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THE WORLD, THEIR HOME: South Range couple sells everything to embark on two-year adventure

Travel photos by Lina Stock include a shot of her and husband David Stock at the Mount Everest Base Camp in Tibet.1 / 11
David and Lina Stock pose for a self-portrait in Ring of Kerry, Ireland. (Photo by Lina Stock)2 / 11
Hot air balloons in Bagan, Myanmar. (Photo by Lina Stock)3 / 11
Rhinoceros in Zimbabwe (Photo by Lina Stock)4 / 11
Long tail boat in Thailand (Photo by Lina Stock)5 / 11
Cliffs of Moher in Ireland (Photo by Lina Stock)6 / 11
Petra archaeological site in Jordan (Photo by Lina Stock)7 / 11
Dave and Lina Stock acquired these items during their travels across Africa. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com 8 / 11
The Stocks’ well-worn passports include Lina’s Indonesian visa and visitor’s stamps for travel across Malaysia. Photos by Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com9 / 11
The Stocks’ well-worn passports include Dave’s tourist visa for East African countries and entry and exit stamps for Rwanda and Tanzania. Photos by Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com10 / 11
Lina and Dave Stock, formerly of South Range, have spent years traveling the world and are now turning those adventures into a career. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)11 / 11

Five years ago, I would never have envisioned where we are today. We were career-focused and sprinting towards 30. When I turned 29, I sort of freaked out. I looked at my life and realized there was a lot that I still wanted to do, yet there 30 loomed. (It was) giving me a curt reminder that I wasn’t getting any younger and that my list of things to accomplish by the time I turned 30 wasn’t getting any shorter.

*  *  *

What Lina Stock proposed to her husband David was radical by anyone’s standards. She wanted to drop everything, carry their scant possessions on their backs and travel across the world for two years.

“I thought it was nuts,” David said late last month as the couple took respite at their parents’ homes in northwest Wisconsin. It was a break from that dream-turned-reality two years ago — a whirlwind tour of Australia, Asia, Europe and Africa. “Why would anyone do this?”

“It was a three-year negotiation,” Lina said. “I won.”

And David was sold. Today, he’s just as enthusiastic as Lina about their major life decision. It has led to successful connections with travel companies and tourism bureaus across the world. They aren’t done traveling, not by a long shot, because it is now turning into a paid profession as well as an adventure.

“Jobless. Homeless. You can tack on car-less too,” Lina wrote on her blog, divergenttravelers.com, as they readied to take off in early 2014. “Usually when people say those words, it is a negative because they have lost a job unexpectedly or have lost and cannot afford to own a home. For us, it’s different. It’s a positive. We are taking a round-the-world career break. Make that a round-the-world life break.”

The South Range couple sold most of their possessions, including a house they had built themselves on a farm that housed Lina’s horses, a lifelong passion that led to the two meeting at the county fair in Superior as teenagers.

“We didn’t want any ties,” Lina said, nothing to superficially pull them off the road.

The house proved difficult to sell, but a buyer came around the day before Christmas in 2013. It was the last major hurdle, Lina said, and a sign that this trip “was meant to be.”

They saved money. The more they saved, the longer they could travel, Lina surmised. They shared rides to work in Superior.

“Any little bit helped,” David said. “Pennies added up to dollars, and dollars led to memories.”

She worked at a bank. He was a sales director for a sporting goods company. Co-workers were puzzled. They had good jobs and got a lot of “flack” for giving them up, David said. “It wasn’t what we wanted.”

Friends and family were just as perplexed. Many have come around since following their adventures. “Some people relate, and some can’t,” David said. They see people’s eyes “glaze over,” he said, when hearing about their adventures. Others are into it, sharing hours-long dinners and hanging on every story, Lina said.

Budget travel

They were banking on getting all of their costs — travel, lodging, food, activities — down to $100 a day. By the end of their planned two-year trip, they had mostly met that goal, Lina said. That’s less than $75,000 through 60 countries.

Those opening words above are from Lina, written for the couple’s blog, an astounding collection of photos, videos and tales of their adventures. China. Indonesia. Sri Lanka. Tibet. Australia. New Zealand. Jordan. Egypt. Tanzania. Ireland. Spain.

“YOLO, that was my concept,” Lina said, referring to the phrase “you only live once.”

They both liked to travel. Soon, it became a passion. They felt they were working merely to earn vacation time, they said. And that time wasn’t enough to sate their exploration.

“We started getting more and more adventurous,” Lina said. “We’re addicted to travel.”

They were taking five major trips a year and realized that “this is getting crazy,” she said.

Now, the travel and the documentation online is their job. And it can mean some long weeks of processing all that information onto the blog or providing content for other tourism sites.

“It morphed,” David said of the business side that will keep them on the road indefinitely.

They’ve had relatively few bumps in their travels. They try to stay away from popular places where tourists are the target. It can feel like you’re wearing a dollar sign on your head, Lina said.

There have been rat-infested overnight stays. Language barriers. A few situations with AK-47s at checkpoints or sketchy tour guides who might have been drug runners. Ethiopians tried to burn them alive in their truck as part of a holiday celebration.

They shrug it all off as interesting experiences. “The world isn’t that scary,” David said. “We try to be smart travelers.” That means little carousing in bars or with drugs. That’s where many people get into trouble, they said.

“We’re traveling the world to see the world,” Lina said.

Digging in

They learn a little of the local language, enough to break the ice. Lina said David is good at reading body language to judge if a situation is OK.

“I was naive,” David admits of his worldview before the adventure and now after. “You look at things differently.”

“You appreciate America more,” Lina said. “We are lucky, privileged people.”

They’ve seen much of what typical tourists only see glimpses of in short-time travels. They’ve appreciated seeing how people really live, how economies work and politics play in each country.

“Don’t be scared to travel,” Lina advised. “Most people are just like you and me. It’s all real world things. They’re just people.”

Their focus has been on adventures in each country they visit. That could be rafting, ice climbing, diving, sand surfing, animal tracking. They visited the base camp on Mount Everest. But they also provide advice on their blog on how to find people and places off the beaten path.

The site provides a wealth of information on sights you can’t miss, plus the practical side of traveling.

“We don’t regret it,” Lina said of taking the plunge. “Even if the business fails, we still will have lived enough in the past few years. We lived.”

“We want to say we lived,” David echoed.

That living began with this blog entry from Lina:

“On Friday, February 21, 2014, despite the largest snowstorm of the season, we boarded a flight in Duluth … and flew to Auckland, New Zealand. We are now nomads and ready to see the world. Call me crazy, but we’re pretty damn excited.”

*  *  *  *  *

SIDEBAR: Ups, downs

Life isn’t just a beach for Lina and David Stock, although they’ve stayed in some lovely seaside places. There have been ups and downs along the way in their past two years of nonstop travel.

Pacing

Their first stop from Duluth was New Zealand, where they spent five weeks. A friend met up with them in Malaysia. When she left, the couple felt an energy drop. They were three months into their adventure.

“We got burned out. Here we thought we were immune,” Lina said.

They craved vegging out with popcorn in front of a television with English language shows. They were not enamored by the sights and sounds of Kuala Lumpur, a city they had visited before and were giving a chance to redeem itself. It didn’t. They went north and rented a room on a beach in Penang. They recharged.

David said you can only do so much “go, go, go” before you have to settle down and “do what normal people do.” The lesson in pacing kept them out of any more travel slumps.

So cold

Tibet was a splurge, a trip the couple couldn’t pass up despite having to go through a travel agency, which nearly tripled their $100 a day budget. But it was worth it, Lina explained in her post about the visit:

“Tibet blew our minds. It was jaw-dropping beautiful and sacred. We have the ultimate respect for its land and people.”

Part of the eight-day trip included climbing to the base camp at Mount Everest. “Super crazy,” Lina said. And super cold. Her camera battery would seize up as soon as she got it out for a picture. They warmed themselves around a stove burning “yak poop” and had piles of blankets.

The water

David’s favorite memories revolve around water. The Maldives, the pocket of islands south of India, had remote islands where they were the only inhabitants.

They kayaked in seas around the Philippines, sometimes in the path of pirates. Yes, pirates, they said in unison.

Roughing it

Coming from rural Wisconsin, the couple had many of the activity skills necessary to take on adventures others might find too challenging. One was their overland trip through 14 countries in Africa that was essentially a four-month camping trip.

They cooked their own food over a wood fire. They worked with villagers in butchering a goat. David banked on his deer hunting skills.

“Ninety percent of the people (on the tour with them) wondered how we knew how to do that,” David said.

Just like home

What often amazed the couple in the 60-plus countries they visited were the small moments. One came while sitting at a cafe and taking in the street scene in Amman, Jordan.

“This could be downtown Duluth,” David said of his thoughts at the time.

They’ve made friends with other nomads. In a few instances, those friends have followed their blog and met them on another adventure half a world away.

Making a plan

Before Lina and David Stock left the Northland for their planned two-year trek across the world, they made lists — lots of them. The following is part of what Lina posted on the couple’s blog, divergenttravelers.com, that might come in handy for anyone thinking of taking the leap they did, or even a mini-leap into travel, including a look at how they broke down their expenses.

Lina writes: “This list is our main to-do list. It includes all the major things we need to get done before we leave.”

PLANNING

  • Finalize general route
  • Put information together for extras (safaris, Antarctica cruise, homestays, Spanish classes, volunteer work, treks, etc.)
  • Map out first few weeks itinerary
  • Make lodging arrangements for first few weeks itinerary
  • Explore travel insurance options and select/purchase policy
  • Add pages to both passports
  • Get passport photos taken for VISAs (have several printed)
  • Scan all documents into digital format and save to both emails
  • Gather all credit card contact numbers, embassy numbers, etc.
  • Get new international drivers licenses
  • Get family and friends set up with Skype
  • Order travel wedding band (I’m leaving the diamonds at home)
  • Figure out where to forward the mail while gone
  • Finalize packing lists
  • Put together med kit

SEPARATING FROM THE STUFF

  • Sell our house
  • Sell unused stuff on eBay/Craigslist
  • Have a rummage sale
  • Donate stuff not worth selling
  • Make arrangements for storage of the small amount we plan to keep
  • Sell Lina’s car
  • Sell truck
  • Sell Corvette
  • Sell all farm equipment (horse trailer, Bobcat, bulldozer, four-wheeler, mower, utility trailers)
  • Sell laptop

MEDICAL

  • Go over vaccines needed (it’s not many)
  • Make a visit to our travel doc for meds
  • Dentist appointments
  • Discuss birth control options with OB/GYN
  • Eye exams (contacts)

MONEY

  • Sign up for Charles Schwab account (no ATM fees worldwide)
  • Set up layered bank accounts
  • Cancel unnecessary credit cards
  • Spend on mileage cards to keep miles from expiring

TO BUY

  • MacBook Pro
  • Packing cubes
  • External hard drive (2TB Mac compatible)
  • Wire padlocks (TSA)
  • New telephoto lens
  • Video camera

EVERYTHING ELSE

  • Cancel cellphones (just before we leave)
  • Get website up and running
  • Photo website up and linked into our blog
  • Open YouTube account for uploading and linking to website
  • Write letter of resignation Lina
  • Write letter of resignation David

MAKING IT WORK

Our budget comes down to our travel style and needs while we are on the road. This is an overview of how we plan to travel:

Air

  • Use miles for free or deeply discounted tickets
  • Use budget airlines

Accommodations

  • Hostels/B&Bs, private rooms when possible
  • We are looking into house sitting to stretch the budget

Food

  • Eating local
  • Street food
  • Cooking our own meals when we can

Experiences

I am not about to embark on a trip like this and miss out on things. This will take up the biggest chunk of our budget and in my opinion, it is money well spent.

Transportation

  • Local transport
  • Using trains and buses overland when we can in exchange for more expensive flights, when possible

Miscellaneous

  • Various expenses for supplies
  • Splurges
  • Visas
  • Things you can’t plan for

Insurance

This is an expense, but it won’t affect our budget. We will be paying for it before we leave.