Prepare to Travel with The Picktures
Our 13th installment of our ongoing series, Prepare to Travel, is with Zofia of The Picktures. Zofia aka Zof is a Polish Yerevan-based NGO worker interested in international migration issues, translator from Czech and Slovak, an occasional poet, and photoblogger. Her blog, The Picktures presents photo essays from her travels. She feels at home everywhere but her favorite places in the world are Prague and Yerevan. Join us as we learn how to prepare to travel with The Picktures.
AfterGlobe (AG)-We hear again and again, how people can’t believe that others are able to travel the world in abundance or long term. Many can’t even imagine doing 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 traveling and how you are able to do something so many consider a luxury?
The Picktures (TP): I’m one of the travelers who tries to combine full-time work and travel. Many says this is not possible as your days off are limited and you don’t even have time to plan your travels. This is nonsense. OK, you might be a bit exposed to sleep-deprivation but this is nothing we couldn’t handle. It’s nothing that might stop us. I started traveling solo a lot as a grad school student. Grad school student doesn’t really sound like financially blessed, right? I was able to travel all across Europe thanks to various volunteering projects. I was also pretty active on Couch Surfing which gave me an opportunity to get a free accommodation and meet amazing locals. I have to admit that my travel bug taught me how to save money. I spend way less on consumption now to be able to pay for experiences. They always go over stuff. Fancy new dress costs as much as a flight from one EU country to another. Keep that in mind.
AG- When did you first start thinking about traveling? What changed from dreaming about it to actually making it happen?
TP: I’ve been dreaming about traveling from my childhood. I was born in the end of 80s in Warsaw. No the easiest time and place to travel. Luckily, we witnessed a great change. When I was a kid travel was considered as a luxury no one actually needs. Also, no one actually could afford it. There were no low-cost airlines. Civic activism didn’t have any tradition so no one even thought about volunteering as a way to see the world. Polish society was in transition after the collapse of communism, busy with self-identity changes rather than encountering The Other. Today Poles hit the road much more frequently. I’m one of them. I’m happy to be a kid of a first generation after 1945 which could travel freely. Today the society is more financially blessed, satisfied, courageous, and curious. And it feels great. I have to mention that my biggest inspiration to travel were my parents. They used to say traveling is the best school. I’m doing my homework. Thank you Mom and Dad!
AG- Once you decided you were going to travel, what did you do to start working towards making it a reality? Did you make a plan or budget?
TP: I have a list of countries I want to travel to I did in high school. I didn’t do budget but I did a huge research on volunteering and student exchange opportunities enabling me to see the countries I was dying to visit. Also, I made a schedule of my vacation as for a couple of years I was combining university, work and travel. At this time I was very much in love with Czech Republic. In total I spent more than a year there. I went to two student exchanges, two Czech language summer schools, I did two short-term volunteering projects and I backpacked through the Moravia region with my close friend. Dream, Plan, Go! In summer 2011 while volunteering in asylum-seekers centre in Holland I raised a dream to go to Armenia. I found a nice volunteering programme enabling me to get a skills-based internship. I committed to spend 2 months in Yerevan but after first couple of days I knew that Armenia and I need more time to spend with each other. I promised to be back. Here I am. It’s been three weeks since I’m back. I rented a place, I work and every day I wake up surprised that I made it. I don’t know how long I stay. As long as I last, I suppose.
AG- What happened with all of your belongings? Did you sell everything? Were there items that you kept and put it in storage? What was your thinking behind what you kept and what you got rid of?
TP: I’m not a full-time traveler but the belongings issue caught me when I decided to move to Armenia as I had to pack my apartment up. The apartment I lived in is rented now. All the furniture stayed there for the next residents. I got rid of half of my clothes; other things are put in storage. My biggest problems were books. I have a huge library which one simply cannot travel with. I’m not really ready to get rid of them either so they are hidden in my friend’s basement and calmly wait for me to be back. I seriously hope they are patient. While packing all the stuff up I was so exhausted that my only thinking was why I own all that things? What are they actually for? I threw a lot of stuff away and it made me feel much lighter.
AG- What do you do to save up enough money before you leave? Any advice that you think will help others save for traveling?
TP:Set up an amount of money you want to save for traveling and transfer it to a separate bank account every month. Before setting the amount calculate your travel budget and think about the expenses you may cut down. Save on small things, they make big difference!
AG- Many times when reading travel blogs, we find ourselves thinking that we need to buy a bunch of things to be able to travel. Have you experienced this? What things do you now realize that you didn’t really need? Any recommendations on what really is needed?
TP: I tended to pack too many clothes. Luckily, older I’m, lighter I travel. I always do a list of items I take with me for a trip. If there was any I never used, I cross it out the list. A thing I cannot travel without is my camera. As for reading travel blogs, my experience was totally different – for me they were a lesson of how light you can travel. Thank you for that fellow travel bloggers!
AG- What has been the most difficult for you while preparing to travel?
TP: Farewells to people I love. I’m the slowest traveller in the world aka expat at heart – when I fell in love with a country I’m trying to stay there as long as I need to feel as a local. This means I make friends, I catch a little habits, I create a whole new lifestyle. Zof who lived in Warsaw was different than the one living in Prague and the one who is now trying to settle down in Armenia. Every time when I embark on a new adventure I’m depressing about the people I cannot take with me. Everyone says it’s cool to have friends all around the world. Except for these cold nights when you are all alone and you miss them all.
AG- Do you have any additional advice for those who want to travel the world, but haven’t?
TP: Plan and go. Where is a will, there is a way.
Thank you very much to Zof and The Picktures for doing a Prepare to Travel interview with us today. Be sure to head over to The Picktures to read all about ZOF’s travels and see her photography.
All photos provided by The Picktures.
What do you do to prepare to travel?