Posted on March 8, 2015
I had a dream. That dream was to travel long-term and explore South America. I realized this dream and it was far better than expected. However before I started traveling, it took me a while to decide whether to go or to stay. I thought about many things and points in my life that I wanted to have in place before my departure to South America. I know that many of you are thinking about traveling long-term and you are looking for the ways how to best organize it with you “normal” life. I’d like to share my decision making with you with a small wish that it will perhaps “kick” you in the direction ☺
When I’m writing this article, I’m on San Andres island in the Caribbean (this was in June 2013), located close to Nicaragua but it belongs to Colombia. Before I started traveling, I had no idea that there was an island like this one. In general, I would know very little about Latin America because in Europe we don’t get lot of information and if so, it’s usually negative and sad news.
Thanks to my 7-months long, adventurous and inspiring travel, I discovered 8 new countries and I felt in love with South America. But prior to that, it took me a while to decide that “NOW” was the best moment to go. Maybe you know it. There is always something that keeps us at home and why we don’t want to make that change in our lifestyle. But when, if not now? These are the 5 points that I thought about before I started traveling long-term: work, family, relationship or financial resources. I also thought a lot about my safety and about going somewhere where I have never been before.
I felt a bit strange and ashamed when I decided to tell my manager that I wanted to quit my job that I liked and which provided me with a good lifestyle in Copenhagen. I thought that he will say something like “you’re going to put your career on hold.” Do you know what he responded? “Ah, great, I traveled around the world as a backpacker. Don’t worry, you won’t lose anything in one year. You’ll just gain.” I have to admit that I was at that stage of my career when I felt self-confident enough to know what I wanted and liked to do and that I believed that there will always be some job. (my thinking has changed a lot during the Latin American travels and I am self-employed now – location independent. I’ll describe that journey it another blog post). I found out that it’s healthy to have a career break and the work won’t disappear so it can be only beneficial to invest into your life with something like traveling. It is a unique way to get new skills, from organization of your travel plans to budgeting and dealing with lot of different cultures. Most importantly it builds your self-confidence and an experience “how to survive” abroad on your own.
2. FAMILY AND FRIENDS
It was a bit challenging to explain to my parents that I was about to quit my job (at age 29) and I wanted to backpack South America. I’m from Slovakia, but that time I used to live in Denmark. My father said that I should be grateful for having a good job in Denmark and he was also a bit concerned about my safety as a solo female traveller. Regarding the work I explained that I have always found a job, so why shouldn’t I find a job again? Because of the crisis? But every crisis brings new opportunities and I think that in life we can’t stand still and wait for a miracle to happen. Regarding the security issues, I didn’t have any special arguments besides that I will be careful and use my common sense. My father gave me a Swiss knife, but I lost it during the third week in Argentina ☺ I have never needed to use a knife – perhaps just to open a wine bottle or can of tuna ☺
There is another aspect when it comes to family and friends and that is – missing them and staying in touch. I started this blog – the Unboxing Traveller – before I started traveling. I like to share a photo of the day on my Facebook page and I found out that it’s a great way to stay in touch with my family and friends. I miss my friends a lot, but traveling opened a totally new world of many international travel buddies. There are so many people who are like me and who want to meet other travelers and share their experience and ideas. I travel alone, but I’m never alone. I’m very grateful that I found my tribe.
When I started traveling I was single. I can’t decide if it’s easier to go traveling as single or in a relationship. There are many pros and cons for both situations. I started single and I met some interesting guys but they had always had a different direction – geographical or in their lifestyle. For you who are in a relationship and want to travel – but your partner can’t or doesn’t want to travel – I met lot of people who had partners back home and they went traveling on their own. Some travellers had their partner to join them and travel together for some time, some travellers traveled the whole time alone and continued in their relationship and some travellers broke up with their partners (or the other way around). I believe that in a relationship it’s important to have the freedom to realize your dreams. And if one travel should put your relationship in danger, perhaps it wouldn’t work anyway.
How much money is necessary to save up for at least 6 months long journey? It’s very relative, it depends a lot on your travel style, type of food you eat, accommodation, activities you do, how many kilometers you travel, how do you travel and especially where do you travel. My goal was to save 10 000 EUR for my travels and I was ready to spend it all – as a “once in a lifetime” experience and investment. (I had no interest in buying a car in Copenhagen haha). At the end I travelled 21 000km by bus during 7 months in South America. I spent 9000 EUR (including the flight ticket, insurance) and the remaining 1000 EUR I spent on traveling in my own country Slovakia and a bit in Denmark. I regret nothing, not 1 cent from that money. I understand that someone (especially from Slovakia where the income is below average in the EU) will think that it is a lot of money. As much as I know that for many it’s totally affordable. But you know what? It’s possible to travel without money, with and average backpacker budget (like my budget) or with lot of money. It just depends on your expectation, dedication to find the ways how to make money or your creativity for how to save money and travel very cheap. I met many people traveling and working as volunteers or in the hostels. That’s a good way how to meet people and have a working experience too. However, to experience a career break without actually working and experiencing lots of different activities is a great investment into your future projects, jobs and income 😉
Security, especially for a solo female traveller is a very important and broad topic. My most important advice is: “use your instinct and a common sense at all times”. Do not risk any dangerous situation for saving “just 5 USD” or because the guy has the most prettiest eyes in the whole world. I’d like to talk about security in my next blog post coming very soon ☺
I wish everyone that has a similar travel dream but is still waiting for the right moment – DO IT, choose the right direction of your travels and pack your backpack light. SAFE TRAVELS! It’s an experience that will be yours forever and you’ll enjoy the things that you’ll learn, the people you’ll meet and perhaps you’ll change your life completely. For the better of you and for the better of this world.