A few people have asked us "How can you take such huge vacations each year?" Well, unlike the short answers that many people guess ("DINK"-status is guessed most) it actually has more to do with commitment. Let me explain.
There is a phase early in every vacation idea where we kick around a few concepts, read a few books or talk to people. We usually plan trips around a theme, like climbing or photos or exploring a place. (This past one was to visit a new place with our new friends.) The hardest and most committing part comes when picking dates and forking over money. Once those tickets are bought and cars, hotels, etc are reserved, you're as good as gone. We always have to save up, so there's a fund, but its a strange thing how fast any piggy bank fills up when you really want something.
On the longer side of discussions about saving, Portland is a great place to learn how to adopt methods to reuse, recycle or reduce your consumption. For example, using the library instead of a video store, repairing clothes or shopping at GoodWill for clothes instead of name-brand stores, using all the conservation methods for utilities (CF bulbs, low-water usage, composting, etc). Biking to work, or switching jobs until commuting costs go away. Renting out a room in your house. Buying used when possible. This year, we will further reduce our utilities by using rainwater around the house from a bank of barrels hidden under the back deck. On and on.
In most of these choices, one's time will be the cost instead of just "buying out" for a quicker result. So, instead of the "free time" that most people have (statistically spent in traffic and in front of the TV) we skip buying new and spend the time on fussing with DIY stuff. It's actually pretty fun.
Before this sounds too preachy, let me state that all these things are just items in the arsenal that we like to explore. By no means have we been able to use them all, or every time. Our cost-of-living still has tons of room for reduction, but everyone likes to choose the standards they want to enjoy. Some of the concepts are serious endeavors that make huge changes to one's lifestyle.
Second, it all sounds very "hippie" in words but in practice, we've been able to integrate a lot of conservation ideas without turning the house into a full-on mad-scientist lab of tape and bailing wire. That might be Portland's best feature: there are elegant solutions for all kinds of DIY projects constantly being designed and discussed.
In fact, see our newest blog over at GetWithGreen.com for the research and result we've found whenever we change something about the house or appliances. We believe there's a true "movement" taking place that is pushing efficiency to the near-top of the priorities for folks. (yes, we're blogging somewhere else as well, but we love you too - really)
So there's the crux of it: By reducing our daily standard/cost of living, we learn to live with less at home, but in turn get to enjoy more in a vacation. For 2007, we drank our fill (and then some) of adventure and exploration with ~10 weeks on the road.
But as with all endings, its great to be back home. I predict 2008 to be relatively quiet.