I hear it each place I visit, from every stranger I encounter and from passing curious friends and acquaintances...
' How did you get so lucky'
'I'd love to know how you can afford all this'
This usually ends in a laugh or crude joke, and actually never gets answered. Mostly because I don't know how to answer it in one sentence.
The word 'lucky' gets thrown about too easy. I wouldn't consider myself lucky at all, jammy? yes sometimes. But lucky? No. It is quite frustrating when people say I am so lucky to be able to do what I do, as a fair bit of work and effort goes into it, I wasn't just handed this lucky card you talk of.
But I understand why this is perceived. On the outside it looks like I float between country to country, sipping on coconuts, watching sunsets and diving with sharks as I go, and for the most of times, that's correct. But I chose this life, I made these decisions, I work for it and I'm committed to it, but that's not to say it doesn't come with it's drawbacks.
So now, what better time than any to share with you all how I really did it, and how I afford it, and help you realise its not all just a daydream away for you to.
I ignored what society wanted for me, and listened to what I wanted for me.
I had a mortgage, a good job, even a cat. I had it all because that's what I thought I wanted, that's what I was suppose to have wasn't it? That's what the people on the TV ads have, my friends had, so that's what I should have??
Then I questioned myself and realized actually that wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to see the world, I wanted to see new cultures, I wanted to change. I had different dreams than I used to have, I had no idea how I was going to get them, but I decided to start doing what I could to get there...
I made a decision and stuck to it
I rented out my flat, quit my job, went to Asia and then flew to America to work as a Lifeguard. Every step of the way I questioned myself and listened as others questioned me. I was too proud to back down, too proud to be defeated. Now I had no option, I had to do what I wanted to do, too many people were waiting for me to fail.
I went backwards
Who would of guessed it but I made the right decision. I returned home after 4 months and knew I had found what I wanted to do, but still didn't know how to get there. I wanted to keep on travelling, but society came calling again, I was suppose to get a job wasn't I now I'm back home? So I did, as that's what I thought I was suppose to do. I ran a bar because that's what I knew how to do, not because I wanted to. I stayed for a year, it was good money and I made good friends, but where do I go from there, I was doing what society says I should do again, not what I want to do.
I set myself goals
Rather than giving in and living the life society wanted me to lead, I set myself some goals on how to get to where I want to go. Realistic ones, flexible ones. I didn't make dates or time frames, I just knew if I wanted them badly enough they would happen. However, I didn't allow exceptions or distractions. It was a case of mind over matter. I had convinced my brain I would buy a one-way ticket somewhere, and my actions would do the rest.
I altered my mind set and my bank balance
Saving became living and living became saving. How else would I travel? (This is where the 'lucky' things comes in. I really didn't find a suitcase of money in my back garden). A new outfit became a night's accommodation in Chile and a night out became scuba diving in Belize. Ok, other factors helped. I moved back in with my Dad, sold the car, sold the contents of my wardrobe on eBay, but none of it felt like losing, it all felt like winning.
I realized it wouldn't happen over night. I learnt patience and enjoyed slip ups
I didn't set time frames, as I didn't want to fail, I didn't tell people about my plans, as I didn't want any doubts. So I kept quiet and waited. Waited for the right opportunity, the right bank balance. I 'slipped up' along the way, with weekends in Amsterdam and Budapest, but these slip-ups were relative, they were helping me stay more focused by giving me a taste of the travelling life I desired. However I never slipped up on anything that didn't help my goals, that wasn't an option.
I took a leap of faith
Even after planning and dreaming for so long I still questioned my decision, but deep down I knew the only way was to jump.
My final step took me back to America to earn the last bit of savings and allowed me to book my ticket while I was there. I had 4 weeks between returning home and flying off to focus on the journey ahead. Thinking didn't quite cut it anymore. Faith was all I could rely on. I flew to Argentina with no return date and no guarantees.
I remember I haven't reached all my goals yet, and keep making more
The main goal, to travel, yes, but the others? There still there. More than ever in fact, with new ones arising at a phenomenal rate.
'The more I see, the more I realise I haven't seen'
I still make decisions that will lead me to my goals but I let my original dream take me for the ride.
You see, I really didn't get lucky did I, I made decisions, went backwards, dreamt forwards. Some of the things that happened along the way, ok they were luck. I mean finding 2 horse shoes in one day after spending 25 years looking for just one, yeah that's pretty lucky, and seeing a volcano explode half an hour after we were standing by it, that was pretty lucky too.
But then there's the BIG question, the one everyone is always thinking; HOW DO YOU AFFORD IT?
I really do live day by day. Money comes in and goes straight away. But there was a time I had savings. I saved hard while working and living at home.
- I live with my Dad when I'm at home, and he very generously lets me live for free. You can imagine how much spare income that gives me. When I'm working I save around 85-90% off it. And
really that's how I afford to travel. I save, and don't spend.
- I also stick to a pretty tight budget while I travel. In 6 months in South America I spent £20 a day. You can read about how I did that here.
- I work odd jobs. If there's money there, I'm in. A week in the UK a while back I served drinks for a Johnny Rotten gig and then packed goody bags for Oonas divers dive show. That paid for my Turkey flight ticket. I spend
every penny I earn on travel. I don't take jobs that require signing a contract, I don't like to feel tied down and know that realistically I won't be staying for too long. But I am always honest
to my employers and tell them this. And of course, this blog provides a small income too.
- I've always been sensible with money and dedicated to saving. So there's no real hidden secret to how I afford it, mainly I just spend less than my budget every day which keeps me travelling for longer.
- Travel is a lot cheaper than people think. For example i just bought a return ticket to Turkey for £70 and my next trip to Amsterdam will cost £18 on a bus. It's more about making clever
decisions; go out of season, take the overnight flight, Couchsurf, stay with friends. My trips probably cost 50% less than you imagine they do. If you read my article on 'How much money you need to travel South America' you will see
I spent £3500 in 6 months, so on average my travels each year don't cost more than £8000. That's considerably less than living in England.
- To round that up, I spend all my money on travel. I don't have a car, a gym membership, any direct debits, or even a contract phone. Everything I earn goes into plane tickets or spending money. And when I am travelling, I Couchsurf, Volunteer and Work, spending very little along the way.
- Click here for some more hints and tips on how to save for travelling.
Travel is my Passion, my dream, my life...
My life is very unpredictable. Some weeks I earn no money. Some days I feel lonely. I have no fixed abode, no boyfriend. It's full of highs and lows. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Travel is my passion and I am prepared to go through all emotions for it. There is no other feeling in this world than the freedom I find while wandering the globe. I truly am living out my dreams.
You see, travel takes a lot of sacrifices, you never really know where the next bucks coming from. But if you are prepared to live the uncertain life, with promises of bigger and better things, then your in the right game.
Make the right decisions, SAVE EVERY PENNY, don't lose track of your dream and get your backpack on; you're in for the ride of your life.