Thinking of saving for a RTW Trip?
This is how we changed our lives and made our dream into a reality.
If you have previously visited our ‘Where It All Started’ page, this new post gives further details about how and why we decided to get out of the rat-race, leave work behind and fulfil our dreams of full-time travel. We weren’t lucky enough to win the lottery, but we did seize every opportunity that came our way and were able to have an amazing 16 months exploring parts of the world that we had only previously seen on TV. You don’t need to buy a whole bunch of things to be able to travel long term; you just need a keen eye for a bargain and an open attitude embracing the theory ‘if it’s good enough for the locals…’ This is how we did it and enjoyed every second!
Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos.
Travelling long term. Can we do it? Should we do it?
Wayne had previously been in the British Navy for 8 years and had already seen a large part of the world. My travelling experience was limited to Europe until we got married. After our honeymoon to Mexico in 2006, we took a few more long haul holidays each year – to New York, China, Cambodia and Egypt – but always complained that a 2 week holiday in the summer was never enough. We worked hard all year for that one ‘big’ holiday. Being a teacher myself, we were also very restricted with having to travel during the school holidays which are also the most expensive times of the year. We had said almost jokingly, why don’t we sell up and travel the world on the money we make from the house? The turning point that made us decide to do this for real was when my best friend’s mum died from cancer aged 52. It was very sudden and a shock to everyone, and we just thought ‘life is far too short, let’s just go for it!’.
To work or not to work?
Usually people think we must have worked whilst travelling to be away for 16 months. But selling our house meant that we were able to enjoy the whole travelling experience without having to work along the way. We decided against work as my brother went to Australia on a ‘Working Holiday Visa’ and found that he spent most of his time working just to cover living expenses, and overall, actually saw very little of the place.
Planning, budgeting & working towards our goal…
We contacted some estate agents for a house valuation. At the time, the market was quite poor for sellers so the valuer recommended that we wait a year to see if house prices improved. During that time we wrote down everything we had on finance and needed to pay off so that we could work out what money we would have left to travel with. E.g. loan, credit card, overdraft, car. We then spent the year trying to reduce the amount we owed and looked at ways to make savings in other areas such as food expenses, swapping eating out to cooking more at home, inviting friends round to our house for a drink instead of going out to the pub. We read up on other people’s travelling experiences and started buying travel guide books to help us plan a rough route. The teacher in me means I have to write everything down & I began making list upon list of what we needed to buy and do in preparation.
Time to make it happen!
It was a year later when we put our house on the market. The initial thought was that it all depended when the house sold as to when we would begin our ‘Grand Tour’, the name we gave to our trip. The house went on the market in February 2010, and we thought it would take at least 6 months to sell. We were aiming on me finishing the school year and leaving my employment when the summer holidays started late July 2010, with us hoping to leave the UK in September 2010. In fact, our house sold in 2 weeks! Fortunately it took around 10 weeks to process with solicitors etc and we were very lucky that Wayne’s parents invited us to live with them until the summer, as they had a spare bedroom at their house, which was close by. We left late August 2010, which was the perfect time for us to enjoy summer in the UK with our family and friends before embarking on our ‘travelling adventure’.
To sell up or to rent out?
Friends and family were surprised when we said we were selling up. Some of them tried to talk us into renting out our home. But if we had rented it out, we wouldn’t have had the lump sum of money from the house sale with which to travel, and we had already decided we didn’t want to work our way around the world but to enjoy every moment! I thought it would be more difficult leaving our home than it actually turned out to be. I had come to the conclusion it was only a house – we could buy one again someday – and we could make any house a home again. We both love DIY projects, and I was definitely ready for a new challenge, so I think even if we hadn’t have gone travelling we would have decided to move house anyway.
What to sell and what to keep?
We sold all of our ‘big stuff’ e.g. sofas, dining table, fridge etc. We negotiated some items within the sale of the house e.g. dishwasher. We sold these things hoping to generate some extra money for the trip, but soon realised second-hand furniture does not fetch much money. We had to sell it though as we didn’t have an end-date in sight really (our hope was to travel for 2 years) and we didn’t want to pay long-term storage expenses. We also gave away some items to friends and family. We tried to sell other bits and bobs that we didn’t need at a ‘car boot’ sale and via online market places. The personal items we kept were those like pictures, ornaments that we had bought from previous holiday destinations, and a few favourite household items of sentimental value e.g. wedding gifts. These were all boxed up and put in storage at my parent’s house. We also took with us our wardrobe, clothing, books, computer, camping gear and as much as we could cram into the bedroom at Wayne’s parents that we found ourselves living in – and have returned to now we are back, (and once again saving for our second RTW trip).
But what about our pets?
We still have our two cats – Trixie and Alfie – they moved to Wayne’s parents’ house with us and remain here! If his parents had not agreed to looking after the cats for us, we would have abandoned ideas of the trip in the first instance. The cats are part of our family and we needed to ensure that they would be well cared for if we were to leave them. So cat expenses also came into the equation. We left money to allow for food, vets bills and cattery fees where needed for the duration of 2 years.
On a ‘power saving’ mission!
For our first RTW trip, our big lump sum came from selling our house. This time round we are ‘power saving’ to give us another lump sum. We are doing this by putting a set amount of money into a separate savings account each month as soon as pay day comes around. We have set ourselves a target which we are working hard to meet. Fortunately we both earn a good wage to be able to do this. Living with Wayne’s parents and paying ‘board’ means we are able to save on other living expenses that we would incur if renting our own place. We have tried hard to cut back on luxuries like eating out and socialising with friends when it involves a lot of money. It’s not always easy saying ‘no’ to going to a party or a trip out, but the benefits in the long run help to keep us focussed. I have avoided going on shopping trips and try to only use the car for commuting to work, to reduce fuel costs. My top piece of advice if you really have the urge to buy something is to ask 3 questions: Do I need it? Will I use it? Is it worth it? If I can answer ‘no’ to any of the questions I put the item back! If you really have the urge to party, invite friends to your place to hang out and ask everyone to bring something – it really keeps the cost down. We really like to have weekends away, especially for some space of our own, so instead of booking hotels we have taken up camping. We have realised it is far cheaper and great fun staying in a tent!
How much? For how long?
We knew how much money we would have from our house and wanted to leave with as much money as possible to enable us to travel for 2 years. During the time, our route and travelling ideals changed and we managed to make the money last for 16 months – but these were 16 great months! We had some luxury hotels where it was cheap e.g. Asia, we stayed in some hostels, and we hired campervans in Australia & New Zealand, and a luxury RV in the USA as it was to be our home for almost 3 months. This time around, we are trying to save a similar amount, but have a much better idea of how much things cost and where we can get the most for our money. The way we look at things though is quality over quantity, so how ever long we can travel, it’s about the experiences, not the length of time and number of countries we tick off. There is only a certain amount of money you are able to save beforehand, no matter how hard you try.
Do we really need it? Essentials…
Our big purchases were backpacks. A good strong, comfortable back pack is needed. (A waterproof cover is also very useful). We bought a double mosquito net on recommendation from a friend who had travelled around SE Asia, however we never used it once! Every place we stayed at either had a mosquito net already over the bed or nets on windows. We were glad we had taken silk sleeping bag liners. We only used them a handful of times but felt a lot better knowing we could sleep inside one after accepting a room late at night that actually wasn’t the best in terms of cleanliness. Most things can be bought almost anywhere quite easily. Also, a decent pair of footwear for all that sightseeing is recommended! As is a good camera, and knowing how to use it.
Counting down the days…
For us, a lot of the fun is in the dreaming and preparation before we go. We had so many leaving parties with different groups of friends it just added to an exciting build up and final count down. We are the same now… Merrily counting down and looking forward to another great adventure. The biggest thing and most difficult thing for us is keeping it a secret. This has been a problem for us, more so the second time round, as to save as much money as possible, we needed to keep our jobs for as long as possible up to our leaving date, whilst being fair to our employers.
Our long term travel advice…
Be prepared to be flexible and change your plans if necessary. Slow travel – spend as much time as you can in one place to maximise money and really experience it. Look at how expensive a place is compared to others – ask yourself can you do something there that you couldn’t do somewhere else in the world? We have a rule that we do one amazing (& usually expensive) thing in one place, that we’ve never done before. So for example, our ‘big’ thing in New Zealand was a heli-hike on Franz Josef Glacier. We had never experienced a helicopter ride and had never walked on a glacier before, so the 400 NZ dollars was definitely worth it to us for these new amazing experiences! But during our trip to Australia however, to keep within budget we chose not to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, as we had done some amazing snorkelling in Thailand & the Philippines. I think you have to realise that you can’t do everything or your budget will be depleted very quickly! Eating locally, especially visiting ‘Food Markets’ etc, can save you a lot of money. We found ourselves frequently visiting ‘7-Eleven’ stores for cheap snacks and essentials like toiletries. You also have to be prepared to stay in a lower standard of accommodation to maximise your budget. Travelling as a couple, we never looked into couch surfing, nor did we stay in dorms. We always chose double rooms (sometimes ensuite, sometimes shared bathroom facilities) but did stay in hostels and budget hotels. Then we had a luxury hotel every now and again as a treat and a bit of a refresher. Really it’s whatever works for you!
I recently read this little piece of travel advice on Twitter:
“When preparing to travel, lay out all of your clothes and all of your money. Then, take half the clothes and twice the money!”
If only it were that simple! But really – if you work hard and save hard, you can make it as simple as you want it to be. Go and hike that mountain you’ve always dreamed of… Life is not the breaths that you take – but the moments that take your breath away!