How this Drifter was born: My preparation for long-term travel
I’ve contemplated writing this article for some time, and I finally feel it needs to be put out there to give inspiration to the traveler in all of us.
I’d like to start this off by stating this is my opinion, and it’s the road I took to make my current dream of Round-The-World (RTW) travel a reality.
My travel bug started during my four years on the USS John F Kennedy, a US Navy aircraft carrier. Two deployments to the Middle East took me to Spain, Turkey, Malta, Dubai and Bahrain multiple times. This was just a taste of travel for me and ignited the fire. A few years later I found myself living the dream; a four year stint in the beautiful surf holy land we all know as Hawai’i. During my time on the island I took a short vacation to Australia which really opened my eyes to the world of backpacking and random peoples’ journeys in discovering this beautiful Earth. I have to admit that being from the U.S., I wasn’t aware of all the travel that was being done by my peers from Canada, Germany, the UK and Australia, to name a few. I was told that I was “an idiot” for flying all the way to Sydney, Australia for just 10 short days. Gap year travel is almost a right of passage for these guys, but not my countrymen.
I was absolutely inspired, so a little bit of dreaming and a lot of research paved the way for my round the world trip. The main obstacles for me were paying off my debt, saving money and deciding if I was making a responsible decision according to others by putting my “life” on hold, whatever the fuck that might mean. Oh yea, and I had to convince my girlfriend to join me on this adventure.
Everyone has his or her own priorities in life. There are no right or wrong paths. For the most part everyone is working towards their goals and aspirations. Some want a new car, a promotion or even to become a unicycle racer. My path was to experience the world and its beautiful cultures; so I started to get serious and formulated a plan.
First things first, you cannot seriously travel on a long-term basis if your debt to income ratio is high. For some travelers it works for them to have money coming in or to work on the road to pay outstanding debts and bills. Nevertheless, I preferred the stress-free route, so I decided to pay off all my debt prior to traveling. Though it’s an overwhelming task for some as it was for me, it is a better option than the alternative. There is nothing worse than taking your money on payday and dumping nearly all of it into bills for crap you don’t even have anymore. I spent two years paying off debts to clear my name. Now I’m as free as a bird.
Tips to save money/pay off debt quicker in preparation for travel
-Stop eating out
-Downgrade your car, or sell it and use a bike/public transport
-Move in with family or a friend to save on rent
-Create a monthly payment plan/milestones for saving
-Pay off bills that have the highest interest first
-Downgrade your phone plan to a pay-as-you-go
-Bring your own liquor into bars and clubs to save those bar tabs
-Cancel your cable, gym memberships or any other subscriptions that are not necessities
Being debt free isn’t the only obstacle in the way of long-term travel. Potential travelers have to learn to cut-the-chord with family and friends. This could be an easier task for travelers who have supporting families (like me) or harder for those who have the “You need to be home, building a career and getting married now!” type of families. Regardless of their support, assure them that the world is probably safer than the neighborhood you live in now, and that you’ll be in touch frequently. In the day and age of Facebook and Skype, you’ll have no problems keeping in touch with everyone. Columbus set sail across an unknown ocean, so yea, we don’t have it that bad. Communicating is pretty easy from the road these days.
Cutting ties with a career should be easy for all of you who hate your life in a cubicle. Don’t worry, there doesn’t need to be a gap in your resume for your time abroad. Your time spent traveling could be used in a productive manner by volunteering in countries that need assistance, or becoming a travel writer. The list goes on. As my pops always says, “You have the rest of your life to work if needed,” so when you return home I’m sure you can come up with creative ways to add your travel experiences to your resume so there isn’t a massive gap in employment.
A few years of saving, preparing and planning has led me into a current state of unknowns; where will I sleep tonight? When will I have my next shower? What friends I’ll meet or what jobs will I do to make it to the next town? Then I think again…how about planning for no plans, I like the sound of that.
Cheers from Gold Coast, Australia, my office for the day.
Drifter Question: What are your priorities? If its traveling, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Everyone has a different story, path and struggles to make this a reality. Believe in yourself and don’t let anyone keep you from your life as an explorer.