“Oh my god! You are so lucky!”
I hear this all the time. Yes, I am lucky. I am lucky to hold a British passport which enables me to travel freely and with unbelievable ease. I am lucky my parents were supportive of my dreams. I am lucky I was brought up to be adventurous, kind and easy going.
Luck, however, had nothing to do with the hard work I put in to achieve my dream. It takes dedication. People seem to assume my parents pay for me or I was given some magical pass to travel. Wrong -o! Here I will break down exactly how I did it and you will see how you can do it too!
When I first committed to the idea I would go off and travel I was working at an insurance company. Run of the mill 9-5 job earning average money. Having just left school, I was terrible at it and didn’t last long. I didn’t put everything I had into it and got fired. I quickly learned if I wanted to really go and travel, I would need to keep my head down and work hard. I started working at a bank and set myself a timeline. 1 year to save and plan my trip, them I’m off.
I had working visas lined up for when I arrived in Australia and New Zealand so that gave me some comfort. Although I didn’t put any thought into what i’d be doing.
My initial plan was to travel South East Asia for 5 months then travel Australia for 4 months and New Zealand for 3. (Looking back now I’m not sure how I could of done all that in such a short amount of time, although some people do it!). I budgeted for £1000 a month. I already had my flights booked, travel insurance sorted and a few excursions paid for, so all I needed was ‘spending money’. So I thought.
(I hadn’t realized how cheap Asia was or how expensive Australia is or the fact I’m clearly not a person who sticks to a plan well. Often missing flights to do something more interesting and then having to pay for another flight. Lent people money which I would never see again. Needless to say I didn’t really stick to by budget, but you learn from doing)
So, how did I save up? Well, I first listed all the places I wanted to go, looked into flight prices etc and it all came to a total of about £80,000! Hmmm, unrealistic for a 19 year old. So I narrowed it down and chose the places I really wanted to go. I re analysed, the new total being £15,000 was far more achievable. So next I listed my current monthly outgoings;
£200 – Rent
£65 – Phone bill
£40 – Bus pass
£100 – Food
£150 – Leisure
(Current monthly wage: £1300)
£1300 – £555 = £745
1 year to save (12 months) x £745 = £8940
Hmm not enough to achieve my £15,000 goal. I carried on working but soon decided to think about how I could come up with the extra £6060. I had the weekend free, possibly a second job? I could cut down on some expenses. i.e cycle to work instead of getting the bus or stop my phone contract.
I decided to get a second job on the weekends working in a shop and at a social club on Saturday nights. Great, that will give me an extra £600 a month. Which will put my grand total around £16,140. Winning!
Sat on my bedroom floor scribbling out these plans seemed like an easy task, I was focused and nothing would get in my way. Yeah but no. Working 7 days a week is hard. For weeks and weeks and months on end. It eventually wears you down. One good thing was that I had no spare time so spend any money so I was saving at lightning speed. But it was exhausting. I would fall asleep on the bus back home and miss my stop. I even started sleeping through my alarms in the morning and turning up for work an hour late. My sleepiness was noticed and my usual upbeat personality fading. I carried on a little longer but eventually I had to give up the weekend work. I had saved enough to make a difference though, which I was pleased with.
The last few months of saving I started getting tempted. ‘Oh it wont hurt to pay for a nice lunch out of this fund’, or ‘I need a new handbag it’s only £60’. My savings took a hit and as my departure date grew closer I started to worry. I was down to £10,000. Whilst still proud of myself for the amount I had saved, I was also a little disheartened that I hadn’t reached my ultimate goal. I was saving so hard. I’m only 20 and as soon as I get paid I transfer it all to my savings, I would think to myself! What am I doing wrong?
“Nothing” my Dad says. “I am so proud of you, you have worked hard and saved up by yourself often missing out on other things, you should be happy!”. Yes, he’s right I thought. I was delighted and excited about my imminent departure. Just before I left I got a cheque through the mail for £2000. I had over paid tax and this was due back to me. The same day my Dad boosted up my funds. The day I left my Nan gave me some more towards my savings. Over the moon. I had £12,900. Yesssss, the latter I hadn’t worked for but good things come to those who work hard, stay focused and follow their dreams!
You don’t need luck to go traveling. You need a can do attitude and stick with it. It is hard. You will be frustrated, you will be angry, you might even give up a couple of times. But, if you really want it, you have to have will power. It means you will have to give up somethings you love, sacrifice some of your free time and focus on that plan of yours.
I can’t explain the feeling of knowing you did it all by yourself. I’ve met quite a few people on my journeys that have had their trip paid for by their parents and I can tell they aren’t having the same experience as the ones that have worked hard to save for their own adventures. Not saying it’s a bad thing if you can get a free trip, but, believe me you wont regret doing this all by yourself.
You can do this too, 4 easy steps;
- Open a bank account. Look into an account that you can’t access unless you go into the bank. It is then an extra effort to get into your savings and you are less likely to touch it. (At one point in my savings I transferred it all to my Dad to completely eliminate the temptation- possibly think about this as an option but obviously choose someone you completely trust)
- Figure out what your goal is. How much do you want to save? How long are you going for? How much do you earn a month? What are your outgoings? How much can you afford to save?
- Start saving. That’s right, straight away. Don’t even think about it. Maybe set up a direct debit where it automatically goes out and you don’t even have to physically do it every month. You will start to see your savings grow so quickly!
- Stick with it. Don’t get tempted. Try and start a hobby to keep you from splashing out. I.e get a blog up and running like this one. It’s a great way of documenting your travels and means you aren’t spending unnecessarily.
- Book a flight. So you have your goal of when you want to leave. Book a one way flight for a month after your planned date. Gives you a little extra time if you are a bit behind but enough motivation to know you need to save before this date.
Check out my Blog Post How do I budget for the trip?
You can do this. Good luck!