When I finally decided to stop making excuses, bought a backpack and planned to travel, there was (of course) a lot to organise. Like most people, I have a mortgage, a flat, a full time job and a car. These are some of the things that have kept me content in the same place for 7 years. I’d convinced myself it was an almost impossible task to just up and leave. But as soon as I set my mind to it, I quickly realised it wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought.
I’d become excellent at making excuses why I hadn’t / couldn’t travel. But they were exactly that: excuses. Not reasons.
Savings: “I can’t afford to travel”
I’ve always been good with managing money and saving but still I thought travelling was something you needed a lottery win for. Yes, I’ve saved for this trip but I don’t plan on selling everything I own to fund it. I hope to pick up work along the way; in Australia I have a one year working visa.
In the lead up to heading off on my new adventure I read a lot of blogs and articles. I started to understand more about the possibilities and the budget needed. You don’t have to be rich. If you are careful and realistic you can travel relatively cheap.
I have found that planning / booking in advance can save a lot of money. But getting the balance between planning in order to save money and leaving room for spontaneity is important!
This is my first, long term trip. I’m sure in the future I’ll be less worried about having a plan but for this trip I feel comfortable with the plan I have. In places which I know more than others, the ones closer to home, I have a more specific plan. I know what I want to see and although I’ve left time to take advantage of recommendations and hidden gems I find along the way, there are some thing I HAVE to see. I want to see the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain in Rome and I want to spend some serious time at the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia. In Istanbul, must sees include Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar. We’ve also booked £17 flights specifically to see Pamukkale (the “cotton castle”) in Denizli Province, southwest Turkey.
As I get further from home I have a less specific itinerary. This isn’t because there’s less to see, quite the contrary. I want to experience the culture of these countries and be able to visit places that I learn about along the way. Of course, the countries I have chosen to visit (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand) have certain popular sites such as Angkor Wat and Halong Bay that I wouldn’t want to miss but I am happily heading to these countries to see what they have to offer rather than, as in the case of Rome, heading to a place specifically to visit certain attractions.
So far we’ve saved quite a significant amount of money on booking flights in advance. Booking months before we leave and being flexible on dates we have paid no more than £170 for a flight including flights to Beijing and Australia. By researching and searching for the best deals we have also saved a chunk from our budget on accommodation. It’s definitely worth spending some time looking at different sites for the best deals. We haven’t scrimped on accommodation either. Mostly we will be staying in hostels or Airbnb but we’ve been able to book private rooms every time and still come in under budget.
We also use cashback and it soon adds up. Check the cashback sites before you book, if the cash back offer is good on one particular site it may be worth paying a bit more to get more cash back! We’ve used this on our insurance, hostels, ferries, flights and even our new fee free credit cards.
In Asia, the prices for accommodation and travel reduce dramatically from those in Western Europe. This means we can comfortably have a more flexible plan. As we enter Hanoi at the top of Vietnam we plan to travel through the country into Siem Reap in Cambodia with nothing booked in advance, aside from the first hostel in Hanoi and the last hotel in Siem Reap (which I might add was a bargain at less than the price of a hostel!). This is certainly not something I have done before. As I have said, I’m a planner, I like to know where I am going to sleep at night. But this is all part of the adventure and all part of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I am looking forward to this more than I ever imagined I would be. It’s a challenge I can’t wait to begin.
Travel can be affordable, do your research. What is your budget? There’s somewhere in the world that suits your needs and budget. Find it and enjoy!
Renting: “I can’t just up and leave, I have a flat and a mortgage”
I always thought leaving would mean selling up. I kept asking myself “what will I do with all my stuff?”. Do I really need all this stuff, is probably the question I should have been asking. I’ve not completely dismissed selling up in the future but for now I’ve decided to rent out my place. Keeping it for if I decide to return, use it for a bit of income and have it there as an investment if I need cash in the future.
As for my “stuff” I looked into storage. To store my contents for a long period it was pretty expensive. When I considered what I would be paying for storage and how much the contents were worth it wasn’t really a viable option for me. Luckily, my friends and family offered space in basements and attics and after having a serious clear out I will be able to store all the stuff I need reasonably easily.
I knew nothing about renting, having never done it before. I assumed that my mortgage payments would increase and I would have to change to a Buy to Let mortgage. I was wrong. In order to rent I had to ask my mortgage provided for Consent to Let. It was a relatively simple form and as long as I wasn’t in arrears and agreed to reasonable terms, I was granted permission.
I decided to use an agent to manage the renting of my apartment. I didn’t want to have hassle while I was on the road and wanted advice on the right landlords insurance etc so I wasn’t caught out if I ended up with a dodgy tenant. Unsurprisingly, there were plenty of agents happy to take my money!
You can sell a house or rent a house. You’re not stuck because you own a property.
Quitting: “I love my job, I wouldn’t get another like it”
This, for me, was the scariest part. I’m one of the few lucky people that genuinely likes their job. Sure I moan about it, sure it’s stressful but on the whole I never really dread going into work. Giving it up, knowing I may never get a job I enjoy as much was probably my biggest concern. At the end of the day though it’s just a job, something to fund my travels. I can get another job. Maybe I won’t like that one as much but if it means that I can travel, which is something I want, maybe even need to do, then it’s a risk worth taking. If I can be happy travelling then that’s what I intend to do.
What’s more important, a job or seeing the world?
Friends & Family: “I’ll miss my friends and family”
It goes without saying that I will miss my family and friends. I sometimes worry that I’ll miss important moments and that my little goddaughter won’t know who I am. But the world is a big place with an amazing communication network. I can keep in touch as little or as much as I want from anywhere in the world.
When I told my closest friends what I was planning, the support I received was incredible. They seemed to understand my reasons more than I did myself and encouraged me to follow my dreams. In the back of my head I had thought maybe they would feel like I was abandoning them. But we all have our own lives, our own paths and although mine will take me further away it will not mean these people won’t remain my closet friends. Plus, quality time with them when I do get to see and speak to them will be even more precious. There are so many tools for keeping in touch so I can always feel connected even if we are thousands of miles apart.
A lot of people have asked me how I am going to cope: giving up my job; my income and my home. But I don’t see it as “giving up”, more as trying something new and seeing what the rest of the world has to offer. I don’t want to regret not living the life I want because of excuses I made!
I’ve definitely changed the way I think. I am, of course, still a planner and a worrier. I’m not a completely different person! But now instead of excuses, I ask myself: Do I want to do it? (Yes). Can I do it? (Yes). What am I waiting for? (Lets do it!)