‘How do you do it?’, ‘I wish I could do what you’re doing!’, ‘I just wouldn’t be able to afford it’… the reactions I get when I tell people I’ve been travelling and living abroad since I finished University in 2014. Actually, yes, you absolutely can travel for longer than you thought…
To be honest, I’m not an expert here; there are people who have been travelling and exploring and adventuring for longer than I’ve been alive, people who have made careers out of it, people who are doing it much better than me. I just know that this reaction is super common and, in all honesty, it’s been pretty easy to fund my trips and to extend what was meant to be a couple of months in Australia to going on two years travelling.
I’m not gonna tell you how to just travel on the cheap, there are fifty million posts out there telling you you to shop around for the best flight deals, rent cars and travel in groups, stay in Air BnBs over hotels and eat local cuisine. This post is going to tell you how to travel long-term, how to maximise your funds to turn your dream trip into your dream life.
This is an obvious one, but one that is often overlooked. I took my first big backpacking trip when I was 19 and have taken a big trip pretty much every year since then, but only worked abroad for the first time when I was 23. I don’t really need to do much explaining here, do I? Getting a job abroad means you can stay a lot longer and – bonus – probably make a ton of new friends and learn a lot more about the culture. There are heaps of options here from working for accommodation for a couple of weeks so you can long-out a stay on a paradise island in South East Asia, to getting a Working Holiday Visa and spending a year living and working abroad and everything in between (Only got a couple of months? Get yourself to the slopes and do a Ski Season).
Adventuring long-term is all about asking yourself key questions to maximise your time and money. Could you incorporate a layover into your trip and actually explore the country you would otherwise just be changing planes in? Could you move home for a couple of months and do temp work in between big trips? Could you organise your route a little better to cut your bus costs? Could you fit in city break whilst visiting family for the holidays? It’s important to be sensible and strategic and do things that make sense money-wise. While I was in South America earlier in the year I ended up passing through Mendoza 3 times due to poor route planning, something that could have been avoided (read: more money for more time away) had we just actually looked at a few more maps and a few less wine lists.
A few hard truths here for the stubborn ones among you (I’m guilty here too, don’t worry). Chances are, especially if you miss your friends and family a lot like me, you will go home in between these extended times abroad. If this is only for a couple of months, you’re probably gonna have to swallow your pride and get whatever job comes along to save for the trip. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that. I had 3 months at home between my year working in Australia and my travels to South America and I landed in London with high hopes of bagging an awesome marketing job working with all the coolest clients. Hmm, with only 3 months to offer and the past year spent working in a bar, probably not that likely. What it really comes down to is maximising your time; you only have a couple of months so faffing about being princessy about waiting for your dream job is stupid. Get yourself down to recruitment agencies, bars, restaurants and anywhere else that might need you right away and not mind that you don’t have long. More importantly, let them know how keen you are to get stuck in immediately.
Make a Plan
Another obvious one but it has to be said. You can’t just breeze through hoping for the best. Research where you’re going and get a realistic idea of budgets. It really is important to be realistic here, otherwise you’re only gonna be disappointed. When my Boyfriend and I read up on South America and how much we would need, we added some on knowing we’d be in double rooms not dorms (and because we know we’re probably the teensiest bit more indulgent than your average backpacker ). Once you know your budget, make a plan of how much you will save each week/month. I find it helpful to write it all out, week by week, in my ‘notes’ on my phone with the little checkbox. That way, I have to physically go in and tick that I’ve put that money aside… it’s much harder to cheat this way.
Those who know me will know I don’t really care about cost when it comes to spending quality time with my friends and family. If I only have $100 to my name but all the girls are doing something, that money is much better spent seeing them and making memories, I can just eat cup-a-soup for the rest of the week. However, you do need to prioritise a little. If you always go to the same shitty club every week, it might be worth skipping a few times. The fun that you might miss out on that night is nothing compared to what you could spend that money on abroad. Even while you are away, prioritise your money; if it’s something you could and will do at home, maybe give it a miss in favour of having more money for a longer trip.
Use your Contacts
Beg, borrow and steal. Use the broke backpacker card. One of the best things about travelling is the friends you make from all over the world. This means sofas to crash on when you’re in their hometown. Chances are, they will be visiting you some time so it’s all part of the backpacker circle of life. When we arrived in Auckland we stayed with our friends who we’d met in Melbourne, and now they’ve moved to Wellington and are staying with us until they find a place. Everything comes full circle. If you can, take this even further and move in with family whilst you’re saving for travelling. Family is always happy to help and – another bonus – you get to spend quality time with them before you head off again. Last time I was back in London I moved into my Sister’s spare room and, oh my god, it was the best. My Sister and I are so close and I missed her so so much while I was living in Australia so moving in together when I got back was amazing, we had so much fun. I paid enough to cover any extra expenses like bills and food but she let me stay pretty much rent free in London (the holy grail) meaning I could extend my next trip massively. Could you take this even further and ask around to see if anyone knows of any jobs going? The aim of the game here is to save money as quickly as possible; anything to reduce the job hunt is your friend. Get talking, ask your Mum to tell her friends you’re looking, ask your previous employers, just get going. This applies to being home and saving for your trip as well as finding a job abroad.
Take it Slow
Contrary to getting your butt moving and finding work ASAP, if you’re just travelling and not working abroad, take it slow. Saving for your trip is a sprint, the trip itself is a marathon (well, more of a leisurely stroll but you get the metaphor). If you’ve got the luxury of not having a return flight booked and not having a time limit on your trip, you can save a lot of money. In most places, buses are a lot cheaper than planes so, even if it’s a 24 hour ride compared to a 2 hour one, download some podcasts, stock up on snacks and enjoy the view from the window. Some places might offer deals like ‘stay 5 nights pay 4’ and, if you have the time, take advantage of these. A free night is a free night. That way, you can head to the local supermarket and do a big shop making your food money go a lot further too, saving money from not eating out and reducing wastage as you’ve got a good few days to eat everything you cook.
Long-term travel is like Pringles; once you pop, you just can’t stop. It’s a huge community network and you’ll meet people who have been doing it for ages who will provide you with more inspiration and tips than I ever could. You’ll make friends with people who spent a year here, a summer there, worked in every far-flung corner of the world imaginable. Not only will they be able to give you access to sofas to crash on and job opportunities, they’ll fill your head with ideas of where to go next. So many people I met in Australia went on to New Zealand and now there’s a whole load of us now here who all met together working in Melbourne. That was a big draw for me coming here, it just felt like the natural next step. Now it seems that Sweden is the next place lots of my backpacker pals are heading to for their next work abroad adventures, and I have to admit I’m tempted. (Don’t worry Mum, I’m coming home after New Zealand!)
I graduated in International Business just before I moved to Australia. I knew a couple of months away wasn’t going to put me too far behind all the other business graduates flooding into the job market but, as my heart kept telling me it wanted to stay a bit longer and maybe even do a year in New Zealand after, my head was worried about falling behind on the job front. I worked myself up into such a panic that no one would want to hire me if my only experience since Uni is working in a bar and going travelling. I constantly compared my life to my friends at home with ‘real jobs’and I was worried that I would be so old when I finally got home and was ready to start my life that employers would laugh. This really was a very silly mindset. A) Employers these days really value experience abroad and people who have travelled, B) The friends I was comparing myself to were the same ones telling me how jealous they were of my life and how they wished they could do what I was doing, and C) I probably didn’t want a job with someone who laughs at a choice to go out and explore the world while you’re young anyway. Once you stop thinking of travelling as a delay to real life and realise that you are actually currently living a very real life, your head and heart can make friends again and you’ll feel a lot more content living the way you want to live, so long as it makes you happy.
So there you have it, my ultimate guide to being able to extend your trip just that little bit more. Happy travels!