Merrymakers: Adam Seper, World Traveler
In 2007 Adam Seper and his wife Megan were living a perfectly happy life in St. Louis. He was a high school English teacher; she was an attorney. One evening, while walking their dog, Megan casually brought up an idea that ended up changing their lives. Within a week, they were hatching a plan to uproot their lives and spend a year traveling the world. Within two years, they hit the road. Hannah recently had the opportunity to talk with Adam about how they did it.
Everybody’s Invited!: What made you and your wife decide to drop everything and take a trip around the world?
Adam Seper: You know there are a lot of people who do something like this because they hate their jobs, or they’re not satisfied with their lives. That wasn’t true for us. My wife was an attorney, and while she didn’t love her job, she certainly didn’t hate it. And I did love my job. I was a high school English teacher. All our family and friends were here, so we were super happy in St. Louis. But there was something missing, and neither of us could put our finger on it. We had talked about moving so many times. We’d talked about moving to Colorado. We kicked around the idea of moving to South Korea to teach English. We had all these ideas, but they always kind of fizzled out.
EI!: So when did you first consider a round the world trip?
AS: My wife Megan came across a blog about an American couple who did this year-long round the world trip. She was telling me about it one night as we were walking the dog. She was like, “We should totally do that.” And I completely dismissed her. It’s not something I’d really heard of. I didn’t know anyone personally who had done it. This was back in 2007, when there wasn’t this huge glut of travel blogs yet.
The next day I started getting emails from her with links to blogs and message boards. And I thought, “Oh, was she serious?” I started reading into it a bit. It certainly piqued my interest. The key was we found this blog by a couple who seemed similar to us – they had regular jobs, they didn’t have trust funds, they were around our age. And they just decided to do it. So I really clicked with them, just by reading it. It was like, “If these people can do it, why can’t we?”
It was within a week of that initial conversation that we started going over our finances and came up with a number of what we thought we could be saving each month.
EI!: How did you find out how much money you needed?
AS: That was tough. I emailed the people who wrote the blog. And that became my reference point. And I found forums on sites like Bootsnall, Lonely Planet, and Thorn Tree. We saw a wide range of numbers, but the numbers we saw didn’t scare us. We didn’t have a mortgage payment yet.
EI!: Would you say the mental or logistical hurdles were harder to overcome?
AS: For Megan, I know she would say mental. For me, once we sat down and crunched the numbers and realized how much we could save per month just by cutting down on bars and going out to dinner, a lightbulb just clicked. We had always let those other ideas about moving to Colorado or South Korea fizzle out because we were a lot more nervous than excited about them. But this just felt right. It just made sense. After that first week, I was all in.
EI!: You said it took a couple years to save up?
AS: I think it was about 20 months.
EI!: Did your interest wane during that time?
AS: It was tough at times, but there’s so much to do to prepare and learn about. It did get difficult those last six months because it was so close, and yet so far. We had the major stuff figured out, and we were just in a holding pattern. All we were waiting for those last six months was just to save the last bit of money.
EI!: Where did you go on your trip?
AS: We spent about six months in South America, five weeks in New Zealand, three and a half months in Southeast Asia, and about six weeks in India.
EI!: Sounds dreamy. Was your route figured out in advance?
AS: Not really. What we did was pick a handful of must-see places. Ours were Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Patagonia, Angkor Wat, and the Taj Mahal. Since three of our must-sees were in South America, and since South America is cheap, it became one of the backbones of our trip. The Galapagos Islands were originally on our list, but we ended up exchanging that for New Zealand. New Zealand was a place we wanted to go, but we weren’t sure we’d be able to afford it. When we decided to nix the Galapagos, we did that in favor of New Zealand. We’d found a cheap flight. Those are the benefits of buying one-way tickets, instead of a Round-the-World ticket.
EI!: Any big mistakes?
AS: We thought India would be the hardest, so we saved it for last, thinking we’d be well-seasoned by then. But actually what happened was we were tired. By the ten and a half month point, I was tired and ready to come home. And India is not the place you want to be when you’re ready to come home! I would put it in the middle of our trip if I had to do it over again. India was the place I liked the least during our trip, but it’s the place I want to go back to the most. I want a do-over!
EI!: What were the highlights?
AS: Walking through the sun gate and seeing Machu Picchu for the first time. That was one of the highlights of my trip and, honestly, of my life. It’s burned into my memory. It was awesome. We did a little volunteering at an orphanage in Cambodia. That was amazing. And we rented a camper van in New Zealand for five weeks. That was really, really cool. It was almost like a vacation from our trip.
EI!: Since you’ve been back, you’ve taken a different career path. How else has your life changed?
AS: Seeing a lot of poverty for the better part of a year really gets to you. So waste really bothers me now. The thought of throwing away perfectly good food. When you see literally starving kids on the side of the road, it has an effect. It’s become second nature to me now. When I see waste now, it pisses me off.
EI!: Do you have larger travel goals, like to visit a certain number of countries?
AS: Well, we want to start a family soon. If money was no object, we’d live in St. Louis for three years, and then go travel a year with kids. I want our kids traveling internationally from the get go. I wouldn’t do another round the world trip where you’re constantly on the move, but maybe living in three or four places for a few months at a time. That’s in our minds and in our plans. That’s something that’s changed in me as well – the confidence to know that that’s something we’re going to do. I’m going to live my life how I want to live it. As long as we’re fortunate enough to have jobs and not live paycheck to paycheck, then we’re going to do everything in our power to be happy and not just do what we’re “supposed” to do.
Adam Seper is the Editor of travel website Bootsnall.com. Everybody’s Invited!highly recommends checking out the site, especially the Round the World trip planning section. It offers step-by-step decision-making help for anyone planning a round-the-world trip.