Facts, Figures and Questions: The End of an Epic Trip
Today marks one week of being home. One, whole, week. I have all the emotions in the world about this, but I’ll save that for another day, another time. Because this past week I’ve caught myself on many occasions reminiscing about the places I went, the things I did, the people I met, the modes of transportation I took, the hostels I stayed in, and meals I ate.
And I’ve received a fair number of questions, so I thought I’d share my answers with my ridiculously, ridiculously awesome (flatter them? Check) readers.
But firstly, some facts:
- I visited 15 countries,
- And went to 27 major cities.
- I took 33,987 photos (whoa! Check out the best here *updated*)
- I actually travelled around the world one and a half times.
- I took 21 flights and nearly every mode of transportation you can think of: planes (big & small), trains, automobiles, ferries, buses, hot air balloon (ha!),
- I travelled 90,976km (56,860 miles) on planes alone
- And was in the air for 155 hours (which is 6.4 days)!!!!
So, what was my favourite country?
If there is one question someone asks me, this is it, and what a hard-hard-hard question it is. I loved so many places, and definitely came to the conclusion my love or hate of a place depended on the weather I got, and the people I met (for the most part), but still, here’s a list of the countries I went to (favourite to least favourite). (Note: I left NYC and Boston (aka the USA) out of this, because my absolute *love* of NYC would place it miles above this list):
- New Zealand
- Indonesia (not Bali though)
[Note: This is a huge generalization of the countries, as I only visited one city (example: Paris in France) in some countries, which is what my opinion is based on.]
Ok, that’s nice, but what were your favourite 7 cities? (in no order…)
- NYC (I had to!)
- Dubrovnik (like whoa - it’s incredible)
What country and/or places did you wish you didn’t skip?
- The Philippines! Oh how I wish I had gone to the Philippines. I had heard rumours it was dangerous for a girl travelling by herself, so I never ended up going there, but their beaches look absolutely spectacular, and I was just, so, close.
- I also really wished I had made it up to Auckland, New Zealand. I was THISCLOSE to going, but then (I’m embarrassed to admit) this happened, so I let my need/desire at the time to speak to a certain guy overpower my plan to head north in New Zealand, to Auckland.
- Oh! And Ayers Rock in Australia’s outback I *really* wish I had gone to. My thought process at the time was, “it’ll always be there,” but now I wish I had done it.
- Also, Burma would have been awesome.
Could you live in any of the places you visited?
- Absolutely! I could have easily stayed on the island of Gili Trawangan in Indonesia for a few years, and I loved Perth so much when I visited it, I questioned if I had moved to the right Australian city, Melbourne.
- If I spoke French, Paris would also be a top contender (for about 6 months), and on my second trip to Bangkok I remember thinking, “I would love to live here!”
Where do you want to go next?
- Oh Lord, how much time do we have? My next trip will be Chicago (again) for the marathon in October, and hopefully NYC before the year’s end, but my next HUGE trip? Antarctica! I’ve somewhat been obsessed with it for the past few years. Also Iceland. And I’d love to do the Trans-Siberian Express one day.
- Travelling will probably never be out of my system, but “epic trips” probably are - I think going forward I’d like to establish an awesome ‘home base,’ and then every second year do a MAJOR trip somewhere. Oh! And Egypt is on my list too! And everywhere in Africa (including back to South Africa, where I was born), and oh, well, yes… pretty much the entire world (Alaska too!). And yup, I write this as if money grows on trees, and I’ll have all the vacation time in the world. A girl can dream!
How much planning did you do?
Umm, hardly any. I left Toronto having booked four flights (to Berlin, to Croatia, to Nepal, and to Vietnam), but once I hit Vietnam, I had nothing planned. I also tend to only ever book *one* night of accommodation (the first), and find this is the best way to travel. Flexibility is a beautiful thing when you’re in a new place.
How much money did the trip cost?
The million dollar question I assume most people would want to know, but nobody has actually asked. Not to fret, I shall answer. But firstly know this: travelling the world can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it.
Setting a budget for travelling for months on end is hard - really hard. I had no idea where to even start, but Lonely Planet books (which btw are freaking awesome if you are planning a trip) had the “cost per day” for most of the places I was heading, and they also suggested $30,000 to travel the world as a backpacker for a year, which is what my savings goal was (I also read lots of travel blogs - which helped a lot). But I found out quickly it was incredibly hard to budget for everything. For Visas, travel costs, hiking permits, fun costs (bungee jumping, or scuba diving), vaccinations (they were $1200!!!), health insurance, etc.
But remember when I moved home, and lived with my parents for over a year(!) before I left? Yea, well that allowed me to save enough to travel. Also, I don’t even know if I should bother with this, but I paid for my whole trip; every single penny was mine. I received absolutely nothing from my parents/relatives/friends etc. I sacrificed a lot (especially in the 6 months leading up to my trip) to save, and was lucky I had a well-paying job at The Bank.
On September 26th, 2011, the day I left home, I had $23,000 in my account. The first part of my trip (Berlin, Croatia, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore & Indonesia) was definitely the cheapest, but then returning home for Christmas to surprise my mom, and going to NYC and Boston is when the money started leaving my account rapidly.
And although I paid for my flights to and from Australia with Aeroplan points (which was awesome!!!), living in Australia for the first month and a bit with no job was AWFUL, and my money got sucked away. So much so that at one point I went $800 into credit card debt to pay my rent. But then (PHEW) I got a job - actually, I had three jobs (and awful jobs too: two in a call centre, and one serving - those jobs did not ever make it onto this blog) before I landed a safe, secure, awesome job I loved at a major Australian company. I was paid $37/h in Australia, but sadly my recruiter took a chunk, but I managed to make (as per my taxes) $31,000 Australian dollars in my nine months of working Down Under, which supported my life in Melbourne, and travels within Australia, and to New Zealand, Paris, Amsterdam and London.
Also, I should mention I lived in a (pardon my French) complete sh*t hole in Australia. My rent was $600/month (cheap!), but I certainly paid for that. I had a *tiny* room with a single bed, and the house had every type of problem you could think of: slugs (yes, slugs inside!!!), mice, spiders, no air con/heat, clothes dryer, dishwasher, and I could always feel the breeze from outside on my ankles coming through the floor boards. So yup, I made major sacrifices to save money and travel.
Anyways, I landed back in Toronto with $4,800 in my account. This means my ENTIRE TRIP (everything!) cost me… drum roll please… $49,200 (but of course this includes living in Melbourne for 15 months). I actually think this is rather good, as that averages out to just over $1,000/week - but note, I had some *very cheap* weeks in Melbourne, which would have brought this average down.
It’s hard to say exactly how much the travel portion was (perhaps, see below), but I also learned *a lot* about money, and how one tends to live within their means no matter their salary. I went from a nice, cushy income, to low-low-low income, but didn’t notice that much of a difference in my lifestyle (probably because I hardly ever shopped in Australia - pretty much everything I bought, this blog saw - which wasn’t much). I will also never take having a job for granted, and I will never forget the feeling of not being able to afford rent.
What was the cost per day of your travelling?
Below is a list of the countries I visited (exception: USA)
- Croatia = $50 (living well)
- Berlin = $90 (I stayed in a super nice place)
- Nepal = $108 (a breakdown of my trip to Base Camp Mt. Everest can be found here, as this is a *really* inflated number because of the hiking equipment I had to buy, and the trekking tour I joined). Without the tour, it would have been $42/day.
- Vietnam = $26
- Cambodia = $23
- Thailand = $34
- Malaysia = $33
- Indonesia = $37
- New Zealand = $81 (this average includes bungee jumping & a car rental)
- Singapore = $96
- Australia = $101 (*not* Melbourne)
- Paris = $85
- Amsterdam = $75
- London = $60 (because I had *free accommodation. London is pricey!)
Note: I stayed in some spectacularly *horrible* hostels (not hotels, hostels), but also some beautiful ones. And in Nepal, I checked into the 5-Star Hyatt after nearly a month hiking in the Himalayas, which also inflated Nepal’s cost. Nepal is cheap!
So, do I think the money was worth it?
**Absolutely!** It’s scary as anything being home right now and *NOT HAVING A JOB* but the way I see it is this: in twenty five years, when I’m sitting in an office somewhere, and I’ve been with a company for, say, 18 years, and the person next to me has been there 20 years, it’s not a huge difference. I am so, so, so thankful for my experience, and although I write this to you quite broke, it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself (read my top Lessons from Travelling here)
What was your favourite experience?
Without a second thought, it was hiking in the Himalayas - I LOVED it more than anything I’ve done so far in this life (do it! do it!). I also simply loved the islands of Indonesia (I hated Bali though) - it was a dream world I lived in, and would go back in a heartbeat if I could.
Bungee jumping in Queenstown was a hell of an experience, and actually road tripping New Zealand’s South Island with Natalie was absolutely FANTASTIC!
What was the scariest moment of the trip?
I am incredibly lucky that nothing (NOTHING) got stolen or lost on my trip, including my passport and laptop, which went everywhere with me. There isn’t actually one incident that stands out where I felt scared (wait, actually - this incident in Bangkok is up there). But I was safe and cautious for the most part - as a girl alone, I never went too far, or into dodgy areas at night. In Cambodia (which is SOOO corrupt), I got stopped by a lot by “cops,” and was told I had to pay the “toll” to use their roads, but I never felt scared from that.
If I could do it again, what would I change?
Easy. I would spend two or three months in Nepal, and I’d skip Thailand and Malaysia all together. I would spend an extra few weeks in Indonesia, and like I noted above, head to the Philippines too.
I would also travel more with the mentality, “go fewer places, but stay longer.” I think I was so eager to see-see-see, that I kept moving along, even when I really liked a place. I should have stayed longer in the places I liked, and left immediately from the places I didn’t. But let’s not dwell on that, I think my trip was fantastic, and I am so happy with everything I accomplished.
Questions, Comments, Concerns?
Ok, phew! Hope you enjoyed this summary. Please feel free to leave a comment below this post, and I’ll do my best to answer!