Last month marked six years since Luke and I set off to see the world.
I was 22. I’d just graduated from college and been in a long distance relationship for almost two years. We were tired of spending all of our money on flights and all our time on Skype. We decided to buy one more ticket.
I’d worked all summer to be able to afford my flight to New Zealand. While my friends were preparing for their new corporate gigs, I was working retail, hustling for commissions and checking my bank balance every two weeks.
By the end of the summer I’d purchased a $900 flight to Auckland and had $2,500 left in my account to get me through the first few weeks (I thought months, ha!).
Anyone who’s read my About Page knows that the plan was never to make this my life. It was only supposed to be a year of travel. A few months earning in New Zealand until we had enough to travel Australia and South East Asia.
The thing was, I really liked New Zealand. I loved it actually. I loved the mindset I was in when I was there. Something about being somewhere completely new sparked a desire to get up and go every weekend, to be a “traveler” even though I was living and working there. We decided to spend a whole year just enjoying New Zealand.
In that year we made sure we saw as much of the country as we could. Every weekend we were off somewhere different, every holiday and vacation time was spent driving along the coast, hiking the mountain trails, boating through the fjords and supping wine from every region we could find.
In that year of travel and living abroad, I managed to save almost $10,000 NZD (that’s about $7,000 USD as of today, five years ago the exchange rate was slightly better). I only worked for 8 months and didn’t earn much over minimum wage.
Sure I was conscious of the fact that I wanted to save, but I wasn’t militant about it. We still ate out, still enjoyed drinks with friends, and spent plenty of money on travel, but we weren’t extravagant. We didn’t buy many new clothes, didn’t join gyms or have fancy phone plans. We even sold our car for $100 more than what we bought it for.
If you want to read more about exactly how I budget and save for travel read these posts:
I spent two years after that living, working and traveling around Australia. Just like in New Zealand, we had this zest, this desire to explore as much as we could. Luke and I spent a lot of our free time traveling around Melbourne, then Sydney, then everywhere else we could get to by bus, car and budget airline.
We spent a few weeks in Bali in there somewhere, too.
We saved enough, about $15,000 between us, so that we didn’t work for seven months. We traveled around the US and the UK before eventually moving to Korea.
We lived a lavish life as teachers in our small town. We didn’t have to pay rent and received the equivalent of $2,000 a month each. We struggled to spend even one of our paychecks a month with the cost of living. We ate out four or five times a week. We enjoyed drinks with friends every weekend. Whenever we had more than a weekend off we were traveling around Korea, eating our weight in kimchi and pork belly.
Read: How to Teach English in Korea (& If It’s The Right Job For You) **This post has a code for 35% off your TEFL course, too!**
When we left Korea a year later we’d saved more than we ever had before. Over $30,000 between the two of us in fact. (seriously, get your TEFL and get to Korea now)
After saving that $30k, we traveled Asia for five months: in awe of Japan, eating everything in Taiwan, learning to dive in the Philippines, bussing our way through Vietnam, falling head over heels for Cambodia, diving and eating and shopping in Thailand, and wondering if it was even possible to be anywhere as beautiful as Laos.
It was the most amazing, inspiring, eye-opening and life changing five months of my life. I did a lot of thinking and talking and learning and I got back to the US with a completely different idea of what I wanted my life to look like.
So here I am, six years later and I’m typing this from my apartment in Mexico City. The sun is shining. It’s about 75 degrees out even though it’s mid-October. I’ll probably go for a walk through my neighborhood later, say hello to the woman who runs the fruit and veg shop. She picks out the best papayas.
Luke is working a job that he loves. I’m making a living off this very blog.
I have more than $2,500 in my bank account.
I don’t know that I’ve ever felt so balanced, so happy. I can’t believe this is my life.
I get to see the world. All because I bought that ticket and took a chance.