Yesterday marks exactly 4 months until I board a plane for Mexico City and embark on a new chapter of my life – 15 months of full-time travel around the world. To say I’m excited is the world’s biggest understatement.
I’m completely consumed by my impending worldwide adventures, and I absolutely love it!
However, prepping to travel for an extended period of time isn’t as easy as I thought it was. I guess I imagined I would just burn everything I own, kiss my family and friends goodbye, flip my antagonists the bird, throw on my backpack and board a plane just a-swingin’ my hair.
But, no. There’s a lot of planning and to-do involved with getting ready to travel long term.
I’ve had lots of time to think and prepare since deciding to take this big leap back in September. I’ve made great progress in some areas (I’ve kicked ass in selling most of my stuff and planning my itinerary) and failed miserably in others (I’ve only saved about 70% of what I’d intended on having saved at this point).
Here’s a look at where I am. Suggestions welcome. And if you can cure my bad habit of incessant, spontaneous-concert-ticket-buying, I’ll buy you dinner.
This is my favorite part of traveling. Hell, it’s one of my favorite things in life! I love researching destinations, reading recommendations and practical advice, and deciding where I want to go based on whatever the hell criteria I want. I live for it, almost as much as traveling itself!
I’ve made myself a gorgeous excel doc (potentially the geekiest thing I’ve ever said) with an outline of all the places I want to go, and I edit it daily. Every time I feel a bit stressed or overworked, I peek back at my itinerary and remind myself of all the places I’m going. All the excitement floods back in every time I open that damn document. It’s what is getting me through the long hours at work and keeping me centered when I’m tempted to blow $300 on a weekend getaway.
And what are my plans, you may ask?
First of all, I’ve settled on the “3 months out, 1 month back” strategy. I think this will help me achieve my travel goals while staying in budget and also allow me to spend more time with my family, one of the reasons I’m making this big life change. Here are how my 4 blocks of 3 months are shaping up:
October – December 2015: I’ve locked in my first 3 months in Central America. Among other adventures, I’m planning to run a half marathon for Day of the Dead in Mexico, get my advanced PADI scuba diving certification in Playa Del Carmen, dive the Blue Hole in Belize, visit the Mayan Tikal ruins in Guatemala, and spend 3 weeks relaxing on Little Corn Island in Nicaragua. My friend Stacey from Tasmania will be joining me for the first bit and my brother will come to Little Corn for the last few weeks.
January – March 2016: After a couple of weeks in Texas for the holidays, I’m kicking off the new year in Thailand for Yacht Week (more on that amazingness later!) and then spending another month in my favorite destination diving in Ko Tao, raving at the Full Moon Party, and eating as much delicious Thai food as I can handle. Then I’m heading to Bali and Lombok in Indonesia for more diving, and then to Western Australia to say hi to some friends in Perth and rent a camper van for a few weeks. This post from y Travel Blog was what sealed the deal on that one!
May -July 2016: I’ve got a rough plan to spend this entire block in the Philippines, a country I’m dying to visit. However, it is also my mom’s 60th birthday in June and she’s keen to spend it traveling somewhere, probably New Zealand or on a cruise in the Pacific Islands. I definitely don’t want to miss out on that, so I’m keeping this block only loosely planned for a bit.
September – November 2016: I’ve got about 100 different 3-month itineraries for my last (planned) block of travel. I figure I’ll see how I’m feeling by next summer, who I’ve met, how I’m doing money-wise and what kind of adventures I’m hoping to get up to. I’d like to do some volunteering and also achieve fluency in Spanish, so I’m leaning towards 3 months volunteering in Peru, but if I know me, those plans will change a million times before then!
Beyond: I’m saving enough to be able to make it to this point and get resettled back into life in LA if that is what my heart desires after my trip. But who knows where this incredible journey will take me? I sure as hell don’t. So I’m not worrying about it.
Budget & Saving
Saving money has never been my forte. Just ask any blackjack dealer I’ve ever met in Las Vegas.
The truth is, I’m great at budgeting and spreadsheets, but when it comes to the actual decision-making process involved in spending money, I tend to have a “Fuck it, why not?” attitude. I’m lucky that I’ve not lived far outside of my means in the last 10 years, but I’ve never been great at saving large sums of cash. The money just sits in my savings account like a shiny, annoying distraction, constantly elbowing me in the ribs to put it to good use.
Enter my spontaneous concert-ticket-buying addiction. I get daily notifications from all the live music venues in LA that I love about upcoming shows, and I have a habit of immediately buying two tickets to any show I’m vaguely interested in seeing as soon as their available. You see, I love live music, and the majority of concerts in LA sell out really quickly, so this strategy has helped me in the past get into shows most people can’t get in to. But no surprise, this is a horrible habit when you’re trying to save for a big, life changing trip.
I’ve just recently unsubscribed from all the live music email updates I get, and that’s made a big difference. It also helps to plug my ears and chant “lalalalalala” really loudly when anyone around me starts discussing a band they are excited about seeing. The less I know about who is coming to town, the better. Reducing the temptation, people, that’s what works!
The last 6 months I’ve buckled down and managed to increase my trip savings to about $14,000. That sounds like a lot, but my plan is to save more than double that before I leave. In order to travel as much as I plan to, to pay my remaining student loan payments and the few bills I’ll have while traveling, and to leave a cushion for emergencies, I’m hoping to have about $35,000 saved before I leave. Now, I’m not entirely sure I can do that by October, but I sure as hell am going to try.
I’m lucky that I have a great job that pays well and despite the long hours, gives me lots of energy and inspires great creativity. I also have started to recognize that the comfort it provides me will be gone once I take a break from working in TV, and I need to prepare accordingly. I have a big stint of working in New York this summer where I’ll have my housing and many meals provided, which will eliminate a lot of my expenses for a chunk of time. If I’m smart, I should be able to reach my savings goal or get close to it. If don’t reach it, I’m not going to cut my trip plans short, but I will have to adjust them to include some work exchange or pepper in some TV work during my months back.
Downsizing My Life
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned the last six months: the less stuff that I have, the more I feel like I have.
Since October, I’ve managed to sell, donate or throw away almost everything I own. Most of it was crammed into a 10 feet by 10 feet storage unit in Hollywood that I loathed even the thought of. But, after making about $1000 selling furniture on Craigslist, unloading 100s of books and DVDs at The Last Bookstore, and donating over a dozen boxes of old kitchenware, candleholders, and generally useless crap to the local thrift shop, I’m left with a much more manageable mass of possessions.
Everything I own is either in (1) the three large suitcases worth of clothes and necessities I have in the room I’m renting from a friend, or (2) in a 4 foot by 3 foot closet at a smaller storage unit in Van Nuys. And most of the latter is travel or Harry Potter memorabilia I can’t bear to part with yet…..but I’m getting there.
It’s so crazy how much lighter I feel with less stuff. First of all, I don’t have several massive bookshelves full of unread books judging me as I sink into the couch to binge watch Orange is the New Black. I don’t have a load of kitchen gadgets sitting around gathering dust because I never have the time or inclination to actually cook anything. And all the clothes in my closet I actually enjoy wearing (and as soon as I don’t, I throw them straight into the donate bin).
I also find myself buying less crap too. I think it’s because I went through the drudgery of moving, storing and eventually getting rid of so much stuff that I barely used already that I no longer trust the voice in my head telling me that I should buy something because I “need” it.
Like the other day I was this close to hitting “Complete Purchase” on a $47 yoga towel from Gaiam.com when I reminded myself that I only have four months until I travel full time, how much use will I get out of this in that time? Am I not making a shift into marathon training next month that will scale back the number of hot yoga classes I take? And why the fuck do I need a prissy yoga towel anyways when one of the normal bath towels I own will do just fine in hot yoga? Damn you, consumer culture! DAMN YOU!
I of course bought it anyways because I’m ridiculous, but then returned it as soon as it arrived. Sometimes I’m a slow learner. But I’m getting there.
Blogging, Videography & Writing
I’ve been so-so in terms of developing this blog as much as I’d hoped to this year before I leave. Because I work so much, I rarely have the energy or time to devote to writing posts, building links, editing videos and realizing the dream I have for An Adventure A Week.
However, I did just make a big purchase this week towards making this blog brilliant – the Paradise Pack, a bundle of several amazing e-books, resources, and courses for people looking to convert to a location independent lifestyle. The main reason I bought the pack (which is $197, an expense I mulled over for several days!) is for two things – the Blog Brilliantly course and the Videography for Travel Bloggers course from Travel Blog Success. Both of these courses I have been interested in purchasing already, and this Paradise Pack was a FANTASTIC DEAL for getting both of those, along with loads of other fun stuff.
I’m hoping this resource will help guide me in expanding this blog, providing you with lots of killer awesome content that will entertain and inspire you, and hopefully motivate you to get off the couch and look for some adventure wherever you are.
So, you’ll probably seeing a lot more of me in the coming months, and hopefully we’ll be besties by the time I leave to travel full time in October. And if you haven’t done so already, shoot me an email and introduce yourself. I love meeting people who dig the same stuff I dig.
Answering Questions & Dealing with Doubts, Worries & Fears
This last section can really be separated into two parts. First of all, I’ve spent a good deal of prep time dealing with doubts and fear from friends and family about the new lifestyle I’m embarking on. There are the typical fears about my safety, me traveling alone, all the “dangerous” activities that I’m into, etc – all of which I’m used to addressing.
However, a lot of people I know think I’m selfishly taking some kind of extended vacation, throwing all responsibility to the wind and giving up a great and promising career, which is absolutely not the case. I intend on working harder than I ever have in my life while traveling to somehow, someway figure out a way to make money and keep traveling. Whether it be from freelance writing, videography, or from some as-yet-unknown online work, I plan on exploring every avenue I can to make the full-time travel dream a reality.
I’ve always dreamt of a life of adventure, and there are so many people who already living their version of the same thing. Why can’t I be part of that crowd?
And if I can’t do it or I decide that actually, a life of travel isn’t as amazing as it’s been in my head all these years, there’s nothing holding me back from returning to LA and picking up right where I left off in my career as a freelance reality TV producer. I can guarantee you Americans are not going to suddenly lose all interest in reality television.
The last part of preparing for long-term travel is the part I wasn’t expecting to deal with at all. I never imagined in all the years I’ve dreamed of selling everything and traveling full time that I’d start to get nervous as the bon voyage date approached.
Nervous isn’t the right word, actually. I’m just a little tiny, teensy weensy bit terrified.
As my departure date gets nearer and a life a full-time travel becomes more and more real, a nagging, little voice has cropped up in the back of my mind. Sometimes it plants seeds of doubt about whether I have enough money saved, or if I’ve chosen the right destinations, or if my writing is up to snuff to actually be a freelancer, of if I really want to leave my life and friends in LA, or a million other “What if”s and “Are you sure”s.
But mainly, the little voice just keeps saying “Lindsay, are you really ready to do this?”
And each time, I’ve stopped, taken a breath, and answered with a barbaric “YES!”
4 months to go. Bring it on.
Have you ever prepared for long term travel before? What were your biggest obstacles? Are you planning a trip now and had similar concerns?