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!
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!
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.
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!
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.