One year ago whilst backpacking in Thailand, I made a decision to quit my job and go travelling. I’ve written my first post here which explains what triggered my decision to take this journey – the next step was preparation. I didn’t have a set date to leave the UK and start my trip so I told myself I’d give myself a year to build up the funds and see where I’m at.
I have almost religiously been using one travel blog as a guide on how to prepare myself for such a journey, figuring out where to go, how much to save, what to buy, what to be concerned about (or not concerned about in many cases) and more, so I’m not planning on filling this site with this kind of info as this guy has already done it all so well – you can find his blog here: http://www.indietraveller.co – but please feel free to contact me if you have any questions yourself!
My first decision was of course figuring out where I wanted to go. I have family in Malaysia and love visiting there when seeing relatives so the rest of South East Asia was always top of my list of places to visit. Another place that had always intrigued me as somewhere exciting to visit was Latin America. Thankfully, I discovered that there are two backpacker trails that cover both regions.
A backpacker trail is basically a loose route that most backpackers follow as they are generally quite cheap and easy to visit and get around via transport links. When you’re planning to travel for so long, you need to pick destinations where your money can go a long way. So for me, in what seemed to be shear luck (or maybe fate?), I discovered the two major backpacker trails that people follow (whether they know it or not) are the Gringo Trail (covering Central and South America) and the Banana Pancake Trail (covering most of South East Asia).
So the question was which to start with first? The Banana Pancake trail is typically the easier to follow of the two as virtually every country has english-speaking people there. I discovered that there are a lot of countries in South America where they will only speak Spanish so, while you can get by with not speaking the language (by using hand gestures and, I guess… talking slower and louder in English), you probably should try and learn the language.
However I kind of fancied the challenge of starting with the Gringo Trail first as I preferred starting my trip in a completely new location as opposed to going straight back to South East Asia again. In the end I left it to fate…
I started my trip in probably the most awesome way I could have done it. A bunch of my mates were turning 30 and wanted to hit a city outside of Europe to celebrate for a week. In the end we narrowed it down to two locations – Seoul in South Korea or Cancun in Mexico. Needless to say, whichever we picked was the trail I was going to start my trip on. In the end, Cancun was the choice that was selected. We booked an all-inclusive 5 star resort (with my mates buying a return ticket, mine one-way) – not a bad way to kick off my travels.
Leaving everything behind
Quite naturally, a lot of people tend to have commitments that they are anchored to preventing them from doing a trip longer than the 2 or 3 weeks their employer will allow them – things such as their job, their mortgage, their kids… I was lucky in the fact that the only commitments I had were my job which I had been at for the past 4 and half years and my car which was falling apart and had more warning lights on the dashboard than a Christmas tree.
I was pretty confident that with the experience I had in my field that I’d be able to get a job again when I get back, and virtually everyone was pleading me to get a new car and scrap the one I had (I managed to keep it running until the day I left luckily).
Saying goodbye to the only car I’ve ever owned, due to be scrapped while I’m away
So the only thing that I really felt I’d be leaving behind was my family. My parents kept me living a pretty sheltered life so breaking the news to them was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. After much thought and discussion with cousins and siblings, I actually decided to write my mum a message that I wanted her to read and process before she had a chance to flip out. This probably sounds silly, but it was definitely the best way for me to tell my parents. I’m actually going to share this message because, fuck it, I’m sharing everything else right now and hopefully it’ll help others if they ever decide to do the same and have similar, overly protective parents like mine. So here it is:
So this is probably weird that I’ve written this down to tell you this but the reason I’m doing it this way is because I won’t be able to get all the reasons out if I were to tell you face-to-face because I know you’ll probably freak out long before I’ve said everything. I’m gay. Ok, not really.
So on the 11th April I’ll be going to Mexico (Cancun) with [my mates] to celebrate their 30th birthdays. We’re going for a week but once our holiday there is over, I’m going to be staying on and continue travelling. My plan is to travel through Central and South America, and then fly to Asia to Thailand again to do the rest of the countries that I didn’t get to do last time I went last year.
If you speak to Kavi [my sis] or Harpall [my cousin], you’ll know that this isn’t something that I’ve just decided to do randomly – I’ve been planning this for two years and saving for over a year ever since I got back from Thailand (so now you know the reason I haven’t brought a new car!). I know you found it weird that I went travelling alone to Thailand last year but the reason I did it was to test myself to see if I was capable of actually doing something like this. The 3 weeks I spent there proved to myself not only that I could do it, but also that I was safe and that I could travel by myself and never actually be alone due to all the people I met that were doing the EXACT same thing as me. It didn’t just show me that though, it also showed me that this was something that I NEED to do before I miss the chance to, before having to settle down, get married, have kids (if I ever decide to) etc. etc – basically in my mind, if don’t take the opportunity to do this now, I’ll regret it forever. Right now, this is the ONLY thing that’s important to me.
So to get into the details – I’ve saved up for over a year and have savings when I get back also so I’ve put myself in the best possible position to do this. I obviously had to leave my job (I handed in my notice around 3 weeks ago) but they’ve said that if I give them 1-2 months’ notice before I get back and they have positions available then I’ll be basically guaranteed a spot. Even if this isn’t the case though, I’m not worried about finding another job – I’ve now got 5 years’ experience in my field and there are always jobs available in this area. Basically what I’m trying to get across is: DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE FINANCIAL/JOB SIDE OF THIS. I’ve set myself up nicely for when I get back.
In terms of safety, again you don’t need to worry about me. Before I left for Thailand you told me to not trust anyone and not make too many friends. I did the exact opposite when I went. When you are travelling and staying in hostels, you meet so many other people from all over the world that are doing the exact same thing – most of them are alone themselves, they are looking to make friends and people to travel with (just like those two guys from Wales I took the train with to Chiang Mai), and they trust each other as we’re all staying in the same places and are in the same boat. I’m obviously not stupid enough to blindly trust everyone that I meet, but what I’m saying is there are far more people willing to help you then try to screw you over. Basically what I’m trying to get across is: DON’T WORRY ABOUT ME NOT BEING SAFE! I can take care of myself, I’ve already proved that by spending 3 weeks travelling alone in Thailand, and I’m smart enough to keep myself out of trouble. So again, don’t worry. Virtually everywhere that I’ll be staying has Wifi, and I’m planning on taking a cheap phone/laptop so I’ll be available on Whatsapp/Skype/Facebook. I’ll be posting loads of pics and letting everyone know where I am and where I’m heading to.
Also, if Dad asks, tell him I’ve gone to look for a wife.
Saying my goodbyes
It’s difficult to leave your friends and family for a potentially indefinite period, and the only way for me to not overwhelm myself and get fearful of what I was doing was to disconnect myself from what I was planning to do. If I overthought doing something as ambitious (for me) as I was planning, then the fear would set in and I wouldn’t have been able to do it at all. So to overcome this I blocked out as many doubts in my mind as I could. This made it easier for me to say goodbye to my friends, parents and cousins then it otherwise would have been. It also allowed me to share my final weekend with my family and make it feel more to me like a celebration.
That’s not to say it wasn’t fucking hard to say goodbye to the people that you really care about. My attempt to disconnect myself was finally broken when saying goodbye to my younger sister and seeing that she was getting emotional (being a typical brother/sister, showing any kind of emotion is strictly forbidden – not cool, Kavi. Not cool :P). This was confounded when saying goodbye to my parents for the final time before I left. They were obviously unhappy with my decision to take this journey and reacted negatively when telling them about my plans, but I eventually realised it was coming from a place of worry and concern as opposed to anger (which was my original perception).
Getting on the plane alone for the start of my trip never felt as nerve-racking as it did when I went to Thailand alone for the first time – I obviously had some doubts and fears within me as any normal person would, but after that experience it was overcome by excitement more then anything else.
Up next: My 7-day binge with friends to celebrate their 30th birthdays and the start of my trip in Cancun.