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Posted on Jun 26, 2013 | 15 comments

Prepare to Travel with Mapping Megan

Prepare to Travel with Mapping Megan

Our sixth installment of our ongoing series, Prepare to Travel, is done with Megan from Mapping Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been traveling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure! Her husband, Mike, is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Meg has recently launched Mapping Megan, an up and coming travel blog which aims to give you the best tips and advice on traveling, volunteering, living, working, and holidaying abroad. She hasn’t been everywhere, but it’s on her list!

AfterGlobe (AG)- It seems that many people can’t believe that others are able to continually travel the world and wonder how they are able to do this. What travelers did before they left to travel always seems to be a hot topic. Would you agree? Do you get a lot of questions about what you did and how to be able to do it?

Megan Claire (MC)- I completely agree – before I started traveling I was incredibly jealous of all those lucky enough to be traveling the world, until I made it happen myself and realized luck has nothing to do with it. I started traveling straight out of High School. I finished year 12 and lined up a Gap Year working as a teacher’s assistant in a boarding school in the UK. With 17 weeks holiday it was the perfect opportunity to see all of Europe!

After my year was over I wasn’t happy accepting that “reality” meant I couldn’t travel any more. I worked incredibly hard to make my dream of seeing the world MY reality. I did the “normal” thing to do and started university after my year away; however I probably ended up spending 5 months out of every year for that five year period overseas! I worked two full time jobs while still studying in order to have the cash to pull it all off, which meant 16 hour days, studying overnight and catching sleep in my car between shifts or lectures!

I am constantly asked how I can possibly fit in all of the travel I do, and how I can possible afford it all. I tell people that you just have to want to do it. If you’re motivated enough nothing will stop you from achieving the lifestyle you dream of!

Mapping Megan

Sleeping on an overnight shift managing at McDonald’s. You have to get sleep in where you can!

AG- When did you first start thinking about traveling? What changed to go from dreaming about it to actually making it happen?

MC- I first started thinking about traveling in High School – Gap Years were the “cool” thing which everyone was doing in-between year 12 and university, and in fact 88 girls from my graduating class ended up in London the year after graduation!

In terms of actually making it happen, I am lucky enough to have an incredible father who really encouraged and pushed me to organize my Gap Year in the UK. My High School had a sister program set up with a college in the UK for gap years, and they ran interviews to offer one girl a spot working at this school. I didn’t get it and got quite down on myself, nearly giving up – I convinced myself maybe traveling wasn’t going to happen for me. Dad really encouraged me to get out there and find a position myself – I had to realize that not everything was going to be given to me and I had to make things happen if I wanted them. I sent out 200 emails to different boarding schools and a few weeks later received an international call offering me a job! Sometimes you just need a little push!

AG- WOW! That’s great. Sounds like it was meant to be. Once you decided you were going to travel, what did you do to start working towards that goal? Did you make a plan, budget or any other goals? Was this something you actually wrote down or just had in your head?

MC- I didn’t make a budget – I just worked as many hours as I possibly could to leave the country with as much money as I possibly could! This has been my approach to budgeting for trips ever since!

In terms of my first trip overseas I had planned a first trip for the first school break before I arrived, however let the other trips fall into place when I got to the UK. I had an idea in my head of everywhere I wanted to go, and different opportunities presented themselves as the year went on, for instance the school was going to Italy for an art trip and needed chaperones, $1 flights became available for a weekend trip to Ireland etc. I loved that I didn’t have my year too stringently planned out – it was great to have the flexibility to change plans and make new ones on the spur of the moment!

AG- $1 flights! I’ve never even heard of such a thing. You’ve said on your site, Where in the World is Megan Claire, that you seized “every opportunity to volunteer, study and travel overseas.” How did those opportunities present themselves to you?

MC- I live by the saying “Some people make things happen. Some people watch things happen. And then there are those who wonder, ‘What the hell just happened?”

I realized quite early in life that if I wanted something to happen I had to make things happen. So instead of waiting for opportunities to fall into my lap I actively pursued them. I went down to my university’s student exchange office and gathered as much information as they would give me on how to get credit from studying a semester overseas. While I couldn’t make a full semester work, I found out about short study programs and enrolled in 4 week intensive international law courses in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, both of which counted towards my degree as an elective unit.

I became actively involved in Scouts Australia and my enthusiasm for international volunteer opportunities quickly saw me make valuable local and international connections. Through Scouts alone I have traveled to events in Kenya, Switzerland, Sweden and the Solomon Islands and have come away with invitations to join other events.

You have to be willing to make things happen for yourself in this world. Do your research, know what’s out there and get involved!

Mapping Megan

Volunteering with Scouts Australia in Kenya.

AG- That’s some great advice! What did you do to save up enough money before you left to travel? Any advice that you think will help others save for traveling?

MC- Over the last 5 years travel has been my first and foremost priority. I lived as minimally as I possibly could in order to save ever penny to put towards travel. While friends were moving out of home and relishing freedom, I chose to stay at home with my parents rent free until I was 24. I didn’t need “freedom” from home – I got my fix of “freedom” during the 5 months I would spend abroad.

I completely (well, not completely but close to it!) cut out alcohol and would make sure one drink lasted me the night if I was out at a party or the pub. You would think my social life would suffer from this, but it actually boomed – every-one LOVES a designated driver!! You would be surprised just how much money you save from cutting out alcohol. Like-wise, while I have friends who spend up to $100 per week on cigarettes, I don’t smoke. I also haven’t purchased new clothes in a very long time, and get by on 5 pairs of shoes, full stop! My wardrobe generally get’s refreshed twice a year – on my birthday and Christmas. I willingly accept hand-me-downs!

I probably sacrificed my health a bit, however managing at McDonalds meant I had an amazing source of free fast food. Don’t be disgusted, but I probably ate the amazing crap that it is 14 times per week! Once I finished working at McDonalds we only ever ate out once per month, if that. Cooking your own meals saves so much money!

So my advice would be figure out what you are willing to sacrifice and cut out. If you really want to travel this should be easy – it’s not that hard to make do with what you’ve already got!

AG- How did you figure out how much you needed to save to travel? Do you think your savings was enough? Should you have saved more or less?

MC- Always more!

As I mentioned above, I’ve never really been great at budgeting per say – I always stick to working as hard as I physically can and hoping that that will be enough. As a general rule when traveling, you will always need more money than you take with you! The majority of the trips I’ve been on I have spent more than I had and come home with debt to pay off, so my savings have never been enough. That being said I have made the choice to do this; for instance I would rather have the experience now and pay it off later if I had the option – within reason of course! I have never run up more debt than I could handle. I came back from my 12 months in the UK $8,000 in debt, however had this paid off within 6 months and then began saving for my next trip.

Mapping Megan

Pulling out all of my credit cards on Rodeo Drive – Bad Megan!!

AG- What did you do with your possessions before you left to travel? Did you keep anything and put it in storage or sell it and/or give it away to others? What was your reasoning behind getting rid of and/or keeping items?

MC- I have yet to travel long term yet, so I have never been faced with the issue of what to do with my possessions. I really admire those people who do travel long term and have sold their houses and possessions to do so – I’m not at that stage yet though – I still really enjoy having a home base to come back to!

AG- What did you find was the most difficult for you while preparing to travel? Did you ever feel like your day to leave was never going to come?

MC- My most difficult moments have been dealing with immigration. This may not relate to the majority of people, however I have just recently moved from Australia to the US as my husband is American. The process of immigration is hideously long and involves excruciating waiting periods – the paperwork process is a nightmare and they really make you jump through hoops to get to the end! I would definitely only recommend this process if you truly are in love!!! There were many times when we felt like the day to leave was never going to come and it’s been incredibly stressful.

I’ve found from this whole experience though that things have a way of working themselves out. If you everything you possibly can you just have to then wait for life to do its thing and everything tends to work out!

AG- Do you have any additional advice for those who want to travel the world?

MC- Just do it! The only thing standing in your way is you. I find from speaking to people that fear is the main obstacle which prevents people from traveling – whether this be fear of the unknown, fear of flying, fear of changing your lifestyle etc. Just remember that fear is a manipulative emotion which tricks us into living a boring life! I guarantee you that traveling is the best thing you will ever do!

Mapping Megan

Megan of Mapping Megan.

Thank you very much to Megan and Mapping Megan for doing a Prepare to Travel interview with us today. Be sure to head over to Mapping Megan to read all about Megan’s adventures and her upcoming travels.

All photos provided by Mapping Megan.

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About Kimmy Hayes


Kimmy Hayes is the founder and editor-in-chief of AfterGlobe; a site on becoming debt free and traveling the world as a married couple. In 2012, she planned and coordinated her own do-it-yourself destination wedding on the beautiful island of Maui while serving as a moderator for the on-line community, The Knot. She is passionate about traveling to experience new cultures, snorkeling the waters of the world and reading with her toes in the sand.

15 Comments

  1. Great interview! I can really relate to my first time backpacking Europe, going home and thinking that I didn’t want to stop traveling. I saw that you mentioned the $1 flights, it’s great when you have the flexibility to take advantage of an opportunity like that! I didn’t find them quite that cheap but $30 flights when I was in Europe were pretty common.
    Kudos to you Meg for working hard to do what makes you happy!!!
    Anna recently posted…El Limon Waterfalls, Dominican RepublicMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Anna! Lol you definitely got what you paid for though with those $1 flights – they were Ryanair and I remember we were continually delayed because of aircraft problems :D Good story though!
      Megan Claire recently posted…Happy Independence Day America!My Profile

  2. Great interview! I would recommend it to everyone in Poland and Central Europe (this is where I come from). People here still tend to think travel is a luxury which only an elite could afford. Central Europe needs more Megans to show this is not true!
    zof recently posted…Berlin: all I see is youMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Zof! So kind of you to say! Especially being based in Europe it is so easy to travel! I think it’s harder for Australians since we are so isolated lol but the majority travel anyway :D
      Megan Claire recently posted…Experiencing AlbaniaMy Profile

  3. Wow I really commend Megan for going after her dreams head on! My biggest regret in life is not studying abroad in Australia like I had my heart set on. I came up wih a million excuses in the end and never went.

    I actually had a $1 flight when I was in Europe- forgot between which cities it was (the whole trip was a whirlwind) but I remember being how excited I was to explore another area for so cheap! :)
    Jessica – A Passion and A Passport recently posted…10 Things to do in Florida (besides hanging out with Mickey)My Profile

  4. Absolutely true – I second what Elaine said. I see people all the time who say that they can’t afford to travel but yet they eat out at fancy restaurants, carry designer purses, and always shop for the latest trends…

    You have to make it happen – and Megan certainly proved that in this interview. Well done!
    Mary Calculated Traveller recently posted…Historic Fort York – Brought to Life Before my EyesMy Profile

    • Thanks Mary! Thats just it – so many people complaining about how they cant afford to travel and yet they’re spending $100 every night on nightclubs and eating out! Priorities :D
      Megan Claire recently posted…A City Which Revolves Around…Cheese!My Profile

  5. Really insightful interview. The part about McDonald’s really makes me laugh. My husband put himself through college working there and it also played a huge role in augmenting his grocery budget! I find travelers can be really snobby when it comes to fast food – we love to brag about all the amazing hidden gems we find, how we’ve connected to a real, authentic local food community. Until we hit the airport and everyone is dying for some fries!! For me, not every meal has to be an “experience”. Sometimes I just need something in my stomach to have to fuel to keep going and it doesn’t have to be memorable at all – quick and cheap is just fine. I admit that I usually grab a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin for breakfast a few times each trip.

    • Thanks Vanessa!I totally agree with you – I’ve already thought of a headline for my fast food article when I eventually get to writing it: “Put down your pitchforks – i eat McDonalds overseas” lol or something like that :D
      Megan Claire recently posted…Happy Independence Day America!My Profile

  6. Great interview! Totally agree if you want to travel, anyone can make it happen with hard work and by putting it as a priority. Glad you have been able to follow your dream! The places you went with scouts sound amazing–sounds like a fun way to travel and volunteer!
    Jenna recently posted…Visiting Iceland’s Wondrous Blue Lagoon‏My Profile

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