Want to know a secret? Planning to travel isn’t easy, cheap or quick, it’s actually really quite stressful. But it’s worth it…
For anyone who’s ever dreamt of throwing in the conventional day job to travel the world, it can seem like a daunting prospect. You’re really up for the sunsets, the hikes, the lazy days on the beach, but you’re just not quite sure you have the wherewithal to get there. Perhaps like me you’ve spent hours drooling over fabulously exotic Instagram accounts with a mingled feeling of inspiration, apathy and envy: how on earth did they make that happen?
Sitting at my desk over a year ago I felt a million miles away from a life of adventure. Twitter and Instagram provided a bitter-sweet escapism, allowing me to lust over the lives of smiling, bronzed bohemians waving merrily at me from far-flung corners of the earth. “It’s alright for them,” I thought, “they make it look so easy. If it was as simple as just up and leaving, I’d do it tomorrow”. And I’d sigh resignedly and return to my work, casting jealous glances at their latest paps as they pinged obnoxiously on my feed.
The world of blogs and social media seemed to be perpetuating an image of carefree lifestyles that could be adopted at the drop of the hat. But the beaming smiles bely the fact that anyone who has forged a new life for themselves has most probably not had it easy. And that’s because what these people haven’t shared are the pictures of them sat surrounded by half-packed boxes in an emptying house, crying because they’ve been up since 6 o’clock trying to fit the remnants of their conventional life into exactly 15 boxes and they’ve just upended a pile of crockery and accidentally smashed their great-grandmother’s tea cup*. That just doesn’t quite fit the brand.
Whilst it’s great to draw inspiration from the happy-ever-afters, I’m keen to share the less glamorous details about how to get there in the first place. In a series of ‘planning to travel’ posts, I’ll spell out the mundane, logistical details of travel that don’t always make the final cut.
So how have I managed to quit my job to travel the world? It’s taken me a year. A whole year of planning, worrying, organising, saving, and generally driving myself half-mad with impatient excitement. James and I first heard the word ‘divemaster’ when we did our PADI Open Water course in Malta in 2012. Our instructor was telling us about his time in Vietnam and the Gili Islands and we listened with the sort of mild jealousy that most office workers feel when presented with the fact that not everyone faces the drudgery of a long commute and a bloated inbox on a Monday morning. “That sounds amazing, but not the sort of thing that we could do, surely?”
Over the next few months, we watched as a few of our friends chose to follow new and exciting paths. One was working his way round the world as a yacht engineer, posting up hugely jealous-making shots of sunsets in the Maldives on Instagram as he went. Another was sending updates from South Korea where he’d gone to teach English for a few months and ended up staying for years. “Why can’t we could do something like that” we’d say, without every actually entertaining the idea of making such a drastic change. We had a house, 2 dogs and perfectly decent careers. No, exotic round-the-world adventures were for other people surely?
But after a while, we found ourselves struggling to find an answer to that question. It slowly morphed into “no, seriously, why can’t we do something like that?…” For the first time, we allowed ourselves to consider actually doing something different: we could quit our jobs and train to be diving instructors. Tentatively, we began to discuss what steps we’d have to take and how we could find the money to do so. What started as a hypothetical conversation over drinks (“if we put aside £300 a month each for a year…”) led to a For Sale sign in the front garden and a P45.
But, somewhat dishearteningly, making the decision to do it turned out to be the easy part. What followed was many harrowing months of working out a budget, finding the right place to do our training, and trying to work out whether we would actually be brave enough to book the flights and commit to the dream. During that time, I’d find myself looking at photos of friends or bloggers who’d already made the leap and wondering if they’d found things as hard. Life seemed so effortlessly exciting for them, as if they’d just been teleported from their desk to the beach without any actual grunt work. I struggled to find comprehensive information about this early stage of travel – the boring, administrative part where you’ve got a shit load to deal with but you haven’t even set foot out of the country. It made me feel like I was failing some how.
Goethe said that “thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world.” I think he’s on to something. It’s easy to sit and daydream about a new kind of life, about quitting the job and trying something new, but thinking about the dream is only the first step. What comes next is putting those thoughts into action, making your dream a reality by going through the slow, tiring and stressful motions that are part and parcel with change.
In the last year, James and I have had to:
- sell our house
- rehome our adorable dogs
- quit our jobs
- pack up all our worldly belongings into a few boxes
- move in with our parents
- say goodbye to our loved ones
It’s not been easy and it’s certainly not been glamorous. But it’s fundamental to making full-time travel a possibility. For anyone who wishes to do the same, please please don’t be disheartened by the countless images of happy, successful, carefree travellers out there. Everyone has to go through a certain level of hardship before they can reap their rewards. If you’re prepared to do the hard bit, to “put [your] thoughts into action”, then you’ll be repaid with a life of adventure that is worth sharing.
* OK, maybe this was just me.