I made my trip pretty well known through pictures and lots of status updates but some people who I don’t keep in contact with regularly had lots of questions for me and I thought I would use this post to answer some of those questions! People wanted to know how I could manage such a long trip, how I could afford it, how did I do the trip alone, wasn’t I scared, how could I live out of a backpack, how did I get around without knowing the language and so forth!
I just want to say that backpacking is not for everyone. Traveling is not a vacation, a lot of the time it’s hard work. Unless you have a mini money tree growing in your backyard, or have a paying job while you travel it’s pretty hard to do any kind of long trip luxuriously! So money is probably the biggest issue. Backpacking is the cheapest option for traveling around when you’re on a budget. Sleeping with 8 strangers in a room, busses, the possibility of catching bed bugs, not having toilet paper, hand washing your underwear and walking around in dirty clothes, shitting your pants….that’s all a very real part of backpacking! It’s not very glamorous but it will teach you things you didn’t know about yourself and it will make you realize how little you actually need in life! As hard as my trips were sometimes, I wouldn’t change them for the world!
Another issue is time! We are not as fortunate as many other countries who get 6-8 weeks vacation time! Most of us get 2 weeks, 4 if we’re lucky!! This makes it really hard to do anything other then a vacation! Now I love a vacation as much as the next girl but this post isn’t about a vacation…it’s about traveling for longer periods of time and seeing multiple countries or possibly living in a different country.
So as far as money what did I do? Well I had a decent paying job as a nanny and I could potentially saved a lot of money. However, I still had an apartment, furniture, a car, insurance payments, and a busy social life that included lots of bar hopping and Billyburg restaurants with the occasional bottle service here and there and a long distance boyfriend who I traveled to see!
So the apartment kind of took care of itself when I got kicked out after a pretty epic End of the World party in December! (Remember that impeding apocalypse? Yea I threw a party, it was Mexican themed as it was the Mayans who predicted our demise) a little too much tequila, sexual escapades in the bathroom and about 50 people in my studio apartment later,my landlord told me I’m a hooligan and gave me the boot!
So before I go on with the other part…I have to say what happened with my job! The family I was working for told me the little boy I was taking care of would be going to school full time as of September so this apartment thing caused me to have an epiphany! I could either look for another apartment or I could move back with my folks, save all my money and follow my dream to travel the world!
I didn’t want to leave my job as I was with the lil man 3 years! But this was kind of naturally coming to an end so it all turned out perfect! And then near the beginning of my trip the family relocated to LA so we all knew we made the right decision! (It was beyond hard to leave him though) but that took care of the time factor, meaning if you want to travel a long time but don’t have vacation and can’t leave for a long hiatus you will probably have to quit your job!
So I moved back with my parents, put my furniture in storage at a friends garage and started selling off all my valuables! Including 5 pairs of Christian Louboutin shoes which made me a little sad as they were gorgeous, but I look like a man walking in heels and at this point, traveling was more important, plus these bad boys went for about $400 a pop on ebay!!
Now moving back with your parents might not be an option for you, and that’s ok…maybe it’ll take you longer to save or maybe you can get roommates or just a room but where there’s a will, there’s a way!
So long blog post short, I saved about $12,000. Let me tell you what saving money means! It means no more fancy dinners, no more bottle service, no more dirty martinis, it means happy hours under $5, no more movies or road trips on the weekends, and sadly no shopping except for travel gear! But it’s a good way to prepare yourself for the lack of luxuries you will experience while traveling!!! And there is a silver lining as I live in one of the most awesome cities ever which has lots to see and do for free! You can use this time to detox, exercise (I did neither of these) spend time with family (while you’re free loading off that good home cookin’ of course) and do some good old fashion lounging on a park bench catching up on some lonely planet books about the countries you’re going to visit and maybe brush up on your Spanish or whatever language they speak in the place you wanna go! ( it’s what I should have been doing, having traveled this is what I suggest you do!)
Also, you can volunteer in hostels which will give you extra time in a place and free accommodation!! And you get to meet lots of great people and get to really know a place…all you have to do is email a couple hostels and see of they’re looking for a volunteer, most are volunteer run!!
So apartment, check
Furniture and valuables, check
Car and insurance, I still needed this for work so planned on selling when I left
Boyfriend, well here’s what happened with that!
So I told my boyfriend that I’m leaving to backpack through South America, but I should tell you all that I was already unhappy with the long distance part of our relationship and all I could think about was traveling so I broke up with him! In all honesty I wanted to kiss foreign boys and be wild and free! I’m not saying you have to break up with your significant other to peruse your dreams of travel! I have met lots of people who have supportive partners back home and travel because it’s what they want to do, and they do what they want to do and it’s a choice people make! Mine was A: not supportive and B: I wasn’t in to him anymore.
How could I travel alone along a dangerous continent you ask now?
Well first of all South America is not as bad as they tell you! Yes I know people who have had their stuff stolen, been held up at gun, knife point…but I also know people who that has happened to in Brooklyn! This is what I told my parents when they were freaking out: “mom, dad I could get hit by a truck walkin out my front door, or one of those gang banger wannabes could stick me when I’m going to visit my homie in the projects cuz he needs to full fill some kind of initiation”. Shit happens everywhere and you’re always taking risks in life and seeing the world is definitely worth it!
Second of all I was never alone!! Unless I wanted to be! That’s the beauty of staying in hostels, everyone is there alone for the most part and we all end up in the same lonely boat! Unless you’re a grumpy hermit or a major creep like the weird Russian guy that was staying in my hostel (who walked in the room with his shirt open, not saying a word to anyone and just creepily standing next to people all up in their personal space and when he did speak, only spoke of hiring prostitutes), you should be fine 🙂 Backpackers always want a pal to do an excursion with or go eat/drink with! And it’s also nice to be alone sometimes, just you and your thoughts on a night bus through the Andes! So don’t be afraid of being alone! Embrace it as a chance to get to know yourself better and make heaps of new friends 🙂
Living out of a backpack isn’t so bad either! You don’t have to worry about what you’re gonna wear since you only have about 5 options anyway!! It’s totally acceptable to go dancing in yoga pants and flip flops like I have been known to do and your hair can be going for that beachy messy look!
Now the language, well pointing works, and you’ll pick it up in no time since at least in South America barely anyone speaks any English! Consider it the best language immersion you’ll ever get!
Before, during and after my trip, a lot of people said I was lucky, I’m not lucky, lucky would have been getting a large sum inheritance from my great aunt…I simply had a dream an worked toward it! So if your dream is to travel, be like Nike and just do it 😉
Sharn had her own experience when it came to making her trip happen and she’ll add her bit to the blog as well, so be on the look out!!