Takeyourbigtrip.com is a site dedicated to you…you dreamer, you traveler, you. You have travel dreams and it’s time to live them! Take Your Big Trip is a resource of tips, itineraries, advice, and photos to inspire you to get out and travel, be it around the world or around your city.
What I share with you is what I would tell my friends and family. My hope is that these posts inspire you to take your own Big Trip or take a second and third…
I believe you can live your travel dreams. Yes, you can. You just have to begin.
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I am a chronic world traveler. I left one life in 2008 – a life of expectations and corporate ladder climbing – to live my life’s dream: travel around the world. The first big trip was to India and Nepal, the second to the Middle East, and the third back to India, around Southeast Asia. In between trips, I always knew that I had to travel again. My professional experience paid off and I consulted with Fortune 500 clients in between trips, saved money, lived frugally and headed back out.
After the third one I settled down in San Francisco – it’s my home now, one that took a Big Trip to find. I chose this city because of it has an incredible soul – it’s internationally diversity, full of quirky neighborhoods, and economic opportunity. Now, I travel around the city, writing about its treasures and all the day trips, and connect with the very vibrant world traveler community.
Paying for Long-Term Travel
I funded my trip from savings and then used my professional experience to find consulting gigs in the US to pay for a several months of travel. I chose destinations where the dollar went further – like India, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East – and also minimized air travel and tours. Also, I found that having more time meant that I could save more because I traveled slower and took the time to find the best deals on hotels and transport.
I budgeted with a “top-down” approach, deciding where I wanted to go and then estimating costs to get an idea of how much I would need to save.
- India and Nepal for three months cost $6000
- Middle East and Spain for two and a half months cost $7,000
- India, Southeast Asia, Morocco, and Italy for four months cost $9000
Those numbers include everything – visas, transportation, tours, tourist activities, mailing home gorgeous gifts, etc. I worked three to seven months between trips to earn and save enough for each.
- How To Estimate a Big Trip Budget Find answers to the question – how much does a big trip cost?
- Five Motivations to Save For Your Big Trip Learn how to say yes to saving for a dream trip by saving no to every day money-suckers.
- Big Trips: Here’s a list of all the countries I visited on my big trips.
Deciding Where to Go
To decide where to go, I looked within and thought – where have I always wanted to go. The 1999 National Geographic Traveler “50 Trips of a Lifetime” Issue has always been a dream list and I visited a good amount of destinations on short vacations, not really experiencing them beyond a great picture and a check mark on the list.
in 2008, I decided to go to India to open my heart and created an itinerary that gave me experiences to do so – volunteering, spiritual classes, and lots of nature time. I’d always wanted to see the Pyramids and Petra, so that became the foundation for my Middle Eastern trip.
When I start thinking of a trip, I always ask myself, “Where have I always wanted to go?” and what comes to mind first is where I start to think about and research.
- Create Your Travel Vision An article on how to begin to think about your dream trip, complete with instructions on how to create your own dream trip vision board.
- Best RTW Planning Articles This post includes links to some of my “go to” resources for RTW travel planning.
- Sources of Travel Inspiration My list of how I come up with trip ideas on where to go and what to do.
My Travel Style
I traveled mostly solo and or with Intrepid Travel for two-week introductions to a country. In country, I traveled by train, plane, bus, shared jeep, on the back of a motorbike, and walked a lot. I varied between staying in one place and exploring the area and going from place to place on the backpacker circuit. Sometimes, I found the latter to be quite exhausting and more of a checklist than an experience.
I stayed in youth hostels, homes, at volunteer lodging, with friends and in hotels. It was a balance of major tourist sights and blending into local activities. In India and Egypt, just getting a hotel room felt like an adventure. I’d use local transport when possible – the Kolkata bus lines, the Kerala ferries or the Metro in Cairo.
- Tuk Tuks, Buddhas, and “Herbal” Saunas in Vientiane, Laos
- Stories from a Turkish Bath (formerly titled Hands Off My Hammamy)
- Rome: All That and a Papal Blessing Too!
- Seven Things to Love About Essaouira
- How to get to know a place without knowing the language
Dealing with Challenges While Traveling
When I started to travel, I had a really hard time letting go of the urge to develop an itinerary and go with out an organized schedule. I fought and fought this urge to NOT plan and just kept getting in trouble: sleepless nights, wasted money, and worry. The beauty of traveling long term is that there is no need for a schedule, just intentions and a loose outline. Once I let go of everything about one month into my first trip, this beautiful serendipity flowed in. I had richer, more surprising experiences than I could have planned. It took a lot of sheer will for me, but I stuck to it and it worked!
Safety: As a woman traveling alone, I followed some key guidelines that kept me safe: stayed in at night, covered my arms and legs, didn’t smile at strange men, and stayed close to ladies when I could. I also lied and said I had a husband. I had only one instance where my safety was compromised. It was in Luxor, Egypt and a man started touching my arm and saying some pretty inappropriate things. I yelled “GET AWAY” and he did.
I got scammed a bunch of times too, that took some time to get over. I learned compassion and forgiveness for myself and others in the whole process
- Three Surprising Lessons of India
- Shakyamuni Medical Clinic Ridealong in Bihar, India
- The Saigon Grift
- How Not to Arrange a Felucca Ride on the Nile
- Traveling Solo as a Woman (video)
How These Big Trips Changed Me
It’s hard to sum up how living my travel dreams has changed me. Overall, I feel like I’m no longer wearing a heavy winter jacket of a life I don’t want. I trust myself and have the faith that if I follow what’s in my heart, everything works out. I entered long-term travel with a lot of fears – specifically fears that I would come of out this with a terrible time, no job, and no money and have to live with my parents forever. Everyday, this fear was eroded – the time while traveling felt like the most true experience I’d ever had – it was the first time in my life where I felt that, yes, this is what I was meant to do.
When I came home multiple times, the fear of no money/no job/live with parents awaited me at the entry gate. Each time, the fear was less and less – I found jobs and apartments quickly on my return. I now trust myself and believe that because I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do, everything will be OK.
- Travel Pep Talk: Live Your Travel Dreams
- Three Things I’m Doing Not To Miss Travel
- Nine Ways to Ease Back Into Real Life
So what are you waiting for? I did went out on a big trip and thrived. Now, you can to.
If not now, when?
If not you, who?
Learn More About Take Your Big Trip
iSeeiTravel, an organization dedicated to conscious travel, interviewed me about TakeYourBigTrip. Check out the interview here.