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My Big Plans – A Family Gap Year to South America

2017 will be a big year for our family.  We’re starting our Family Gap Year in South America.  In a few months, my wife and I will both

  • Quit our jobs;
  • Take our kids out of school;
  • Rent out our house; and
  • Head south on the biggest adventure since… well, since longer than I want to admit.

We’re going on a Family Gap Year to Bolivia, with stops in several other countries in South America.  I can’t wait!


My Corporate Escape Plan

I am about 30 days from announcing my Corporate Escape Plan to my boss.  This has been years in planning, saving, and hustling to have enough funds and enough “cojones” to do this.  After 15 years of corporate accounting in Silicon Valley, I’ve decided to have a very meticulously planned mid-life crisis.  After all, our bodies were not meant to sit in cubicles all day long.


What Is A Family Gap Year?

Our British friends across the pond like to take “Gap Years” when they are young and full of high spirits.  Usually,  a year of travelling Asia, Africa, or South America for a year before or after college.  It’s really a great idea, and it’s an incredible adventure.  Americans can learn something here.


A Family Gap Year is the same idea, except for the family.  It’s like a sabbatical, but no pretense of work.  Some families choose to travel the world, and others pick an exotic destination to go do something completely different for a year.  It’s an exploring, learning, and growing experience for the whole family.


Why Bolivia?

My wife is Bolivian. She grew up in a small town in southern Bolivia, and most of her family is still down there.   We’ve lived together now in the U.S. for about 15 years, raising two kids.  We go to Bolivia on vacation to visit every couple of years, with the kids.


Our House

The foundation for our Family Gap Year began about 5 years ago.  We bought a small farm in Bolivia for $10,000.  And we built a fantabulous 6-bedroom hacienda on it for about $20,000 (no kidding!).  Here’s a picture I took in 2015 of the 2nd story view after a rainstorm.

Our House In Southern Bolivia

View from our house in Southern Bolivia

Our house is located here:

It’s a beautiful small town in Southern Bolivia.  The climate is similar to Southern California.  It’s a lovely place, but it is very very isolated.  Internet is intermittent at best, and there is one TV channel.  The town is 3 hours from the closest small city, and about 20 hours from the capital La Paz.  It’s not a place you can just go for the weekend…. which is why we could afford to build an awesome house for $30,000.


What Will You Do?

We’re going to be busy.  Life is always busy.  There’s never a shortage of things to do for curious people.   There will be travelling, exploring, playing, and some home-schooling.  We have family and friends in town, and there will be plenty to do.  But, even if we didn’t know anyone, it would be very easy to make friends in a place like this.


We plan to spend most of our time at our house.  But we also plan to take lots of trips.  We have 6 or 7 long trips planned to destinations within Bolivia and to Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay.  Maybe we won’t have the time or budget for all of them, but we’ll try.


How Will The Kids Survive?

The kids will not just survive, they will thrive.   Here are just a few of the things our local elementary school in California prohibits:

  • splashing in puddles
  • swinging backwards on the swings
  • bottle flipping

Seems to me like they should just have one rule to replace them all:  Don’t Be A Kid!  Seriously, we have our whole lives to make up rules and follow them.  Why not let our kids have just a little bit more freedom?


In Bolivia, our kids will be free.  Most local kids down there really just roam the town, the farms, and the river as they wish during the day.  They have a blast being kids in an endless summer.  In a small town, someone always knows where your kids are, and what they are doing.  We feel that our kids are very safe there.


Home Schooling

We will home-school our kids during our Family Gap Year.  The schools in Bolivia are not very good, and besides, our kids’ Spanish is not so strong (yet.)  We will have heavy emphasis on Spanish lessons, and we’ll do all the basic math, science, reading, etc.  Truth be told, we’re not too concerned about the school part.   We’ll probably spend a lot less time on schooling than we will on exploring, travelling, and having fun.


During our Family Gap Year, the experiences our kids have will be immensely more rewarding than anything they could get from school back home.


How Will You Pay For It?

A whole year in South America won’t cost much more than a couple of fancy vacations to Europe or the Caribbean.  Folks happily drop more treasure on a kitchen remodel or a new car.  If you can afford these things, then you can afford a Family Gap Year.  


It’s just a matter of priorities.  We have been saving and hustling for this for several years, and we have more than enough saved up to pay for the trip.  We’re really not concerned about the money side.


Our total budget is $40,000, including air flights, and several luxurious trips to other countries in South America.  I think this is exaggerated – the actual cost should be much less.  But, let’s just call it a marital compromise that we came up the the $40k number.  Perhaps we’ll be under  budget, perhaps over… we’re not too concerned about it.


Aren’t You Worried About Your Career?

No.  Full Stop.


This is a mid-life crisis, remember?  It’s time to take my career onto a different path.  This is more than a sabbatical, but not quite retirement either.  Neither me nor my wife are totally sure what we’ll be doing when we get back.  I may return to corporate accounting…. and I may not.  What I do know is that I won’t miss the office politics, the long days sitting in a soft chair, or the stress.

Not.            even.            a.            little.            bit.


Whatever we do, we are both fully confident in our ability to make money, when we need to.  This is because we have been hustling side jobs for close to 10 years now.  Working a side hustle is the best way to build the confidence and skills that are necessary to take such a leap such as this.  Through our side hustles, we’ve tried a variety of things, and we’ve picked up a lot of skills.  We know what it takes to start from zero and create an income.


So that’s our plan.  It’s about to get rolling.  I hope you can follow along.


JoJo BoBo


10 Responses
  • Financial Shaper
    December 25, 2016

    What a great plan! Very inspiring.
    My wife and I envisage our FI/ER which will be in about six years. We are already looking around where we would love to live with our two kids.
    Looking forward to read about your Family Gap Year.

    • JoJoBoBo
      December 25, 2016

      Thanks for the comment! I’ll go check you out. Merry Christmas!

  • Froogal Stoodent
    January 18, 2017

    Very cool! Congrats to you and your family for having the wherewithal to make such a leap!

    I’m sure you won’t miss the stupid bureaucratic rules (no swinging backward on swings? Seriously?!) or office politics in the least–maybe you’ll end up staying in Bolivia!

    • JoJoBoBo
      January 18, 2017

      It took me a while to realize what “swinging backwards” even means…. you can swing up, but not down?? Turns out the swings are backed up against a fence. Rule is Don’t face the fence…. and don’t walk behind the swings.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Physician on FIRE
    January 18, 2017

    That sounds like an incredible year. Amazing that you already own a home there; strong work!

    Our family of four is making plans for a sabbatical, which might be a “gap year” or “gap years” or become more permanent. Time will tell, but one of our big ideas is to spend the better part of a year in a true Spanish immersion experience similar to what you will be doing.

    Enjoy your last few months here in the States, and keep us posted with posts.


    • JoJoBoBo
      January 18, 2017

      Hey thanks for the visit PoF! Language immersion is easily one of the richest experiences I’ve known. Probably harder as we get older though. – Jojo

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach
    January 22, 2017

    I think this is amazing and can’t wait to read more about it! I’d love to see more pics of the house! I think one of my big fears of doing something like this is returning to the “real world” and not being able to find work.

    • JoJoBoBo
      January 22, 2017

      Tonya, there are risks to anything you do, including if you continue to do the same thing. Technology is changing so quickly, that your job as you know it today may not even exist in just a few years. This means that most of us can’t realistically predict which financial or career challenges we will face even in the near future. And then there’s your health… there’s a guy in my neighborhood who just got diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at 42 with 2 kids…. My point is that the future is much less certain than you may believe. Take the opportunities you have to live life while you can.

      Thanks for the comment! -Jojo

    January 22, 2017

    Being a corporate accountant myself, though not quite as far along in my career this is incredibly inspiring! I am intrigued at your family gap year Pursuit and can’t wait to hear how it goes- Best of luck to you and your family on this adventure!

    • JoJoBoBo
      January 22, 2017

      Hey thanks Wes! Nice to meet you. -Jojo

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