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April 2017

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Planning a BIG Trip: How to Take that Initial Step

This has been a hard post to write. Planning, worrying about and working towards this goal over the last few years has been arduous, testing and emotional. It’s also been the best decision I ever made. I think this kind of life change is going to be highly individual and personal so the advice in a generalised format will only go so far. You should take this advice and evolve it to fit you, your personality and your individual circumstances.

I’m generally a worrier, overthinker and a bit anxious. But I’m also brave (not fearless!), relentless, highly organised and motivated. This means I worry and think about everything, but I get stuff done and achieve whatever I set my mind to. Therefore, my strategies are based around dealing with my own thought processes and personality. I’m meticulous and take my time. If you prefer to throw caution to the wind and just head off into the unknown you’ll probably find my methods laborious!

Firstly, if you’re a single parent you’ll probably have felt that pressure put on you by society even more keenly than 2 parent families. I don’t think a lot of the time I have been judged or faced any kind of stigma or criticism on an individual level. My friends and family were supportive, my university department, mostly made up of men, were incredible and really understanding of the specific challenges I was facing having a baby halfway through my degree. However, I certainly felt stigmatised

at a wider level through media portrayals, statistical truths and a lot of internalised misogyny. I think these things occur for any parent but maybe just more sharply when you’re on your own. So, my first bit of advice if you want to travel as a single parent or parent is to let go of all that and tell yourself you can do this. You’ll be challenged almost daily by well-meaning strangers “oh, wow, but is it safe?”, “What about schooling”, “you’re on your own?” always asked with a raised eyebrow as if you won’t have thought of these things. You need to get used to either brushing people off and not engaging with it or to defend your choices politely. I did the latter, I always did love a good debate. I also changed A LOT of people’s minds by chatting to them about all the ideas, thoughts and beliefs I have that led me to take this trip with a 4-year-old. Or I’ve inspired them to do something big because they just convinced themselves they couldn’t do it any more due to their circumstances.

Things are a lot easier once you decide you can do it. A friend convinced me to travel with my daughter simply by asking ‘why not?’ when she was a baby, when I couldn’t think of a reply that didn’t have a solution it put me on the path towards backpacking and home schooling.

So….

  1. Tell yourself you CAN go travelling
  2. Decide how long you want to go for. The answer to this has lots of consequences. For example, you could do a long holiday to start with for 1-2 months in the summer holidays and this wouldn’t affect many other aspects of your life. You could arrange work time off, no need to inform the school, no loss of NHS entitlement, no loss of tax credits (UK based advice). Over 2 months and you lose tax credits, over 6 months and you lose NHS entitlement and with either of those you’ll need to arrange to do home schooling and inform your local borough.
  3. Work out your budget (roughly). I allowed £100 a week for accommodation, £20-40 a day for food and entertainment, and I researched the cost of flights and internal transport. This will tell you roughly how much you need to save. This is for myself and 1 child < 5yrs
  4. Work out how long it will take you to save that by working out the monthly amount you can put aside now and start working out what changes you can enact to make extra savings. I took on extra work, pulled in favours and offers of help from friends to reduce nursery hours and cut out as much non-essential frivolous spending as I could. Because we’re leaving the UK and moving abroad at some point I also sold all our property gradually, including my car. After doing the maths I knew it would take me about 4 – 5 years to save up for a 12 month round the world trip, paying for some qualifications that I wanted to do and have money afterwards to settle somewhere for 8 weeks to give me a chance to start earning again properly.
  5. Once I knew this, it gave me a goal. It was AGES away, and didn’t seem real but I had exact amounts I needed to put aside each month and I knew I was going to do it. I put the date on my calendar and started slowly thinking about what else I would need to think about to make this life work. I realised through research and slowly attaining certain truths about myself, that I needed to be self-employed and that digital nomadic life was holding the biggest pull for me. I wanted the freedom that comes from earning remotely. I want my daughter to see the world and to grow up with a different perspective in life and I want to home school her anyway, especially in the early years period. Why that is, is a separate discussion but go have a watch of this clip if you want to see what started that thought process for me.

And for starters I think that’s enough. Unless your income is high, you no doubt have a long time to save. I had about 4 or 5 years until I’d have enough and that allowed me to digest what I was undertaking, convince everyone I wasn’t mad, get my degree and arm myself with an international tool box of skills, plan the actual trip, decide where I wanted to go and more importantly where was safe to go and attempt to earn a half decent income writing about it …. Easy right? Stick with me…. I’m 90% there after all!