I’ve been alluding to a big Europe trip quite a lot on this blog, but haven’t properly talked about what our plans are. This is partly because The Plan keeps on changing! We are now up to Plan 4.0, which pretty much is… no plan! We pick a starting point which makes sense with the weather (I’m hoping to avoid really cold climates until towards the end of the trip to save us carrying stuff around all year) and then wing it from there. No itinerary, no schedule, no looking up a billion reviews before finding accommodation, very little booking things beforehand if we can help it – just exploring at our own pace. It’s terrifying because this is the exact opposite of how I usually travel, but I think you need to take a different mindset to long-term travel. Remembering how burnt out I usually am after two weeks of travelling at a hectic pace, I can’t imagine keeping it up for several months! Sure we’ll probably ‘miss out’ on some places that we’d like to see, but I’m happy to go for more of a balance of depth and breadth. I think that this slow-travel, vagabonding style will (hopefully!) suit us, and we’ll take more trips like this in the future!
A few questions that we get asked quite often:
How can you take that much time off of work?
Most people simply can’t. The Boy will be quitting and finding a new job when we get home. As a freelancer who works mostly remotely I’m in a unique position of being able to continue working whilst travelling. I haven’t quite figured out the logistics of this yet and I don’t want to be chained to my laptop, but I do want to continue to be there for my existing clients when they need work done and to take on small jobs here and there when we need some extra cash. I’ve started reading more about working remotely to supplement long-term slow travel, and it sounds like rather a wonderful way of living.
How can you afford to travel for 9 months whilst not working much?
We are saving like crazy all of this year to be able to afford this. It helps massively that we don’t have a mortgage or kids to worry about, and besides The Boy’s student loan we don’t have any debt. We’re also planning to travel budget style – backpacks, hostels and street picnics all the way! It isn’t as easy in Europe as it would be in South East Asia for example, but it’s certainly possible. I’ll write another post about saving for long-term travel at some point.
Are you going to plan anything?
I’m thinking we’ll book a flight to our first destination (current favourite is Morocco, which I know isn’t even in Europe, but it’ll be nice and warm in Feb I think?) and the first couple nights of accommodation. I’m a chronic over-planner when it comes to holidays, and whilst it’s useful to get the most bang for your buck (and time!) on a typically short holiday I do think it causes some unnecessary stress and hyped up expectations. Since we don’t know exactly where we’re going, it seems pointless to exhaustively research a country or city until we’re pretty much on our way to it (besides the obviously important issues of visas etc).
The only real constraint we have is the Schengen Agreement – for those who haven’t travelled long term in Europe, this basically means that you can spend a maximum of 90 days out of every 180 days in countries in the Schengen Area, which covers most of the EU. Our original plan was to spend three months in the middle of our trip in the UK and Ireland, although now I’m starting to think that spending that time in the parts of the Balkans not covered by the Agreement could be more cost-effective and at least as interesting, if not more so.
How do you pack for nine months of travel with varying seasons and climates?
I’ve written a post about what I’m thinking of taking here, although of course that isn’t going to see me through the entire trip. I’m planning our rough route so that we (hopefully!) shouldn’t be needing any heavy winter gear until near the end of the trip, as carrying around big jackets and boots in warm weather or having to chuck them sucks. I’ve been reading a lot about minimalist and capsule wardrobes, and this is the approach I’ll be taking when packing my backpack, as I don’t think I’m physically capable of carrying very much!
Wait… backpack? You know most flights let you take 25kg right? Why not a big suitcase?
I’ve thought about this a lot and done a bit of research, and have come to the conclusion that taking a big suitcase is inviting trouble – I know I’d fill it within the first couple of weeks! I probably would consider taking a medium sized suitcase if we were staying in hotels, but since we’re doing this trip on the cheap our accommodation options are likely to have very little space, be up multiple staircases, and involve walking along a lot of cobbled roads. Budget airlines also charge more for checked luggage, which I’m hoping to avoid if all possible. A (reasonably sized) backpack offers more flexibility and ease of movement, as well as putting a clear limit on how much stuff I can fill it up with.
Are you going to blog about your trip?
You betcha! I’ll have my laptop with my for work anyway, and there’s no way I’m leaving my DSLR behind on a trip like this, so 2013 will have a lot of travel posts from the road. The Boy and I talked about what to do with his blog, and we’ve decided he’ll probably just write guest posts here in ChiGarden whilst we’re travelling rather than us maintaining both, so there will be lots of foodie reviews here as well!
I have been to Europe and have many tips and stories for you!
Awesome! I love tips and stories – email them to hi[@]chigarden.com and let’s chat.