Orem couple save $40,000, quit jobs to travel world for a year

Mark and Britnee in Vietnam (2)

Mark and Britnee Johnston, here pictured on a trip in Vietnam, quit their jobs to travel for a year. (Photo courtesy Britnee Johnston)

What if you decided to take 26 years of work vacation time all at once? How far would $40,000 and two heavy-duty backpacks get you around the globe?

Orem husband and wife Mark and Britnee Johnston are about to find out. On May 26, they embark on a yearlong world tour, using money they’ve been carefully saving since they married in 2012. After two years of planning, both recently quit their jobs — he as the Daily Herald photo editor and she as Thanksgiving Point’s communications manager — to embark on the open road. They’re taking their so-called “gap” year a bit late in life: Mark is 33, and Britnee is 25.

Each has traveled abroad before, but both felt that with only two weeks of allotted work vacation time a year it would take decades (26 years, to be exact) to see the world the way they’re planning to.

“There’s too much to see in too little time,” said Mark Johnston. “So planning one big trip over the course of a year was the best option to satisfy our wanderlust before settling down.”

One year, one world online

For the past two years, Mark and Britnee have been putting aside large chunks of their paychecks and exhaustively researching the best and cheapest ways to travel. They’ve documented the planning on their Johnstons’ One World One Year website, which they will continue to update as they travel.

The website covers everything from how they saved so much money so fast (putting away about $2,000 a month by paying off debt, taking on extra work, eating tuna fish sandwiches and eventually moving in with Mark’s parents) to favorite travel planning websites (some include booking.com and Viator.com). They’ll also be sharing their journey through social media, with daily Instagram posts.

On their trip, the couple will first fly to Tokyo, Japan, before going west to China. From there, they’ll take a two-week journey on the Trans-Mongolian Railway into Russia. Next they’ll head to Europe, then back to Southeast Asia, the Pacific and South America.

At least that’s the plan, for now. They’ve been sweating the details for months, navigating each country’s visa requirements, checking on necessary immunizations, purchasing everything from traveler’s insurance to dryer sheets to keep their backpacks fresh. Now that it’s time to go, Mark and Britnee want to keep their schedule loose enough to spend extra time in places they really enjoy.

From Paris to Peru

Avid outdoors enthusiasts, they plan to rock climb in Yangshuo, China, and visit a panda reserve in the Chinese city of Chengdu. They also plan to trek the Annapurna Circuit in the Himalayas and stay in a small fishing town in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway. Of course, they’ll also be visiting well-known tourists spots, everywhere from the Eiffel Tower in Paris to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Mark says he’s most excited for the Trans-Mongolian railroad trip from Beijing to Moscow. “It’s like something out of an adventure story I read as a kid,” he said. And Britnee’s been watching pandas on a live webcam  and can’t wait to see them in person.

Friends and family of the couple say they are not surprised that the Johnstons are making the trek.

“If I had to bestow awards upon all the people I know, they’d win Most Adventurous by a long shot,” said Dan Sorensen, 31-year-old Herriman resident who works in marketing. He said both Mark and Britnee are driven, and that nothing holds them back from doing what they want.

The Johnstons met in 2007 when both were studying communications at Utah Valley University. They have traveled to Vietnam together and make good on-the-road companions, said Britnee, who initially talked her husband into making the world tour. She says the once-in-a-lifetime experience will only strengthen their marriage as they learn to depend on each other and work together. And it will make for years and years of great stories.

“I look forward to being able to tell our future kids and grandkids of the great adventures we had together on this trip,” Britnee said.


Elyssa Andrus has worked as a journalist for 14 years, most recently as the lifestyle editor at the Daily Herald newspaper in Provo. She is a contributor to the KSL-TV show "Studio 5" and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking" (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Natalie Hollingshead. She lives with her husband and four young children in Utah Valley.

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