A testimony from Keren Threlfall
A few years ago, we were a signature away from serving as overseas missionaries, and I’d always assumed we would raise our children abroad. To make a long story short, that opportunity didn’t end up panning out.
Although our future plans aren’t totally clear, what has remained is our desire to learn from and live among other cultures. As a growing family of five, we realized that there would be no perfect time, unless we created the opportunity, saved our money, and boarded an airplane.
How We Did It
After paying off my college debt, we set up a specific travel fund and started saving. Earlier this year, we found tickets to Ecuador at an unbelievable price — $399 round-trip for adults and $299 for children! With enough in our travel fund for tickets, we decided to take our overseas trip now — one we had previously thought would take several more years of saving.
Living in Ecuador
The cost of living in Ecuador is low compared to the U.S. We first purchased groceries in local markets, and ate at home. Soon, we realized that for the same price and far more cultural enrichment, we could eat one meal at a restaurant every day.
One place offered an elegant, organic, 4-course meal for just $3 a person! To get there, we walked 1.2 miles into town (and sometimes paid the $1 taxi ride home).
To fund our living costs while there, I found an at-home job on Craigslist, and finished it in about three weeks. It was nice to have these expenses covered before leaving the country!
Sparing a few days off for travel, my husband also worked full-time (and overtime!) while in Ecuador, which kept our cash inflow the same. The most expensive parts of the trip were actually Stateside — the rental car and hotel stays on either end of the trip.
Traveling internationally is often considered a luxury — most people believe it is something that only the wealthy can do (unless you’re missionaries or military). And trying to do so with three young children probably means you’re crazy!
We’re extremely grateful for our income, but it’s not above average. In fact, at our income level, we technically still qualify for some of our state’s government assistance!
Like Laura Vanderkam emphasized in her book, All the Money in the World, people often spend excess money in socially acceptable areas without thinking twice. However, when we choose to put money toward something that is not mainstream, we either feel guilty about it or judge others’ choices.
We do a few things that save us money in more mainstream areas, but choose to spend it in less popular categories, like international travel! For example, we have no cable TV subscription, rarely eat out, use a cash envelope for groceries, and use only cloth diapers, to name a few. What would I rather do — spend $100 for my family to eat out a few times a month, or save $100 to pay for half of an international flight?
Regardless of the future, which we still hope includes living internationally, we now have a lifetime of memories from our Ecuador trip. And one of the best parts about memories? Making them!
Keren Threlfall is a mother of three and wife to Daniel. Although she holds a degree in Biology, Keren considers herself a lifelong renaissance soul. In her spare time, she enjoys exercising, reading, writing, and finding great deals.
Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.