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Living Life Without Limits – Packing Up, Selling Off and Heading Out

We only recently made the firm decision to alter our life as we knew it, quit our 9-5 jobs, start a blog and travel. Even in these early phases we’ve had our ups and downs. We’re sure once we are on the road we will experience a new set of difficulties, probably ones that are much more challenging, as well as a whole new range of learning experiences and enjoyments. What we’ve learned from this process so far is that this is a time of personal growth, a time where we are able to learn more about ourselves as individuals and as a couple, and that whatever struggles we face, no matter big or small, we can overcome them with perseverance, communication and simply, each other.

Throughout the process of packing up, selling off and heading out, we’ve noticed there have been a few major lessons amongst the many things we’ve learned so far.

garagesale

Packing up and selling your possessions in order to live minimally is extremely challenging and emotional but in the end, it is a liberating experience. It is emotionally straining to get rid of the stuff you have acquired and it is ridiculous how quickly stuff accumulates. We found a variety of methods to sell, donate or give away our stuff and each one presented it’s own set of challenges as well as benefits. For example, garage sales are dreadful and neither of us enjoy displaying our possessions for strangers to handle and critique before engaging you in a fight to the penny that hammers home the disconcerting reality that the items you possess often hold little to no real value to anyone but yourself. We didn’t like having garage sales and yet we held two, because although it was challenging for us, we knew it was an important step not only to minimize our possessions but also to learn a lesson about stepping outside our boxes and working hard for something we want, no matter the tangible reward at the end. By close of garage sale #2 we realized that in overcoming our dislike, we’ve learned to actually value garage sales and see them in a more positive light. In the end, we feel lighter and freer, even if we sometimes think about that rice cooker we no longer own or that extra computer mouse we sold.

garage sale crystal bowls

We found that through every method we used to dispose, donate or sell our stuff, we benefited and learned something in the long run. Minimizing in general is great not only for the life lessons we’ve learned about the temporary happiness provided by material things but also how unburdening it is to eliminate the clutter and the accumulation. For that alone, we have benefited immensely from this entire process and learned a great deal about ourselves.

There is more support out there than you realize. There seems to be a tendency, as humans, to feel like we must rely on solely ourselves to survive. We’ve learned over the past several months that we have an enormous network of support that we never could have imagined or hoped. Throughout the process, more and more people have added their support. From complete strangers we met at the garage sales we mentioned above, to long-since friends from times past, to close friends and family, people seem to genuinely want to help in whatever way they can. This support is encouragement and motivation for us both and we’ve been fortunate to have that support come by way of: help with networking, places to stay, advice on finances, places to store our remaining belongings and just general words of encouragement. The most important thing we learned to keep in mind is that, as a couple, we must continue to be eachothers’ biggest support throughout this journey.

garage sale beautifl vase

It’s difficult to leave friends and family knowing you will be missing milestones, but it’s comforting that technology affords us the ability to communicate in many different ways, anytime and virtually anyplace. One of the items on our cons list when we were making the decision to travel full-time was that we would be leaving friends and family. This was especially difficult when we considered the oldest and youngest members of our family (and of course those people in between!). We didn’t want to miss out on time we could spend with those older and we were sad to know we would miss the babies’ and children’s’ milestones as they grow. What we found to balance this was the knowledge that the ways of communication nowadays is almost unlimited. We may not be present in person but everyone we love is only a phone call, email, or videochat away. Once we started looking for ways we could talk to our loved ones, we found there are tons! We’re still looking for the best options as we’ve found some of the methods we’ve tested so far can be a bit glitch-y so comment and let us know what you’ve found to work best for overseas communication!

We'll miss the pets too!

We’ll miss the pets too!

Venturing into the unknown is absolutely terrifying and at the same time, absolutely exhilarating!! We  happened to start off with terrified. There we were, no longer employed, no longer salaried full-time workers with medical and dental benefits and we were going to put all of our time, energy and money into travelling the world and cross our fingers that people will actually want to read what we have to write and enjoy looking at the photos we take. And then we realized, wait a minute, we’re no longer full-time employees and instead are putting all our time, energy and money into travelling the world!! Sure the future is an unknown but it means the possibilities are endless and that prospect is as exciting as it is frightening.

All of the above: the minimizing of possessions, the missing of major milestones, the unknown and yes, even the support can cause stress and strong emotions. We have definitely been overwhelmed at times but we are learning to manage these better and better as time comes close for us to leave. We are following our dreams and venturing to see the world and we’ve never felt so alive. If you take anything from what we’ve learned so far we hope it’s that it’s not easy to follow your heart and your dreams and make a major life change, whatever that may be for you, but that in taking that leap you expose yourself to endless opportunities to learn about yourself and grow. We’ve only just taken that leap ourselves and we can’t wait to see where it takes us.

 

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @onemoderncouple and like our Facebook page (see the sidebar!) to follow us and our adventures!

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One Modern Couple – Our Official Launch

 

Macrae & Carolann Cuba

After much contemplation and discussion, we made the decision to resign from our full-time jobs, sell our belongings and trade in our lifestyle as a dual-income, apartment dwelling couple for two 45L backpacks and a dream of seeing the world together.

We both came to the realization that our passion for travel could not be satisfied with a few weeks vacation time a year. We both want to revolve our lives around travelling and experiencing new cultures and countries. At least for now, for as long as possible. So, we’ve resigned from our jobs, told our family and friends, sold our possessions and are now finally able to make our plans public.

On September 17th, of this year, we will be packing up those 45L backpacks and heading to Asia to tour, live, eat, sightsee and experience the continent before continuing on to our next adventure. And we will be blogging about it here, on OneModernCouple.com. It’s through this lifestyle blog that we hope to express our excitement, our trials and tribulations, the lessons we learn, the amazing (and even the not-so-amazing) sights, sounds and tastes of all that we see. We aim to show the world through our eyes as a couple with a passion for travel and hope to engage others, those at home and those abroad, while writing about and discussing not only our life of travel, but our life as a couple in general. We also hope to motivate others to realize that it is possible to achieve their dreams, no matter how big or small and that sometimes all it takes is one giant leap.

Today is our giant leap. A leap into the unknown, a leap towards fulfilling our dreams and a leap into living life without limits, to the fullest, and without regrets. We hope you will follow us on our journey and perhaps get a taste of the world from our perspective and maybe, just maybe, we’ll encourage you to take a leap of your own.

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Modern & Intimate – 5 Summertime Date Ideas

 

With only a little more than half of the summer season left, the panic has started to set in.  The dread of the imminent winter season starts to fall upon us well before it realistically should. Especially for those of us farther North from the equator, we know we have precious time to enjoy the warm weather and when we feel as though time is slipping away, we scramble to soak in as much sun and outdoor activity as possible. As a couple, the fear of missing out on spending quality time engaged in different activities than the norm is also present.  The warm weather brings a host of opportunities for couples that are not available at other times of the year and these can freshen up the normal date night plans.

Summer Sky

If you are feeling as though you have not explored every opportunity the warm months offer or if you are looking for different summer activities as a couple, don’t worry there is still time. The following are five summertime date ideas that we personally enjoy:

1. The Drive-In

Drive_In Photo

This is one of our favourite date night activities. The drive-in is a social activity meets quality alone time. Whether you bring lawn chairs, sit in your car, or open your hatch (if you have one) and recline back with blankets, the options are plenty.  Whatever you choose, the price is usually great, more than one movie is shown, and you get a change of scenery from your typical movie viewing location – the movie theatre or your couch.  Although drive-ins are not as popular as they once were, there are still many remaining in North America and Australia and there are a few in Europe and Asia.  If you are looking for one in your area or the area you are travelling, check out www.drive-ins.com for a list of drive-ins around the world and whether they are still open. Many places around the world also have outdoor movie screenings. For example, Venice has a popular outdoor cinema in Campo San Polo showing current films for the public. These are great changes to the typical date routine and loads of fun.

2. Farmer’s Markets

Farmer’s markets seem to be springing up everywhere. Ranging in size, these markets provide a central location to purchase fresh, locally grown produce to support your local farms.  Going to one as a couple can be a fun date activity and a unique way to cross off items on your weekly grocery list. Jams, baked goods and produce are just some of the main items to be found. Recently, we stopped at a market and purchased some of the freshest and sweetest strawberries we had tasted in years. We have a great time perusing the tables together and deciding on which items we’d like to buy and we often think of dinner ideas we can make together and purchase the fruits and veggies needed. Farmer’s markets typically have set times and days of the week so be sure to check before you go and if you aren’t too concerned about missing out on a particular item, going just before closing gives you the possibility of reduced prices as vendors attempt to sell-off what is left.

3. Festivals

Asian Festival

These events can be a great opportunity to experience new foods, music and cultures as a couple and while you’ll typically hear about main festivals, larger cities often have so many festivals that some are easily missed.  Trying different foods or those you already know you enjoy, listening to the music and sounds of the activity around you and sharing the day together creates a great shared experience and an escape from the everyday. We enjoy attending different cultural festivals to learn more about different countries and cultures until we get the chance to visit those countries ourselves. Don’t forget to look into smaller towns and communities as they will often have unique festivals or smaller versions of those you’d find in the city-centres.

4. Picnics

Picnics, while cliché, are a really romantic and simple way to spend time together. Whether it’s in your own backyard or in a private area with a pretty view, you can take a picnic pretty much anywhere you want and it’s perfect for enjoying the summer weather. If your significant other has an issue with bugs (notice we didn’t specify a gender) you can always bring lawn chairs instead of a blanket and keep yourselves a little further from the critters on the ground. Typical foods that come to mind when thinking of a picnic include fried chicken, potato salads, sandwiches, and coleslaw and while these are wonderful for keeping things simple, you can make an extra special picnic date by stepping up the food selection. Instead of simple fare, you may want to prepare a fancier meal such as spinach and artichoke dip with flat bread and precooked meat skewers with a spinach, strawberry and toasted almond salad. Whatever the food and wherever the location, picnics are wonderful ways to enjoy the sun with your significant other.

5. Nature Walks/Hikes

Nature Hike

Exploring new places is one of our favourite things to do as a couple and taking walks is a great way to check out new areas and enjoy the summer flora and fauna. Taking a nature walk or hike also gives you an added bump to those endorphins, leaving you both in a better mood and this type of activity really helps you to focus on the moment as you take in your surroundings. As a couple, nature hikes allow you to spend some dedicated, uninterrupted time together. Protected parks and nature reserves will typically have great walking and hiking trails that will offer a wide range of plants and animals to see, but be sure to remember that many have entrance fees.

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Building Our Savings as a Couple – The Budget Jar Method

While it’s been our goal for a long time now to travel the world, we knew it would take some time to build a stable foundation for us to do so. Part of that was building our savings.

For months we struggled with finding a good way to manage our finances. We used spreadsheets and formulas, charts and white boards and finally we decided we just wouldn’t budget our spending anymore. One month later we went through our saved receipts and realized we had spent a ridiculous amount of money (mostly on dining out) and that we failed to save any significant amount.

With both of us determined to travel more, we knew this wasn’t going to work and opted for a budgeting method we had both heard of many years ago: budget jars.

How We’ve Set Up Our Jars

We were initially introduced to the jar system while watching “Til Debt Do us Part”. Gail Vaz-Oxlade showed couples how to use jars to divide up monies budgeted to each expense. (if you are interested in learning more about her method and some tips on dividing up your budget click here for her website).

With this idea in mind, we set about creating our own jars system. Since we had been tracking our expenses, prior to our month of free-spending, we had an idea of how much we were putting towards various expenditures. We also, obviously, knew the cost of our fixed expenses like car payments, rent and utilities, cable and internet.

As a couple we set a monthly budget for:

1. Transportation – e.g. gas, taxis, subway rides, train rides

2. Entertainment – e.g. dining out, shows, sporting games, etc

3. Clothes and gifts – e.g. family gifts

4. Groceries – e.g. food and household needs

5. Other – emergency fund, household projects, etc

Since we both have separate bank accounts, we decided not to pool all the remaining money from our pay together, but instead determined a monthly budget for each expense and deemed whatever was left in each of our bank accounts to be savings for that individual.

We use our own savings to purchase personal toiletries. Each of us now pays into the jar after each payday and we use the jars to hold our cash and our receipts. It hasn’t been easy to adjust to but we have definitely seen results.

So You Want To Budget?

The following are some of our helpful hints if you are planning to try the budget jar method:

1. Be consistent with your jar deposits.

We are both paid biweekly so while we have budgeted monthly, we deposit half of that each payday. Whether you choose to put money in each week, or each month, be consistent and don’t let too much time pass or it will be tough to catch up and reconcile your spending.

2. Get used to paying with cash.

We are often in the habit of using debit or credit to make payments but it is easiest to use the cash in the jars to maintain your budget and it takes time to get used to pulling out money prior to leaving the house. If you really can’t bring yourself to do this, or you have a great rewards program you want to take advantage of on a card, make sure you sub your receipt for the cash in the jars ASAP.

3. Modify as you go.

You may think you’ve worked out the best budget for each expense, but spending through the jar method often leads to some unexpected lessons about your spending habits. Don’t be afraid to modify your budget once you identify areas you can decrease or need to increase. We learned we needed to add more to our groceries budget and decrease our entertainment budget.  This also forced us to focus on smarter purchasing and eating patterns which was another lifestyle change in itself.

4. Budget your budget.

Just because it’s in the jar, doesn’t mean you have to use it.  If you have extra entertainment money left over, don’t feel obligated to use it.  The money is there if you need it but it shouldn’t be a requirement.

receipts

5. Plan an exciting goal for your savings.

To help with number 4, decide how you will allocate the remaining money at the end of the month. Make it something you can look forward to and/or something that’s tangible and you can actually see come to fruition.We decided to split ours 50/50 between a travel fund and our online business.

Whether it is watching a savings account grow, saving for a trip or using that money to invest, make it something you can be excited about so you strive to keep some money in those jars.

6. Have change available.

This is a big one that we didn’t learn until well into the second month. If you do not plan to take the money in the jars with you, it is advisable to have change available so that you can produce the exact amount required when cashing in the receipt for the money spent.  This eliminates frustrations with what should be a fairly simple process.

7. Personal allowances are important.

With the expenses we defined, it didn’t leave us too much room for indulging in both of our personal vices – McDonald’s iced coffee. Instead of depriving ourselves of our fix, we used our own savings and gave a weekly budget for things like iced coffees.

8.  Take the jars on the go.

You can use this method even while travelling by converting the jars into envelopes. Even if you change the expense categories, combining efforts and keeping tabs on your spending will help save money and make you aware of how you spend it.

No matter how you choose to create your budget, having a good line of sight to your expenditures is key to staying out of debt, building your savings and investing in the future. We are putting the money we saved in the jars towards our travel plans for the year and are planning to use many of the tips and tricks we mentioned above in order to stay on budget while we travel.

Update: With our savings, a lot coming from our budget jar method, we’ve packed up and shipped out! This was a great method for us to save money and we’re constantly thinking of ways for us to implement it during our full-time travels.

Do you budget your expenses? What methods do you use/have found to work? Comment below and let us know!

 

Want to save this for later? Or share with others? In addition to the above images, you can hover on the top left corner of the below pin for the “Pin it” button and share on your Pinterest account!

budget jar method of saving money

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Date Night Ideas – Cooking Together Builds A Stronger Relationship

 

Many times we find ourselves craving some quality time together. (Yes, even though we spend 24/7 together while travelling and working). Sure, we love to explore, try new restaurants or check out different festivals but we also enjoy having nights to ourselves (see our post on summertime date ideas).

When we aren’t out together it’s common for us to fall into the comfort of our house, having quality alone time while sitting on the couch watching TV and doing work on our respective computers. And while we are still spending time together and still engaging in conversation, our focus is not completely on one another.

It’s because of this that we like to occasionally switch things up and  sometimes and find an intimate date-night activity we can do without having to get social. The following is just one of the date nights we enjoy together.

The Couple Who Cooks Together…

While couples’ cooking classes are a fun and unique way of spending time together, they don’t exactly offer much intimacy, with fellow classmates nearby and conversation often being led by the instructor. They also often have a higher price tag.  If you are looking to spend some quality, romantic time with your significant other and are also hoping to stick to budget, cooking together at home can be one of the most fun and intimate of activities.

Not only are you taking what is often times considered a chore and making it something fun and engaging, but cooking together builds teamwork and a sense of accomplishment as a couple.   It is often found that couples that share common goals and work together to achieve them, are more successful long-term and building the teamwork skills as a couple necessary for larger goal accomplishment, often takes time and practice.

It doesn’t matter what you are cooking or how long it takes. Whether it is making your favourite recipe or trying something new, it’s about putting in the effort to spend time together.

One quick meal that we often make together when we only have a short amount of time is pita pizzas:

OMC’s Pita Pizza Recipe

Simply:

1. Buy whole wheat or white pita bread from the store (these come in various sizes and we usually buy the smaller ones for personal size pizzas). We know, we know, making your own dough is much better but this is a great way to spend more time focused on each other, work together and pop out a quick and simple meal that’ll get you to the table, enjoying a romantic dinner and conversation.

2, Add pizza sauce (store bought or homemade – either way we often sprinkle some basil for added flavour), and

3. Whatever kind of grated cheese and toppings you each desire (go crazy with the veggies and meats! We often cook up some chicken with our favourite seasoning and throw on a bunch of different vegetables).

The preparation of cheese and veggies will have the two of you working together and it’s fun to create your own pizza.

4. Cook the pizzas in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (or until the crust is golden) and enjoy!

Pita Pizza recipe for couples

Enhance the Romance

A few details we like to include during our date nights are:

1. No cell phones – make this time about just the two of you

2. Add some music to the mix – create the atmosphere you are looking for by playing some music that both of you enjoy

3. Make it romantic – even if it sounds cheesy, creating the right ambiance is key. In addition to music, set the table with nice dishes and cutlery and even a candle, or depending on the weather, take the dinner to the patio and enjoy some fresh air.

Whatever meal you make, and however you decide to spend the evening enjoying it, there is one crucial team-building exercise you mustn’t forget to do together – clean the dishes!

great date night ideas

 

Do you and your significant other enjoy cooking together? Comment below and let us know your favourite recipes to make while dining in.

Update: Since starting full-time travel, it isn’t always easy to find time to cook together. We try to make time for these kind of date-nights when we are staying through Airbnb or housesitting. Otherwise, we find ways to make time for each other while on the road – such as our private island picnic.

 

The Journey Begins…

 

Typically, couples are brought together, and kept strong, by similar likes and goals.  Couples connect over the love of certain sports, playing video games, do-it-yourself projects, etc. For us, travelling is our biggest common interest. Like many people however, our trips have been limited to vacations taken off work and the odd long weekend – but we always long for more. After being together for almost two years, we’ve come to the realization that for both of us, travelling isn’t just a hobby… it’s a passion.

Neither of us envision  buying a house or having kids right now and while many of our friends are making big decisions for just that lifestyle, we are taking big steps ourselves.  We’ve made the decision to fully embrace our lives as, what we define to be, “a modern couple” and step outside the conventional. More and more couples are delaying making major life decisions like buying a house and having kids.  More and more people are defining themselves as the modern couple.

Focusing our energy on web-based business ventures, we plan to travel and immerse ourselves in different cultures, meet different people, try different foods and experience new ways of thinking and living.  And we plan to document this lifestyle here.

While we are taking the steps we need to make this plan a reality, we will still be writing about our lives as “one modern couple” and what this lifestyle really means.  Whether travelling the world or staying in one place, the concept of this lifestyle remains the same: live life without limits, enjoy life’s simple pleasures and have no regrets

And so, the journey begins…