If you are familiar with our blog, you will know that we left San Diego, CA, for a family gap year. Our crazy family gap year did not go as planned, not even the smallest things went according to plan.
As travelers, we’ve learned to accept the travel fails. It’s what makes the most interesting stories.
We planned an epic around-the-world family travel itinerary that would take us to Costa Rica, Mexico City, Cancun, Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Seattle, Shanghai, Nanning, Singapore, Malaysia, and so much more.
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You can see based on our itinerary that we had a lot planned, which took nearly six months to organize and three years to save to fund.
As you all know, there was a global pandemic, which was not a thought when we departed for our adventure.
Here is what happened after we set out for our crazy family gap year amid a pandemic.
TIME FOR A ROAD TRIP
To kick off our gap year, we decided to take a road trip from San Diego to Colorado Springs with our 14-month-old son.
Our road trip through Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado was a lot of fun. Our little guy did a great job. Surprisingly, the trip went better than expected.
We had several stops throughout the 16-hour journey to a children’s museum, a few art museums, a Native American reservation, and a Gorge. The trip took 4 days, but we weren’t in a rush to get to Colorado Springs.
Our little guy didn’t start crying until the last hour of our trip, which was the hardest part. It was snowing, and it had been years since I had driven in the snow, so I was a little nervous.
The last 45 minutes were rough for everyone. Our baby was crying, it was dark, snowing, and we didn’t have windshield washer fluid, so it was hard for me to see.
STRANDED IN COLORADO SPRINGS AT THE START OF THE PANDEMIC
At the beginning of March, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Las Vegas with our baby (15 months at the time) for my wife’s 30th birthday.
We had no idea that this would be the beginning of a global pandemic that would change the lives of everyone in the world.
When we returned to Colorado Springs from Las Vegas, we learned about the virus taking over the world.
We were scared because we were in a home with a baby, and my sister (who we were staying with) was pregnant at the time.
By this time, it was mid-March, and we had plans to go to Sesame Place in Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Denver before leaving for a flight to Costa Rica in early May.
Much like everyone else in the country, we watched the news and stats anxiously to see when this would come to an end.
Although we were worried about our travel plans, our ultimate concern was my sister’s and unborn nephew’s safety.
When it became clear that we wouldn’t be traveling anywhere anytime soon, we decided to cancel our itinerary through the end of the summer, which was supposed to lead us to Shanghai.
Our Crazy Family Gap Year Stopped Before it Started – Getting Refunds
After we decided to cancel our itinerary through September, our next step was to get our money back for flights, Airbnb, and hotels we paid for in anticipation of our family gap year.
Luckily, I have an amazing wife that has a gift for getting refunds from customer service, so we got most of our money back except for a few hundred dollars from budget airlines in Mexico.
There was one instance where we did have our banking institution involved. The airline refused to refund us for a flight that they canceled.
Chase promptly returned the money to our account after I submitted the proper documentation.
Now, here we are stuck in Colorado Springs, for God knows how long, our travel plans have gone bust, we’ve sold everything, and now we have to figure out our next move.
GOING BACK TO OUR HOMETOWN TO FIGURE IT OUT
Here we are in May of 2020, we’re supposed to be in Costa Rica, but we’re stuck in Colorado Springs.
By this time, we were all getting cabin fever. The only sanity we had was going for our daily walks with our little guy when the weather permitted.
After nearly five months in Colorado Springs, which was only supposed to be three months at the most, we decided to go back to our hometown in Ohio to be with family.
We didn’t want to fly, but it was our best option at the time, considering the drive would have been over 24 hours. Honestly, no one had the energy to take a road trip, plus we just wanted to get somewhere to decide our next step.
Spending Time with Family
We arrived back in Ohio in May of 2020. We didn’t realize it, but we needed to be with family to regroup.
After living in California for nearly 10 years alone, it was nice to be close to family and have someone to babysit while we got groceries or spent time walking around Target.
This was where I had time to focus on work (my full-time job) and build the blog into someone more than a hobby.
We eventually came up with the idea to take a road trip throughout the Southeast starting in Ohio with stops in Columbus, Cincinnati, Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, Chatanooga, Atlanta, Raleigh, Williamsburg, Baltimore, and back to our hometown of Warren.
EPIC ROAD TRIP AND UNFORTUNATE EVENTS
We departed for our road trip in mid-July with plans to tackle six states and nearly 1,000 miles roundtrip.
With the pandemic in mind, we planned to social distance, wear our masks, spend time outdoors, visit family (safely), and stay in Airbnbs.
Our goal was to explore as safely as possible and spend a lot of time at parks letting our son run around.
As we set off for our road trip, my boss told me that I would be laid off at the end of the month. It was a blow to know we were heading off on an adventure, but when I returned, I’d be unemployed.
I was working for a hospital that had laid off over 100 employees, so I figured there was a chance I would be on the chopping block soon.
Although I knew it was a possibility, the confirmation was hard to swallow. The last time I was unemployed was nearly 15 years ago, which as a teenager doesn’t count.
My first concern was for my family’s health. We weren’t going to have medical insurance during a global health pandemic.
Thinking of a Plan
I spent nights tossing and turning trying to decide what to do about my impending unemployment.
My first action was to immediately start applying for remote positions within my field.
Fortunately, I work in the type of position that can be remote. There is no need for me to be in an office because the work is independent within a system.
As time went on and we completed our road trip, it was August 1, 2020, and I was without a job. Although I have worked in Human Resources for nearly a decade, I’ve never had dealings with unemployment outside of being an employer.
My unemployment claim was a mess, and it was impossible to get anyone on the phone. We left California in January of 2020 and started paying Colorado state tax for over six months, so the states had to coordinate my payments.
It was a mess that took nearly 4.5 months to get figured out, which finally got resolved in December 2020. You can see how that wasn’t helpful when I became unemployed in August, but we were fortunate enough to have savings, so I wasn’t too stressed.
My main priority was health insurance, which came costs over $1,000 a month, but with the caveat that we could only use it in California.
Books that Helped After being Laid-Off
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You can see how that wasn’t helpful considering we were in Ohio, plus unemployment wouldn’t have been enough for us to live off of in California.
Some people may be thinking, what about the blog? At the time, our blog was less than a year old and was getting 1,000 page views per month.
We were making less than $100 a month from blogging, plus no one was traveling, so having a traveling blog at the time wasn’t profitable.
OUR BIG MOVE
After talking to my wife for several weeks, we decided to take a drastic step. Our family gap year had been an epic bust.
In less than six months, all of our travel plans were canceled, we were in quarantine in a place we weren’t familiar with, I lost my job, we didn’t have health insurance, and unemployment was a mess that was going to take months to get figured out, and I hadn’t found a new job. All of these factors lead up to the decision to move to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
We figured we’d be able to make our savings last longer in Mexico, especially with the cost of health care.
We purchased traveler’s insurance to cover any medical emergencies, packed our bags, and booked a one-way ticket to Cancun, Mexico.
People asked if we had ever been to Mexico before, and we had, but on the other side of Mexico to Cabo San Lucas.
When we decided to move to Playa Del Carmen, we didn’t know much about the city. All we knew was that it is closer to the Caribbean so the water would be warm.
We planned to hang out at the beach on sunny days, and we knew the cost of living would be cheaper than in the US. I guess you can say we leaped on faith.
Admittedly I didn’t do much research on the area before we moved here. All I knew was there was a significant Black expat presence, and we needed to get somewhere that we could afford to be sick.
Making a Life in Mexico
Now here we are, nearly a year since our move to Playa Del Carmen, and we’re still here.
We’ve come to think of Paya Del Carmen as home. Our son started going to preschool here, and they love him.
He’s been speaking more Spanish lately, which means I need to become fluent. My pride will be hurt if our 2-year-old can speak Spanish better than me.
We’ve even been accepted into the local community helping the kids in our neighborhood. We do not like to share our direct actions, but we do contribute to the community where we live.
When we moved here last August, we didn’t think we’d be here for a year, but this article goes to show you what happened to our plans.
OUR CRAZY FAMILY GAP YEAR BUST TURNS INTO A WIN
Although our family gap year went bust, it still turned out amazing.
We’ve learned so much through traveling with a baby, who is now a full-blown talking toddler. He was only 14 months old when we left California, so it’s mind-blowing to see him now, at almost 4 years old.
We’ve made some great friends from all over the world, which is something we’ll always cherish. The best part about all of this is that we did it together. We got through the roughest times of uncertainty as a family, and it made us stronger.
Everything doesn’t always have to go as planned. As long as you remember what’s truly important, everything will fall into place. We’re proof that anything is possible, even when things get a little off track.
Plus, our crazy family gap year resulted in some good news in terms of work and our blog. I’m now working full-time again, and our blog actually has traffic.
Thanks to our amazing readers, this blog has grown to 50,000 page views a month. What’s even more mind-blowing is that we now make a decent amount of money.
Thanks to you we are putting the money we make from our blog into a college account for our son.
The goal is to work hard enough so he can start his life debt-free. It’s something we wish we were able to do, so we’re trying to make it happen for our son.