It has been an interesting few months for me. I unexpectedly found myself back at home in December last year, with no real idea for how long or what next and with no job. Determined to keep my travelling spirit alive and kicking, I walked back into a job I vowed never to return to with my head hung low and asked if they’d have me for a few months – the money was my only focus. If I could work by butt off for a short while I would soon be back out doing what I do best; exploring.
Sure I’ve spent the best part of 6 months in a job I seriously dislike, in a town I’ve never considered home whilst adapting to life back with my Mum and sister, but all for a fantastic cause: soon I’ll be pedalling my way around Iceland for 4 weeks before jetting off to China to begin my new career as a teacher. A little extra saving has also enabled me to book time with a friend in Vietnam – a dream we promised each other we’d do one day.
It’s been a long slog but the end is neigh. I thought I’d put together a little How To which has really helped me focus on my end goal and to save money. I hope it will help others out there with similar targets.
Money takes many precious hours to make and very few to spend. If travelling is a long term goal for you, what you choose to spend your hard earned cash on should be thought out carefully. The best way of pinpointing your monthly priorities is to check online banking and receipts – two new pairs of shoes this month? A little too much spent on chocolate? The latter is definitely a problem of mine; so I learnt to treat myself only once a week instead of three times. It might only be £1 here and 50p there that you’re saving, but it all adds up. Set yourself short-term budgets, either weekly or monthly, and drop your spare coins in a jar. Whenever you’re struggling just think to yourself “do I really need this right now, or would I rather spend it on a new experience or trying a new food in a few months time?”
Don’t let the wickedly ways of Western society make you believe you need anything!
Gain a new skill/qualification
A great way of remaining abroad for a long period of time is to work. An even better way would be to work doing something you enjoy, with enough freedom to explore your new surroundings in your spare time. This is where the 5 months at home comes in useful as it provides enough time to take a course and gain some of those all important transferable skills. It also allows to plenty of research time – what sort of jobs are rife? What experience do you need? Where would you like to spend a substantial amount of time?
For me, I chose to take my TEFL qualification. I decided that teaching English as a foreign language would open up plenty of doors and is fantastic for travel. By putting in 6 hours a week I got my certificate after 3 months, but most courses allow 12 months to complete and I’m sure they can be completed a lot faster if you have the time! Shortly after I landed a 1 year contract to teach in Beijing.
Surround yourself by like-minded people
If, like me, you are spending a few months back at home in a town that doesn’t really put the Z in your zing and in a temporary job that bursts your bubble on a daily basis, you may struggle with motivation. That is, motivation to work hard, save money and focus on the adventures ahead and it may have you questioning ‘for how long can I stand this?’
Avoid the urge to pack it in and run away, shake off the negativity and allow those that just-don’t-get your wanderlust to walk-on-by. Make time for the friends that understand what it is to travel, to experience new things and leave the comfort zone. If face to face is tricky, arrange a Skype call or send a long, heart-felt email – anything that will reassure you that this short interval will all be worth it.
Use this time sat still in once place to spend time with those that really matter to you. Afterall, do you know when the next time will be?
Move home rent free
Okay I realise this isn’t an easy option for a lot of people. But, if you happen to be in your mid-20’s and have a fantastically supportive Mum who gets your need to explore the world, this is a very good option for saving money; and fast. It’s never easy moving home once you’ve flown the nest and become your independent, adult-self but the ever lingering sense of feeling unsettled (sorry Mum) is a positive thing – it will prevent you from becoming too comfortable whilst you’re saving the dosh.
All of that money that would be spent on rent and bills can go straight in the Adventure Fund and Mum will be so happy to have you around when she finds out you’re going to the other side of the world for 12 months.
Trade car/bus/train travel for a bike
Fortunately for us, public transport has become increasingly accessible for everyone, but unfortunately attainability comes at a hefty price (most of the time). It’s quite scary how much money gets spent on journeys to and fro the work place, unless of course you are lucky enough to live within walking distance of your job. An average person spends £250 a month on commuting – an average total of 10,000 hours travelling to and fro within a lifetime.
When serious saving is in order, ditch the help of a motor and get yourself a bike. You can pick one up for as little as £40 (to be sold again when you jet set to your new job abroad!), you will get fit in the process and you’ll save yourself so much money!
I’ve been commuting to work at a total of 12 miles a day in wind, rain and snow. The ride in the morning prepares me for the day and allows me to wind down before dinner. Oh and I should mention I have saved a whopping £660 on train fare which equals the price of a return ticket to Australia.
Make the most of being grounded
Being ‘stuck’ in one place really does have its positives. As a frequent traveller myself, there are things I really miss about being somewhere for a while. For example, it’s difficult to become part of a club or anything that requires regular meet-ups and social events when you’re moving around – something that can be enjoyed whilst you’re home. It’s also a great time to build upon family relationships and friendships that may have drifted in your absence. Days off from work suddenly become sacred and you’re more likely to spend them wisely.
What I really mean to say is that don’t spend your time rebelling and enjoy what there is to offer – 5 months is a long time to use to only focus on the future.