A brief guide on how to realize long term travels, both financially and mentally.
"How does she do it?" This is a question I regularly hear people asking when I tell them I`m already on the road for a year. Popular presumptions are that I worked as an escort, smuggle drugs, or just married a millionaire and now enjoy live receiving the alimentation every month. Neither of that is true, nor the fact that I won the lottery or earned tons of money with working as a model (on the contrary). So how do you do it? Well I`ve got some good news for you, if I can save enough money for a 1.5 year sabbatical with an average monthly income of $1,200, so can you! If I can manage with a backpack after suffering from a burn-out and depression, so can you!
1. Work hard, save hard
Able to pick up an extra shift or two? Able to get some work on holidays? Awesome! Bigger budget for your adventure!
Try to be wise in spending money. Getting a coffee every morning before going to work? Great! But that $2 you spend every morning, which is $14 a week, resulting in $60 a month. That’s a week accommodation in South America and one month’s accommodation in Asia! Alternatively, you can always work while on the road, a great way of saving some extra coin.
2. Don`t plan ahead
So many times, I meet people that make the mistake of booking transport, accommodations and excursions ahead. DON`T! Apart from the fact that this gives you obligations (and to my opinion traveling is about doing the f* you want), you`re not only paying for the `product` itself, but also a couple of commissions for locals, who sell it to an national agency, who sell it to an international agency. Not booking anything gives you the flexibility to book directly with the source and leaves room for bargaining. He wants to sell a spot and for you it doesn`t matter if it`s last-minute or in a couple of days, time is on your side. Plus, if he can`t give you the price you want, somebody else will!
3. Go volunteer or couch surf
Your biggest expenses during your travels are going to be accommodation and food. By volunteering or couch surfing you can cut these expenses massively, plus it`s a great way to meet new friends, learn a language and learn the culture of a country.
4. Bye, bye luxury
For those who have a fairytale image of backpacking, wake up! It`s not going to be like your summer holidays with friends on Ibiza in a fancy hotel (unless you got any of the money incomes mentioned in the first paragraph). Going with number 3, or finding yourself a dorm in a cheap hostel, means sleeping with earplugs, sharing kitchen and bathroom and make the best of refreshing (ice) cold showers.
5. Be open minded
Of course, everybody has kind of a wish list/plan in his or her head of things you want to see, or want to do. But be flexible and go with the flow. If opportunities come along like traveling with friends or getting a (volunteer) position you like, do it! Fear is for the short-term, regrets last forever. There are plenty of jobs teaching a language on your travels. A great way to meet new people, learn a new language on the side and live the life of a local!
6. There will always be an excuse
“Yes, but I`ve got job”, “Yes, but I`ve got a boyfriend”, “My friend is getting married”. You`ll always have an excuse not to go, or to go back home. Don`t be afraid of the consequences of quitting your job or stop renting that fancy apartment. Have faith in yourself, the future and the people around you. Travelling brings you more wisdom, far more than any university course. It will make you more independent and balanced than all the mindfulness books on eBay combined. It will give you a greater network than any congress you`ll ever visit. Trust me, if you`re willing to work and give everything you got, you`ll find a job. What a great bullet point on the resume, showing you`ve been on your own, traveling through a country you didn`t know, surviving out of a backpack. The skills you`ll gain during your travels are of great value for any company.
As for your boyfriend, friends, family, if they truly love you, they`ll support you in any kind of way to help you fulfill your dreams. Of course it`s hard to miss out on a wedding or a funeral. Heard of skype? Attend the ceremony on your mobile/iPad! Or, how cool will it be to give your new-wed-friend a video message from Taj Mahal or Machu Pichu?
Have faith and listen to Bob: `Everything is going to be alright`.
7. Step out of your travel budget every once in while
Do you really have to prepare all your meals with blunt knives and sticky hostel pans? Do you really have to step around somebody else`s pubic hair every morning when taking a shower? No, of course not! Take care of your spending. However, if you feel it`s getting to much, treat yourself with a nice dinner together with new made travel buddies. Or treat yourself with a private room in a nice hotel. Enjoy it to the fullest, charge your battery and then go back to business.
8. Take time off
I meet a lot of people on the way that (believe it or not) are on the edge of a burn-out. Do you really have to visit all the must-sees from the lonely planet? Is this forcing you to move every two days? Not every day has to be an awesome day. It doesn`t matter if you don`t feel like climbing volcano number 22, or see another church, or go to that national park `you can`t miss out on`. If you feel like watching movies the whole day, or chill out and read a book, do it. It will prevent your mind from getting overloaded and creates room for enjoyment on upcoming adventures. If you really feel comfortable in a certain city, place, hostel… stay! Give yourself time to enjoy a spot where you feel at ease. Plus, if you can volunteer, it will not cut into your travel budget to significantly.
9. Share and smile
Happiness is the only thing that increases when it`s shared. Whether you are on the bus, on a hike or chilling in a hostel. Offering somebody a piece of bread, a bit of your water or a candy will create sympathy and friendships. You`ll hear the most amazing stories, get better travel tips than any travel guide ever published and you`ll make friends for life. Plus, most important, a smile costs you nothing, but is of priceless value!
Personal needs are different for everyone. I`ll leave this gap for you. Ask yourself what makes you truly happy and better yet, do it! This sabbatical is for you and you alone. Do what your heart tells you to do!
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into one year and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto