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Couple gives up everything to travel the world – could you?

Julie Ryan Evans is an editor and writer who has covered everything from Capitol Hill to the politics of preschool. A mother of two, a runner of races, and a gourmet chef wannabe, she currently lives outside of Orlando, Florida.

Tips for earning miles and saving money to make your travel dreams come true

They've quit their jobs, sold their home, and found someone to take in their cat. Now they're off. This month Andy and Lynn Girard began the journey that inspired them to walk away from it all… for seven months, anyway.

After a whirlwind visit to several states to say farewell (for now) to friends and family, the couple flew from Denver to Belize where they began their journey throughout Central America and Africa. They will travel by plane, boat and train to soak in as much as possible on this seven-month vacation.

More: 10 Exotic locations perfect for the solo traveler

Sounds lovely, right? If only you were so lucky to have the money to do something like that...

Luck actually had very little do with this trip, however. The Girards have been planning this life-changing journey for more than two years, and they believe almost anyone can fulfill their travel dreams if they make them a priority in their lives.

Their journey really began about two and half years ago when a colleague of Lynn's took a trip to Thailand. Lynn told Andy it was too bad they couldn't do something similar, and his response was, "We can!"

More: Travel ideas that will give you a serious case of wanderlust

The next couple of years were filled with saving every dollar they could. There were fewer meals out, Andy riding his bike to work instead of public transportation, and lots of planning, saving and sacrifice. They set a goal to save $30,000, and estimated that amount coupled with about $20,000 they had in savings would be enough.

Sounds great, but if you're living paycheck to paycheck, how much can you really save, especially if you already can't afford that daily latte everyone suggests giving up to save?

Lynn admits that it's going to take a bit longer, and you may not be able to go on a trip for seven months, but there are ways that you can begin preparing for travel now, even if your journey doesn't begin anytime soon. It's all about sacrifices and setting your sights on the end goal rather than on the immediate satisfaction of some unnecessary purchase.

"Small sacrifices and knowing that what you're saving for is better than the monetary thing that you would be spending money on," she said. "People spend money on things without focusing."

More: 12 Photos that show the reality of travelling with kids

In addition to saving, one way they are able to fund their trip is through airline miles – lots of airline miles. Andy and Lynn earned a whopping 300,000 miles to pay for almost all of their major flights during their journey. Talk about huge savings.

Most people know that you can earn miles through a credit card affiliated with an airline, but there are other ways too — some that don't require spending a dime of your own money. For example, there is a program called e-Miles, in which you earn miles by viewing marketing messages from companies and then taking a survey. Lynn also said that she racked up numerous points doing almost all of her shopping through online airline shopping portals such as those offered by United and Southwest Airlines. Combining those with a credit card that racks up points, and the Girards are flying free a considerable amount of time.

Even then, it's not easy to plan a trip like this, or any trip for that matter. It takes work, sacrifice and planning. So why do it? Why is travel so important?

"Travel gets you outside your comfort zone, let's you see everything that's out in the world," Lynn said. There's so much we haven't seen and done. When we're older and dying we're not going to regret what we did but rather what we didn't do."

They don't worry much about what will happen when they return. They have money saved and are confident they'll find work in their fields again. Their biggest fear about the trip is actually getting robbed while they're traveling and even more so, the possibility of disappointment. "We built up this hype in our mind," Andy said. "What if it doesn't live up to all the expectations?"

To see if it does, you can follow their journey at MoneyLeftforTravel.com.

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