Why I decided to make travel my lifestyle and how I made my dream come true.
This is the most personal post I've ever written, a part of me doesn't like to talk about the past, the days before I took a leap of faith and then travel changed my life.
But I've realised that it's all very well writing about how the cheapest places to travel or the most amazing experiences you can have in India, but the emails and comments I receive from you guys asking how I afford to travel and how I made travel my lifestyle made me remember that the hardest part is making that first leap and I want to help you do that - to make this life of travel a reality for you too instead of just a dream!
So I thought it would be useful to explain exactly how I came to be living this lifestyle, my background and what inspired me to do it and how I can afford to travel full time since December 2012.
If I can do it - maybe you can too!?
Why I Travel
I've realised that different people travel for different reasons. Some travel on an all inclusive 2 week cruise to escape their regular lives, some go on a whirlwind tour ticking off the big bucket list sights but others, like me, decide to make long term, independent travel their lifestyle and to make the whole world their home. This is the travel that really changes your life.
I believe that travel is so much more than simply seeing the sights – that travel, and the things you learn from it, especially when you travel slow, can really change your perspective and change your life.
I travel to grow as a person, to meet others who inspire and educate me and to (hopefully!) do the same in return, to have my life enriched by the beauty and diversity of this amazing world and to have my eyes, mind and heart opened wide.
I travel to make the most of my time on earth, to make every day count, instead of counting down the days till the weekend or to a 2 week vacation – because life is simply too short for me to live it any other way!
But most of all I travel for freedom – to live life on my terms, to be in charge of my own destiny, to give myself the biggest luxury – time. Time to pursue my passions, dreams and ambitions instead of spending the best years of life day dreaming out of a rain streaked window working all day for someone else’s dreams.
Some may say that long term travel is running away from 'real' life but for me I'm traveling to experience everything that life has to offer - I'm traveling not to escape life but so that life does not escape me!
How I Caught the Travel Bug
While at university in Sheffield, England I often had a little dream of traveling the whole world one day in the back of my head, but I honestly never really thought it would amount to much.
The summer I graduated from university my best friend and I spontaneously decided to extend our student overdrafts and escape to Europe in a last bid for freedom before we returned to the UK to start our graduate careers. This 6 week whirlwind inter railing trip around Europe was my first big independent trip and kickstarted my travel bug.
Europe is so amazing in the way that you can hop on a train and within a few hours be in a different country, surrounded by different and new cultures, history, language, architecture and food. I enjoyed learning new things everyday and was fascinated by the history and different cultures. Most of all I relished the freedom and loved the diversity and randomness of it all.
I was addicted - life was never really the same again after that first trip, all my views and values changed as well as my perceptions about the world around me and the part I wanted to play in it. I couldn't go back to living a life in only one place after that trip.
In Prague on my first big trip that gave me the travel bug
Coming home after traveling can be a real come down. When I came back from Europe to start my graduate program job, life in England just felt so dull, shallow and meaningless. The job in the luxury hotel that I went back to was boring but most importantly it didn't mean anything. Traveling around Europe had drastically changed my ideas of what I wanted from life. When I came back to my own country it seemed alien to me and the work, consume, drink, buy a house and have a baby routine lifestyle felt so vacuous and meaningless.
I knew I wanted something more, something different. I yearned to explore more about the world and it's people and try and help them if I could.
Down and Out
A couple of turbulent years followed as the economy in the UK collapsed, despite having a 1st class degree I found it difficult to gain employment and had a large hole of student debt (and debt from the Europe trip overdraft!) in my finances. When I did gain an adequate job and the company would go into administration and then I endured a few torturous spells in life-sucking call centers. I shudder just thinking about those times.
By this time all my optimism of an interesting and challenging career after leaving uni and ideas of traveling the world had fallen by the wayside and my dreams faded into the perpetual struggle of the daily grind of just getting by, finding enough money to pay the bills, getting through the day without breaking down and generally feeling like a complete failure before after a while I would find myself back being unemployed and broke and unable to pay off debts and bills.
There Must be More to Life Than This!
But there was always a feeling in the back of my mind that that life was passing me by, I could do better than this. I was poor, in debt and unhappy. I wasn't achieving anything but I knew I wouldn't be happy with a regular life of 9-5 job, mortgage and kids anyway.
The last time I remember being truly happy was exploring the Colosseum, the waterways of Venice and admiring the Sagrada Familia on that Europe trip. As I started to lose people close to me it was the shake I needed as I realized how short life is. As Christmasses came and went with less presents to buy each year and birthdays came and went and I got older the feeling that I was wasting the best years of my life kept gnawing away at me but I didn't know how I could turn things around.
Moving Out but Moving On
In the autumn of 2011 things got so bad that I had to admit I couldn't afford to carry on living in the small, town center 1 bed apartment my boyfriend and I shared. Every month was a struggle to pay the bills but as another job didn't turn out the way it should have done and I had maxed out all credit avenues I had to admit I couldn't do it anymore - we had no other option really than to give up our flat, sell what we could, move in with his parents, find any job we could and sort out our debts and regroup.
At a temple in Ubud, Bali
Although it felt like a huge step back at the time I will be eternally grateful to them as, looking back, this move was the start of my travel dreams becoming reality. It allowed me some breathing space to get myself sorted and get my dreams back within reach. I've financed all my travels myself but still I'm very fortunate to have such great support from my all of my family and friends, without their love, support and a place to crash it would have been so much harder to save for travel and knowing that I can go back anytime I need to keeps me grounded in this sometimes turbulent lifestyle. Thank you!
At the time, my dreams of travel had long been repressed and instead my intention was to save enough to move to London where I hoped I would be able to find a satisfactory job on the graduate career ladder. But, as I endured a mind numbingly boring entry level job with a large utility company slowly, with the small outgoings I now had, I managed to start paying back the debt and saving up some money for the rent on a London flat.
Life's Too Short
Then I had a scare, a trip to the opticians resulted in a referral to the hospital and an operation on my eye to fix a detached retina that could have left me blind in one eye if untreated. Although I was scared, the operation put things in perspective and gave me the kick I needed to live my life for now.
Life really is too short to waste by spending it being unhappy or following someone else's ideas of what you should do with your life. Life is too short to put off things, even in your twenties you are not too young to get sick.
So, I allowed myself to dream again, to think of what I wanted to do with my life and started to make some plans for once I had fully recovered from the operation.
I kept saving like mad and realised that anything would be possible. I could go away and work and travel as long as I wanted. I started to realise that I don't care if I don't conform to society's norm for me to consume and reproduce. I don't have to sit in a cubicle for 40 hours a week doing a mind numbingly boring and infuriating job just so that I could spend all that money on keeping a roof over my head and supporting a materialistic lifestyle.
I needed to get out of the cycle of work and consume and live my life fully. There must be something else out there? Another meaning to life ...
Dream, Save, Plan, Go!
By this time I had been obsessively saving for 18 months now, I no longer went out or bought anything and tried to save every penny I could. I had paid off my debts and had £6000 in the bank and planned to travel for as long as possible for as little as possible.
With that in the Autumn of 2012 I booked a plane ticket to India as I wanted to experience a completely different culture from that of the UK. I had vague plans to see South East Asia and applied for an Australian Working Holiday visa to enable me to top up my funds once I got that far.
That was the extent of the planning, I'm a believer in only booking one way tickets, not being too limited to an itinerary and seeing where the journey will take you...
Looking over the Pioneer Valley where I worked in Queensland, Australia
Once the ticket was booked, it felt like a great weight was lifted although I still found it hard to believe that I would actually go, that I could actually make my dreams of travel come true.
As the weeks slowly passed in what seemed like an eternity and as the goal got closer my dreams of travel became an all consuming obsession that I could no longer resist even if I had wanted to. I counted down the weeks as the date got ever closer until I felt I could just about reach out and grab it with both hands willing it to take me away from those years of failure and unhappiness.
When the day came to get on the plane I had so many emotions running through my mind, excited, scared, nervous, anxious, sad, guilty, relieved, happy.
Travel changed my life around
And then I was gone, and in some ways it was not as I had envisaged and in some ways it was better than I could ever have imagined. Although travel did not solve all my problems and this lifestyle isn't a constant vacation - it has it's stresses and strains and ups and downs like every lifestyle but it certainly opened my eyes, heart and mind, taught me so much and changed my life forever.
Travel is a good teacher. Somewhere along the way a change came over me slowly. Life and the world seemed amazing, beautiful and radiant again with the golden temples, emerald green rice paddies and turquoise seas. From the rush of humanity in some of the world's busiest cities and the wonder of some of the world's oldest and most impressive monuments.
My only regret was that I wish I had done this sooner and I have no plans to return soon. I have discovered so much about myself and the world.
Hi, I’m Anna, I'm a dreamer, nomad and travel addict from England. I left the UK in Dec 2012 and have been traveling around India, South East Asia, Australia and Europe independently and on a budget ever since. Now I want to show you how to make travel your lifestyle too. Want to know more ...