Prepare to Travel with Wanderlusters
We are thrilled to bring you our fourth installment of our ongoing series, Prepare to Travel. This time we talked with Charli of the Wanderlusters. In 2010 Charli & Ben made the decision to live a life less ordinary and six months later embarked on an undefined period of travel. Enforcing no restrictions on their itinerary they have chosen to travel at a slow pace and incorporate house sitting assignments in each country they visit. With no time limit restricting their experience they are content to continue exploring the world as digital nomads. From backpacking through Central America to road tripping around Australia they embrace each and every opportunity for adventure. Join us as we prepare to travel with Wanderlusters.
AfterGlobe (AG)- It seems that many people can’t believe that others are able to travel the world long term 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?
Wanderlusters (WL)- I think it is easy to perceive something as inaccessible if you’re unfamiliar with the format or concept. Long term travel is not an everyday feature for a lot of people and consequently the idea appears incredibly unrealistic.
Travel for a lot of the population involves one or two weeks abroad, their itinerary is severely restricted and their daily budget has to cope with a lot of paid activities, meals out and high transport costs. Long term travel is far removed from this. Our itinerary allows for a slower pace, we pay for selected activities and meals as we know we’ve got a lot more travel to sustain.
We are often asked how we ‘afford’ to travel long term and the short answer is we budget. We have a certain amount of money that we saved prior to our departure and we work incredibly hard to make that money work for us. We invest wisely, utilize offers, discounts and cashback to save on any purchases we make. Every penny we spend is considered, we are never frivolous and we apply a simple set of rules to every purchase we make. Do we really need this? Can we find it cheaper elsewhere? Does it have longevity?
AG- That’s all great advice. Some that can be applied to every day life, regardless if you travel or not. When did you first start thinking about traveling long term? What changed from dreaming about it to actually making it happen?
WL- Ben has been dreaming of long term travel since his teens and after 10 years working his way through the ranks of a large multinational he left to pursue his desire to explore the world. I met him about 6 years into his 10 year plan and together we scrimped and saved until I had finished University and found my feet on the career ladder in London.
Our nomadic existence has been rather an organic realization, we knew we wanted to travel but like so many others the thought of long term travel was a little overwhelming and sounded like a logistical nightmare. We left the UK mid 2011 and knew that we could finance 2 years of RTW travel. After six months we were hooked and started to consider how we could sustain a nomadic lifestyle. Nearly two years later we’re still on the road and our travel fund is still working to keep us here. We’re working on some freelance projects as well and are constantly searching for opportunities to expand our CV and restock our bank balance.
AG- Once you decided you were going to travel long term, 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?
WL- We’ve always been very budget conscious. Even living in central London and working full time we lived within our means and made an effort to save a small amount from our pay cheques each month. We were fortunate that we both had well paid jobs and little financial responsibility to draw from our savings but we were still considerate in our spending.
When we made the decision to travel we tightened our belts and tracked every single penny we spent. We switched to own branded supermarket products, cancelled dinner dates, nights out and our gym memberships. It’s amazing how creative you can get to keep costs to a minimum when you’ve an incentive like RTW travel.
We didn’t set ourselves a goal as such, however we had a fair idea of what we would need to survive unemployed for two years and we worked hard to save as much as we could. When you start to restrict your daily activities, social life and eating habits it can make you seriously grumpy and I wouldn’t think the extreme end of this scenario is sustainable for more than 12 months.
I once heard about a lady who ate baked beans every day for 6 years in order to save for a sports car. While it’s great that she was so, excuse the pun, ‘driven’ to reach her target I can’t imagine the experience was very good for her health. Saving should be challenging but sustainable and shouldn’t impact on your quality of life. We can all live without little luxuries and nights out on the town but when you’re forfeiting your health I think that’s a step too far.
AG- When you finally decided you were leaving to travel, how long was it from that point and the day that you left to travel? Looking back do you think it would have been better to have left sooner or later than you did?
WL- We decided to travel in 2008 and took a 3 month road trip around the west coast of the USA to really test our desire and make sure it was something we both wanted. We had no itinerary and a small budget and it was a great test of our relationship.
Returning to the UK I went into my last year of University and we started to readjust our spending habits. By the end of 2009 I had graduated and was offered an incredible internship opportunity in London. While the opportunity was too good to decline I almost didn’t accept it because it was unpaid.
Ben insisted I take it and get my foot on the first rung of the career ladder. 12 months later I was offered a job and worked all the hours God gave me to boost our travel fund again. By late 2010 the decision was made, we were going to leave within the next 6 months. It was now or never. We had saved as much as we could and were itching to set off on our adventure.
AG- On your site, Wanderlusters, you went about, “selling most of our possessions”. What did you do to sell your possessions? Did you keep anything and put it in storage? What was your reasoning behind getting rid of and/or keeping items?
WL- We’d always lived in rented accommodation so hadn’t amassed a huge amount of furniture, which was a real bonus when it came to sorting through our things before we left the UK. We put a few key items that we’d purchased at antique shops and had been given as gifts in storage – in my Grandfather’s garage! – and set about the task of whittling down our possessions.
I was so surprised just how much I was able to give away or sell, I had thought the task would prove to be an emotional upheaval however knowing that we were about to embark on such an incredible journey put it all into perspective. Clothing and gadgets are just possessions, they add very little to your experience of the world and consequently streamlining your life is a relatively easy task.
Our parents kindly offered to store our respective ‘keep sake’ items at home and funnily enough I’m planning to return home for the first time in two years and have a huge list of things I know I can get rid of. Clothes that I thought I would want forever now resemble something from catwalks of the past and I’ve no doubt there will be a bag or two for the charity shop.
AG- What did you do to save up enough money before you left? Any advice that you think will help others save for traveling?
Money and budget are always difficult topics to discuss with others because we all have different requirements of our money and aspire to experience different things when we travel. We had some everyday savings sitting in the bank when we made the decision to travel and decided to squeeze every penny we could from our wages to make the most of our saving potential.
We cut back on any unnecessary expenses. I realize that ‘unnecessary’ means different things to everyone however for us it was eating out, going to the theater and the movies and meeting friends for a drink. We found some innovative ways to socialize without the need to go out. We held BYO dinner and drinks parties and had movie nights at home. We switched from branded to own brand in the supermarket and actually went veggie for half of the week to cut down our weekly shopping budget!
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?
WL- We’ve managed comfortably with the money we saved but have worked hard to make our money work in our favour. We’re also very considerate in everything we spend and often rethink a purchase, go back to the drawing board, search the net and then search again to make sure we’re getting the best deal on something.
I don’t think you can know exactly how much you should save. If you’re planning a rigid itinerary then perhaps you can, however to travel long term as we do, you need to find an alternative source of income from either freelance work or temporary employment in the locations you visit.
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 long term. Did you experience this? What things do you now realize that you didn’t really need? What would you recommend really is needed?
WL- To be honest I did have a bit of a meltdown when we were formulating a packing list. I had visions of walking around in outdoor clothing, with hiking boots and money belt hidden under layers of quick dry clothing. The reality is somewhat different.
If I was asked to share a list of essential items for long term travel it would consist of:
A pair of sturdy shoes/hiking boots
A waterproof jacket
Appropriate clothing for the climate you’re visiting
A sense of adventure
Anything else is just additional weight that you’re carrying around. Obviously there are lots more things you personally may want to carry with you but those are the bare essentials.
AG- I love that you added a “sense of adventure” to that list! 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?
WL- For me the hardest part of preparing to travel was knowing that I’d be leaving my family behind. I’ve always been incredibly close to my parents and grandparents and it was tough to leave not knowing when I’d return.
AG- Do you have any additional advice for those who want to travel the world long term?
Wl- Travel opens our eyes to the world and looking back at the girl who left the Uk two years ago I can see just how blind she really was. Long term travel is a game changer, I find it incredibly difficult to imagine returning to the lifestyle I left behind and would struggle to order my priorities as they were when I lived and worked in London.
If you’re thinking about making the move to travel long term my only piece of advice would be to do everything you can to facilitate the path you’ve chosen, because the concept of returning to a 9 to 5 city desk job will make you want to turn and run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.
Thank you very much to Charli for sharing how to prepare to travwl with Wanderlusters. Be sure to head over to Wanderlusters to read all about Charli and Ben’s travels around the world.
All photos provided by Wanderlusters.