Prepare to Travel with Suitcase Stories
Do you ever dream about traveling the world? Do you wonder how those who have done it prepare to travel the world? While we work towards paying off our debt, we’ve often thought these same things.
In our ongoing series, Prepare to Travel, we talk with travelers to find out exactly what it was that they did to prepare and save for traveling the world. For our first installment, we talk to Nicole of Suitcase Stories. Nicole is one half of an Australian couple who decided to take leave from the mundane and travel the world! They are currently in their second year of travel.
AfterGlobe (AG)- We use to be that couple who couldn’t believe that others were able to travel the world long term. We loved the idea and talked about traveling someday, when we retired, but never thought we could do it now. Once we realized we could, we started to wonder what travelers actually did to prepare themselves for traveling. It seems that a lot of others wonder this same thing and it’s a very hot travel topic. Would you agree?
Suitcase Stories (SS)- Definitely! And I am so grateful that it is because it allowed me to easily find the information we needed when planning our nomadic journey.
AG- Does Suitcase Stories get a lot of questions about what the two of you did to be able to travel and how someone else could do it, too?
SS- Everyday we get queries through our website and emails from people asking about our life, wanting to know how we did it or why we did it. And that’s exactly why we started Suitcase Stories! We want to share our story with people so they can see just how affordable long term travel can be. To most people long term travel is just a silly dream, but they need to see that its possible and people do it every day! If we can inspire just one person to follow their dreams then I call that success!
AG- When did you first start thinking about traveling long term? Was there something that changed to go from dreaming about it to actually making it happen?
SS- In 2004 we took our first overseas trip together. It was on this trip that I started thinking about doing a RTW trip. But we didn’t have the money then to even consider it so I just kept the thought in the back of my head knowing one day we would be able to do it.
Then in 2011 I lost a parent. During the last conversation we had I opened up to her about my dreams of perpetual travel. I spoke to her about wanting to experience more than what a 4 week vacation allowed. About how I wanted to live in other cultures and experience new cuisines, meet new people. She said “Nicole, you only live once. You shouldn’t be dreaming about it, you should be doing it”. A week later she passed away and those words kept coming back to me.
Michael and I decided to take her advice and do it! So we put a savings plan together, researched our little hearts out and the rest is history!
AG- Once you decided you were going to travel long term, what kinds of things did you do to start working towards that goal? Did you make a plan, budget or any other goals?
SS- We knew money was going to be the biggest factor for long term travel so we knew in order to make this happen we would have to make a lot of sacrifices.
We stopped eating out, we stopped buying anything that wasn’t essential, we even turned off electrical items not in use to lower our utilities bill! We changed our lives dramatically but it was an easy sacrifice when we had the end goal in mind!
We also had to decide whether to sell up, or box up. We decided to sell up. It would save money on storage fees plus it would give us more money to leave with. So as we started getting close to our exit date, we sold off items such as our car and furniture. We even had a garage sale to get rid of the bits n pieces!
Planning and budgeting are a very important part in preparing for long term travel. If you are serious about making it happen you can’t do it without a plan or budget.
AG- You hear a lot to really be successful at something that you want that you need to write it down. Was writing your goals and/or plans down something that either of you did?
SS- Absolutely! I wrote plans, check lists, budgets and even had a vision board! Michael isn’t much of a planner so he left that to me but he worked on the budget side of things, keeping track of the savings account to make sure we were on track.
AG-On your site, Suitcase Stories, you said that you “sold your belongings”. How did you go about selling all of your possessions?
SS- We used Gumtree (Australia’s version of Cragistlist) to sell of most of it. We sold the car that way too. We had a garage sale, which gave us an extra $700 to put into the account! And of course there were friends that were happy to take things off our hands knowing it was for a good cause.
AG- Did you keep anything and put it in storage? What was your reasoning behind getting rid of and/or keeping items? Were there any items it was difficult to part with?
SS- Yes, we have a few small items boxed up with family. We passed on a few furniture items to them as well. We thought we should have a back up plan in case we ended the trip early. At least this way we would have a few things to set up home again. It was much easier for me to get rid of everything than it was for Michael. He struggled at times even though he knew it was for a good reason. But for me though, it was a cleansing of the soul, as well as the house! Every item that went was one step closer to my dream life – It wasn’t hard for me at all.
The reason we decided to get rid of it all instead of keeping it was 1: Because it meant extra money for the trip and 2: For me, I wanted a clean break. I wanted to go without any burdens and in a way, any ties. But I understood Michael’s view which is why there were some things we did keep.
AG- Once you finally decided you were leaving to travel, how long was it from that point and the day that you left, March 5th, to travel?
SS- It was April 3rd 2011 when my mother passed away (I can’t say the decision was made that very day but that was the catalyst to making a definitive decision). We left March 5th 2012. It was just under a year of saving, planning and researching from when the decision was made to the day we left.
AG- Looking back do you think it would have been better to have left sooner or later than you did?
SS- I believe that everything happens for a reason and when its supposed to happen. If we had left sooner we wouldn’t had had as much saved. If we had left later, I would have lost my sanity!
AG- HA! I can relate to that. I feel like I’m losing my sanity all the time from waiting to travel.
SS- No. We already both worked very long hours (60-80 per week) so we wouldn’t have been able to fit anything else in.
AG- Any advice that you think will help others save for traveling?
Keep the goal in mind at all times. When you are at the shops and see that pair of shoes that you MUST have.. Think about how many days in Thailand you can get for the same price! Every coffee you go to buy at Starbucks, think about how many beers at Oktoberfest in Germany that will buy you.
Going without now, means you will get more later. It will be hard – trust me I’m a shopaholic! – but you are talking about a dream life here so missing out on shoes and shop bought coffee means you will be able to live that dream life in the foreseeable future!
AG- How did you figure out how much you needed to save to travel?
SS- To be honest we had no idea. Of course I researched it but peoples travel styles are very different. Other full time travelers spend anywhere between $10,000 & $40,000 per year, that’s a big margin! So we just saved every single cent that we could knowing the more we had the longer we could travel for.
AG- Do you think your savings was enough? Should you have saved more or less?
SS- After a year of travel we now know what it costs us to travel, which of course will be different for everyone. So we know that we have enough for 2 more years if we travel the same way we have been for the last 13 months. We couldn’t have saved any more, every cent we made that didn’t go on rent, utilities and food went into the bank.
And I’m glad we didn’t save less because now we can afford to travel in a style that suits us.
We are too old for hostels, sleeping on someone couch has no appeal so we knew we would not be slumming it quite as much as some people do. With house sitting most of our time, our budget allows to stay at hotels that are a step up from ‘budget’.
AG-Hey,watch it! Too old? I’m the same age as you!
Many times when reading travel blogs, we find ourselves thinking that we need to buy a bunch of things to be able to travel long term. Did you experience this? What things do you now realize that you didn’t really need? What would be your top recommendations for items you think really are needed?
SS- I bought so much crap that I read I would need that we ended up either sending home or giving to Goodwill cause we never used it! Things like a universal bath plug, money pouches, silk bedsheets, quick dry towels… While the lists you find online are a good guide, they should be used as just that; a guide. Now all we have in our bags is clothing, a small first aid kit, toiletries, 1 pair of sneakers and 1 pair of flip flops each. Then in our hand luggage we have our laptops, cameras and iPods. The total weight (for 2 people) of our checked luggage is under 20 kilos!
I always say to people, take only the things you can not live without! And really, if you find you need a universal plug, buy it along the way! Keep it light because we have to carry it around the world!
AG-Good advice. Please, tell Drew he doesn’t need to buy every special travel item or piece of clothing.
What did you find was the most difficult for you while preparing to travel?
SS- The waiting! Everything else was a piece of cake. Michael might also add that getting vaccinations was rather unpleasant.
AG- Did you ever feel like your day to leave was never going to come?
SS- Of course! I am very impatient and when I make a decision I want to do it NOW, not 12 months from now. So the waiting was hard. But of course worth it now that we are on the road!
AG- Do you have any additional advice for those who want to travel the world long term?
SS- Do it! It may seem like the most out of reach dream right now, but I promise, if you break it down its very doable! Anyone can do anything they put their mind to. If you want it and are willing to work for it, you will get it.
Research is very important. Search travel blogs for advice. Talk to others who are already living this lifestyle, they have so much knowledge to share with you.
Thank you so much to Nicole and Suitcase Stories for doing this interview with us today. Make sure you head over to Suitcase Stories to check them out. Not only do they have tons of information on traveling, but also on how to get free accommodations while traveling through house sitting.
All photos provided by Suitcase Stories.