I can’t risk it.
Change is the only constant we have, we can run in fear from it or embrace it when it comes or better still we can positively chase it. Drastic changes are the things that make us feel alive. This second post in my mini-series looks at why and how we quit our jobs and travelled around the world on a shoestring budget.
Addicted to Security
Most of us are addicted to the financial security we’ve been taught to hold so dearly. The last few years should have taught alot of us that however hard we strive to be financially secure alot of that security is out of our hands. I think the ‘job for life’ security that the baby-boom generation were chasing doesn’t exist any more. Whether we like it or not we’re now pretty likely to have 2, 3 or more careers in our working lives, so why not be active in the choice of those careers instead of waiting for external circumstances to change it for you you.
One way or another I’ve grown up with a sub-conscious fear of poverty. So many of my decisions have been clouded by a back-of-the-mind worry that I might lose everything and it was once I realised this that I also realised that this un-defined money worry was one of the key barriers to me making the life-style and work-style change that had been nagging away at me.
“But I’m working all hours to pay the bills, to pay the mortgage, to live a good life, to buy that flat-white on the way to work, to get that cool Danish lampshade, to do the fun things I like to do (if I get the time when I’m not working). I don’t have time to even think about doing something new, I don’t have enough money saved up to do something new, to change my lifestyle, to set up a new business. Oh Gawd! What if it all goes wrong and I throw it all away? ” These were the kind of thoughts spinning around my head every time I allowed myself to think of changing direction in life, so I sub-consciously shut those thoughts out pretty quickly and didn’t allow them to grow and develop any further than a background rumble of discontent.
We’re taught from a young age to spend our lives building financial security, to get good jobs, or to build big businesses so that we will be financially secure but we’re never really told why. We spend a huge amount of our time and energy at jobs we don’t love in order to achieve this security. We’re also taught that making big life changes, leaving jobs, travelling, setting up new businesses and taking risks poses a threat to this safe life that we’ve built.
Living Is Cheap, Time is Precious
So, having got ourselves over the self-perpetuating hurdle that is the ‘fear of the unknown’ how did we overcome our addiction to financial security? For us it, and for so many others, it was through extended periods of travel. There were so many benefits to getting away from it all and learning to live very cheaply was just one. But the fact that we lived exciting, full & rich lives for about a year on under £10,000 between us – that’s just £5,000 each including our flights, accommodation, food, activities and plenty of treats – was a welcome reminder that whether you choose to, or need to, living can be good and cheap at the same time. You just have to get over yourself a bit, live simply, drink less, eat locally or make your own food & drinks, wear the same clothes more often, take local transport, rough it a little bit.
We could have lived much cheaper too if we had to, if we hadn’t saved up that £10k pot. I estimate we could have cut out some unnecessary treats stuck to the cheaper accommodation and cut another 30-40% off that budget. Life was costing us 6 or 7 times that back home. So, when we did get back home we took alot of those principals back with us and lived on a fraction of what we used to live on.
By learning to live on a shoe-string budget whilst travelling we overcame our financial security addiction and our fear of having no money so the ideas we had and the decisions we made whilst on that trip were not tainted or weighed down by fear.
Reasons why you wouldn’t travel.
- “I don’t have the money to travel”. For most of us living in a western society it would be more accurate to say, “I’ve chosen to spend money on a lot of other things, so now I don’t have money to travel.” When Sofie and I decided to go on our round the world surf trip we gave ourselves 6 months to save up enough money to do it. We packed our house with lodgers so that our accommodation didn’t cost anything, we didn’t go to any festivals that summer or go out on many ‘big’ nights out – if you think that you could travel for a month for what it costs to go to festival for a weekend, all-in, it’s easy, we re-wore the clothes we had more often rather than buying new stuff, we cooked at home, avoided take-aways, took our own lunch in to work, made our own tea & coffees and generally lived life a little bit simpler. To be honest we hardly noticed the difference, we stayed in and had fun, we ate & drank well at home, we went surfing, we did the usual things in a slightly different way and generated enough money to go away for a year and not work.
- “I’ll do this kind of stuff when I retire” (or at some other distant point in the future). This is such an out-dated and illogical view-point. Why on earth would you wait until you reach retirement age to have meaningful, exciting, challenging experiences. Why not pepper your life with a series of mini-retirements? Do the things you’ve always wanted to do now, then do them again in a few more years and then again later on. The reality for most of us these days is that through redundancy or losing your job you may be forced to have these mini-retirements anyway. Why not be the one in charge of how, when and where? I can pretty much guarantee you that you will not look back on your life when you are retired and say “I wished I’d stayed in the office more”.
- “I’m a responsible grown-up with a family, it’s not just about me”. True, it’s not just about you, but that’s not to say your partner and your kids would not benefit from an amazing family adventure. Ask them, they might say “yes, please!” My friends have 2 sons, aged 8 and 11, and have just decided to go away for a year to Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Mongolia and beyond to see what might happen next. Maybe they’ll come back to the UK and do the jobs they used to do, maybe not. The kids are fizzing with excitement and so are their parents. The boys are at an age where they will benefit so much from an open-minded view of the world and a shared adventure with their parents. They will go to some schools along the ay and go back to school when they reach their destination, wherever that may be.
- “I don’t want to go away, I like it at home”. I like it at home too. Travelling re-affirmed that for me. I love Brighton, I love my family, I love my friends. But going away from all of that for a while only strengthened that love.
Being away for an extended amount of time allows you to properly escape the self imposed barriers to change and realise the shackles of financial commitments are solveable and that doing new and risky stuff is not as scary as you once thought. Working 40-60hrs a week just to pay the bills does not allow you the time or energy to realise this.
Reasons why you should travel.
The financial benefits we experienced:
- You can live amazingly well on under £10 a day. That was our budget and aside from a few treats when I got paid from the odd freelance writing gig we stuck to it and stayed in amazing locations and ate incredible food and had the most memorable experiences.
- It’s cheaper to travel than to stay at home so the risk of trying new things, starting new businesses, learning new skills is lowered because you have ‘bought’ yourself more time to experiment.
- Once you realise that you can live on much less than you thought you could the possibilities of what else you might do with your life really open up.
- The risk of starting new ventures is greatly reduced because you know that if it all goes wrong you can live a good life cheaply.
The fringe benefits we experienced from our shoe-string travel:
- Experience. We ticked off alot of the things on our ‘Dreamline’. Surfed daily, had time for daily yoga, lived a well-balanced healthy lifestyle, learned to meditate, published some travel writing in national newspapers…
- Time. With an extra 40-60 hours a week available to us because we weren’t at work we had time for ourselves, time for each other, time to meet new people, time to learn new skills, time to read, to practice, to think.
- Perspective. By getting away from our lives back home, away from any social pressures to act or be or do things in a certain way, to be away from small-minded cynicism, to spend time in cultures that value family and friendship above material possessions, to meet and spend time with people who live in ‘so-called’ poverty but smile way more often than our rich neighbours at home do, by stepping outside of our ‘normal’ we learned a lot.
- Inspiration. We saw amazing places, we did exciting and scary things and we met loads of interesting people along the road, from around the world and from all age groups. If they were travellers too often they were at different stages of a similar life adventure to the one we were having. We talked about our ideas, about their ideas and came up with loads of new ideas.
- Realisation. When any outcome is possible in terms of work, lifestyle and your location you begin to genuinely realise what’s important to you, stuff that we often take for granted. We realised we didn’t want to live somewhere exotic full time, that being close to friends and family is as important to us as spending time away. But extended time away from work and business confirmed that we didn’t miss the jobs we did before which had been a worry prior to leaving.
- Fun. If this is beginning to sound a bit too worthy and serious we shouldn’t forget the primary focus of the trip was to surf in beautiful places around the world. It was kinda fun.
Here are some online tools we used to help plan our trip.
For round the world flights this is a good start…. But please note, the quote of $5k for a ticket might just be from the U.S. Ours cost around £1100 each in 2009.
For all sorts of advice related to long term travel this is a good start, it’s worth having a read through now to inspire you and then find your own way.
But, I can’t do it!
In the last of these posts, coming in a few days time, we’ll look at starting something else, something new, something out of your comfort zone. Be that a business, a life-style or just learning a new skill.
I was 36 when I ‘jumped ship’ and had run my own graphic design company for 14 years prior to that. To begin with I thought I couldn’t do anything else, that I didn’t have the skills or experience to start a-fresh and crucially I didn’t have the confidence or self-belief to give it a go.
So what changed? How did we get around to doing something crazy like setting up India’s first commercial Surf & Yoga retreat?Back to Journal