5 Things I Learned When I Quit My Job And Bought A One-Way Ticket To Europe
For years I have been dreaming of dropping everything in my life and traveling for however long my savings account would let me. In May of 2016, my dream became a reality. Worn out by the daily routine, a boring job and the never-ending drama in my personal life, I knew I needed a break or a change. Something. I have always been one of those people who would encourage others to change something in their life if they are feeling unhappy because, well, “you are in charge of your own happiness”. But there I was. Unhappy, worn out, and doing absolutely nothing about it. Tired of feeling like a hypocrite, I decided to take my own advice and do something different for once. So one beautiful April day after work, as I was sitting at a coffee shop with my best friend, I booked a one-way ticket to Europe. No plan, no idea what I was doing, just a passion for travel and a little less than $6,000 in my savings account. The following day I submitted a two-week notice at work, bought a travel backpack, and did a whole lot of research. Two weeks later, I was sitting on a plane heading to Germany with one night booked at a hostel and absolutely no plan for the rest of my trip. Having no idea how long my savings would last me, I told my friends, family, and frankly myself that I would be back in a month. Well, maximum two. Fast forward 4 months, 15 countries, and countless new experiences – I am back in the United States sitting at the same coffee shop, reflecting on what I have learned from this adventure.
You don’t have to be rich to travel.
The question that I have gotten the most throughout my time in Europe was, “How do you afford to travel so much and for so long?” And my answer is simple. I worked full time for about two years, saved up as much as I could, quit my job, and traveled Europe up until I ran out of money. (Only to come back and find another full time job and later do it all again but that’s a story for another time.) But do I come from a rich family? No. Did I have a really well paying job? Not really. In the end, it all comes down to priorities. If travel is as much of a priority to you as it is to me, then I am sure you can cut down on some of your every day expenses if that could mean your next ticket to Europe. Or South America. Or just a weekend trip to another state. Either way, if you really want to travel, make it your priority and see what happens.
Backpacking isn’t for everyone
As my mom likes to say, “I would never travel the way you do even if someone paid me to do it.” Why does she say that? Well, because “this kind of travel” is not for everyone. It can be challenging, exhausting, and sometimes lonely. But to me, the positives will always outweigh the negatives. Sure, I had to live out of a backpack for months on end, be on a pretty strict budget, deal with the lack of privacy, and give up many basic comforts that I am used to. It was not always glamorous or easy, but boy was it rewarding. I have visited cities & countries I had only seen on pictures or on TV. I have trained myself to constantly step out of my comfort zone, find beauty in the small things, and be able to easily strike up a conversation with a stranger. All in all, in these four months, I’ve learned more about the world and myself than I have in the past few years.
Sometimes Not Having A Plan Is The Best Plan.
I love to plan and organize trips and events. Most of the time when I travel with friends, at least 80 percent of our itinerary is planned out. We like to leave room for spontaneity here and there, but mostly we have a solid plan and know exactly where we are going to stay and what we want to explore. However, my “one-way ticket Europe trip” turned out to be fully spontaneous and completely unplanned. Since I had no set itinerary, I was able to go with any and every opportunity that came my way. For instance, my older brother happened to be in Europe for business at the same time as me and just like that, I was able to join him on a two-week long road trip through 5 countries. I also really enjoyed the ability to stay as long or as little as I wanted to in each place. And best of all, I was able to plan little trips with friends that I made along the way. I’m often asked, “Wasn’t it stressful to book things last minute and not know where you will be staying the next day?” Sure, it was a little stressful in the beginning. But once I got used to the idea and realized all of the benefits of not having a plan, I stopped stressing out and started enjoying not knowing when and where I’m going next. In every city I would sit down for an hour or so with my laptop, look at the map of Europe, and choose my next destination. Not having a travel plan taught be how to be a little less uptight, a bit more fun, and a lot more capable to work my way out of any situation I found myself in. It turned out that planning not to plan my trip was one of the best decisions I made.
Solo Travel Is Fun.
When people would learn that I was traveling alone, they would bombard me with questions such as “Well, wasn’t it lonely?” and “Weren’t you scared?” and then usually finish this conversation with “You’re so brave!” or “I wouldn’t be able to do that.” Well, the short answer to these questions is no, I wasn’t lonely, and no, I wasn’t scared. On the contrary, traveling solo turned out to be really fun and rewarding. It wasn’t lonely because I would meet people and make new friends everywhere I went. It’s a lot harder to meet people while traveling with friends because you don’t really need to. But when you’re traveling solo, it’s sort of a necessity. And it wasn’t scary at all. Bad things can happen to anyone whether they are sitting at home or traveling the world alone or with someone. So I think I’ll take my chances. Also, they say that leaving your comfort zone is good for you and for most people–including me–solo traveling would mean stepping out of your comfort zone. But once you make that step, you will enjoy an abundance of benefits that you can only enjoy as a solo traveler. For starters, the way you look at things will change. You’ll make a lot of new friends across the world. The planning–or in my case not planning–of your trip will be lot easier. And finally, you’ll get to enjoy the ability to go wherever you want, do whatever you want, whenever you want.
The Travel Bug Is Real.
When people ask me where I would like to travel next, the only answer that comes to mind is “everywhere”. To quote Susan Sontag: ”I haven’t been everywhere but it’s on my list.” I have always enjoyed traveling and discovering new places and the more I have traveled, the more of an obsession it became. It all started with short weekend trips, which turned into weeklong road trips, then a study abroad program in Italy, and lastly the solo-backpacking trip in Europe. Now I’m back, and to the slight disappointment of my mom, I still didn’t “get the travel out of my system”. In fact, my travel addiction has only gotten worse. It looks to me like I have picked up a travel bug somewhere along the way and there is no getting rid of it.
In this blog post, I tried my best to address all of the questions people had for me regarding my recent trip in the least boring way possible. I’ve seen a lot, learned more than I ever hoped to, and will gladly share all the useful information with anyone who wants to know more.