“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”. -Mark Twain
“It takes so much planning and organisation!” is an excuse I often hear when it comes to making a big trip. Alongside finance and fear, it is one of the obstacles that can be overcome.
You can save enough money, if it’s worth it.
You can overcome your fear, if it’s worth it.
You can plan the trip, if it’s worth it.
My dreams of travel started when I was younger, listening to my grandparents retelling stories of their own adventures. My Nana, born and raised in Bombay (Mumbai) India, met my Grandad Bell and soon became Nana Bell. They travelled the world together and took my mum and her siblings along for some of the ride. Their reasons varied – visiting family, holidays, RAF work for grandad etc etc but their stories were always filled with warm memories, friendly people, funny anecdotes.
I used to beg my mother to let us move somewhere new. Living in a small town in North Wales is brilliant when you’re 22 and visiting home from a busy city. When you’re a bored teenager with no money and no car, it’s not great.
My second inspiration, aside from boredom and my elders, was literature and films. I craved the crazy escapades of my fictional heroes. Woody Allen made me fall hopelessly in love with New York (more on that later) and Indiana Jones never had homework and a curfew. What a great life! So my love grew. I followed Alexander Supertramp with baited breath, I ate, prayed and loved with Liz Gilbert, I craved that self-realisation and experience myself. One of my greatest pleasures is learning. More so than fun. Learning from people is my favourite sort, but a place, a situation and being lost all force you to view yourself and your world in a different way.
With all of this motivation, the next step came. Planning the trip. In a bid to escape normal life I spent two summers au pairing in Italy, Caserta and South Tyrol respectively. The first experience scared the life out of my and the second proved that doing something that terrifies you is always a good thing, even if it ends badly. I learned more by being uncomfortable and lonely for those months that I had in the first two years of university. So as I got back from a month in beautiful Belgium staying with friends, I started planning the next big trip. My experiences au pairing in Italy were the bread of a sandwich with adventures to Hong Kong, Macau and Thailand as a filling and I was SKINT. I had maxed out a £1600 overdraft, I had moved into a new house, and I had £50 to my name to support me and my partner. We lived off bread for a month while we searched for jobs (then waited for the paycheck). We were still high on European euphoria. Reality hit big when I landed two jobs at once and decided to take them both.
My plan for Australia was barely formed at this point. All I knew was that I had about eight months of university left and then, suddenly, I would have nowhere to be. No one to answer to. I would have a degree, experience and (hopefully!) money and a world of possibility. I took two jobs and vowed to pay off my overdraft and save £3000 for this journey, all while NOT failing my degree. And guess what?
I did it.
I decided on Sydney in January and suddenly it was April and I had >£2000 in the bank and no overdraft in sight. I booked my tickets! I bought my insurance! I calculated how much more I would make over the next four months working 20-25 hours a week in my job (I left one behind in January when it became clear that I would die if I worked another 65 hour week then have to write my dissertation). I was in the money! Hurray! I’d have £4000 plus my overdraft for emergencies and, if things stuck to plan, I’d be getting around £150 a week while I was out in Aussieland. IT FELT AMAZING.
Things didn’t stick to plan.
Needless to say, despite all of my planning and organising (detailed posts will come a little later as advice if you’re wondering how to budget etc) there were bumps in the road. A big one hit me hard. Rather than staying at my job, moving into a friends spare room for the summer and generally carrying on life as I had been, I got an internship.
Now this is cause for celebration, don’t get me wrong. An internship at a travel magazine could not have been more perfect for me. As a journalism student, it’s something dreams are made of. It would be three months, from May to August, and I would be writing for Wanderlust Publications. A great portfolio, references, contacts and experience. But they were located in Windsor. I looked for a room, the average rent was £400 a month. A week later I moved to this new town and spent around £600 a month after general living and eating. Plus I still had rent to pay until July in Cardiff. All of this with no income. Halfway through I found a job at a local branch of Lush Cosmetics (the job I’d been doing in Cardiff) and that helped soften the blow but this paycheck came a week before I was due to leave. Working seven days a week was hard but I was used to it. I started the journey with £2500. I spent £1000 on flights and insurance, £300 on a DSLR for photo-journaling my trip and, after maxing out that giant overdraft I worked so hard to pay off, I was left just short of £900 in the bank.
The motivation is hard to keep going when you get to this point. It’s four weeks until I leave for Australia. Although this should fill me with excitement, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with financial stress. Right now, I am heartbroken that I will have a lesser experience in Australia because of an internship in England but I know that retrospect allows me to appreciate that both are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I can still experience Australia, just not as extravagantly as I planned. And so I’ll still have that whopping great big overdraft when I come back? Well you can make money but you can’t make LIFE. Living is priceless. What’s that quote?
“Travel is the only expense that makes you richer.”
Something like that. These cheesy quotes can really get you going when your motivation runs low. Speaking to somebody, reading a strangers blog, watching vlogs on youtube of somebody already travelling in your dream destination; all these things will make you SURE that a million pounds cannot compensate LIVING. If you die tomorrow, did you try your very best?
On top of all this personal financial crisis, people told me that I should get on with starting a career. That my jolly to the other side of the world would only stall my career and cost me a lot of money. Hedonistic, you might say. I even changed my mind. I sent the email saying “I’m going to stay here. I’m up for a promotion. I’m finally in a place where I don’t have £5 a week to live on after rent and bills. I am comfortable.” As soon as I pressed send I regretted it. The next day I told everyone I was leaving. I would leave comfort and explore the unknown. Throw myself in the deep end and hope for the best. I am a planner. I love being organised and forward thinking. But the great thing about travel is that it always surprises you. That’s the great thing about life, really, isn’t it? Everything makes you stronger, struggles make it worth it.
This post was originally called ‘Planning The Big Trip’. That post will come later but for now, this one has turned into a motivational rant about how to keep your spirits and moral up when things get really awful. When everybody, and everything, tells you to give up and take the safe route, don’t do it.
I have three days left in the South of England before I take a seven-hour coach journey up to North Wales for some family time before I go. This will be the longest I see my family since I started uni in 2010. It will be wonderful. It will remind me of why I’m going. My Nana Bell is so proud that I am doing this by myself and for myself and that I’m not asking for a single handout or appreciation. Her pride is worth the world because that mafia-boss-esque head of our household with her crazy colonial Indian accent is hard to please. And it makes me think that, you know what, I should be proud of myself. Things don’t come easily, but they do come when you work hard. And success tastes sweet.