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Wednesday, May 30 12:00 AM ET

The Ten Year Trip: Beta

By Brian Briggs

HawaiiAloha! That should give away the destination of our trip. We didn't plan this trip, it just sprang up in a flurry of serendipity. Thanks to my friend, who travels so much for work and pleasure he was able to work us some deals, we'll be spending some time on Maui and the Big Island. It's a great opportunity to spend time with friend and family that we couldn't pass it up.

Not only is the trip just an early summer vacation, but it's also the first trip in a new project I hatched last summer (and have hinted at a few times) called 10 Year Trip. The BBook deal put many of the plans for 10 Year Trip on hold. It's a long-term project, but I hoped to have the web site for it up and running by now. This is the first "official" announcement of the project.

Here's the story of how the idea was born which I wrote last July just in case we were crazy enough to go through with it:

Like most ideas it seemed to spring to life out of nowhere. A family adventure to remember forever. This one didn't crystallize from nothing though, the seeds of the idea happened for days before.

My wife called her grandfather, like she does every Saturday morning. She's a good kid that way. Somehow the conversation turned to money and travel, and her grandfather told her that she should do all her traveling now while she's young. Don't save so much for retirement. Work a few extra years if you have to. He said, "When you get my age you won't want to travel." Of course, this is the guy that is 83 years old and flies from Iran to the US regularly. He also said all of this in Farsi, so it's a rough translation. She told me this in passing one day. Seed number one.

A couple days later we were talking about my wife's paycheck. She was due to get a raise in September. I said, "With that raise we probably don't have to put the extra money into the 401k that we do now." We've built up a good start for retirement savings, and we're a long way from retirement. Maybe it's time we used that extra money to spend. Seed number two.

KidsWe have two children seven and ten (8 and 11 now). We've always wanted to show them the world. At my daughter's tenth birthday, I realized we won't have many family vacations together. In seven years she'd be off to college, and while we probably would still vacation together for a few years, it wouldn't be the same. I thought we should make the most of the vacations we had left. We'd had some good ones, but often family duties and our frugality left us wanting. Seed number three.

Now maybe it's time to learn a little bit about my wife and me. When I walk down the street, I'm always amazed at the couples who almost look like brother and sister. My wife and I couldn't be more different - in appearance and in background. I'm the portrait of middle-American stability. A blond-haired, blue-eyed farm boy. I grew up five miles outside a town of 4,000 people. My parents are still together and living in the same house I grew up in. We moved to it when I was three and never moved again. I had all four grandparents for my entire childhood. I even had a set of great-grandparents. My great-grandfather didn't die until I was a teen. The dog we got when I was five, lived until I was in college. Except for my penchant for hurting myself, it was as uneventful and stable as you could get.

Hedieh and BrianMy wife on the other hand is a different story. Her childhood was the portrait of Middle East instability. She grew up in Tehran, a city with millions of people. When she was two, she was in a car accident, she still has the nasty scar in her scalp from it. Much worse, however, the accident claimed the lives of her mother, father and grandmother. Thankfully, her other set of grandparents still lived and agreed to raise her. When she was four she needed open-heart surgery to correct a congenital defect. When she was ten she witnessed the bloody Iranian revolution, then the Iran-Iraq war. While I was counting fireflies before going to sleep, she was counting bomb blasts.

In 1984 she made her way to America to live with an Aunt. Iran wasn't the most popular country at the time, so it was probably good she didn't know much English her first year in school. A death of her Aunt forced her to move to another aunt in Michigan. Despite these challenges, she graduated at the top of her class and ended up at the University of Michigan where we met.

You wouldn't think a farm boy from Milan, Michigan and a city girl from Tehran, Iran would be a match, but we are. We fell in love our freshman year and got married five years later. While it seems like we wouldn't have anything in common, we're quite compatible. We share a love of food, travel and like-mindedness about money.

We're unlike most Americans. We're savers. We pay off our credit cards every month. We paid off our student loans early. We paid off all our debts early. Except for the mortgage, but when it's the only debt you have, it doesn't seem burdensome. We live below our means. No big screen TVs. Basic-basic-basic cable. No expensive hobbies. Vacations are usually spent with friends and family so we save money on hotels. Luckily, we have friends and family in some good vacation spots (OK, until recently I didn't have any friends or family in good spots, what do you expect from a farm boy!). We're not cheap. We're frugal. We like to have the money so we can be generous with our friends and family when the time comes.

CrazyWhere does this all lead? One lonely Sunday morning, the kind of morning when crazy ideas bloom, I had one. What if we take this savings that we have no idea what we're going to do with and use it as a seed for vacations? Some quick calculations in the spreadsheet showed we'd run out quickly. What if we added in that extra 401k money, that would give us some more opportunities? What if, however, we stepped out of our comfort zone? What if we didn't save so much money? What if we decided to work a few more years instead of retire? What if we decided to make a lifetime of experiences with our children in the next ten years? Would we curse ourselves when were 65 for having to work until we're 70, because we took our kids to see the Amazon River basin? Probably not.

The possibilities excited me. Being a publisher and editor of a humor website, I knew that this would be the perfect experiment to write about on a site. I knew it would be a good opportunity to write about something other than Microsoft or PHP. I knew it would be good motivation to stay healthy and to keep working hard. I knew that my wife would think I was crazy and shoot down the idea when she got home. I enjoyed the idea while I could, and started looking for vacation spots before my idea would crumble in the face of frugal logic.

By that evening the excitement had worn off a little bit. I knew it was a crazy idea. If we decided on this plan, it would be a life-changing experience. Would we as a family be ready for it?

My wife arrived home, and I thought it would be a good idea to loosen her up with a Cosmo, nothing like a little alcohol to make a crazy idea more palatable. She was instantly suspicious. She didn't need it. I spilled the idea, in what I knew would be the last shining moment for this nutball scheme. I was wrong. She thought it was a great idea.

In the words of David Byrne, "My God, what have I done?"

That's how the 10 Year Trip idea was born. I've worked on it part-time until the BBook deal arrived. Writing the BBook took priority, and the first trip we planned for Summer 2007 was put on hold until it would be done. Then this Hawaiian opportunity popped up, and the spirit of the 10 Year Trip said that we mustn't delay. Our kids will still be getting older, BBook or no BBook. It's not exactly the trip we planned to do first, so it'll be the Beta version of 10 Year Trip.

There's more to the whole idea than just taking vacations over a 10 year period, but this post is already too long. You will have to wait to hear more about this project. I'll be posting more on the idea in the days and weeks to come, and these posts will at least give me some content for the 10 Year Trip site.

For now, keep an eye on this space for my posts from Hawaii. Aloha!

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