Mike and Angela Ballard wanted to do something special for their 10th wedding anniversary and Mike’s 50th birthday.
As avid travelers, the plan quickly snowballed into one of those “trips of a lifetime,” a whirlwind 11-month travel adventure to 7 continents and 150 countries/territories. But the trip is also a sort of sampler platter of the world for the couple. They plan to relocate to another country after their youngest son graduates from high school in a few years.
“At first, it was just going to be a few weeks,” Angela Ballard said. “The trip just grew and grew — every time he would look on the map and plan the next stop he would see all these phenomenal things and plan to visit.”
More than 5 years of savings and over a year of planning has gone into the trip. They officially embarked on the journey last week and plan to chronicle their adventures on a blog called We Married Adventure.
Starting this summer, Angela and I will embark on a yearlong journey to all seven continents. Not only will we be searching in earnest for a place to call our next home, but we will also be photographing and writing about the adventure as part of a quest to promote peace through experience and understanding.
It is a trip for which I have been preparing my whole life, and one which could only be realized through my marriage to Angela. For I found in her a wanderlust that only amplifies my own and an optimism that has reinforced the same in me.
We hold firm to the belief that people throughout the world are generally kind, gracious, and welcoming. Indeed, it has already been our experience that this is true.
We can’t wait to meet the world. We hope you’ll come along with us.
At the time of the article, the couple had landed in London on their way to Wales.
“The first adventure will be a little driving loop through Europe,” Mike said. “I’ll be driving in over 60 countries. A lot of places we’re flying into and then immediately getting in a rental car.”
Wales is an important first stop for the Ballards. After a visit this week, both can say they’ve been to the entire U.K. From there, the couple will visit Lisbon, Portugal and, eventually, onto The Azores (an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic) for a weeklong diving/relaxation retreat.
Although Angela says she’s along for the ride — allowing Mike to do all the planning — she made sure to request a few stops along the journey.
“I’m a master gardener and anytime there’s an important botanical garden he works that in for me,” she said. “There are a few countries he knew I wanted to go back to such as Morocco and Australia. But everything else is up to him. As a matter of fact, I have to look at a list when people ask us where we’re going to.”
Mike has been a traveler his entire life. His dad was an engineer and worked for several international companies and the family spent time living in multiple cities. That love for travel is something he and Angela want to pass down to their children.
In a blog post called Giving Our Children the World, Mike wrote about the challenges of making the trip work.
“We are not wealthy,” he said. “We still have our day jobs that pay the bills, and we work hard to save for retirement. As the quote goes: ‘You can afford anything, just not everything’ … and we have chosen to afford travel, at the expense of every other nonessential thing.”
A full itinerary and map of the journey can be viewed here.
Mike said he wanted to pack as much travel as he could into the journey without causing fatigue. He said he’s planned an itinerary that includes three weeks of travel and one week of rest each month.
“Every month, there will be a place where we’re there for longer than a week,” he said. “It’s a chance to take a breather, sleep in, catch our breath, write and recuperate. I’m facilitating that by cruises.”
Mike said even if this isn’t a “cruise trip,” he plans to utilize them as a way to continue traveling but still come back to the same bed at night.
“I’ve got some cruises built-in,” he said. “We can wake up in a different country every day, at a new port.”
In addition to the regular blog posts, the couple will soon have a section called “Postcards to Wanda” on the site.
“Wanda is one of my favorite bank tellers at SunTrust near Highland Park,” Mike said. “I was telling her about the trip and she told me she collected postcards from around the world. So, I told her I would send her postcards from the journey. In a way, she gets to travel with us.”
He plans to take photos of the postcards and write about them on the blog. The actual postcards will be sent to Wanda for her collection.