcare credit, and NOT keeping up with the Jones’s.

Check, check, and check.

It’s all going to work out. We’re going to be fine. 

As Wanderer and I board the plane, and wave goodbye to the city that’s been home for the past decade, I can’t help but wonder what’s in store for us. As excited as I am, in the back of my head, fear still churned like big, angry, tornado.

But as it turns out, I had nothing to worry about.



15 countries, 42 cities, crossing 3 continents. We travelled across North America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, all on our…*raises eyebrows dramatically*…trip around the world!

The last team to arrive…sorry I’ve been watching too much “Amazing Race”.

Anyhoo, I’m not going to bore you with every single place we visited, but I will provide you some of the most memorable, in order of most expensive (blegh) to least expensive (yay!)



You know that scene in “The Sound of Music”, where Julie Andrews is standing on a mountain, twirling and singing “The Hills Are Alive…”?

Well, that’s pretty much what I did the ENTIRE time we were there. And because I have the leakiest brain ever, that was the only line I know from the entire movie. So of course, I spend all my time singing that line, and ONLY that line, at the top of my lungs, over and over.

I CANNOT understate how both exhilarating and annoying this is.

I can’t, but Wanderer can, based on him finally getting fed up and grabbing me by the shoulders saying, “BABE, if you DON’T stop singing that song, I SWEAR TO GOD I’m going to jump off this mountain.”

I’m…not allowed to watch The Sound of Music anymore.

Hurry up! I’ve spotted a house that isn’t annoyed yet!

One thing that isn’t beautiful though, is the prices, as Switzerland ends up being the MOST expensive place we visit:

  • Accommodations: $87/night (Air BnB)
    • Hotels in Zurich start at $300/night, so Air BnB saved our asses.
  • Food: $20/day
    • Good GOD food is expensive in Switzerland. So we ate at grocery stores and smuggled in pastries from Germany. This works because we only stayed in Switzerland for 3 days, but it’s the most beautiful 3 days of our entire trip. Not the tastiest, but definitely the most beautiful.
  • Activities: $75/day
    • Since we can’t just parkour our way up a mountain, we had to pay $70CAD to ride the lift, and another $150CAD to get to the Alps by train. Ouch.
  • Transportation: $40/day
    • Just getting around the city was PAINFULLY expensive.




The city that taught me the true meaning of the lyrics: “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you.”

PROTIP: If you’ve never dabbled with weed before, DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, eat an entire space cake by yourself, jump on a ferry, and then attempt to pedal two miles to get home.

Trust me. Just don’t. I’m still not sure how we managed to get home, but by the time we did I thought the squirrels were trying to eat me and Wanderer was declaring, “We’re never going to get back. Hope is lost. All is lost.” Every 5 minutes.

Goddamned space cakes.

Nom Nom Nom Nom HEY, did that squirrel just glare at us too hard?
  • Accommodations: $80 CAD/night (Air BnB)
  • Food: $30 CAD/day
    • Amsterdam cuisine very much caters to its audience: Hot, cheap, and tastes AWESOME when you’re stoned out of your mind.
  • Activities: $20/day
    • You know, in my buttoned-up white-collar cubicle dwelling days, I would have pooh-pooh’ed Trudeau’s campaign promise to legalize weed in Canada. I now stand corrected, good Sir. Weed is AMAZING.
  • Transportation: $20
    • Our Air BNB host is a bike mechanic, so he lends us bikes for the whole week. We biked everywhere for free.
    • The only cost was the $142 flight (for 2) from Copenhagen to Denmark, which average out to be $20/day over 7 days.
Croquettes from a vending machine. Oh, man I could eat 10 of these right now…



We ended up hopping a bunch of islands in Greece, but Santorini is by far our favourite. Hiking up and down white-stoned streets with the Aegean Sea on one side and rolling white clouds on the other, eating a lunch of fresh locally caught fish drizzled in olive oil, and then getting on an ATV and motoring out to a beach of black volcanic sand. This is why our host in Amsterdam kept insisting, “Go to Santorini! Just go!” Right before bellowing “LET’S DO A JOINT!”

Everything’s more fun on an ATV!


Ooooooh! Mysterious/magnificent/ominous!
  • Accommodations: $60/night
    • This was a crazy good deal, as we were off-season. This is actually a big discovery of ours. Since everyone else has a similar vacation schedule (Summer when the kids are out of school, or the holidays), whether you’re high-season or low-season can make a huge difference. By travelling when everyone else is at work, your costs drop dramatically.
  • Food: $38/day
    • We alternated between eating out and cooking every other day. An AirBNB host from Belgium taught us how to make Waterzooi (it’s cheap and delicious, Google it!) and we are milking that shit like you would not believe.
  • Activities: $0/day
    • In Santorini, nature is the main attraction. And it’s free! Plus I probably lost like 10 pounds from all the hiking.
  • Transportation: $5/day
    • We rented an ATV for 2 days while we were there to get to some places that were further away.


Who’s a good 5 ton boy that could crush me with it’s nose? You are! Yes, you are!

We almost skipped Thailand because of the Bangkok bombing in August, but we are SO glad we didn’t. Out of all the places we visited, Thailand somehow felt most like home. The food in Thailand is like nowhere else. It completely changes your palate. (I thought Asian food in Toronto was good, but now I can’t even look at it) And it’s cheap. For a measly $3, you can have a full meal—main, dessert, and a smoothie. What can you get for $3 in North America? Half a coffee from Starbucks? Blegh.

And Chiang Mai in particular had all the modern comforts of home. Fast Internet. Good cell coverage. Even those douchey Work-Sharing places with those beanbag chairs were all over the place.

That’s why there are so many entrepreneurs and digital nomads there. I couldn’t even get a haircut without being thrown two job offers.

No matter where we are in the world, we’ll always consider Thailand our second home.

  • Accommodations: $19 CAD/night
    • We stayed at a brand new condo in the middle of the city, with a pool, gym, and sauna! All for $575 a month! What can THAT get you in Toronto?
  • Food: $20/day
    • Strangely, eating out at the hawker stalls and local restaurants is cheaper than cooking. I don’t think we cooked at all our entire time there.
  • Activities: $10/day
    • The Thais love their elephants, and aren’t afraid of showing you.
    • Countless Buddhist temples in the city, all of which are free.
    • Also, Thai massages. My GOD, there were so many massages. And the cost of one of them was actually less than just the tip we gave to a masseuse back home.
  • Transportation: $5/day
    • You haven’t truly lived until you’ve driven through someone’s front yard in a tuk-tuk whose driver insists “This a short-cut!”
Posting this stupid picture makes me want to go back right the Hell now.
I was about to start singing “The Hills Are Alive” but Wanderer yelled at me to “Shut my pie hole!”
So you enjoy gold, you say?
I kind of have a “Rosie the Riveter” thing going on right now.

And to all those wondering how we managed to fly to these exotic locales without breaking the bank, I have three words: Frequent Flyer Miles. Actually, four words: Frequent Flyer Miles & Ryanair.

So, how much did it all cost?

Are you ready for this?

Just $40,000 for the TWO of us for the WHOLE year.

That’s $55 per day per person .

Yup, you read that right. The ENTIRE trip costs less than what we spent in Toronto every year from 2006-2011 (before The Plan turned me into a Budget Nazi)

Turns out traveling isn’t really expensive at all. It was only expensive when we were working because we had to package everything into a hectic 2-week vacation package. And when you’re not limited to weekends, fighting for flights and trains with the rest of the corporate drones, the cost plummets. Heck, we even got a bus ticket from Amsterdam to Brussels for $4 each. I’m pretty sure they LOST money just driving us there!

Meanwhile, what happened with our portfolio?

It continued paying us a solid 4% dividend throughout the year. But while we were overseas, oil plummeted all the way from $110 a barrel to a low of $30. Taking the stock market and especially the TSX along with it.

Our portfolio swung from +5% to -3%. But we had seen this crap before, and we knew exactly what to do. So together, Garth and us agreed to take the extra cash generated by the dividends and rebalance into the storm. And lo and behold, by the end of the year, we were sitting back at our original position.

A yearly gain of 0% doesn’t seem that impressive, but for comparison, the return from the TSX in 2015 was -12%. We had now survived not one, but two catastrophic financial collapses with no money lost.

And now, knowing that the real cost of travelling the world is actually the same as simply living in Toronto, we realized 3 things:

  • Living in Toronto (and by extension many North American metropolitan cities) is WAY overpriced.
  • Travelling is not expensive. Travelling with other corporate drones is.
  • And most importantly, we could do this forever.

And why wouldn’t we? My last year of work showed me the damage that outsourcing could do. When a worker in India can do the job of a worker in North America while being paid half as much, we all collectively freak out. Nobody seems to win except the company. But what if we could turn outsourcing on its head? What if we could outsource ourselves? What if we could do our jobs, earn our North American income while living in a country where the cost of living is a fraction?

Right now, the press is starting to notice what we’re doing on, and friends and family members are starting to ask us “Are you serious? Is this real?”

Yes. This is serious, and this is real. I have travelled around the world, and as of June 2016, a combination of dividends, portfolio gains, and a small income from coding and writing has resulted in a net worth that’s somehow HIGHER than when I left.

That’s right, I just travelled the world. For free.

Why was I so scared to quit again?

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102 thoughts on “How We Got Here, Epilogue: The Real Cost of Traveling the World”

    1. Thanks! Us too. We’re so sick of seeing our fellow Canadians get screwed by greedy companies and the housing market.

      1. In defense of “greedy companies”, I’m sure if you (or I) ran a business, we wouldn’t be paying top dollar for employees since that hits the bottom line. Better to be the owner and not the worker!

        So are you living the nomad/laptop entrepreneur life?

        1. Absolutely, it’s better to be the owner than the worker. But I feel like it’s not so much the money that’s lacking, but the part where people are no longer treated like human beings because they know they’re so deep in debt they can’t afford to leave. That’s what I want to change. I want people to be able to say “Treat me with respect or I’m going to leave.”

          And yes, we are living the nomadic lifestyle and absolutely loving it! Wanna come with?

          1. “Wanna come with?”

            Hell yea! =D

            What other destinations your hitting, by the way? Do you have a “base” of sorts?

            1. Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, and South Korea in the upcoming months. Especially Japan. The only country that’s as MESSED up as I am (Robot fights, underwear-dispensing vending machines, secret alleyways where they serve the STILL BEATING heart of a viper snake?! HELLS YEAH!!!)

              We’re thinking of making Thailand our home base. And maybe coming back to Canada for 1-3 months a year to visit family. And get some of that sweet sweet subsidized Health Care. God, I love Canada.

              1. If you like Thailand, try Taiwan, its clean, cheap, all the signs are in english, and you can drive on the proper side of the road.

                that is where we will set up when I retire in another 5 years. I have 2 kids that both want to be… yep… Computer Engineers…


          2. You understand that you are living out of profit made by the “greedy companies”?

            For instance the “greedy” Canadian banks enjoy record profits because of the rising housing market. Same banks will (arguably) enjoy record profits when the housing market starts to tank (since it is the tax payer who is on the hook)

            1. Exactly. That’s why it’s SO much better being a shareholder than employee. Being an employee SUCKED! Never again!

              1. OK but if this blog works and millennials quit then whose going to be the emploees on the short end of the stick earning the profits for shareholders to support your lifestyle?

                1. Those millennials will go off and do work that they are truly passionate about, starting businesses and down the line create even more jobs than ever. That’s what we’re doing.

          3. careful with that visit 1-3 months per year to get health care – legally your health care is void after 6 months of non residence – if you’re seriously thinking Thailand you’ll probably find that just paying for health care out of pocket will probably be the simplest

              1. Good on you! Love it! I’m enjoying reading about your success and wonder if we could meet with Garth,your financial adviser.
                My husband and I retired at 53/54. He has a military pension. We saved and invested our money to get to where we are. We bought a house for $93,000 back in 1986. We now own a home northeast of Toronto, but we gradually worked our way up the housing market and have been mortgage free for over 20 years. Like you we are enjoying life and travelling the world. Make sure you purchase travel insurance. Young does not mean invincible!! Accidents can happen to anyone!!

  1. Great story but not surprised because I came to the same conclusions re travel a few decades back – somewhere around the time you were a toddler I hate to admit 🙂

    I suspect you’ll eventually find that travel full time becomes a “job” full time so breaking it up helps – makes the new trip a new FRESH adventure – try doing some contract work – nice because the time chunks are fixed.

    Now you have to work on the backpack 🙂 – my wife and I are down to strictly carry-on no matter the length of trip – they’re usually in the 2-3 month range.

    1. Agree with you on the contract work! We actually did consulting work and writing while we travelled, so it really isn’t so much of a long vacation as a new lifestyle. And it’s been awesome. Perfect balance between work and play.

      Good for you for all the traveling and packing efficiently. Things are SO much easily when everything’s carry-on.

  2. FIRECracker, when reading through your posts it kind of reminds me of my uncle. I don’t know his whole story, but he and his wife retired at a young age (in their 40s) and have lived happily ever since on their investments.

    They seem to have one thing in common with you and Wanderer. They are both extremely, extremely thrifty people, in everything in life. They live in a simple home and spend very little in everything they do. If they want to eat out, it’s always to a cheap place (often just Tim Hortons). If they travel, they drive their RV or camp, or stay at a cheap motel if need be. If they need clothes, they go to second hand clothing stores. Even though they have a lot of money, they live a life of low expenses and little in the way of luxuries. To most, it seems kind of silly. They’ve amassed a fortune, yet STILL are unwilling to spend it and seemingly take sacrifices in life they don’t need to take. A lot of our family see them as almost cheap skates despite the fact they retired in their 40s.

    I think being thrifty goes from a means to build up a retirement nest egg, to almost a culture that is impossible to stray from. I see that in you also, even now you are millionaires and travelling the world, everything you do is low cost, and every expense analysed to the dime. The places you stay, the food you eat, the transportation you take, the technology you buy. It’s all as cheap as you can find it. There is nothing wrong with it if you are happy, I just hope it doesn’t consume you to the extent that you die with a fortune that was never touched.

    I guess just make sure you make the most of your success. Clearly, travelling the world for a year is having a blast, so keep it up! Don’t become overly consumed by money. Of course, be mindful of it, just don’t let it rule every decision you make.

    1. FIRECracker, when reading through your posts it kind of reminds me of my uncle.

      Weirdest comment ever.

      But no, I don’t think I sound like your uncle at all. Thrift for the sake of thrift sounds just awful. I don’t want to camp in an RV and eat at Tim Hortons, I want to travel the world and eat crepes on top of the Eiffel Tower! But people waste money all the time, and what I’m trying to show is that the trick is eliminating waste. It’s not about sacrifice, it’s about keeping other people’s greedy fingers out of your pocket.

  3. Well, Firecracker, if you die with a fortune you never touched because you are thrifty, you can always donate to a good cause. I do not believe that staying in luxury hotels and dining at michelline star restaurants are “experiences” everyone strives for. Let’s get over ourselves. That’s advertising. You two at a young age seem to know yourselves very well. You have not been tainted by advertising that permeates our society. That’s truly amazing. But somewhere along the line if you return to fine dining and luxury hotels, that’s great as well because I’m sure you will keep everything within budget. Live under your means….the “means” is , of course, different for everyone.
    Really enjoying your blog. Hope you keep writing!

    1. Awww, thanks! And the thing is, we have dined in Michellin Star restaurants, and we actually found that the best food is found where the locals eat. In Thailand especially, the best meals we had were served outside sitting on little plastic stools, for like $2. Paying more doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality, and that was the biggest surprise of all.

  4. Hey Firecracker, you should totally do a travel series. Maybe cost analysis of Europe vs asia vs north america type thing, I’d very much be interested in reading more.

        1. Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii are on our travel list.

          Wanderer considers Australia “the land where EVERYTHING is trying to kill you.” So yeah, we’re going to have to work on his fear of Bird-sized Spiders, Sharks, and Fire Devils (literally a whirling tornado made of FIRE, I kid you not) before we go there.

  5. Agree that living in Toronto is way over-priced…and I add, way over-rated. It’s sad how people in Toronto think it’s a world class city. More like a first class shitty. Anyhow, one only need look at the public transport.

    Go to Asia (Taiwan, HK, etc) and you realize how lazy and stupid Canadians are.

    1. ” It’s sad how people in Toronto think it’s a world class city. More like a first class shitty.”
      I laughed out loud at this.

  6. Saw the Switzerland photo in my RSS feed and recognized it right away. Then again I’ve been on sabbatical here in Switzerland for the past 9 months, rather than being in Waterloo.

    I wanted to build on one of the things you said about vacations being more expensive because they’re time-limited. Absolutely true. It’s even true that one can live in Switzerland for less than one might think, as long as one doesn’t eat out or buy things. My expenses here are surprisingly low because the restaurant category of my spending just went down to almost zero. We did find a fast food place in Schwyz yesterday that was super good (and had uncharacteristically large portions for Europe); still, 30CHF for a burger, hot dog, and drinks (“Imbisspudel”, 3 5-star reviews on Yelp). I try especially hard to not buy anything here except for consumables.

    Luggage: well, the problem is that I always have gear, and sometimes gear for multiple types of activities. Except for gear I’d totally be carry-on-only. But on my last trip we had 5 bags between the two of us. (Activities: judo & rock climbing; and on the way to Canada I was repatriating my last pair of skis).

    1. You’re on sabbatical in Switzerland! Nice!

      “30CHF for a burger, hot dog, and drinks”
      – YEAH, this is why we smuggled food in from Germany. And we thought the prices in Denmark was bad…nope, Swiss prices beats all. Worth it though. I’d go back to the Alps in a heartbeat.
      – Good for you for keeping your expenses low. Anytime anyone who says “oh you can’t travel the world as a couple for less than 70K”, I’m like “oh yeah? Challenge accepted.”

      – Yeah, the gear is challenging. We just decided we prefer flexibility and would rather rent gear whenever we need it. So far we’ve only need to rent Scuba equipment.

  7. Hi Firecracker,

    I have found your blog via reading a daily dose of Honestly says that I have enjoyed reading your blog and 100% agrees on your saving and travelling philosophy.
    We are just “baby” immigrants here in GTA, having landed off the boat end 2012. Also hoping to gain my freedom and independence in 10-15 years, hopefully 10 🙂

    When I saw your post about Thailand, it brings reminiscent to me regarding our past project assignments there and also totally enjoyed the good street food carts there as well as in Vietnam.

    If you wont mind, are you or your family a fellow immigrant from Asia as well? Im from the Philippines by the way.

    keep up the good work and hope you visit our country, Phils, and write about it in your future posts.

    1. Thailand for the win!!! We’re planning to head to Vietnam soon. Can’t WAIT to eat ALL the PHO!!!

      My family is from mainland China. We immigrated to Canada in 1990, when I was 8 years old. Couldn’t speak a word of English at first and got bullied a lot, but I picked it up pretty fast.

      Good luck on your Financial Independence journey! We will need pick your brain on where to go in Philippines if we decide to travel there! Everyone who goes there says the people are the nicest, friendliest people ever 🙂

      1. Great, put Ph in one of your journey…Manila is as crowded as Bangkok but the moment you go to the provinces, then youll have a lot of choices, we have 7,100 island to boot 🙂

        Cebu, Boracay, Batangas (my province) for your Scuba journey, Palawan, Bohol.
        Cost wise, its a little bit expensive than Thailand but wayyyy cheaper than any North American trip 🙂
        and besides you guys definitely were street smarts so you can easily find the greatest deals.

      2. Ever thought of moving back to China and living there for a while? I studied abroad in Beijing in 1997 and it was AMAZING! To be able to ride a big from San Huan Lu at Bei Shi Da to the Gu Gong and stop by for some Yanjing pi jiu and yang rou chur was so yummmmmy.

        I haven’t been back in about 5 years, and I’m afraid it might be one big parking lot. 🙁

        1. “Yanjing pi jiu and yang rou chur”…Yum yum!!! You just brought back all these wonderful memories of my childhood! (and yes, my grandfather let me drink pi jiu as a kid…had an INSANE nosebleed for 3 hours. Thanks, grandpa!). I would go back (lots of extended family there), but ever since the Chinese government tried to kill most of family during the cultural revolution, my relationship with China has been…somewhat mixed.

          1. Eh? OK. I guess I would have mixed feelings too.

            You ever see the movie Restless, with David Wu (Wu Da Wei the MTV Vjay) and Catherine Kellner? They were filming in Beijing when I was studying abroad in 97. They invited many of us to be on set, do the clipper board, and all that stuff. SO FUN!

  8. Amazing blog! I’m so glad I happened to find it from greaterfool.
    Reminds me of but much more relevant because I’m also from Toronto like you guys.
    I really appreciate that you’ve being transparent with your financial details. They really drive home how this is really possible for a typical professional couple.

    One thing that I’ve been thinking about is the fact that doing this early in life, you can really harness compound interest for a long time.
    For example, you have $1M at 31. Assuming 7% historical real returns in the market, that will double (after inflation) every decade. Now assume that you can earn $40k by part time freelancing / writing / blogging so you aren’t actually touching the $1M. When you are 41 you will now have $2M! This means by doing *nothing* you have actually earned the same amount as everyone else busting their ass working full time and saving a ton for a decade.
    Taking this one decade further at 51 you would have $4M. At 61 you would have $8M.
    Essentially there is no way for a normal person on a salary to every “catch up” to you assuming you aren’t touching the investments until later in life.
    This is on a small scale just like Warren Buffett. He makes $37 million per day from doing relatively little. This is more than he made from ages 20-35 hustling his ass off and making some of the best investments of all time. Basically if you have enough capital you make more than anyone earning a salary and you don’t have to actually do anything.
    This is my personal motivation for saving a lot early in life, it pays off *hugely* later in life in our capitalist system.

    1. Getting financially naked is hard (oh GOD so many inappropriate words in one sentence), but worth it. If even ONE person can benefit from our journey, then I have no regrets. I have friends who didn’t even know this was possible, and felt like they threw away 10 years of their lives. We want to prevent that from happening to anyone else.

      And yes, you are absolutely right. With the magic of compounding, we will have more than $1M by the time other people retire. Heck, we already have more now than when we quit. And not only that, we’re barely paying any taxes and working minimal hours, whereas when we were employees, we were busting our asses and paying a shitload of taxes. The trick to winning at life is to create smart income, not working income. The richest people in the world work very little.

  9. What’s up Cracker? 😉

    Just catching up on your path to wealth and world travel. Very impressive journey!

    And now I’m thinking I’m kind of crazy for vacationing in Toronto for 2 weeks this summer. Though the weather will be much nicer than it is at home. We’re staying in an incredibly inexpensive Airbnb near High Park on the west side of town in Roncesvalles for about USD$40/nt after applying all the discounts and credits we had. But hey, it’s a new city to us and we won’t be sweating our brains out like we do in the southeastern US all summer.

    Great start to the blog so far!

    1. Hi Justin! Thanks so much for dropping by! I’m obsessively reading your blog and loving it!

      So you’re staying near High Park! That’s a great area and $40/night is an amazing deal. Have you checked out the Toronto islands? My favourite place in the whole city. I also highly recommend checking out the foodie scene. Especially “La Palette” on Queen Street West ( They even have something called “Quack and Track” (duck and horse tenderloin). Weird but amazing. Or if you’re more into cooking, there are lots of good grocery stores in Chinatown.

      Ironically, we’re actually heading to the States (Orlando) in a few weeks. Really looking forward to the heat. We should meet up if we’re ever in your neck of the woods.

  10. Just read the entire series and excited to read even more. Love the inspiring story! I think one of our main obstacles is the high cost of living area (NYC)…I’m sure you guys understand. Well $850 is excellent for rent being that housing is so expensive. Even when we were renting, a 1 bedroom 600 square foot apartment in a non “hip” part of NYC was around $1500. We have a toddler and another one on the way so the traveling around the world thing would be tougher though Jeremy and Winnie from Go Curry Cracker do just that. Also, being that I’m also Asian, I’m very curious as to your parents and Wanderer’s parents reaction to this. Being a child of immigrants, the mindset they push is to put your head down, work hard, keep working hard and save!

    1. Finding affordable rent in NYC is definitely challenging. In our case, I think we lucked out in finding a “no frills” place with everything we needed, but isn’t shiny or fancy (our landlord is 70 years old and doesn’t care about aesthetics), so we got a fantastic deal, even though Toronto is hella expensive.

      And travelling with children is more difficult, but like you said, J & W are doing it and loving it! We actually met up with them in Chiang Mai, Thailand and they are AMAZING. They inspire us to believe this nomadic lifestyle is possible with kids.

      I’m so glad you asked the “being Asian” question. I think the “head down, work hard, and save” mentality is one of the main reasons why we got here. So I think as Asians, that’s a pro. The con is that “being Asian” also means lots of pressure from your parents to buy a house, have kids, work until you’re 65, etc etc etc. Basically, follow the status quo and don’t do anything risky. That’s the part I have an issue with. Working hard is great. But I think working SMART is WAY better. Just because something’s “always been done this way”, doesn’t mean it’s the “right” or “best” way. I tried to do the whole status quo thing, but it didn’t work for me. So rather than banging my head against the wall, I decided to try the FIRE path instead. And it’s worked out SO much better. I’m healthier (actually have time to work out now! YAY!), more fulfilled (I get to do what I love), AND have more time for family (we can spend lots of time when them, unlike when we were working). My parents are still mad at me for not buying a house, but I think gradually, as they see that I’m much more happy and fulfilled, they’ll come around. Either that, or I’ll ask Wanderer’s parents to adopt me. They’ve always been understanding and supportive.

        1. Actually, it’s funny you should mention the elbow thing. For years, I’ve had this issue with my wrist where it would just hurt all the time. Doctors/physios couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and when I left I couldn’t even hold up a coffee cup without dropping it. Now a year later, it’s TOTALLY fine. :shrug:

  11. I LOVE Santorini and Amsterdam. Santorini was the place I was visiting in the Fall of 2011 when I realized I could leave my job. After three hours of walking around, I was sitting at the top of the crater w/ a Mykonos beer when I got an e-mail from a client in London wanted to buy ads on FS. There was wifi and I was pumped. 35 minutes later, $1,200 was Paypaled over and I ordered another overpriced beer! That was when the wheels started turning to figure out a severance package.

    How are severance packages done in Canada? Is there a minimum pay amount rule e.g. 3 months, if an employee gets let go?


    1. Yeah, posting that made me want to get back out on the road again.

      It depends on the company, but severance packages are required by law to be 1 week for every year worked in Canada.

      1. Very interesting. In the US, we have WARN Act pay, which is 2-3 months of salary, and then severance is entirely optional, hence the need to negotiate. The range is 1-3 weeks a year worked.

        1. Yeah, you guys have it tougher than us. Good thing you wrote the “How to Engineer Your Layoff” book. That’s probably very helpful if you need to negotiate for it.

  12. I happy to read this !

    We are on a similar Retire early path (with less travel, more kids involved). And tying the last strings to make it work.

    Hopefully it goes well for us as well, there is always a small uncertainty factor, no matter how well you plan 🙂

    1. Life is never 100% certain or perfect. But that doesn’t mean you should hide in a hole and never take any risks. The trick is to take calculated risks and be aware of “Sequence of Return risks” and having a cash cushion of 3-5 years in case the market tanks.

      I’m happy that you’re on your way to become FI! I’ll be rooting for you!

  13. Is this lifestyle possible with kids? Do you plan on having them and do you think that’ll change your life at all? Thanks

    1. Good question. And yes, it is possible. We factored in the costs of having kids before we quit. And during our travels, We also met this other early retired couple who is travelling with their kid: We’re going to copy their moves if we end up having kids.

      1. Thank you! Can you provide more information about Garth so that people can get in touch with him? Thanks a bunch and I’ll keep living vicariously through you.
        Curious mom

      2. Hi dear,
        I really enjoyed reading your success story. I wish we could do the same with my husband as soon as he retires. But we have two little dachshunds and we don’t want to leave them behind. They are family too. Is it possible to travel the world with pets? Have you met anybody by any chance who traveled with dogs? Thank you.

  14. Oh man, you guys are so inspirational!!!! My husband and I are both 31 and saving as much as possible (and investing) to hopefully be able to follow a similar path some day. Sadly I’m in communications, which doesn’t pay as well (although I do enjoy my job). Did you have an average return of 8% with Garth? We really want to invest with him but need to increase our $ a bit more to do so. Thanks and keep on living the dream! 😀

  15. I’ve been reading your website for… oh I don’t know, 2ish hours. It’s 1am and the kids will be up sooner than I care to think about. While my wife and I were complaining about how we hate our jobs, I stumbled across your blog (thanks to the CBC). She’s skeptical, I’m intrigued. Unfortunately we are already living the middle class dream with a mortgage and two cars, so it’ll take a lot of work, but I’m definitely inspired. Thanks!

  16. For your travel to Australia and New Zealand, check out the house sitting websites. For the price of cleaning Kitty’s commode or walking Fido, you can sit for weeks while the folks from down under enjoy their summer vacations.
    Your flexibility and mobility will work well for house sitting. Throw in a few Airbnb’s to fill the gaps between sits and you are good for six months. Enjoy.

  17. Hey FireCracker,

    Nice blog. 40K/year for two persons… I guess, that would cost almost the same for a single person, right? Because accommodation is the biggest expense.

    Speaking of frequent flyer miles… I heard you can have all those crazy deals over there in North America, but what can you recommend in this regard for folks whose home countries do not provide the same magic credit card promotions?

    In your intro video, you speak of two generations: boomers, and millennials? You know, there’s a generation in between them, no one talks about: X. Who is going to talk for them?


  18. Can you elaborate on the plan if/when you have kids? They are awful expensive and make traveling significantly more difficult.

  19. Will you write an article going into more detail about your “small income from coding and writing”? What kinds of projects are these, how do you find these opportunities, and how much income do they generate? I would love to hear more about that part!

    I’d also love to read your novel 🙂 A story about supervillains sounds right up my alley. What’s it called? Can I buy it on Amazon?

  20. Elaboration also on if either of you falls quite ill at any point? Do you live out of hotel or rent? I have 3 kids; very expensive. I am prepared to home school in order to travel later in life, but being military and moving around frequently, I have noted that roots are pretty important to kids; grounds them, in fact. Your life sounds like a dream, but *sustainability* seems questionable here.

  21. I love how you and Wanderer are living consciously – creating a fulfilling life and giving back while sharing your experiences with others. Congratulations for breaking out of the mold!

    As I digest your journey and see how I could apply it to mine I can’t shake the feeling that there is something about living off investments that resembles a pyramid scheme. My gut says we can’t make something from nothing and that living off the stock market would mean I was profiting from society’s consumerism and other’s labour.

    You said: “The trick to winning at life is to create smart income, not working income” and I wonder what the world would look like if we all lived that way. Who would do the labour that keeps the companies running so they can make the stuff that makes their shares go up?

    You have found a way to make the current economic system work for you but I’m not sure your path is sustainable on a mass level. (In other words – what about the haves and the have-nots?) Help me with this ’cause I have such a friggin’ social conscience. Yes – being financially free would mean I could put all my time into doing what I love and helping others, but could everyone be financially free and doing what they love? Is it possible that there is someone out there who would love even the crummy jobs that need to get done – cleaning toilets, pulling weeds, sorting trash? (I know you’re an engineer but please don’t say the robots will do it : )

    1. It’s simple. The people who have bought into massive mortgages will be forced to continue working until it’s paid off. And judging by how overpriced houses are these days, that could take a LONG time.
      I’m not saying that’s a bad thing though. It’s just that they simply choose to be home owners, and I choose to be an investor. But as home owners, they must continue working and paying off the mortgage. So don’t worry. There will be sufficient people in the labour market. And some of them may even like their jobs! So yay!

  22. Hi FIRECracker,

    Great story.

    Just a quick question, would you have gotten to the same net worth if you had bought the house in 2011 and then sold it in 2016? Or do you thinking owning a house between 2011-2016 in Canada actually yielded less than your investment strategy?

    1. If we had bought, just the property taxes would’ve been the same as the our $800 rent. And that’s not counting the insurance, maintenance, land transfer fees, lawyer fees, etc etc.

      Not to mention the lifestyle inflation that would’ve happened…like buying new furniture, a car, etc to upkeep the house. So no, it would not have yielded the same as our investment strategy because most of our money would’ve gone towards things in the house that doesn’t build equity (like property taxes, insurance, maintenance, furniture, car, etc)

  23. Hi Firecracker, I just read through the entire “How we got here” what an amazing, inspiring and funny story!
    Its annoying to see some of the comments, people really don’t like their beliefs being challenged, but you handle it like a champ.
    Excited to read through the rest of your site, keep up the good work 🙂

    1. Sadly no. We wrote a children’s novel about super-villains because we thought fiction was the path to riches! HA! *shakes head at utter stupidity*.

      However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a finance book in our future…

  24. Thank you so much for all of this information. I will be going over it – again and again and again until I understand it all. I wasn’t clear on how to rebalance your portfolio but I will revisit that.

  25. Wow firecracker, absolutely inspirational. I do have one question, seeing as how I live in America, do you see any challenges that we face in doing your method that Canadians wouldn’t?

    1. One challenge you guys have that we don’t is healthcare. BUT on the plus side, now that you have ACA, once you retire, your salary will drop low enough that you quality for it. So that’s what other American early retirees have been using. Either that or self-insuring.

      You guys also have a lot of advantages that we don’t have: high tax-shelters for dividend income, better frequent flyer miles programs for travel hacking, more discounts from grocery stories (“Extreme Couponing” would NEVER work in Canada), cheaper alcohol. The list goes on. So I think it’s fair trade-off 🙂

  26. I like your story telling skills and greatly admire what you 2 have achieved. Can you please share Garth’s contact details. I think I can use some help as well.

  27. Hello Firecracker and Wanderer. Thanks for writing this blog; it has inspired, educated and entertained me a lot. I’m glad I clicked on that CBC article which led me here a few weeks ago. Thanks for sharing this wealth of information with us. Looking forward to the next series of investing and traveling articles. I’m a Latin immigrant, living in Alberta, and have spent the last 10 years just trying to get financially settled (cost of relocating, paperwork expenses which go on for years, etc.), but after reading this blog I’m going to shift gears and start saving more and look for better returns (I was excited when I found 2% TFSA account, not anymore), and not be so afraid of investing (I did a bit earlier and then the oil went down and took my first attempt at it down with it; but ETF’s are giving me hope). I can identify with your stories so much since I work in I.T. too, and years ago I started realizing the cost of going to clubs, eating out, etc. Hopefully I can retire way earlier than 65 (I’m not as young as you guys). Please keep up the good work with this blog, and keep enjoying your early retirement and writing about it so we can live vicariously through you (loved the space cake anecdote). Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Gerry! We were scared of investing at the beginning too, but once you understand indexing, allocation, and rebalancing, your fears go away.

      You’d be surprised how much quickly you can save once you realize there’s a worthwhile goal rather than saving for the sake of saving 😉 Best of luck on your early retirement journey!

  28. Amazing! You’re an inspiration of how I want my life to be 🙂 Excited to browse through your blog and find more golden articles

  29. Hi Kristy!

    I found your blog through Financial Samurai and just wanted to say that your story is so inspiring! My husband and I are natural savers but now, after reading your story, I feel even more motivated to cut expenses to reach financial independence ASAP.

    – Annie

  30. One thing I don’t think you covered is what did you do with all your home stuff (e.g. furniture, cookware, clothing) while you travel? Do you keep paying rent while away or do you end your lease and move it all into self-storage? Friend’s basement?

    I figure you can sell a lot of it, but unless you’re going full expat you will eventually need cookware, basic furniture, and clothing at home. Would love to read about how you tackled this issue.

    1. When we left Canada, we sold everything we owned and got rid of our rental. All that’s left are a few boxes of clothes, kitchen utensils, and some books in Wanderer’s mom’s basement.

      When we’re travelling we actually don’t need anything more than what we can fit into 2 backpacks. All the AirBnBs we’ve stayed in has cookware and furniture so no need to worry about that. And if we stay in hotels (usually only in South East Asia), we go out to eat since food is so cheap anyway it beats cooking.

      You’d be amazed at how little you need to be happy once you ditch everything and just live out of 2 backpacks. You’ll find that things you thought you needed, really aren’t important at all.

  31. Damn, now that’s a way to live your life. And so young too. Hopefully at some point I’ll get to meet you guys in person and talk/contemplate behind a glass of Jameson. On the rocks of course 😉

    24 year old tax accountant who is inspired.

    1. How can I ever say on to booze? 🙂

      And you are only 24? Wow, time is definitely on your side. Also, as an accountant, you have a great salary so I wouldn’t be surprised to see you reach financial independence in a few years.

  32. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to convince my friends! I’ve done the same (well similar) digital nomading it from Toronto too! haha very awesome guys!!
    Love seeing this, keep it up 🙂
    Now I want to learn about that other financial stuff you are teaching (the coding I’m already doing)

  33. Hi Firecracker. I love the no job and I love the world travel for the rest of our lives idea too…. however, and I realize the answer is obvious (it will just take longer) but, what if your combined yearly salary is approximately 44.6% (total for 2 people) of what you were SAVING (not even earning). By my estimation with my saving 75% of our salaries, we would still need about 23 years to get near 1 million dollars. (which by then would buy us a bus ticket)
    To conclude, I just want to point out that this may not work as well for everyone; depending on your situation. But you guys are still awesome and congratulations.

    1. Nope, not true. If your savings rate is 75% (similar to ours), you are only 10 years away from retirement. And if you plan to work part-time after you retire on hobbies making 10k/year, you can shorten that to 5-6 years.

      Check out this post I wrote on why salary doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is savings rate:

      And my post on how a small 10k/year income in retirement can cut your time to retirement in half:

  34. I just read your blog after seeing your story on CBC. I think it’s great you’re retired young, traveling and living your dream, free of corporate bondage. Not many can achieve what you have, but I was wondering, how do you achieve or save as much as you have with an average income? For me as a graphic designer (4ok gross, 25k net) I don’t make nearly as much as an engineer. How long will it take me to save 1 million? What can I invest in that is not real estate, that will yield a higher return?

  35. Hey! loved your blog, i already have a good amount of money trapped into houses, and im thinking on selling everything to invest and live traveling, which is my passion, im graduating now, and maybe after that, if i dont find a great job, which probably i wont, i will join this life on the road! just need some courage here

    1. Courage is good, but sound financial plans are better.

      Before we quit our jobs and started traveling, we made sure our portfolio was 25X our yearly living expenses (4% rule) and could support us for the rest of our lives. And in case the stock market crashes (which it will, make no mistake about that), we structured our portfolio so we could live off the 3.5% dividend income, without having to touch the principal. That way, even if the value of the portfolio crashes, we can continue to live off the dividends.

      So in your situation, I would advise crunching the math to see how much it would cost to sell your properties and whether it makes sense. I would also track your spending to make sure the portfolio you build is at least 25X your yearly expenses.

      Always good to have backup plans…and backup plans for the backup plans 🙂

      1. Hi FIREcracker,

        First of all congratulations for your commitment with your plans!
        My only doubt is about kids. You have calculated to live, without touching the principal, for the rest of your life, but doubling the size of your 2 members family will increase your cost of life.
        I’m sure you thought about it, and got an answer, so please share it with us!

        1. Actually, kids aren’t as expensive as people think. The biggest cost of raising kids is childcare, which, if you don’t have to work anymore, is free. We met 2 other couples who did this with kids. One travelled the world with their kid. The other retired with 3 kids (he’s able to live on only 40K/year). Feel free to check out their blogs:

          Since your question is something other readers have asked a well, I’ll be doing a future post about how we factored in the cost of kids into our retirement plans.

  36. Just a quick update on this: with all the talk about this Millennials vs. Boomers thing… Has anybody (anybody?) ever noticed there is a whole generation called Gen X stuck in between the two of you? Just asking. You can find more about us, here:

    Oh, and by the way, I’m totally interested in your answer, solution to my questions raised by your blog as well:

    “40K/year for two persons… I guess, that would cost almost the same for a single person, right? Because accommodation is the biggest expense.”

    “Speaking of frequent flyer miles… I heard you can have all those crazy deals over there in North America, but what can you recommend in this regard for folks whose home countries do not provide the same magic credit card promotions?”

    Thanks, keep on rockin’

    1. HA HA. Oops. Guess everyone just forgot about Gen X. Makes me think of that Spice Girls song “Generation X, Generation X…”

      To answer your questions:
      “40K/year for two persons… I guess, that would cost almost the same for a single person, right? Because accommodation is the biggest expense.”
      – For a single person, it would be less than 40K. It wouldn’t be exactly 50% less, but probably more like 25K-27K. When there are 2 people, food costs, medical costs, transportation…they all double. So when you’re single, those costs drop to half.

      “Speaking of frequent flyer miles… I heard you can have all those crazy deals over there in North America, but what can you recommend in this regard for folks whose home countries do not provide the same magic credit card promotions?”
      – Depends on where you are. I know UK has some good promotions as well. And if you’re in Europe or Southeast Asia, there are lots of budget airlines which are even cheaper than using points.

  37. Hi FIRECracker! You have such an inspiring story. Congrats on leaving the rat race at such a young age! From reading your blog, it appears that you and your husband have abnormally high salaries because your take-home pay is extremely high. My question is do you guys invest in retirement plans such as 401k? If so, are the money going into retirement plans counted as part of your savings? I’m asking because I’m planning to retire early myself but I have a lot of money tied up in retirement accounts so I likely won’t have enough to retire on from my taxable account until I’m in my early 40’s. Also, I own a house which won’t be paid off until my early 40’s as well. 🙁

    1. To answer your question, yes we aggressively invested in RRSPs (the Canadian equivalent of 401ks). And yes the money in our RRSPs are counted as part of savings/investments.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “lot of money tied up in retirement accounts so likely won’t have enough to retire on from my taxable account..”? Why wouldn’t you count the retirement account as part of your portfolio? If you’re worried about the “can’t withdrawal from 401k and Roth IRA until age 59.5” rule, you can get it out with what’s called a “5-year Roth IRA Conversion Ladder”. We wrote about it here:

      1. The way I was planning my retirement is by maxing out my 401k for age 60+. I’m separately building a portfolio in a taxable account that I call a “bridge” fund that will support me from 40-60, until my 401k funds are available. I’m also structuring my mortgage so it would be paid off when I’m around 40 years old. But now that you’re saying there are ways to access my retirement money without penalties, I’ll have to rethink my plan. Thanks for the response!!

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