You’ve probably figured out by now that I’m living my dream to travel the world (see my blog post if you want to read my story and haven’t yet).
I keep hearing from people ~ I’m so jealous of your travels, you’re so lucky, etc.
Yes – I agree 100% that I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity because it’s so true that the majority of people either don’t have the courage, capacity or financial capability to be able to do it even though they want to.
But my journey wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows ~ in fact, it was quite the opposite.
Once I made the decision to travel the world, I had to go through many struggles to get to where I am today.
This blog has been long overdue – in fact…it should have probably been one of my first posts because I think it’s so important to discuss and highlight that you need to work hard and sacrifice things to fulfill your dreams (unless you’re incredibly lucky).
As Simon Sinek said: people focus too much on the peak of a mountain or on the fruit of a tree without seeing the ‘journey’ which was required to create the fruit or reach the top of the mountain. After all, it’s the struggle in the journey which makes the finish line all the more worthwhile.
The start of my journey – my struggles to build the foundation so I could travel the world
After realising that it was difficult for me to fulfill my dream of living and working abroad, I settled with the idea of just traveling overseas. If you don’t already know – doing a solo trip to Europe has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember.
When I got back from India in mid-March this year (an unexpected trip), I knew I had a lot of work to do. I had nothing.
I used the money I saved for my euro-trip for India and had to start from $0 again with no job (actually I lie because I could go back to my waitressing job, but it wasn’t enough money to fund my trip).
I needed to save as much money as possible until I flew away.
Even though I didn’t have a set date for Europe when I came back from India, I was certain that I wanted to escape Melbourne’s winter and go to Europe during summer or autumn (July to November)…but to get to Europe by July or August meant that I had only 5 months to save for a 6-month trip in a ridiculously expensive continent.
How the hell was I going to make this happen?
I really went ‘all or nothing’ once I made the decision to travel…
I started working at the restaurant straight away and looked for a full-time job. Luckily, I had prior experience as a legal assistant. For some reason there’s a lack of supply of good legal assistants in Melbourne so I was lucky enough to get a call back from every place which I applied for and I got a full-time temporary job within a week.
Once I signed the contract. That was it. I was committed to two jobs.
I could have worked more hours at the restaurant, but I know myself and working too many hours without any time to rest for a long period is too exhausting. I was realistic about it worked 2 shifts each week at the restaurant.
This meant I was working 6 days a week, with only one double shift on Friday (roughly 12 hours). I only had one day off and had many commitments after work (think blog writing, salsa dancing, runners club, Spanish classes, etc.)
I had to let go of all the things I normally did in Melbourne ~ giving up on the lifestyle I became accustomed to which made me fall in love with the city in the first place. I stopped going out drinking or dancing with friends, eating at restaurants, buying coffee at cafes and prepared my meals so I wouldn’t go out to eat.
I would literally cook a big pot of soup or congee (Chinese soup) and eat the same thing for dinner and sometimes lunch for one to two weeks.
My housemate suddenly told me he was moving out ~ I had to either take over the lease or move out myself.
What was I to do?
I planned to fly away in about 3 months (at the time this happened) and didn’t want the responsibility of a lease. Luckily, a friend of mine offered for me to stay at her place for dirt cheap (thank you K!!). The best part was, she was living in the city and the rent included bills. The only thing was, she lived in a very small studio apartment which didn’t have much space even for one person.
Even though I like my space, it was too good a deal not to accept. And it was only for 3 months. The only condition was that I had to sleep on the floor.
I had to deal with my clothes and furniture. I knew that I’d be traveling for some time (I don’t have a return date) and that I couldn’t fit many things in my new home. I looked at storage prices but it was way too costly to justify keeping my things even though I absolutely loved my furniture. I had to let it go and truly embrace being a minimalist.
One by one, I started posting things to sell on the internet, and one by one, I started to get rid of my things. Most of my things sold with the exception of a few items, which I had to give away for free.
In my past life, I had a tendency to buy a lot of clothes…
This meant that I had A LOT of clothes to get rid of…my goal was to fit all of my possessions into two suitcases to store at my friend’s place while I was gone.
I tried to sell my clothes but nobody was interested in buying them…
The only option I had was to donate.
But even sorting through my clothes to get to the point where I could fit everything into two suitcases was quite the task (and an emotional one) but I eventually got there.
When my housemate moved out, the apartment which I called home and felt so fondly of no longer felt like a home. When I came home after work one day, all the furniture was gone (except for the dining table and chairs). It’s like we had been burgled and it made me feel so empty. I remember that I could hear my voice echo around the room.
I’d sold my bed as well so all I had was my blanket, pillows and luggage ~ I had to sleep on the floor and made a makeshift cubby just to feel a little bit more cozy.
Once I got to my friend’s place and settled in, things were generally fine because we worked opposite hours. Most of the time, we would see each other for a few minutes…but eventually things started taking their toll on me. We started seeing each other more often and it would feel very cramped when we were both there.
Sometimes I would feel suffocated (as I’m sure she did too)
I started craving for, and needing more and more space…but I knew I had to just focus on my goal. I only had three months before I was going.
Work started taking a toll on me.
I really wasn’t enjoying my full-time job. I didn’t click with the people. I didn’t enjoy the work I was doing and simply didn’t enjoy the environment I was in. There were so many times that I’d come home feeling completely defeated.
To top things off, I ended up working through winter and completely missing the sun ~ I’d wake up before the sun rose and leave the office after the sun set. (I know this is a first world problem but it really does affect me – see the video below for the state I was in)
What about my career?
I’d just graduated from Law School and started wondering whether I was making the right decision by traveling or whether it was going to really f&% me over in the long-term. My understanding was that in the legal industry, the longer you take to apply for a job, the harder it becomes to get a job as a lawyer.
When I caught up with an old friend of mine to ask for her advice she asked me:
“Do you want to be a lawyer?”
Of course I did. I didn’t go through 6 years of pain for nothing.
“Then you shouldn’t travel. If you travel you have to accept that you will probably never become a lawyer”
She took a break between graduation and work and has had difficulty in finding a job since then.
My heart sunk. There could be nothing more discouraging to hear.
I couldn’t believe that this was the reality I was facing.
That’s when my anxiety for traveling started to skyrocket – was I really making the right decision?
I had no idea…but I thought long and hard about it and consulted many people.
Eventually I came to terms with my fate: “F&^% it, you only live once, I will accept whatever happens.”
Even though I wasn’t enjoying my day-job, I started getting comfortable with my lifestyle. It got to the point where I started getting scared to do solo-travel.
“Why on earth are you scared? You did India already!” I kept thinking.
I have no idea what was going through my mind at the time but I kept postponing buying that one ticket that I needed to start my journey. I subconsciously refused to even go on the airline websites or decide on a date or destination…
But one day after I finished work, I sat down and said to myself:
“Just book a ticket anywhere Mei”
So that’s what I did.
I went on my computer, decided to start off in Malaysia, found a date with reasonable prices and booked my flight.
That was it.
I didn’t know what to feel ~ I felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders, but the fear hadn’t gone away. Everything I’d been talking about doing suddenly had become a reality.
I randomly picked a place and booked a ticket, not knowing where I would be next.
I couldn’t believe I was actually going ahead with this.
It took some time for the reality to sink in but I accepted it and started really focusing on my goal. I planned the date I would hand in my resignation for my jobs and everything seemed sweet…until my manager for my day job basically ‘fired’ me a month before my flight (they let me go because they didn’t need me to fill in anymore)
Crap…what could I do? It really threw a hurdle at me – how was I supposed to save money now?
I printed 20 resumes and started applying for normal hospitality jobs without any luck.
Everybody kept telling me to ask for more hours at the restaurant I was already working at ~ it made sense so that’s exactly what I ended up doing.
Luckily, the timing was right and they could give me the hours I needed.
After working hard for the last month, the time to fly eventually came and there was no turning back.
After traveling for almost 4 months, I can safely say that I have no regrets and am having the time of my life. I’ve gone on so many adventures, met many wonderful people, learnt many things and lived in many different cultures. I can’t believe how much I’ve learnt and how beautiful the world is. My plans have changed more times than I can count and they have been some of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Now I’m currently in Barra in Rio De Janeiro on the balcony of my friend’s apartment ~ 11 floors high, with a view of the beach on one side, and a view of a beautiful hill on the other side.
A year ago, I never would have imagined that I would be in South America…but here I am and I cannot wait to see what it has to offer.