“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands.” — Sir Richard Burton
Have you thought about traveling? Have you been thinking about planning a trip to Europe? This article will help you out.
The following is a guest post from Donovan Frost, a personal finance blogger who aims to help young millennials understand their money. When he’s not checking fantasy football stats or scrolling through Yelp reviews to find the best teriyaki spots, he’s writing over at The Adaptable Adult.
I had always heard about people quitting their jobs and just traveling to go find themselves. You meet these people, but never actually imagine taking the plunge yourself. Well, I just finished just that and it’s totally worth it! After working nonstop for 2 years, I decided that I’d quit my job and take off to Europe for 3 months. At the age of 24, with nothing to my name except the stuff I’ve accumulated over the years, I took off with just a laptop and the clothes in my bag.
How can you plan your first trip to Europe in four easy steps?
Step #1: Decide to leave it all behind.
[Martin’s note: You don’t have to be so drastic about your first adventure. You can start slow. You can take time off from work. You can go to work somewhere abroad. I covered six ways you can travel before it’s too late for those that feel that the clock is ticking.]
I honestly wasn’t happy with the job I was in. I’d wanted to leave for 6 months, but was afraid of the security I’d be giving up. I was getting a steady paycheck with bonuses, company car, gas card, and insurance. The health benefits were great. The job was flexible. The problem was that I wasn’t being challenged at all.
Everyday I’d be at work thinking, “You’re better than this. Get the hell out of here.” Yet, week after week I’d go in Monday – Friday and do the same thing. It was insanity.
In college, I never had the opportunity to study abroad. Money was a big factor. I calculated that taking a semester abroad would push back my graduation date and therefore make me take out more student loans. I figured I would travel once I graduated, and I did. I’ve taken several trips abroad, but none lasting longer than a month. Now was the time to do it right and let go.
Now, everyone’s question was, “how are you paying for this?”
Well, I run a personal finance blog over at The Adaptable Adult, so you know I’m a frugal SOB. I had been fortunate enough to split an apartment with my ex-girlfriend so I actually paid less rent than I did in college. Along with my full-time job, I’d get paid for side hustles like Uber and blogging while stowing away money incrementally.
My long-term goals of buying a house would have to be pushed back. I also wouldn’t be contributing to my 401(k) retirement plan or adding to my investment portfolio while I’m out of work. That’s all good though because this was just 3 short months of my life.
Now, if I didn’t have a mom and dad that love and support me no matter what, I wouldn’t have done it. I’ve come back and am able to live at home in the suburbs of Los Angeles rent-free. Not many people have this flexibility at their disposal and I’m extremely grateful for this.
Step #2: Start the planning process.
The best part about the decision was that I was doing the trip solo. I had plans to meet up with friends for two weeks, but besides that, it was all going to be on me. I could go at my own pace and stay in a place for as long as I wanted. I stayed in some cities for a week at a time.
Some people are big planners. I’m not one of them.
Oftentimes, I’d be in a town and not know if I was sleeping there that night or if I was going to catch a bus to the next place. It’s the best way to do it, though not the cheapest. Having a set itinerary limits you in my opinion. If I were traveling with others, I would’ve planned it out more, but just having the freedom to go as I pleased made it all worth it.
Step #3: Get used to the hostel life.
Usually when I travel, I don’t mind staying in hostels with ten other people in a room or going to the local market to pick up groceries, so I budgeted $7,000 US on the high-end, knowing that I’d be partying and eating out more often than not. However, I’d definitely have to rethink spending on expensive tours or souvenirs.
The hostels I stayed in averaged around $20 per night. If you’ve never stayed in hostels before, it’s not as bad as you think. As a solo traveler, it’s the best way to meet people. Sure, you have to deal with the occasional loud drunk people and people having sex in your room, but these events are less common than you’d think. Oftentimes, the difference between a 6-bed dorm room and a 10-bed dorm is a matter of $5.
Being out in Europe for so long didn’t necessarily change me. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s still the western world and our ideals aren’t so different or if I was just having too much fun hustling from one destination to the next, but my viewpoint on life largely stayed the same. Sure, some things change. I definitely want to continue travelling the world as much as I can. This all circles back to money. Whether we want to believe it or not, money makes the world go round. However, what we can control is what we choose to spend our money on.
I choose travel. I do it relatively cheap… sometimes. Of course, I wasted money on stupid stuff. I lost my wallet with a bunch of cash in it. I missed buses, ferries, and planes, all resulting in a loss of about $500. Ouch. I ended up having to sacrifice spending because of these stupid mistakes. This is all part of the learning process of growing up, especially when being in foreign countries on your own.
Step #4: Get out and see the world.
Traveling isn’t about pinching pennies. It’s about having fun and enjoying life. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. There are tons of free things to do that are fun. Everything is great in moderation. Yes, you can party every night and stay out until 6am, but your day won’t likely start until past 1pm the next day… or same day. You don’t have to live off pasta either. Enjoy the local cuisine. Try the signature cocktails. It’s all part of the experience. Every so often, I’d have a nice three-course dinner just like I would back home in California.
Though it’s really cliché, the best part of it all was the people I met. After all, it does get lonely when you’re constantly on the move. The people you meet could make or break a place for you.
The biggest issue I struggled with was constantly putting myself out there on a daily basis, but the best days I had were spent with strangers I had met that day or the night before.
If you’ve never taken a solo trip before, I’m not saying go for three months, but just try out visiting a place for a week on your own. You really identify with what matters to you most.
“To awaken alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” — Freya Stark