As some of you might know, I’ve spent the last few months bumming in the south of France with my mum and step dad, after quitting my job. It’s been just what I needed at this point in my life and while I could stay here forever, I don’t think it’s suitable long term plan, for many reasons.
I’ve therefore decided that 2017 is going to be the year that I travel. And in a little over three weeks I am embarking on a trip that will take in at least four continents.
I’m pretty terrified, I’m not going to lie. I’ve never been on holiday by myself, and I have only ever done one (return) long-haul flight alone. I am a chatterbox and if I don’t have another person to unload my thoughts on to, I tend to get a bit bogged down in my own head and work everything up in to a lot of unnecessary worry. So, this will be a challenge.
There are also a few things I may have eluded to in previous posts, such as struggles with anxiety and depression, which I am so concerned are going to hinder my enjoyment of this. But I am probably in the best place I have been in for about 4/5 years, so I can’t keep putting it off.
It’s never or now. I’m 28, jobless, plan-less, slightly direction-less, childless, partner-less and wannabe independent woman (as much as I love the idea that I could be Beyonce, I’m not quite there yet). I also set myself a huge challenge in my 30 before 30 list to visit 20 new countries and 50 new places, so this seems like the most sensible way to do it, especially as I am not working. There’s a few other things on there that will likely get completed at the same time.
I’ve told a few people already, and as I get a lot of the same questions asked each time, I thought I would answer them all below.
Won’t you get lonely?
Yes. But I also get lonely in the UK and when I’m surrounded by friends and family. It’s something I’m trying to overcome and appreciate that being on my own doesn’t mean being alone. I’m so much better at it than I ever have been and while I am pretty terrified that no one is going to like me while I am away, I also know I don’t have to be friends with everyone I meet and will probably really enjoy my own freedom and company.
I am also cheating slightly. The first five days I am going to be joined by friend Damian, who is taking some time off work to hang out with me in Berlin and Krakow. I know there might be some people who think I should just dive headfirst in on my own, and there is some logic in that, but I think I would feel a lot more comfortable easing myself in to travelling alone. I’m then meeting up with Damian and I’s former colleague Helen, who now lives in Estonia, so I have another friend to ease any loneliness and have fun with.
A month later, I am also not going to be on my own. My sister Jess and our friend Alex are joining me on a three-week road trip of the west coast of America. Jess and I have been talking about doing America since we were kids, so it would be a shame not to do it now just because I want to travel on my own and Alex is also currently on her own sabbatical. Plus, America is expensive, and it is going to be easier to share the cost between three of us.
But, that’s just four weeks-ish out of a trip with no end point, so I don’t think that’s too much of a cheat. Leading me on to…
When are you coming back?
No idea. In my mind I’ve got a year’s limit for actual travelling, because I doubt I can afford to do much more. But I am also in the midst of completing a TEFL course so I have the option to teach to pick up either extra cash or find a more permanent job somewhere I really love or want to explore more.
As a journalist, I don’t want to stop writing either, so I don’t know if that might help me along the way. Whatever happens, it’s not like I’ll never be back. You can’t get rid of me that easily.
How are you affording it?
I’ve been saving steadily for years, and had no idea what to do with the cash. At one point it was going towards a house, but there’s no chance it’ll get me much of a deposit currently and I don’t want to settle anywhere right now.
I also recouped a couple of grand by selling my car and other bits and bobs and getting a tax rebate, which has helped me afford to add Europe on at the beginning (which I have only planned in the last couple of weeks).
But I am going to be doing this as cheap as I can. I’m going to try to keep track of all my expenses and then work out how much “each day” cost me at the end, just to show how it can be done. Also, see above – when I’m running out of money, I will always have the option to work in some form or another.
Where are you going?
I have a rough idea at the moment of a route but I haven’t bought a Round The World ticket. I weighed up all the pros and cons and decided that for the most part I want a lot of flexibility. You can change RTW tickets, but it does feel quite limiting from the outset.
However, I’ve bought my Interrail pass and that trip is fairly set in stone route wise – Perpignan > Berlin > Krakow > Vilnius > Riga > Tallin > Helsinki > Stockholm > Oslo > Copenhagen > London. In an ideal world I wouldn’t have done this so rigidly, but that’s something I will discuss more once I’ve completed that trip.
After that I have just one flight booked, so far, and that’s to Oakland, where I will start the aforementioned road trip taking in San Francisco, Big Sur, Monterey, Yosemite, Lassen national park, Crater Lake, Portland, Mount Rainier, Seattle, Olympic national park and then the Pacific coast highway. After Alex and Jess return to the UK I am unsure if I’ll do a little more of the US or head straight up to Vancouver (flying probably). And, before anyone says anything, I realise that if I am going to Vancouver then the above route might not make the most sense as I will be passing very close to Vancouver half way round, but, there are sensible reasons, which I will get to once I am there.
I’ve then bought a Kiwi Experience bus ticket, which is valid for use any time in the next 12 months and then for a following 12 months after I make my first trip. So I think I will probably get to New Zealand (HELLO HOBBITON) for about April-ish, but it completely depends on flights. If I can get a super cheap flight from Vancouver/America to Australia or SE Asia first, then I’ll do that.
After Vancouver I want to go to New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand (again), Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, and possibly China. What order I do it all in is up in the air. Other places may get added to the list, some might be removed. But one of my big things is that I want as much of this as possible to be as unplanned as can be. If I love a place and want to stay three months, then I hope I can.
“Oh, you’ll just find the love of your life while you are away”
This is my biggest bug bear. Now, I know most people have good intentions when they are saying this and want me to be happy, but it’s an awful lot of money just to spend in the hope I might meet the “love of my life”. It also automatically puts an expectation on the outcome of this trip. I am doing this solely for me. I fully intend on meeting lots of people, men and women, and I’ve never been happier being on my own, so by making this trip out to be a way for me to not be single becomes more about other people’s desires than my own.
How are you going to take everything you need?
This probably necessitates another blog post in itself as it’s been quite difficult to plan for. My first three weeks I am expecting temperatures as low as -16 and when I get to Asia it could be at least 35. So I’ve planned for what your mum always tells you is best – layers. I’ve tried to pack clothes with versatility and when my sister leaves the US, I am hoping to unload a couple of bulkier items with her, such as jeans (thanks in advance, schwester!). But I’m also not taking anything with me that I don’t mind chucking.
How will I keep in touch with you?
Ok, not so many people ask that, but if you are desperate to know what I am up to then follow me on here! There’s a subscription option in the sidebar, and you’ll get emails each time I post. You are also likely reading this because it’s on my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram, so keep following me there. I will probably be posting the most frequently from my Instagram, so I can show off with pretty pictures.
I have also added a shiny google map thing which will have markers for everywhere I have been and will link through to blog posts on each, that will remain static on the Where Have I Been page, so you can have a look at all the places I have visited, and perhaps I might even inspire some of you to also make a trip to those places.
As a final note, I could not have done this without the support of my family and friends (picture me as Gwyneth Paltrow when she won her Oscar). They’ve listened to me panic, detail plans, panic some more and talk myself out of this more often than I care to count, and they’ve also pushed me to realise what I want to do right now.
My mum and step-dad John have also been brave enough to let me move back in with them to allow me the space to figure out my life and while I know I have been super annoying and teenager-y, I really have appreciated it more than I think they will know (more Gwynnie tears). And that’s probably enough soppiness, I’ll save my real life tears for the train station at 5am on February 3, when I suddenly realise I am actually leaving and won’t have mum to wash my clothes for me.
*all pictures courtesy of unsplash.com