Contemplating picking up your life and heading abroad for a bit? I’ve yammered on plenty about our RTW travels here, but for a different perspective, here’s how Maddie and Paul planned and tackled their own trip and what it’s been like to come home.
Maddie and Paul are a 30-something couple who hail from Yorkshire in the UK. They have just returned home after spending 18 months exploring the globe, taking in 18 countries and spending more time on night buses than they ever thought was possible. They blog at Two for the Road. Like us, they saved hard ahead of time for their trip and have been back for about three months.
I definitely identify with most of the things they mention below – like how travel strengthens a relationship, how fast it can quickly fade to feel like a dream, and how you’ll need to get over a fear of the unknown. Read on to see how they overcame all that…
What made you guys decide to embark on your trip? How long did it take to plan/prepare?
We’d always enjoyed travelling and Maddie had dreamt of long term travel from being a teenager. The well trodden path of being a grown-up got in the way during our 20s before we realised that you don’t have to follow the same path as everyone else. We did a couple of longer holidays and then finally made the decision about two years before we started the trip.
It was all a bit hypothetical for nearly a year and we didn’t really get serious until around 11 months before the departure date. The planning stage wasn’t a piece of cake but it was nowhere near as difficult as we expected, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
How did you fund the trip?
We wanted to take a complete break from work and made the decision to save all of our funds before we left so we wouldn’t have to take part-time jobs while on the road. We already had some savings but we saved the majority of what we needed in just 1 year. It’s amazing what you can do when you have a real goal, once we’d paid the bills every month we put the rest into savings and stopped eating out and buying unnecessary stuff. All we hear from people is that they don’t have enough money to do something like this and yet they still have enough for the latest flat screen TV or brand new car, it’s all about priorities.
What do you wish you knew before leaving?
Not to fear the unknown. We had so many worries while planning the trip and then when we started it took us at least 2 months to feel comfortable travelling. People are generally good, things normally work out and you will just get on with it. Stop worrying about what might happen and just go and experience it.
Any advice for would-be RTW travellers?
Just go! Regardless of the fears you have it generally works out okay, listen to what you want from your life rather than what people say you should want. Try to travel slow or take breaks where you do absolutely nothing for a week or so, if you move too quickly you will exhaust yourself and get travel fatigue. The last thing you want is to stop appreciating what you’re doing.
What is something surprising you learned on the road?
Our relationship has grown enormously when travelling, we’d already been together for 8 years when we left but we’ve learned so much about each other. Spending 24 hours a day together for 18 months makes you realise you can tackle anything that is thrown at you. We’ve also realised that people are pretty much the same anywhere you go. Regardless of country or culture we all want the same basic things.
What was your favourite place – or one place you would return to in a heartbeat?
We would quite happily live in the United States. We spent 3 months travelling through most of the states and it cemented a love of this wonderful country, we’re outdoor nuts and the landscapes and national parks are sublime. It has a vastness that we’re not used to in the UK and we love the fact that you can just get in your car and drive from snow to sand, mountains to desert.
What’s still on your travel wishlist?
The list just kept growing the more we’ve travelled! Top of the list at the moment are Alaska, Antarctica and Nepal.
What’s it been like settling in back home so far?
We’ve been back for 3 months and are still looking for new jobs, we have been offered positions but are looking for something quite specific. The job market is a lot more buoyant than we thought it would be so if you’re thinking about going on a trip do not let the fear of finding a job put you off.
We kept our house and rented it out while we travelled, it was a pain to manage but I’m glad we had the security of property and somewhere to move straight back into.
Settling back in has been an absolute roller coaster, some days you are incredibly happy and then other days you are pining for the road so much you wonder what the hell you’re doing. The strangest thing about being back is how quickly travel can almost feel like a dream rather than a real experience, lives have gone on and very few people will be interested in what you’ve done. We’re incredibly grateful to have each other so we can tell stories whenever we feel like it!
Do you plan to stay put – is this your ‘forever’ city?
We have no firm plans for the future at the moment, we’re focused on finding jobs and replenishing the pot of money for the time being. We live in a beautiful part of the UK but we’re not sure we want to be here forever. If we’ve learned anything it’s that your dreams can change in a heartbeat so be as flexible as possible.