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Ash and I love to travel and we just finished an eleven month trip around Eastern and Western Europe. I will admit that we were not as prepared as I thought we would be especially since we both had lived in Europe before. As soon as the weight of that backpack hit my shoulders the adrenaline and excitement kicked in and there was no way we were turning back. We had a long adventure ahead of us and a lot to learn. Here are just some of the things we learned after 11 months on the road and what we would have done differently. Travel is the best education after all!
How Fast Money Goes
Before our trip Ash and I planned and saved for a full year in order to have enough money to travel for a year. It was a difficult task to estimate exactly how much we would need for this kind of trip. When you’ve never done this before it feels a little overwhelming. Also, we were trying to plan for two people which rose the difficulty level. There are blogs who have written articles on how to budget. Believe me, when I tell you that Ashley read every single one of them.
We planned out our own monthly budget and it went out the door as soon as we hit the road. I’ll be the first to admit that a lot of it’s our fault but there were expenses that ended up blindsiding us, especially with how expensive Iceland was!
We’re a cuisine travel guide so the majority of our money goes towards food, wine, and spirits. Studying and learning about a cuisine of a city or country is not cheap. Mix that with expenses for transportation, accommodations, and things you forget you even spent money on and you have a recipe for budgetary disaster.
Quickly we learned how fast money disappears when you’re enjoying yourself. That perfectly detailed planned budget gets tossed out that door the second we are presented with a great meal opportunity or a new craft brewery or sharing a bottle or two of local wine. Don’t worry, at some point you will be scrambling, trying to come up with a new budget.
I feel that on anyone’s first extended trip the finances will stress you at some point. All you can do is sit, have a beer, (that you’re not sure you can afford) and rework your budget which we did a lot. There are notebooks filled with calculations and projections of just how long we could stretch our money. Just know, that money flies when having fun or at least for us anyways.
The Need to Pay Attention to Small Purchases
I know I am not supposed to assume, but I’m going to live on the wild side and assume, this is what probably breaks the majority of travelers’ budgets. I’m sure we have all forgotten to pay attention to those pesky small purchases. Your brain says, “it’s only 5 bucks.” That is when you need to step back and ask yourself, do I really need this?
If you don’t and you keep using these excuses you will find out that 5 bucks adds up quickly and you will be pondering about where all your money has gone. I’m a victim of this excuse and it happened to me quite often.
I would suggest to pay attention to what you are purchasing by writing a journal of everything you spend or downloading a budget app, so you know exactly where your money is going and you can make the proper adjustments to your budget. When we downloaded the budget app in September 2015 while we were in Croatia all of a sudden we could see exactly where our money was going. It wasn’t always pretty but it was necessary to make us aware of all of our small purchases and what we could cut out.
Money isn’t Everything
Now, it’s easy to stress and worry about money on a trip and believe me it was our biggest stress when we traveled. What you have to learn is not to let the stress of money ruin your trip or worse lead to days of depression on the road which happened a few times. Stress about money can make you feel utterly powerless when you travel and can ruin the experiences in front of you so you have to remind yourself that money truly isn’t everything.
Spend your money on the stuff you want to do and enjoy it. When you make the decision to spend the money don’t regret it but enjoy it. Money’s not everything and we did not embark on the trip to stress about our bank account. Just be aware of your spendings and spend it on the stuff you enjoy and if you do go over budget, just rework it. On our entire 11 month trip we only truly regret one purchase and it was $60 spent on a terrible meal in Iceland. Overall that is not bad!
Planning is Good but Flexibility is Better
Ash and I know so many people that have to have every detail of a trip planned out before hand. We’ve learned many times that it does not usually work and is more likely ruin a trip. If you look back on what our originally plan was it was completely different from what we ended up doing. But if we weren’t flexible we would have been able to have so many amazing opportunities like camping beside a waterfall in Iceland, visiting Sofia, spending time in Marmaris, Turkey and, working at a winery in Croatia.
I prefer the outline approach to travel. You have a basic idea of where you want to go, buy the tickets for the major stops and accommodations and then just go. Leave all the in between for later. Things come up and you might want to change plans at some point as we did so frequently.
I’m not telling people to not plan, you should plan as it’s always good to be prepared. Just know that while traveling things have a tendency to go wrong. It’s important to understand that and don’t let those stumbles be the end of your trip. As you travel more and more you’ll realize that being flexible will save you from graying early.
How to Supplement Savings With Programs Like WorkAway and House Sitting to Save Money
Traveling with two can be expensive when it comes to accommodations. We were constantly figuring out how to save a buck. Luckily for us we learned that there are options for free accommodations. WorkAway and Trusted Housesitters were two of these programs that helped us save money on a trip especially when we were able to stay in London over the holidays for 2 weeks!
WorkAway is simple; it’s an online community that allows you to find people who are willing to give you a place to stay with the promise of doing 3-4 hours of work for them. WorkAway opened up a bunch of new avenues for experiences while traveling. Ash and I worked at a hostel in Macedonia, worked on a olive farm outside of Sparta, and worked on a yoga retreat in Rhodes.
WorkAway can be a hit or miss but it was a good opportunity to see a new place and stay for free and do something a little different.
The other amazing option and our favorite is to join Trusted Housesitters. Ash and I did this in London for a couple who were going on vacation. We got to stay in London for a couple of weeks for free and all we had to do was keep the place clean and look after their kitten. It was a great experience and we loved it and it allowed us to stay in the heart of London when otherwise it would have cost us hundreds of dollars to stay in the same location.
Making connections is hard but it’s a good skill to have when traveling. When you travel you meet a lot of people and have great opportunities to make a friendship and a traveling connection.
Ashley and I reached out to a couple of travel bloggers we followed so we could meet up and have a bite of eat or a drink. We even had a couple who reached out to us who became our close friends, Expat Edna and Joe.
We also connected with Andrea the creator of the blog, Zagreb Honestly, and had a fantastic lunch with her and her husband, Nick, in Zagreb. We got along instantly and it was because of this friendship that I was able to work harvest in Croatia. By the way thank you again Andrea and Nick for doing that for us!
Making connections is not about getting something, it’s about creating a community around the world that supports each other. It is about making life long friendship that can never be replaced.
Original Plan vs. Where We are Now
When we left on this trip we did not have much of a direction. We simply planned to travel, write our blog, make money (hopefully), and keep traveling. That overwhelmingly amazing, and thought out plan changed quickly as we traveled.
We learned how hard and how much dedication it is to make money on the road. We learned that just because you travel around the world does not mean you’re going to become a famous blogger. It is not that unique anymore. Learning all of this, made us focus on what we needed to do and what direction we needed to go.
In the beginning we wanted to be travel bloggers. We really did not have a plan. Now plans have slightly changed. We’re still going to blog but it’s not really our main drive and focus.
Ash and I realized that what we do best is eat and drink and that we love to teach people about eating and drinking. We’re now focused on writing high quality extensive cuisine guides to publish while writing high quality short cuisine guides for the blog. We are learning how to develop skills that will help us boost finances on the road. We want to diversify what we can offer from our brand.
People say you will find yourself when you travel and I think Ash and I found our calling for what we want our careers to be and what direction we want to take our brand. I guess you can say we found ourselves.
We Are BAD At Working on the Road
I think the number one thing we found out is that we are terrible at working on the road. It’s a skill that we are trying to learn even if it is slow but, it’s not easy for us. We get caught up in the exploring and the adventure and we forget or blow off work or even worse consider eating and drinking our “research” (which it is…) but then forget to follow up on that research.
I do believe that our next trip we will be better at working on the road. As our last trip ended, we created better habits for ourselves. I think we will continue the good habits and improve on them as we grow.
It’s all about learning from your failures and we have. I think we’re progressing and growing into being able to work on the road. Near the end of the trip we were better but not as good as some of the bloggers we follow. It’s a real skill to be disciplined with your work when traveling.
What Do We Consider Now That We Didn’t Originally?
Ash and I learned a lot about ourselves that we will now consider when we travel again. We will be more aware of what we spend as we have a way of spending too much. We will begin by using Trail Wallet from the beginning to keep track of everything we spend so we know exactly where our money is going.
We are also in the process of diversifying our skills so that we can have a chance to bring in other income as we travel from creating a Barcelona coloring book, writing “Eat Local in Barcelona – A Guide to Catalan Cuisine”, selling photos on Etsy, and learning new skills from Social Media Marketing, taking portraits, surfing so that Alex can work as a surf instructor, etc..
There are so many ways to try to make money while on the road and I think the major thing we learned is to work on making a location free income BEFORE we are flat broke and not out of desperation.
Also, I think we will slow down our traveling and spend more time in one place and do day trips out from there. Routine may be the enemy but it helps to have a base and a place to call home, even for a little while, especially when working and creating a life on the road.
Last but not least I’m personally going to invest in better quality clothes that will hold up to travel so I can pack less. 🙂
I could keep going on everything we’ve learned while traveling and I’m sure that we will never stop learning. That is the great thing about traveling, you learn that you can’t plan for everything that will come but you will learn and grow with every twist. All one has to do is just take a breath and keep moving forward and enjoy everything the world has to offer.
Just remember, the first step is to buy that ticket!
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