It’s coming up to 2 years on the road together, so to reflect on all the travel memories, we’ve decided to start writing round up posts for each travel anniversary that we have. So today we’re rewinding back to 2 years ago and sharing the details about our first year of travel. We haven’t shared much about it before because we were a little embarrassed to admit that we started travelling with no money. But it wouldn’t be fair to not share the struggles we went through to fund our travels and all the crazy things that happened in a year, because by reading our story you might be able to learn from our mistakes. So this is the long version story of our (very) irresponsible first year of travel, sharing why we went to the places we did, how we funded our travels and what actually happened…
This story starts in January 2014 when we decided we were going to travel the world together. We planned to work our butts off for 6 months to save enough money to fund a 6-month backpacking trip around Europe. We were so excited!!
At the time we both worked in commission-only sales on the Gold Coast, Australia, which we enjoyed because we were good at it and our earning potential was limitless, which meant we could hit any financial goal we set! But it also meant that if we didn’t make any sales we would come home with nothing. Unfortunately, that’s what started to happen once we got our heart set on travelling because we both couldn’t stop day dreaming at work. So to take the pressure off we made the decision to both quit our full-time jobs and start looking for work that paid us by the hour – that way there was no risk in not achieving our financial goals.
Just as we both quit our jobs we were offered a business opportunity that sounded amazing because if we built up our business online over a few months, it would allow us to earn money while travelling. This was like a dream come true! We were both business-minded and experienced in sales so how hard could it be? Instead of getting jobs and working on building this business in our free time, we both made the unexperienced decision to jump straight into starting an online business full-time with no back up plan. What we didn’t know was that when starting any business you have to put in a lot of time before you see a profit. Since we didn’t have any savings, this became a problem, so we irresponsibly got travel loans to pay a few months of rent and food. Oops!
As we mentioned in our post about travelling without a plan we completely failed to achieve our financial goals before setting off to travel the world, but our wanderlust was so strong by that point that we made the irrational decision to start travelling anyway. We sold Sandy’s car which paid off a bit of debt, flights to the other side of the country and a holiday to Bali. From there we were going to ‘wing it’ and completely rely on our business to ‘work out.’
We had sold all of our stuff, packed up our apartment and fit everything into a couple of bags. On the 4th July 2014 we boarded a flight to Perth, Australia, and were ready to start a new life of travel.
We had always planned to go to Perth to start our travels because we wanted to visit some of Will’s family, who let us stay with them rent-free for a month. In that time Sandy got a job making salads at Sumo Salad and Will got job selling strawberries on the street, which paid for our food and a little bit of spending money for our holiday in Bali.
After Bali, we flew to Melbourne, Australia, to meet up with our business mentor and also Sandy’s brother. We ended up staying with family rent-free while Sandy got a part-time job as a sales consultant.
After 6 weeks we were craving some warm Queensland weather, so we used some of the money we had to book flights to the Sunshine Coast of Australia. On the Sunny Coast we rented a room in someone’s house. Sandy worked a casual job as a waitress and Will in the meantime managed our social media accounts and kept up to date with messages to our Facebook page (he works for themarketingheaven.com, so I really don’t have to worry about my Facebook statistics).
The rough plan was that we would visit Will’s family in England as Christmas was coming up in a couple of months and he had not seen them for 16 months. So after some convincing, we got a family loan to pay for return flights and a 10 day holiday to Thailand on the way (yes, very responsible, we know).
It was great not having to pay for rent and getting treated by Will’s family in England for 6 weeks!
After our white Christmas, we planned to come back to continue travelling around Australia, but since we weren’t earning enough money through our online business and Will didn’t have a working visa for Australia, we decided to go to New Zealand instead. We were very excited to explore a new country and planned to start from the top of the North Island in Summer and very slowly make our way down to Queenstown for ski season in Winter.
The only problem was that we only had $200 between us when we arrived in New Zealand!
We took a risk and luckily stayed with a friend of a friend for a week who helped us find work right away. However, we didn’t realise until we got there that the lifestyle we had been living in Australia wasn’t as realistic in New Zealand. $5 less per hour in wages and higher living costs (living at backpackers to avoid signing a lease) made it extremely hard to save money to continue travelling. Sandy ended up getting 2 part-time jobs in a couple of bars and Will got a job working full-time building a house in the Bay of Islands, but we still felt stuck. So after a few weeks, we managed to save $800 between us to invest in a car so that we could at least explore the country on weekends.
But after 2 months of working jobs which made us very unhappy and not having enough time or money to do anything we wanted, we realised we’d be a lot better off back in Australia (even if just one of us were working!) So we sold our car (luckily for the same price) and used the money to fly back to the Gold Coast the next day. Even though we had a bad experience in New Zealand, we still made some great memories and will definitely go back again…but a little more prepared next time!
After 8 months of non-stop travelling without knowing how we were going to pay for things, we unwillingly decided to stay in one place for a while. This actually turned out to be the best thing we could have done at that time (a story for another blog post). Who would have thought that we actually would have survived for this long and had all of those amazing experiences with no savings to start with! Especially after setting off into what friends and family described as an ‘unrealistic fantasy life.’
We weren’t just crazy for fitting our lives into a couple of bags to travel the world, we were crazier for doing it with very limited money and freedom. We ended up with a pile of debt, a failed business and the effects of major travel burn out. Apart from that, we had to face the humility of our friends and family being right, which is why we decided to start with a clean slate.
The story from our first year of travel shows that if you want something bad enough, you can make it happen. We wanted to travel…anywhere…so we did. Our experiences taught us that it’s okay to make mistakes, because every mistake is a new lesson learned. We would have done things differently if we knew what we know now, but we don’t regret anything. Trusting our intuition (even if it sounded crazy or stupid) is what shaped us into becoming who we are today.
We are forever grateful for the opportunity to earn money in first world countries with higher wages, and for friends and family who have welcomed us into their homes during our travels ♥
Read Next: Our Second Year of Travel
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