My Timehop as of late has been full of tweets anticipating my departure for Sydney and finally arriving. It’s bittersweet and fun watching myself go through this crazy range of emotions as I prep for something I didn’t know would become the most significant chunk of time in my life. Today, I write this blog for two reasons: one to express to everyone to take it upon themselves to move to another country for a very long time and/or just travel by themselves, and two to explain just how feasible it can be.
A few nights ago, I was talking about how I spent 7 months living and backpacking in Australia. A friend of a friend, who I don’t really know (obviously), drunkenly accosted me slurring about “fucking white privilege” this and that and it made me obscenely angry. Like, in retrospect, I probably got/am too overheated about this but race, culture, travel, things under that umbrella, are topics that I feel very strongly about. I will admit that I’ve been really fortunate to have traveled with my parents, something a lot of people haven’t had the opportunity to do, but my trip to Australia was something that I wanted and something that I did on my own. This girl, however, just assumed that if I had the funds to backpack and dick around for seven months that mommy and daddy must have been feeding my bank account in order to afford that. Not even close to the case. In fact, there are a lot of people that assume the same thing and I am now here to explain otherwise. /EndRant
When I moved to Australia, I had applied for and acquired a work visa that allowed me to work for a year, enough money for the plane ticket, and then a bit leftover in case the job I was moving for didn’t work out and I needed a cushion. I had a job as an au pair waiting for me on the other side of the world, a job that provided me with a paycheck and housing so I didn’t have to worry about a thing. I found this job by doing research and talking to friends I knew who had moved abroad. I worked to afford my explorations and my lifestyle and then to also save up so I could spend a month traveling without working. When I quit my au pair job, I got not one, but two restaurant jobs, worked my ass off, cut every corner (aside from my social life…because after all, I’m backpacking and I still need to experience things). No joke, I managed to find this moderately shady and very worn down apartment full of backpackers and shared what I’m pretty sure used to be a walk-in closet, but was cheap as chips (actually a basket of chips in Sydney might have been more expensive–that’s how cheap and gross this place was), got the majority of my meals from my various jobs, didn’t have a smart phone, wifi, any of that and managed to save a few grand in a few months before I took off up the coast. While traveling I stayed in dirty hostels, took busses as opposed to planes, and generally roughed it to save money so I could use it on what really mattered. Traveling is expensive, I know. I was also traveling in a country that is notorious for being expensive. That month alone was pretty pricey and I was roughing it. I can’t imagine doing that month times seven without working a single day or trying to stay in actual hotels or something. I know it sounds awful, and maybe it’s because I’m pretty optimistic that it didn’t faze me, but those last few months living in squalor were the best part of my experience abroad. Living in my shitty house introduced me to some incredible, hilarious, crazy people who made every day an adventure. Backpacking was the same way too–staying in those hostels introduced me to a ton of backpackers I wouldn’t have met in an uppity hotel, people who have, in general, the same ideals as me in terms of wanting to see the world and experience all that life has to offer. I keep in touch with a lot of them still via social media and I’ve even gotten to reunite with some of them too in our various travels. I have friends all over the world and experiences that a lot of people I know don’t have, and I wouldn’t have any of that if I hadn’t taken this trip.
Aside from having a grand time, traveling by yourself is, in and of itself, a life-changing experience. If you want to know who you really are, who your real friends are, and what your life is about, you’ll move somewhere by yourself where not a soul knows you. Ideally it’ll be abroad, even more ideally it’ll be a place where you don’t speak the language, but really anywhere that you are unfamiliar with will do. I did this when I went to my first university in a city where I didn’t know a soul and the results were ok; I felt the beginnings of me growing into myself, but I was still in America and I was living on the cushion that is college so not a lot changed. The reason I push moving abroad is for the cultural exchange, even if it is as slight as mine was with Australia, because no matter where you go there will be some learning curve that you wouldn’t have experienced still being in your home country. Being by yourself means you can act entirely yourself. It’s incredibly freeing introducing yourself to people who have no idea who you are and what you’ve done (ugh I sound like a murderer, but I’m not I swear). It’s like a second lease on life and it’s insanely beautiful. When I moved, I was a generally awful human being: timid, self-conscious, pessimistic, but once I moved out of the shadow of my less-than-stellar college experience I gained an incredible amount of self-confidence, optimism, and boldness. I am no longer afraid to admit what I want and I am also no longer apologetic of who I am. As a comedian, this has helped me tremendously and I saw my abilities grow leaps and bounds once I stopped being scared. In this process too I dropped a lot of dead weight in the friendship department, people who did more harm than good, and after that, what was left were the people that I will probably be friends with for life, my biggest supporters and the people who will always help me be the best person I can be. I am still growing but I finally formed the foundation for the person I want to be, I have the best, most supportive friends I could ask for, and I finally have purpose.
One of my favorite books, Vagabonding: The Art of Longterm Travel, makes a comment in one of its chapters about how to explain the gap in employment on your resume caused by your travels. Rolf Potts says (and I know this is kind of a long shot but it’s true) that that gap in employment wasn’t just a waste of time, it’s where you learned how to be resourceful, be yourself, etc. I agree with this completely. I’ve gotten extremely savvy and self-reliant since my travels, perhaps too self-reliant, but I know that at the end of the day I am the only one accountable for the choices that I make and the paths I end up on. I know what to let go of and what I can pursue to make a change. Being somewhere by yourself kickstarts that primal fight or flight response where you can choose to flounder and go home with your tail between your legs, but more often than not you automatically fight to survive and it awakens a part of you you never knew existed. I believe it has made me a better employee, friend, and person.
Scared? You should absolutely be– I would be worried if you weren’t. I was absolutely terrified that I would fail, but just like jumping out of an airplane you’ll never feel anything like it in your life and I guarantee that if you open yourself to the opportunity you won’t regret a second of it, good or bad. So stop making excuses. I only know like three people who already have real jobs that they can’t leave; the rest of you have no excuses. (And even those of you with the real jobs, see what opportunities they have to go abroad) Sell everything you have if you’re having trouble saving up for the plane ticket–you won’t need it abroad and eventually you’ll realize you didn’t need any of it if it’s still here when you come back. If you have bills like car payments, phone bills, insurance, you can usually put some kind of hold on them or they can be taken care of remotely. Dump your significant other or take them with you a la the advice of Bill Murray, like the real job situation the odds of you being in that final relationship are pretty slim and also relationships are the worst excuse you can have to not do something. We’re in our 20s–the world is our oyster and at this point in time we can afford to be a little selfish. You’ll see it when you’re older how trivial all of your excuses are and you’ll regret it if you don’t take this leap. You can wait until you’re ready but to be honest you’ll never truly be ready– you just have to hit the ground running and hope for the best.
If you’re curious as to how to backpack abroad and/or get jobs here are my favorite resources:
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts–this guy means business. Even if you’re not going to make extensive backpacking a career, there are a lot of great tips and tricks in here to help you on your way as well as an overabundance of external resources. There’s even a whole section on backpacking alone as a female, which I believe is an incredibly important topic. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to worry about these things, but we don’t live there so be sure to check it out. And while we’re on the subject….
Quick-links about solo backpacking as a female: Again, we don’t live in a perfect world. This one isn’t super in depth or anything but it’s a good starting point to get all of you ladies thinking about traveling.
The Runaway Guide: I spent 3 hours browsing this site when I first found it–it’s like a backpacker wormhole. The backpacking map, which is what I linked, specifically is a fantastic resource, but there are a ton of other resources provided.
Go Backpacking: Another wormhole. Cheese & crackers, I can’t get enough of these sites.
Roadtrippers: Roadtrips are some of my favorite ways to see a place. Plan your next one here.
23 Travel Jobs & How to Get Them: Here’s a big list of ’em. They exist and they’re waiting for you to fill them.
Teach Abroad: This is one of the most common ways to live abroad. I know a lot of people that signed up for just a few months and then didn’t come back for 2-3 years. Living in a city is the only way to truly get to know a place. You can walk around and see sights but it’s a totally different experience living there and I highly recommend it.
WWOOF: I have yet to do this, but I’ve met several people who have done it and it helped them get around whatever country or continent they were trekking.
International Volunteer HQ: Haven’t used this one personally but I’ve had it bookmarked for ages. There are a ton of ways to volunteer abroad, some of them expensive, some of them not, but it’s certainly worth exploring especially if you’re not feeling up for being completely by yourself. A lot of these places will put you up and it’s a great way to get introduced to a new culture while meeting new people and giving back. Just make sure you do your homework on the organization to make sure they’re not just a tourist trap and you’re actually doing some good.
How to Travel on $418: This one made my brain hurt a little bit and it’s super intense, but if you can get through it it’s definitely worth it. You might not go to the same extremes but you’ll at least pick up on some travel tips you probably wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
More questions? Hit me upppppp