“Quitting my job and traveling for a year was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”

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Welcome to the next interview in our interview series where renowned mile and point gurus share their insights on having Big Travel with Small Money!

Miles & Points Interview:  The Selfish Years

Kyle is an indie game developer and Christine is a lawyer.  After living in Orlando for 8 years, they decided to rent their house, throw out all of their worldly possessions, and wander the world.  I was looking forward to our Friday chat!

The Selfish Years – Interview with Kyle

Mr and Mrs Selfish in Great Wall, China

How and when did you start collecting miles and points?

Mr. Selfish: After a trip to Machu Picchu, I was hit with a serious bout of food poisoning.  I spent the following week on the couch, browsing the internet and trying to forget the horrors brought upon my insides by Peruvian street food.  Somehow during this sickness-induced haze of web surfing, I stumbled upon flyertalk and learned about the two-browser trick.

Two hours later, I applied for 2 American Airlines cards for Mrs. Selfish and I for 150,000 miles each, and we started planning a yearlong trip around the world! Since then we’ve accumulated over 2.7 million miles and points, over half of which we’ve redeemed on this trip.

Why did you start your blog?  What’s special about it?

Mr. Selfish: We started the Selfish Years as an easy way for friends and family to keep track of where we are and what we’re doing.  It’s less a travel hacking site, and more one giant trip report – with a lot of reporting on hotels and flights we’ve paid for with miles and points.

The number of miles and points we’ve earned in the last two years is nothing within the frequent flyer community, but I’d like to think we’ve burned those points well!

The Selfish Years – Interview with Kyle

Siem Reap, Cambodia

In the last 8 months, we’ve been to 66 cities and 20 countries.  We’ve stayed in luxury 5 star hotels, ghetto motels adjacent to strip clubs, and rustic huts swarming with rats and rusty nails.  We’ve flown on Lufthansa’s 747-8’s first class service, Ryanair’s sardine class, and everything in between.

Each day is an adventure and I have no idea what’s going to happen when we finally come home in 4 months.

What’s the one single thing people can do to get more miles?

Mr. Selfish: Read, read, read!  The wealth of knowledge in the travel hacking community is mind-boggling – there are some really clever people out there doing some really clever things.  A lot of the time we focus on earning miles, but burning them is ten times more important – and harder!

What’s your most memorable travel experience?

The Selfish Years – Interview with Kyle

Enjoying the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Mrs. Selfish: During our selfish year, Mr. Selfish and I have created memories to last a lifetime.  The travel experiences that I remember the most though are when we interacted with strangers that we never would have otherwise met. During Oktoberfest in Munich, we met two older German gentlemen, who shared their table with us.

Although we didn’t speak German and they hardly spoke English, we all understood the common language of enjoying good beers.  As Mr. Selfish and I were trying to figure out how to get dinner during our first night in Marrakech, Morocco, I heard American English and latched onto a family, who graciously invited us to dinner.  That night, as we followed them through the zig-zagging streets of the souks, I knew that we never would have found anything to eat in the dark if it hadn’t been for this nice family.

What do your family and friends think of your miles & points hobby?

Mr. Selfish:  My mom has been extremely supportive.  Since leaving the States, Mrs. Selfish and I have done two different app-o-ramas: 4 cards each last Fall, and 5 cards each in January.  Since we no longer have a US address, my mom ended up collecting all the credit cards and reading me the pertinent information – so we’ve been really, really lucky.

I’ve been trying to nudge my parents to take trips of their own, but other than meeting up with us in Barcelona last year, they’ve been reluctant international travelers.  Slowly they’re coming to see the benefits of points and miles, but for them the amount of paperwork is a little overwhelming.

Is there any tool or trick which you’ve found especially useful in this hobby?

The Selfish Years – Interview with Kyle

Mrs. Selfish in Ronda, Spain

Mr. Selfish:  Since we’re traveling for such an extended period of time, we run into problems we wouldn’t were we taking a 1-week vacation.  We now use Microsoft’s Sky Drive to back up all of our photos after our external hard drive died in Saigon.  For a lot of Asian countries, we use Google Translate to create documents of common questions to show to shopkeepers and cab drivers.

When ordering from restaurants without an English menu (usually the best ones!), Mrs. Selfish takes pictures of popular items to show to the waiter.

Mrs. Selfish:  Prior to taking this selfish trip, I would spend weeks at a time planning a week-long vacation.  I would meticulously read travel books, search for travel blogs, and plan a very detailed itinerary for each day of our trip.

Very early on in this trip, I started suffering from travel planning fatigue.  Unfortunately, traveling for a year requires a great deal of planning and organization.  In planning each segment of our trip, I typically do cursory research the night before arriving in the new city on Wiki Travel and Trip Advisor.

I then create a Google Map with the points of interest and plan our days according to the top sights.  We have a Google Map for each city we’ve visited on this trip.

Mr. Selfish and I also use TripIt quite a bit.  TripIt is a website to which you can forward all of your travel confirmation emails from airlines, hotels, etc.  All of the information is stored online on the TripIt website, as well as on its app, which you can use offline.

What was the least expected way you’ve earned miles and points?

Mr. Selfish:  Prior to our selfish year trip, I had to get two rounds of gum surgery, which was plain awful.  Fortunately, my orthodontist’s office accepted gift cards, so I managed to pay for it all with visa cards I’d bought from Office Depot.  It was horribly painful at the time, but I felt a lot better about it when I used the 10,000 UR points I earned to book two nights at the Hyatt Bali.

What do you now know about collecting miles and points which you wish you knew when you started out?

Mr. Selfish:  I wish I had known about stopovers, open-jaws, and free one-ways.  Before we started collecting miles and points, Mrs. Selfish and I used points for two round trip tickets from Orlando to Tokyo.  At the time, using the points for a free flight was amazing, but it would have been even better to use the same tickets for a free stopover in South East asia, or a free one-way to New York City.

The Selfish Years – Interview with Kyle

Chocolate Hills, Bohol, Philippines

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?

Mr. Selfish: People might be surprised to know I worked for a huge portion of the trip. The world is such a connected place that it was surprisingly easy.  During the Europe portion of our trip, I was able to continue my daily meetings with my partners over Skype.  Since we were already using Google docs, transitioning over to a nomadic lifestyle worked pretty well with our selfish trip.

My co-worker even flew out to Paris to meet us, where we finally finished the Wii U version of Little Inferno – he paid for the flight with miles, and made a free stopover in London, of course!

The Selfish Years – Interview with Kyle

Paris, France

Mrs. Selfish: People would be surprised to know that I actually miss Orlando quite a bit. There were times when Mr. Selfish and I were eating macarons at a Paris cafe or watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat and something would remind me of Orlando.  I would think of eating a cupcake at my favorite cupcake shop or watching a movie at my favorite indie movie theatre and miss Orlando horribly.

Any parting words?

The Selfish Years – Interview with Kyle

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Mrs. Selfish:  Quitting my job and traveling for a year was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.  People on their deathbeds never wish that they had worked more, and I will never regret taking this selfish year for me and Mr. Selfish to travel the world.

Kyle  – Thanks for sharing your thoughts on having Big Travel with Small Money!

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26 responses to ““Quitting my job and traveling for a year was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”

  1. Haha! I love these people! I agree with their “read, read, read” philosophy on collecting travel points/miles. I find good information in the comments section of most blogs. Great interview! I wish them much success.

  2. LOL, Awesome – love how you paid your orthodontist with gift cards – nice! 🙂

  3. Nice, I wish I could quit my job and travel for a year.

  4. Dariaus, I like this interview, because I like their website!! No credit card links being pimped just great pictures, fun stories and a taste of their travels. HOME RUN interview as we used to say when I played for the METS. I like these 2 crazy kids, I bet TravelBloggerBuzz would too!

  5. Great interview! And very inspiring! I will be checking out the blog.

  6. Check out MILENERD post today fee free Chase debit gift card

  7. What are open-jaws, and how does one get free one-ways?

  8. Awesome article. Loved reading this interview as we’re world travelers ourselves. We definitely look forward to reading more from Kyle and Christine!

  9. @James: Open-jaw flights are flights in which you fly from A to B, then return from C to A. http://bit.ly/15nZArB
    On free one-ways, see http://milevalue.com/free-oneways-on-united-awards/

  10. Is this the web site for Food Network recipes and a list of restaurant’s Guy Fierri visited on Diner’s, Drivins and Dives?

  11. @travelingforless and @Pausethemoment, pretty obvious you comment here hoping to get someone to check out your site.

  12. Why not pay the orthodontist with a credit card?

  13. I see that Mr. Selfish continued to work, what did Mrs. Selfish do during that period? Has Mrs. Selfish been able to find employment post trip?

  14. @viva Zapata – What are you talking about? We’re big fans of Million Mile Secrets and have been for some time now. We’re not looking for any links. Nice try though! 😉

  15. Everything but standing next to that cliff. Yikes, that is scary!

  16. @viva Zapata – I used my Ink Bold card to buy Visa gift cards from Home Depot, at the time, so I earned 5x points instead of 1x points per dollar at the orthodontist’s office.

    @WB – we’re actually still on the trip! Mrs. Selfish spends a lot of her time blogging and organizing while I work. Afterwards we’ll have to figure out how to reintegrate her into regular society.

  17. What an inspirational story. I have bookmarked your site and will be reading all of your previous posts to follow you on your epic year of travel. I would love to do this too.

  18. with all the freedom in the world.. they only travel to Europe and Asia? 🙁

  19. Darius,
    I will never understand why people constantly complain about credit card links. Are they stupid? They don’t have to use your links. I have gladly used your links a couple of times. I appreciate your columns. they have helped me to several thousand miles and points. You should be rewarded with commissions. I have no problem supporting your links. I wish the people who complain would realize how STUPID that they are!

  20. SO true SteveL. Darius provides incredibly helpful information to his followers. It’s not like he’s hiding these links in random anchor tags. I love everything about this site and the day that I decide I need to add a new credit card to my name, I’ll click through one of Darius’s links.

  21. @nihilist
    And North Africa and Oceania! Every continent, but South America – too many places, too little time.

  22. Just a grammar note… “a lot” is two words, not one. Nice Interview.

  23. This is probably my favorite interview of the series.

    Mr. Selfish – How much cash did you save up to help pay for the trip? There’s no way miles could pay for 12 months of free hotels and tons of free flights.

  24. @Ken – I actually worked as we traveled, so I’m not entirely sure how much we allocated, but you’re right, it does get expensive. I attempted to calculate how much points & miles paid for in this post: http://theselfishyears.com/2013/04/19/the-costs-of-8-months-of-selfish-traveling/

  25. Amazing! This is exactly what I want to do when I get married. Hope whoever I marry wont be aghast at my love of the miles & points game