Just over six months ago, I got on a plane departing from London Heathrow towards Australia. If we’re going to be technical, the plane was actually headed to Shanghai… but my final destination was Sydney. The last six months have shown me that anything is possible, and so here I am. Still. Sydney is my new home… for now.
I can’t pretend that I haven’t been home to England since I arrived, because I have. After being away for just six weeks, I headed towards the USA, the UK, Dubai, and then ultimately back here, where I’ve been staying yet again for over three months. Travel is so inextricably woven into my fabric by now that I don’t even find it weird when I say things like that anymore; I’m always on the go and so that kind of journey doesn’t phase me. I’ve actually just realised that I’ve barely mentioned the fact that I now live in Australia on my blog, which probably explains the constant wave of invites to events in the UK. However, the people on my social media channels are well aware, and as a result, I see the same kinds of questions over and over again. How do you just leave? Isn’t it scary jetting off on your own? How do you afford it? Aren’t you worried about your future? The list is incessant, but I’ll attempt to answer the questions about making a life in a new country, all by yourself. As always, this post is based on my experiences and circumstances.
How Do You Just Leave?
It’s easy… kind of. You look into Visas, you book a flight, and you go. So many people say that they “wish” they could do what I was doing, as though I’ve somehow unlocked some magical secret, and I’m the only one who’s been granted the opportunity – kind of like my life experiences are as mythical and unlikely to occur to them as a Hogwarts letter. I can assure you that’s not the case, and I’m no special snowflake. I meet hundreds of people along a similar journey as me, each with their own stories to tell. If you don’t have children, if you have the means to save even for a few months, and if you really want this, you can do it. I am telling you that now. Start small. Take a trip somewhere alone. See if you like it.
My mantra has been “if you don’t like something, change it”, for some time now. That’s all I did. Instead of sitting there and thinking “what if” eternally, I decided that I wasn’t going to live with regrets anymore. I don’t think anyone should be berated for that; in fact, I only wish that I’d done it sooner. It’s always been on my bucket list to live abroad, but it’s all too easy to make excuses for yourself. It took the worst time of my life to wake me up and make me see the light, but I’m so glad that I did. I think it helps that I’m a certain kind of person, but you don’t have to be. I’m restless, easily distracted, and I constantly crave new surroundings and experiences. It’s a fault, unless you find the means to turn it into a strength. That’s what we all have to do.
Over here, you meet people who’ve saved for years, and then there are people like me, who just knew that they were compelled to do something, anything, to save them from mediocrity. Whilst I don’t think that travel is necessarily top of everyone’s desires, nor do I believe that other people’s lives are mediocre if they’re content, I have had a burning need for the longest time. Denying myself the pleasure would be nonsensical.
Isn’t It Scary Jetting Off On Your Own?
As humans, there’s almost an innate fear of the unknown. Many people fear change, especially when things are comfortable where they are. Whilst my life has had its ups and downs like everyone’s, it could have easily been made comfortable by staying at home. I’d had a really bad year or two, and instead of spiralling, I decided that I wouldn’t add to the fear by staying.
You see, the idea of staying put when I was itching to spread my wings scared me far more than going away ever could. I’d rather fear the unknown when things are out of my control anyway, than fear that I’d let great things pass me by that were in my control the entire time. In other words, I’d rather not live with regrets and have myself to blame.
When you travel, you may well arrive alone; but you’re not on your own. I’ve met some of the most incredible people, and I’d never have had the chance if I’d stayed in a bubble. In fact, I have a little network all over the world now, and that’s something I treasure.
A photo posted by Claire Louise (@xo_clairelouise) on
Plus, once you travel, you realise that in many senses, the world isn’t as big as you once thought it was; you can always come back.
How Do You Afford It?
Let me start by saying that whilst I pay for everything on my travels completely by myself, I’ve been afforded certain privilege in my life which has made things perhaps easier for me than the average person. I’m not talking about a silver spoon, but whilst I was in University, my parents helped me out a lot, which has meant starting my ‘adult’ life with a clean slate. I have student loans, but as anyone who’s British knows (or should), these are basically like fake debt and they don’t affect your life the way American ones do, for example. I’m really lucky in a lot of respects.
However, since graduating University in 2013, I’ve been pretty much on my own. That’s three years of travel and self-sufficiency, and it’s not actually as hard as it seems. I’ve made choices. Yes, for full disclosure, I moved back to my mum’s house for a few months before my departure to Australia, which obviously helped. But for the most part, I think it’s a lot easier than people think to travel.
Let’s take things out of the hypothetical for a second, and work with some real examples. I filed my tax return at around £22,000 for the tax year 14/15. That means I took away £1,454.72 every month. This was a combination of a salary job and freelance work, and it was my first full year out of University. I think for a graduate, it was pretty good, but it still falls short of the UK average. I was living with my ex in Peterborough, and paying around £450 in rent and bills. That left me with £1000 a month to play with. Once you’ve paid for food and your essentials, there’s actually a lot you can do with the rest. These figures are old now, but they give you an idea of how I managed to get away a lot, even before I took up travel full time. I’ve had times where I’ve earned more, and times where I’ve earned less.
It’s all about learning to bargain hunt. No matter what you earn, save. Work more, if you can. Cut out unneeded bills, expenses, and so on. Take the slow train if it’s cheaper than the fast one. Use Groupon. Buy food with discount stickers. Sell things on eBay. When you get good at it, you can actually have it all. Choices: you don’t have to live in London, unless you’re being paid a proper London wage. If you aren’t and you’re still compelled to be there, do what you can to make it work. It takes longer for some than others, and that’s okay.
What about when you’re planning to get to your destination? Learn how to book flights, please. I am astounded by the amount of people who assume it costs way more than it actually does to get to Australia, for example. My flight here cost £399. Seriously.
And, if you’re wondering how much I saved before leaving, it was less than £1000. If you come here to work, you will likely earn much more in your field or even in an ‘unskilled’ job than you would in the UK or America. You won’t take a dip in your life savings, in fact, you’ll probably add to them. I now actually have some, for example. Next excuse, please.
Now that I’m in Australia, I live in a hostel. I share a room with other people every night to make things work. I work more than a lot of my friends at home do – it’s not all beaches and booze. It’s not for everyone, but you should give it a try. Travel is about making sacrifices, and creating a non-orthodox lifestyle that works for you. Which leads me to…
Aren’t You Worried About Your Future?
I have dealt with an insane amount of questions of this nature, from friends, family and strangers. Some are genuinely inquisitive, whilst others are downright rude. I’m 26, but I’ve been warned about my ticking clock as though it’s not just ticking, but essentially about to stop.
I’ve got the common sense to not throw everything I’ve worked for away, and I ask that people trust that. I’m not here on an some extended gap year, but I’ve faced questions about my career, despite the fact it’s (nobody’s business and) never better since I’ve been here. I’m writing for both the Australian Government and Virgin, one of the biggest companies in the world. I put money away each month into savings for a house. I also believe that my dreams of someday marrying and having a child are in no way impeded by my lifestyle. I’m unconventional, not stupid.
In fact, my lifestyle will enrich my future, and I find it really offensive when people act like it affects them, when it does not. I’m not sure if it’s jealousy, but either way, it’s not acceptable.
Packing Up And Leaving Everyone…
Leaving everything is one story, leaving everyone is another. Of course I miss people, but the ones who matter will always be there. Travel just adds to that list!
You Can Do This, Too.
The key here is that I have made this life work for me. I have literally crafted and carved it to be the way I want it to be. It may not work for you, and that’s okay. But if you want it to, go for it. Stop with the excuses. Perhaps Australia isn’t what you want, but if you do, it’s likely that you will leave Australia with savings on top of your new experiences, and possibly even something to further you on the career ladder. No matter where it is that you want to go, stop thinking that you can’t. What are you waiting for? Take the plunge, it doesn’t need to be forever.
If you have any questions about anything in my post, just ask below!