I get a little fan mail from time to time.
People write in asking questions.
They want me to talk about how to travel. And they ask questions like:
“How did it feel to leave?”
“How did you do it?”
“Was the money side of things tricky?”
After writing to a few readers, I found that the questions they really wanted to ask were:
- How can I do this?
- What can I expect?
So here we go.
YOU CAN DO THIS
It’s just a question of when.
You already have the capacity.
I can only think of a few situations that would leave you physically unable to buy a ticket and leave the country. Being trapped under a pile of logs, for example. Or accidentally locked in a mall after closing. But if you’re reading this, I sincerely doubt your currently in these situations.
Be honest. Talk is one thing. But if you’re not slow travelling right now, chances are it’s because you haven’t made the decision to go.
How do you get past this? Well, if you haven’t travelled much, or if you’re uncertain, just take it for a test run! Pick a destination you’ve always wanted to live, and book a place for a week, or a month. If you love the experience of living in a new environment, that’s your answer.
You already have the money.
The whole money thing is a big topic, and I’d like to talk about it more in another post.
For now, let’s just say that you can afford it without breaking into your savings or getting into debt.
Need convincing? Draw up a spreadsheet with your monthly expenses in it. Groceries, entertainment, fast food, booze – everything. Now, one by one cross out each cost that wouldn’t exist if you weren’t actually living in your hometown. Examples include rent, bills, car insurance, gym memberships, power bills.
Add that up. How much does that save you?
If you want to work while living abroad, do it! I don’t just blog – I make my money as a freelance copywriter and cartoonist. As long as I have WiFi, I have an office. If you prefer in-person work, you still have options. Have a look around the internet and find positions that match your passions and skills. There’s paid work if you’re willing to look. I have met people who teach (not just English), work in bars, build small businesses, and develop charities while abroad.
And don’t forget the power of foreign exchange. Looking around chances are you can find a nice place to travel that works in your home currency’s favour. For inspiration, I recommend taking a gander at Expatistan’s Cost of Living calculator.
Your gonna experience some changes.
And I’m not just talking about a tan or your waistline.
Slow travellers come from all walks of life. Cooks, bookstore owners. Special forces, hotel managers. Cartoonists and film students and beauty experts.
None of us could have done this without leaving the 9-to-5 behind.
The traditional office system does not reward creativity or free thinking as much as we like to think it can. It swaps your time for cash, rather than rewarding your efforts. This works for some people, sure. But the whole process is not optimised for freedom.
So it leaves many people struggling to find fulfillment. There’s little joy in the work they do (or the amount of time they spend working). And they’re too tired outside of work to do what they want. On the flip side, I love doing what makes me money. Plus I can indulge in my side activities simply because I’m not commuting for 14 hours a week.
Breaking out of the everyday is exhilarating. Unsettling. You feel dizzy from freedom and find yourself feeling there’s something you need to be doing. But there isn’t – it’s all about your own agenda. You can do as little or as much as you choose. So if you have a project to work on, you can do it. A pizza review blog, your own line of clothing, learning to draw – whatever. Or if you just want to slow down, cook food and switch off your anxieties, you can do that too.
This decision is rewarding in the short and long term. I have learned so much about myself and come to appreciate more stuff. None of this would be possible for me had I decided to stay. After talking to many travellers and expats, I’ve found I’m not alone. While their values are different, many feel the same about the change in expectations.
For me, it’s a sense of freedom. I don’t need stuff as much. I’m more willing to try the new, and let things go more. It’s a cliche but I feel lighter, healthier and happier every day.
Here’s the truth: the people you know and love aren’t all going to get it.
You are going to feel excited. Passionate. You might get loud on the subject – both before and after. And people just aren’t going to be as jazzed as you. They’ll ask questions about missing family friends. About job security and savings.
These are big scary questions. And they will sound like they know what they’re talking about.
Don’t get weirded out by their queries. Or by their confidence. They sound confident because they’re navigating the world by a set of comfortable standards. They learned these from their surroundings. For them, the standards are real, and the problems they see are real.
But standards change. When you travel, you see the water you’ve been swimming in. What seemed normal and acceptable before becomes a novelty. And what was unusual becomes a delightful part of your everyday.
Their concern comes from a good place.
Be gracious. Accept their concern. Then go anyway.
Got a question? Drop me a line in the comments!