It’s exactly a year since Morgan and I began our journey to SE Asia. While we’re sitting here in a Starbucks (among other professional writers hoping to make it big) we’re choosing to focus on the importance of travel.
Around the world, there are thousands of recent university graduates (Congratulations! Hangovers only get worse…), hundreds of thousands of people feeling stuck in “ordinary jobs”, and even more creating laundry lists of reasons why they can’t take the time to travel.
If there is ever an opportune moment to just pack up and go, it’s when you have limited responsibilities. Unfortunately, that almost never happens. Responsibilities equate to sacrifices. Each sacrifice is another closed door.
It takes effort and planning to create the possibility of traveling for extended periods of time, but we can honestly say it’s well worth it. In no way am I eluding to travel solving life’s problems, but it can enrich your life in ways you’ve never imagined.
Morgan and I have decided to focus on five specific lessons learned. We hope at least one resonates with you.
We want to help you reach that tipping point where you say “*$%@ it, why not?”
We say this a lot. Reason being, there are always unexpected situations. A budget is crucial for travel…and life. The other day I read that over 50% of millennials have $0 saved for retirement. How scary is that? If there was ever a time to learn how to budget, it’s now. This adventure helped us realize how quickly money is spent.
No one wants to return home from a trip with a maxed out credit card or their future child’s college fund missing a coupe zeros. Budget everything from hotel room to impulse buys. Log everything into the Notes section of your phone for 2 or 3 days of purchases. It’s simple, yet not many people do it.
Always overshoot the budget so the plane ride home isn’t filled with loathing the new overpriced t-shirt you bought.
Save For Unforgettable Experiences
You want to stay a night at a 5-star resort? Go parasailing at sunset? Book a private island expedition where you’re spoon fed blueberries? Well you can! Just plan accordingly.
Let’s say you’re traveling for 10 days and you’ve heard the new beachfront seafood restaurant is just delightful. Although you’ll probably pay $100 for 5 tiny shrimps, a stylish waiter, and a warm hand towel, you can make it happen!
For a couple days, just eat at cheaper places, buy groceries, and take it easy on the alcohol (Read our previous post about saving money while traveling). If you’re significant other isn’t happy with this decision, start talking about the budget in detail and you’ll win the argument through boredom and eye rolls.
Single most important way to stay on budget. Book condos or AirBnB’s with kitchens because you will save a boat load of money (Read about our previous post regarding AirBnB Here). The money saved from simply reducing three meals out each day to two is ridiculous. If you’re blindsided by your account balance, check how often you eat out.
There are places in France that charge $35 for a glass of Orange juice. I’m sure it’s delicious but I’ll take my store-bought Minute Maid No-Pulp any day of the week.
2. Travel Grounds You
In our 10-month expedition, we witnessed severe poverty. There’s a district in Vietnam where 10’x10’ storage units are home to 20-25 adults. In Cambodia, there are villages surrounded by active landmines who require a deadly trek to fill water buckets. In Thailand, we witnessed families bathing in muddy rivers with homemade bars of soap.
You haven’t fully experienced a country until you’ve seen the good and the bad. This changes your perception of life and helps you understand what form of bubble you live in.
You Figure Out What’s Important
Is money your main driving force in life?
Does your happiness depend on likes/follows?
Do your relationships depend on useless drama in order to communicate?
Travel will help you understand there is more to life. Think of it as a much-needed wake up call. It will polish your values and create new ones along the way (Read about our previous post: Disconnect to Connect).
Everyone lives with baggage (not the kind that never fits in the overhead compartment)
You’d be surprised by how relationships can change while traveling. It helps you realize who’s important in your life and who to devote time to. If you travel in long durations, this sense will change for the better.
When you return, you might realize that you’re now on a different path and desire different attributes among relationships.
3. You’ll Read More
Fills Free Time
You have the freedom to do whatever you want while you travel! For some people that means lay on the beach or get a massage. Before this 300+ day adventure, you would’ve never heard me say this…in my free time, I read.
*It still blows my mind*
After years of teachers/professors shoving novels down my throat, I was now choosing to read on my own! Not for a book report, final paper, or exam…because of genuine interest.
Eventually, I made it a goal of mine to read a book per month. Towards the end, I almost doubled that goal and sent all the novels home to start a collection (shipping costs were awful).
The point is, traveling helped me discover my love for reading.
There’s something about pulling out the reader glasses and opening a book that just makes you feel smart. I’m not at that point yet with the glasses, but you understand what I mean.
No matter the book, you learn something new. While traveling, it’s important to stay mentally sharp and reading is the perfect way to do it. Don’t return from traveling with burnt skin and a fried brain. Aloe Vera is only a solution for one.
Read at least one book per month. In addition to reading novels, staying up to date on the news is just as important. Sign up for daily newsletters like Hustle, Morning Brew, Google, Skimm, etc. They’re all free, usually provide different current news articles, and create taking points among other tourists.
*This pertains more to those who travel for longer periods of time*
Morgan and I were determined when searching for job opportunities (Read our previous post about Finding Work Abroad). For a little over a month, we were handing out resumes door to door to English schools, tutor centers, and even voice-over editing companies (we never got a call back from the voice-over auditions…but still worth a shot for $30/hr).
We searched daily using multiple websites, job boards, newspapers, etc. Our ability to navigate these resources helped us discover three perfect English schools that fit our strict criteria (Location, Pay, Hours, Staff, Class size, etc.).
Finding the right job is difficult. Finding one in a different country is like running a marathon without training.
Research For Deals
I hate wasting money. And…we did. Thankfully not a terrible amount, but there’s still a sting when certain events are mentioned.
No one wants to pay triple the standard amount for a Visa or use Expedia unless they absolutely must. Research everything from tours, best Apps, hotels, etc. for the deals!
Most importantly, trust word of mouth more than anything. Some reviews on Tripadvisor or Yelp are from owners using fake accounts.
Information is the most important asset that anyone can hold
You Become Adventurous
Buying the ticket is one thing, but boarding the plane is another.
Anyone can say they want to travel to New Zealand, Spain, Argentina…but chances they pack a bag and go are pretty slim. I hope this blog pushes you to make the necessary steps to cross a couple things off that bucket list.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the things I’ve experienced in my life. From swimming with glowing plankton off Koh Rong Island in Cambodia to traversing Bali by motorbike in hopes of discovering magnificent waterfalls, we lived for the thrill of it all.
You Learn To Accept Change
A last minute tour, a cancelled flight, a volcanic eruption, a stolen passport…you learn to find solutions and move on.
If you’re a backpacker, you’ll learn this quickly. Always have a backup plan, no matter the circumstance.
Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Hawaii. You’re excited about the sunny days, whale watching, and swimming with sea turtles. That’s great!
What happens if it rains…the trip is ruined right?
NOOOOOO! Stay positive!
It gives you an opportunity to explore the usually overlooked treasures of the destination.
A detour doesn’t need to cause ruin. Just roll with the punches and create solutions.
Our Most Memorable Moments Weren’t Planned
A schedule isn’t always necessary.
Don’t be that person that plans every single hour of each day. Have the freedom to be spontaneous.
Also, learn to say “yes” more while you travel. You might surprise yourself with the people you meet and the shenanigans you get yourself in to. It’s all part of the fun.
Isn’t the purpose of travel to experience something new? Something different than your everyday life? Well here you go. Plan less, say “yes”.
Annnnnnd we’re done with Part 1!
We hope you enjoyed this post. Like I mentioned above, we want to inspire people to travel more. All in all, traveling provides tremendous value and could create a domino effect among the people you cross paths with.
Leave a comment! Which lesson is the most valuable to you?
Follow us on Instagram by clicking the link below. Join the #dreambigpacksmall community.
If you thought the monkey picture was cute, check out this post: Monkeys in SE Asia