Since I was a child I can remember feeling restless, my mother claimed I must have belonged to gypsies. My hair always unbrushed and often retaining leaves from moments of day dreaming about the future. Staring up at the clouds, drawing out images and watching their hypnotic movement. My feet often bare, unable to hide the image of my toes curling, clenching into the ground as my body stiffens to prevent a feral instinct to run. I’m never running away from anything other than my own inability to remain in one place.
As I have gotten older this feeling has only deepened. More aware of what is out there yet to be experienced, but burdened with the realization of the boundaries that are set. Running to a plane, a country, a hotel is not quite the same as running through an open field with only wild horses to witness that more simple pursuit of freedom. But how to keep exploring on the open road and avoid the bumpy old tracks familiar to trains? How to satisfy a desire to continually experience new cultures, countries and walks of life?
There are many factors that stack to create a wall to this future. Money being the top of the list! How will I afford transport, accommodation, food…? Confidence to do it alone is also dancing around the top. Can I really roam around Asia by myself? Won’t I get lost? Aren’t experiences better when shared? I don’t speak the language! Strangely enough another factor I’ve spent much time anxiously strewing over: What would I pack!? How much can I realistically carry? How to accommodate every season in one case?
With so many things to consider and organize its a wonder how I ever got started!! Now I’m on the right path the road ahead should be easy right? Wrong. Sure I’ve made steps in the right direction but there is still so much uncertainty surrounding the future. The reason for this post is to put down all the ideas in my head, collect the information gathered from researching and try to figure out my next move, if it helps anyone else in a similar position, prefect! So where to go from here? Perhaps firstly, where did I start…
While still in my former employment I decided on my first destination: China, Fuzhou of Fujian province to be exact. The first thing I considered was a health check and consultation into which vaccinations would be appropriate to get. This can be quite costly. For example, Hepatitis B is £120 with Rabies and again Japanese encephalitis reaching a cost of £190. After speaking with my soon to be employer I decided to get the higher cost vaccinations out in China for a fraction of the price.
STEP 1: UK Vaccinations. Hepatitis A & B, tetanus, polio, MMR, typhoid.
TO DO: China Vaccinations. Rabies, Japanese encephalitis, flu jab (flu jab = check, the other two, I’ll get on it)
The second thing I needed was insurance. My employer would be covering my insurance once I had received my residence permit, but this was a slow process following an interview at the embassy and transfer of my work visa. The last thing I wanted was to get sick or lose my luggage or worse! So I put this as an essential. I went with Outbacker who promotes itself as ‘Travel insurance for the young adventurer’. For £72 I was covered for trip cancellation, travel disruption, missed departure, medical, dental, lost or stolen possessions, and so much more for a total of two months.
Next I needed to have my degree notarized, a requirement for VISA purposes. A visit to local Notary and use of an agency to forward the documents to the Chinese Embassy reached a cost of £146. This was to be refunded by my employer soon after arrival but is an initial cost I had to take into consideration.
A tourist visa was also something I needed. Unfortunately there were delays in the notarized documents reaching my employer due to a holiday in China, leaving my documents sitting in the post office in Beijing, as far north of the intended destination as possible! Again, this was to be refunded but it doesn’t change the fact I had to account for it in my budget. This came to £151, ignoring the cost of the two trips to Manchester to obtain the Visa.
Moving on to flights. I flew from Manchester – Abu Dhabi – Hong Kong – Fuzhou. The total cost came to £460. Again, this is ignoring the cost of getting to the airport. My employer would cover the flight cost in two installments. 4000cny to be paid after six months and another 4000cny to be paid upon completing the years contract. A total of 8000cny which is roughly £936 is intended to cover the flight out to China along with the return flight home.
I DO WANT TO ADD THAT ALL THE FEES COVERED BY THE EMPLOYER ARE A BENEFIT TO COMPLETING THE YEAR CONTRACT. IF YOU LEAVE BEFORE COMPLETING 6 MONTHS, ALL FEES ARE TO BE PAID BACK. IF YOU LEAVE AFTER 6 MONTHS, HALF THE FEES ARE TO BE RETURNED. I’M CURRENTLY AT SEVEN MONTHS SO FINGERS CROSSED…..
So if we ignore the little extra costs of moving my belongings out of the apartment I rented and into my brothers attic, the train ticket to the airport, the international postal charges for sending documents, etc. We are looking at a cost of £949 (the little extras easily took this over the £1000 mark) before I even left home soil.
So for my next move, destination yet to be decided, and all future moves, the initial budget I will always want to start with is £1000. Add an extra £1000 for the first months cost of living before receiving a pay check and we’re already at £2000. Of course certain things will be payments I won’t have to make for sometime, like with vaccinations already covered, but you can guarantee with every new country there will be at least one recommended vaccination that I would rather have than face the consequences.
So the current ideas floating around my head are ‘how can I keep my costs down so that I can continue my dream of traveling the world?’ and ‘How can I make money while being location independant?’
My first destination of China has been a comfortable move. I have taken employment as an English teacher, the job comes with a furnished apartment and, as stated above, the majority of my fees being reimbursed. This is my first role teaching and I’m not 100% sold on the idea of doing this as a career long term. The experience is great and I’m acquiring new skills but I’m not convinced the role is a fit for me. The opportunity to teach English is worldwide, often with the same benefits as I have gained with my current company, York English . So there is no regrets at all in obtaining a TEFL certificate. I got mine while still in the UK and studied online. There are many options on how and who to get certified with. One thing you may want to consider is doing a TEFL internship in another country, you gain teaching experience while working towards being certified and you start your travelling from the get go! Just add another £1500 minimum to your budgeting plan.
So where to go in the future? I still haven’t decided on my next destination. So far the top choices are Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali or Columbia. All these countries offer a wide choice of English teaching jobs for various length contracts with added benefits, but do I necessarily want to teach full time again? An alternative is to teach online, this way you can chose your own schedule and essentially work from anywhere with a good enough internet connection….BUT no benefits like a work visa and apartment.
Considering this alternative option got me looking at ways to budget for accommodation. Hello Workaway. This has opened up the world to me in a whole new way! In exchange for 3-5hours work 5 days a week, you receive free accommodation and in the majority or cases, food! This is in a wide variety of industries such as hospitality, catering, marketing, teaching, farming, etc. So not only are you getting accommodation you’re getting a cultural exchange and acquiring new skills that can forge a new career path, all while travelling! With so many hours spare in a day you can explore and teach online at your own schedule.
I haven’t really considered the hospitality industry before now. Although I enjoy stared hotels as much as anyone I’ve never felt a desire to work at one. Hostels on the other hand….I hadn’t experienced staying in a hostel until I came to China, Hong Kong’s Yesin being my first. Since then I have stayed in various hostels in a variety of cities in China and loved everything about it. Meeting people from all over the world, hearing guitars play in courtyards, finding a random yoga session in hallways, most of all…snuggling up to the resident cat! This is where Hostel Travel Jobs comes in. Similar to Workaway in that in return for working you get accommodation except its much more suited to long term stays in one area, so you can relax and explore a new city without worrying about moving every couple of weeks. Also a great way to meet a diverse group of people from all over the world, perfect for networking for future travel plans.
If neither of those sound appealing, there is always house sitting. Free accommodation, home comforts, short to long stays before moving onto explore again. Trusted House Sitters is one of the most reputable websites for house sitting and the locations are worldwide. This is also perfect if, like me, you are missing having the family dog around. The difference with house sitting is you aren’t acquiring any new skills or experience to benefit future job opportunities , and if teaching online doesn’t appeal what are the other options? Well it turns out, there are many!
With so many websites out there to offer your skills for a fee or to find home based employment, it was easier to just include a link to Forbes who have done the hard work already. This article highlights the growing number of people opting for working from home and the reality that there is a growing demand for this to be possible. If you’re looking for something slightly more unconventional start thinking outside of the box. For example, virtual bridesmaid. If ordering flowers and arranging hen parties is your thing there is a job out there for you.
Although I want to stick to that figure of £2000 as being a minimum before my next move, researching has given me a whole new insight into the possibilities out there for leading a location independent lifestyle. The main battle will be keeping productivity high. If you choose exotic surroundings, chances are you will easily become distracted or lazy. Self monitoring will be the biggest challenge but totally worth it in the long run. I have tried staying in one place to build a career and it hasn’t managed to satisfy these itchy feet of mine. So the only thing left to start the wheels in motion towards the future is to decide on the next location.