That’s where it starts you know. I just wanted to travel for a year and “get it out of my system”, settle down, get a job, build a career… Well there is some good and bad news – the good news is that taking the year off to travel is not that hard. The bad news – you’ll want to do it again, and again…
Many a young person considering the prospect of three or more years at college or university wonder’s whether travelling for a year first might be a possibility. These days its not just the young that want that option – plenty of older people decide that taking year out to travel is the thing to do.
Gap years aren’t even that uncommon, just because everyone around you thinks you are crazy, once you take the leap you won’t be alone. Every year there are not thousands, probably tens of thousands of people doing the same thing. And not just young backpackers or gap year’s either. These day you will just as likely see young retirees, mid-career breakers and even families taking time out to travel the planet.
So how do they manage to do it? The pre-requisites for taking a year off to travel are a fairly short list:
- not having family responsibilities they can’t take with them. You can bring the kids, you may not be able to bring Great Aunt Mathilda (though I did have an aunt who traveled Outer Mongolia in her 80’s – that’s another story), and you definitely can’t bring the cat!
- money – though maybe not as much as you think;
- ability to think outside the square, to take the road less traveled. You will be told, a lot that you are either mad, irresponsible or both.
Yeah noticed how I didn’t mention work responsibilities. None of us are irreplaceable at an work place. Your employer may prefer that you not take off to Asia for a year, but really, who’s life is it again?
How Much Does a Year Out Traveling Cost?
So how do you go about finding the money to take a year long tour. Well first – you may not need to have all the money up front. Many people work along the way, if you are under 30 and have the right passport you may be able to get a working holiday visa in many countries including: UK, US, Eire, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. If you are older but have in-demand skills then you may be able to swing a work visa which will at least allow you to base yourself in a new country. Others will volunteer for a part of their trip. This may not provide actual cash but they won’t be spending much money while they volunteer either.
Other people will work their own business on the road – the Internet has spawned an entire new career option – called the Digial Nomads these people travel the world with a laptop in their backpack, seeing out free WIFI and making an income using their skills online.
But if you are determined to save the money – how much will a round the world trip. That’s a bit like asking how long is a piece of string or how much can I live on in a year. Rock bottom would be $10,000 (US all prices US$ unless otherwise stated) plus airfares. That’s abut $30/day – which means you won’t be touring the capitals of Europe- more like the beaches of South-East Asia. In a lot of ways the amount of money you spend is elastic – if you spend too much, come home earlier, if you manage to spend less than your budget stay away longer.
So how do you find the money to travel? Well all of the below have worked for me for various trips:
- spent less than I earned – yeah old fashioned – but it works – you might want to check out an excellent book on how to get into the savings habit fast: 30 Day Spending Detox;
- sell your stuff. If its not coming with you it will stay at home, clutter someone else’s garage, or cost you money in storage, all the time losing value. So sell it – particularly works for cars and electronics.
- rent your house. Being an older midlife gapper, has its advantages, and if your home is in a desirable area then the rent you get for it may very well not just pay for the mortgage but cover some of your travel costs as well.
- cash up superannuation, long-service leave, holiday leave, sick leave and any other benefit or entitlement you may have overlooked. Commonly before leaving a job I’ve saved up to 6 weeks leave – it makes for a nice going away bonus.
- make sure you get any refunds and deposits back from cancelled utilities.
I vividly remember once, when saying goodbye to friends before I took off on a 6-month trip around South America, they saying they were so envious, that wanted to do the same thing. But they didn’t have the money. The new leather lounge suite we were sitting on, had cost them about a 1/3 of the cost of my entire trip.
If you want to prioritise your travel over the rest of life’s expenses, most people have the means to afford long-term budget travel.
How Can You Take a Year Away From Your Life?
There is a reason that many people take a year to travel before or after various stages of their education, its an easy transition, defer your degree for a year – go traveling (assuming you have the money of course). Once you get into “normal” life its harder to break away, particularly when everyone around you is in the treadmill, of bigger job, bigger house, new girl friend, new husband whatever.
Again, it takes an effort of will. Sometimes the opportunity will arrive: an unexpected redundancy has propelled many travellers onto their first plane. Basically there is no right or wrong time to travel, though I do think for most people that its easier to travel before children.