It’s that time again…. ✈️

4 months.
17 weeks.
120 days.

23 flights.
25+ trains.
5 road trips.
1 ferry.
15 countries.
50 cities, towns & national parks.
Approximate distance of 75,000km to be covered.

No matter how you spin the numbers, it’s gonna be big. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to start writing this post, only to be completely overwhelmed by figures and logistics and emotions, delete everything, and promise myself I’d come back to it later. Only, now, there is no later; we leave tomorrow.

This trip has been in the works for what feels like forever. We started talking (dreaming) about doing something like this when we first met thirteen years ago. I started to genuinely contemplate it in 2013 after we’d gone on a four week trip to Egypt and Europe, which I’d previously thought of as an impossible feat. I let that simmer for a few years and finally decided without a shadow of a doubt that it was going to happen in January 2015, at the end of our 6 week trip around America.

When I take a step back and look at what we’re doing, I know that it’s not that big, in a lot of ways. People pack up and leave for a lot longer than four months. People pack up and leave without having booked any flights or accommodation, they leave with just a passport and a one way ticket and a vague idea of that the next step will be; I’m not so disillusioned to believe that our “little” four month trip around the world is even making a scratch on the glass ceilings in that regard.

But for me, personally, it is smashing those ceilings. I’ve written about this feeling before, about the odd feeling of discontent that came to me in Egypt when I realised I’d finally managed to get everything I was meant to get – a university degree, a job, a home of my own, a wonderful marriage – and I still felt kinda empty, unfulfilled. For some people, they’re complete once they have their dream career, their children, their perfect house; travel undeniably  fills that void for me.

I come from a pretty traditional Italian family. I’ve followed the steps of their game so far. Uni degree. Job. Home. Husband. After that, I was meant to “settle down” and have kids, in the footsteps of the path set by generations of women before me. So this little four month time out from the real world isn’t just a vacation or even a “travel experience”; it’s my middle finger to the traditional world, my way of saying “you know what, I actually don’t have to follow the path.” This is me finally following my heart.

 

 

I’ll be blogging fairly sporadically while we’re away, so if you’d like to keep up and see the world with me, follow the adventure on Instagram @the.life.of.j  🙂

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Women, spend time with yourselves (instead of the “travel alone” thing)

ALONE. Separated from others. Exclusive of anyone or anything else. Having no one else present. On one’s own. Indicating that something is confirmed to the specified subject or recipient.

Every two or three months, I book a night or two of accommodation for one person in Warburton. Yes, I have a husband, a best friend, a sister who could accompany me, but I choose to take these trips without a companion. Why? Because I believe that it’s incredibly important for people to spend some time with themselves. Especially when those people are women. It’s important for men, too, but it really hit me that this really is still predominantly such a women’s issue when I was sitting in a café on the weekend waiting to order breakfast; I eventually called someone over to take my order, and he said “ohh, I just assumed you were waiting for someone.” That’s when I decided to write this post instead of another food review.

If, like me, you’re a lady who enjoys her travels, you’ll have no doubt read the myriad articles and blog posts out there titled “Why All Women Should Travel Alone” or one of its variations. You’ll be a better person if you can be more independent, they say.  You’ll meet so many new people that you’d never have had the change to meet if you were travelling with a companion. You’ll be forced right out of your comfort zone. You’ll be able to eat and drink and see and do whatever you want and no one can stop you!!! Oh, and you should definitely do this before you turn 30. Because apparently your years of excitement and adventure end and your carriage will turn back into a pumpkin then.


These articles aren’t all bad; I’m all for anything that encourages women to take control of their lives, but I think there is a HUGE difference between “travelling alone” and “spending time with yourself.” 

As a textbook introvert who suffers from depression and anxiety, I actually really enjoy having my husband with me when I travel. It’s not that I can’t travel alone (I have) or that I don’t enjoy it (I did) or that I got nothing out of it (I did) or that I’m helplessly reliant on him (I’m most certainly not); it’s that he actually really is my best friend and I have way more fun when I’m sharing my adventures with him. The reason we’ve worked so well for almost 13 years is that he encourages my natural tendency to be independent. I’m just as capable of speaking to a stranger in a foreign country with him by my side. And forcing an anxious introvert out of her comfort zone without backup isn’t always a great idea! So I really don’t think “travelling alone” is all that relevant or important.

Some other articles propagate the idea of travelling alone in order to feel more freedom, to increase your confidence, to become more self-reliant and to better understand yourself. Those are all brilliant things for any lady to have at her disposal, but I don’t think they come from “travelling alone;” I think you’ll find they come from spending time with yourself. Go back to the definitions of the word “alone” at the start of the post. I read that as being isolated and cut off, maybe even from yourself. When I take my little solo trips, I don’t see them as taking time to be alone, I see them as taking time to be with myself. I meditate. I reflect on the last few weeks or months. I try to understand how I’ve come to be where I am right now. I set some goals for myself, treat myself to a massage, a riverside walk where I say hello to everyone I pass, a trip to an antique shop where I chat with the gentleman behind the counter.

Yeah, I’m taking these trips without a companion, but I don’t feel “alone,” separated or exclusive to anything. I’m spending time with me. Instead of ignoring the niggling feeling of “not enough-ness” that drives so many people to travel (thinking that if they ignore those scary feelings and just escape, they’ll magically find some answers), I’m learning to make friends with it. Instead of shoving it aside while I take a selfie under the Eiffel Tower and post it to Instagram with an “I-don’t-need-no-man-to-take-me-to-Paris” caption, I’m sitting down to a pot of tea and a jam-smothered scone with it and trying to work out how I can let it go on its way without me.


You don’t need to travel the world alone to grow as a person, ladies. You just need to spend a little time with YOU 🙂

Globelle Travels website launch & How To Take Your Dream Trip Without Breaking The Bank!

 

globelle

I’m super super excited to spread the word that the Globelle Travels website has just been launched, like just launched a few hours ago! Woo! I had the absolute pleasure of catching up with founder Deb a few weeks ago, and it was so amazing to meet another young woman with dreams to see the world, and with such a huge passion for helping open the door for other women wanting to do the same thing, which is what Globelle Travels is all about –

 The idea for Globelle Travels was the result of one solo female traveller receiving a fair few messages from friends and acquaintances asking about her experiences. These questions ranged from how she found travelling alone, to how she went about getting a job and place to live in a foreign country, to how she went about sorting out visas, to whether she felt safe when on the road. The sort of questions any first time traveller might have I guess. Over time, the volume of these messages increased and she realized that there wasn’t any one resource out there that potential female travellers could turn to.

From this, she felt there was a real need for a compilation of information from a variety of knowledgeable sources, which if you were a first time female traveller would make the prospect of exploring less daunting.

The website and concept as a whole will be growing and evolving for some time, so if you’re a women taking on the world, you can connect with Globelle Travels via website, Facebook and/or Instagram!

 

In the mean time, I’ve also had the opportunity to team up with Globelle Travels and write an article to help kick off the HOW TO department:

This is not the be all and end all list of money saving tips for travel; this is just my personal game plan. These are pieces of advice I’ve gathered from years of travelling myself, from working in accounts roles, and from people I’ve met through my work as a travel consultant. I do practice what I preach, and these are steps I follow every time I travel.

It’s hard to pay off bills, a mortgage and travel the world at the same time which can put a lot of people off following their travel dreams. But it IS do-able, and my aim here is to help other people see that they don’t have to sacrifice their dreams for their finances!

12 months (or more) out: Work out how much the trip is going to cost and making a savings plan.

· You only need a rough estimate to start off with, which you can get by doing a little research online. Say you’re looking at going to New York for 2 weeks over Christmas next year; use a website like TripAdvisor or Expedia to look up how much it’d cost for you to fly to New York and back this Christmas. Look at how much accommodation and travel insurance will cost. Add in the costs of any big tourist excursions, like a Top of the Rock pass. Guestimate how much you’ll be spending per day on food, drinks, shopping, etc. Add it all up, and divide that by the number of months you’ve got left until you want to take this trip. That’s roughly how much you’re gonna need.

· Next, create a savings plan by prioritising what your pay cheque goes towards. Write down how much you get paid each month, then list your non-negotiable expenses (rent/mortgage, bills, grocery money, petrol or public transport money, phone bill, insurance, gym membership, etc). Work out what you’ve got left each month after you’ve paid the non-negotiables, and from there you can work out how much of that you’re willing to put away to fund your travel. It might mean you have to miss a few cocktail nights with the girls or say goodbye to the monthly manicure, but think about how much it’ll be worth the sacrifice when you’re drinking a cocktail at a New York rooftop bar instead!

· Now is a good time to buy yourself a money tin, into which you should dump all the coins you have at the end of the day. Trust me, you won’t miss the collection of 20 cent coins tomorrow, but in a year, they’ll have added up to serious spending money! It’s also worth looking into opening a separate savings account with your bank for the money you decided to put away in the step above. This is something I’ve been doing for years now (along with the money tin), and it’s made the world of difference. Every time my pay cheque comes through, I immediately put my set amount into my travel savings account, and I don’t touch it until I need it to book flights, accommodation, etc. Look into an account that will generate interest as well, so that you’re earning a little more money just by saving – your bank should be able to help you choose the right account for your needs.

· Start doing a little bit of research now on where you want to go. Work out roughly where you want to go and how long for. It may be as simple as 2 weeks in New York, or it may be 3 days in London, a week in Rome, 4 days in Florence and then a week in Paris to finish up.
8 – 10 months out: Get ready to book your flights and travel insurance.

· Now is when you’ll see why it’s important to have a bit of a plan together. Sure, you can wing it and book your flights a month or two out, but that’s not going to save you money! Flights are generally released for purchase 8 – 10 months prior to your travel date. Remember if you’re taking a longer trip, this will mean 8 – 10 months prior to your return date, too. If you’re travelling in peak times like school holidays, Easter, Christmas, New Years, be prepared to book 8 months in advance – sure, you can get some great sale fares closer to the date, but not if you’re travelling at these times. If you want some professional advice, don’t be scared to speak to a travel agent – remember, you’re not obliged to book anything with them, but if you do click with them and trust them, they can be your best ally in booking your trip.

· It’s a cliché, but it’s true: if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. Having worked as a retail travel agent for a few years, I’ve seen and heard all the horror stories and ridiculous amounts of money people have had to pay for injuries, thefts and the like overseas, because they didn’t think $100 for travel insurance was a good way to spend their money. Take out travel insurance the same day you purchase your flights; I speak from personal experience when I say it’s a non-negotiable.

· If you’re not 100% set on travel plans, just aim to get your international flight booked first, and worry about your internal travel later. Remember that you’re not just restricted to flights – trains can often be a great and less expensive alternative if you’re not travelling too far. They can also be a great time saver, as you’ll be skipping the airport security checks, waiting for luggage, etc.

· If you decide to book internal flights early as well, check their luggage policies – a lot of internal North American flights (ie. Flying American Airlines from LA to New York) won’t include luggage, and you’ll be paying around USD$25 per suitcase you take, so add that into your budget if need be. If you decide to book through a travel agent, ask them about booking all of your flights together and if that would be a more financially viable option than booking them all separately.

· Now is also a good time to start looking at foreign currency. Exchange rates can fluctuate so much, so if you do have a little spare cash and notice a particularly good exchange rate, change a little cash. Also consider options like a Cash Passport card to use overseas – I swear by mine!
7 months out: Consider seasonal clothing.

· I know this may seem overly organised, but this can save a ton of money. I visited North America and Canada over Christmas/January 2015, which is obviously a pretty cold time of year over there! Six months out from our trip was winter here in Australia, which meant two things:
1. It was almost end of season sales here, which meant I was going to be able to get some cheap winter gear in stores around August; I got a great pair of leather boots for half price (there’s no way I could have afforded them full price!), and I wore them almost every day. Great investment!
2. It was also early summer in Europe/America, so their winter gear was pretty cheap, too. I shopped online, getting a good water proof puffer jacket online (ASOS, I believe) on a 70% off sale, which again was worn most days and was another great investment.

It may seem a bit crazy, but trust me, it’ll save a ton of money. Especially if you are travelling in extreme weather – winter coats in New York cost a small fortune, as did sunscreen in Mexico! Stock up on out of season stuff while you can if you know you’re going to need it.
6 months out: Planning it out.

· I know it’s really common and easy to turn to guide books when you’re planning a trip – I’m guilty of this too, don’t worry! But more and more I’ve found myself turning to one of the greatest untapped resources when it comes to travel planning: travel bloggers! It wasn’t until I started blogging that I realised how much incredible information there is out there, and it’s so easily accessible! Why pay for travel books that are often not up to date, when you have a world full of people writing all about their travels from last month, last week, yesterday?! Sure, the glossy, shiny, professional photos are pretty, but I’d rather see what places are like first hand, photographed by real people. I’d like to hear about the entry prices, opening hours, what to expect, what to be wary of from someone like me who just visited a few days ago. And all of this information is FREE! Just Google “travel blogs” and you’ll have a few million to choose from!

· While you’re at it, download a solid travel app – personally, I like Tripomatic. It’s easy to use, has some good suggestions of things to do, allows you to enter your own places to visit, and most importantly, offers an offline map functionality on which you can plot all the places you want to visit on. So even if you’re out of a free wifi zone, you can still get a map up of New Orleans that’ll show you the way from Café du Monde to the Voodoo Museum! You want a great money saving tip? Don’t walk around foreign cities with a paper map! You may as well paint a target on your back! I know it’s horrible to be so pessimistic, but reality is that tourists are easy targets for theft. You don’t want to find yourself in the horrible situation of going to pay for your coffee and croissant in Paris only to realise that your wallet is gone. I really liked and heavily relied on the offline maps in North America, particularly in big cities like New York and Chicago. I just looked like another person checking Instagram while they were walking along, when in reality I had a map of the city up and was following the little blue dot from point A to point B. Amazing!

· Check if any of the places you’re going to need a visa – if they do, now is the time to start looking into how far in advance they need to be organised and setting aside the money for them. Some places offer visa on arrival – while it may be cheaper at face value, it won’t be if you turn up and are for some reason not eligible for the visa on arrival. Very expensive trip from one airport to another and then being sent back home again. Ditto for your passport – make sure it has at least 6 months expiry from the end date of your trip, or you may be denied boarding. Seriously, I’ve seen it happen while working as a travel consultant. VERY expensive mistake to try to fix!

· While you’re checking these things out, check to see if you need vaccinations. Again, annoying to fork out the money if you do, worse and much more expensive if you contract hepatitis while you’re enjoying a stay in Koh Samui.

· One final thing to consider 6 months out is making sure you have enough money to come home to. There’s not much worse than having planned in advance to have enough money for your trip, but then coming home and realising your bank account is empty and rent is due next week. Make sure you’ve planned to have a little money set aside for when you return.
While you’re away: spend smart.

· It’s hard when you want to do everything and buy it all and see it all and eat it all! Hopefully if you’ve planned and budgeted carefully enough, you’ll have enough money to get you through and allow some extravagances. If not, consider street food over fancy restaurants, discounted tickets instead of “the works” deals, saying no to the gorgeous Italian leather shoes in the window so you can see the Colosseum instead. At the end of the day, you know what you can and can’t afford, so spend smart and try not to miss out on anything you’ll regret when you get home!

As I mentioned earlier, this is by no means an exhaustive list, so please keep the conversation going and add more tips!