Kicking off my muddy hiking boots, I laid by the river and looked up at the trees.
I could hardly believe I was there, right in the Amazon rainforest.
Adventures like these have become the new normal for my husband, Marcus, and I after we quit our jobs two years ago to travel the world.
Still though, I have to pinch myself that this is actually my life – aged 35.
I’ve always wanted to travel.
I remember walking into a travel agency as a teenager and enquiring about a round the world ticket (you can’t buy these now). The price was £1,200 and I felt disheartened that I’d never be able to afford it.
At the time, I was working in retail, and decided to go to university where I met Marcus – we got together in 2016.
Three months in, we moved into a flat in London costing us £1,300 a month – approximately 60% of our salaries.
I was trying to build a PR agency and Marcus was in a full time job as a marketing manager at a record label, so we never had the money or the freedom to travel.
We started saving around five years ago, putting roughly £1,000-1,500 away each month between us, increasing the amount as the business grew over time. We opened high interest accounts and invested in stocks.
Life was a constant cycle of eat (when I remembered), sleep, work, repeat. My physical and mental health suffered, and I constantly felt drained.
I was overworked, and spending more time on Zoom than I was sleeping. I wasn’t making time for myself, or anyone else.
I was miserable.
Marcus would constantly feel like he was second best, and I was always too tired and stressed to make time for him.
By the end of the second lockdown, I was engulfed in burnout.
However, my nan’s passing in 2021 from Alzheimer’s made me realise the preciousness of life.
I was close to my grandparents, so her death affected me deeply and was the catalyst to giving it all up to travel.
Thanks to our income streams and savings, combined with Marcus’ excellent budgeting skills, we were able to save enough money to travel without working for at least two years.
But at 35, you’re expected to settle down, buy a house and start a family.
People called us silly for giving up our careers in our thirties – but giving it all up was the most terrifying, and best thing I have ever done.
We gave up our flat, and sold most of our belongings, including furniture and clothes. We only had a few items of clothing, including two pairs of shoes each, and a waterproof jacket.
And then travel essentials such as a water bottle, microfiber towels, an underwater camera, tripod, collapsible tupperware and a spare phone (which we were grateful for when one of ours was stolen in Brazil).
At the beginning, we had a six month itinerary, and would decide what to do next. We had enough savings to last a few years, but had no intention of spending everything on travel, so decided to backpack on a budget.
We started our trip in Croatia in September 2021, where we booked a music festival. I vividly remember walking down to the beach, and for the first time in a long time, I felt free. Unburdened.
Finally, I was living my younger self’s dream – and I felt so proud.
After the festival, we island hopped in Croatia visiting Vis, Hvar, Bol and Mljet. We then moved onto Turkey, where we stayed in Antalya for two months. It took a while to really switch from work to travel mode, but by the time we arrived in Turkey, I was feeling more relaxed. Happier.
Even though we both still wake up at 8am to try to maintain a routine (unless we have an earlier start), and like to pre-plan a lot of our trip, we’ve both learned the fun of spontaneity.
But life on the road has brought its unique challenges, too. From my granddad passing away three months in, and suffering a severely sprained ankle in Costa Rica, to dealing with cancelled flights and accommodation, and stolen belongings – we have faced situations that have tested our resilience.
As a couple, we’ve also learned the importance of space and pursuing separate experiences to enrich our relationship. I went on my own to Sofia, Bulgaria for a tattoo, for example – and we often stay in separate hostels or hotels.
Through it, I’ve learned to love my own company.
In two years, we’ve visited 21 countries and five continents – even Antarctica.
Typically we stay in a country for a month, and each location within the country for no less than a week, learning the art of slow travel.
We’ve walked alongside penguins in Antarctica, partied until dawn during Carnival in Rio, and got lost at night in the forest after taking a wrong turn in Una, Bosnia, while seeing signs for wolves and bears.
We’ve camped amongst wild elephants in Sri Lanka, in the Amazon Rainforest and followed a jaguar. We’ve visited active volcanoes in Ecuador, built a raft and sailed down the Benji River – hit rapids in Bolivia, sailed alongside crocodiles in Costa Rica, and snorkelled with sea turtles and stingrays in Mexico.
But we’ve also been caught in protests in both Sri Lanka and Peru, which had their scary moments – including having to walk past a road barricade made of tyres that were on fire in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka.
In terms of budgeting, we choose countries based on their affordability and try to make our money go as far as possible. Though it can be difficult to accurately budget for everywhere due to rising costs and inflation, we usually aim for around £2,000-£2,500 a month for all expenses except flights when needed (we try to travel by land as much as possible).
Travel has also taught us to be minimalist, so we rarely buy clothes and other material items unless absolutely necessary, choosing to spend our money on experiences instead.
We are rebuilding our careers through our new PR and marketing agency, BE YELLOW. Our agency has been developed around our lifestyle, offering four-day weeks and remote working.
We decided to start the company after we returned from South America in April. Being a digital nomad is amazing as it means we can continue travelling, and work on our terms.
I’m working to live, and no longer living to work.
But the post-Brexit landscape has definitely made it more difficult for UK citizens to travel and work in Europe. Certain countries now offer specific digital nomad visas, however in other places, the process can be far less clear.
Life on the road has been transformative. It has taught me to breathe, and I’ve realised that everything is temporary. I focus on making the most of what I have and not stressing over what I can’t control.
We plan to travel indefinitely, with loose plans for at least the next year. We are currently in Croatia again to visit the Goulash Disko – the festival where it all started. We will then head back to South America in October, where we will stay until March.
Though to date we think we’ve spent £50k+ – it’s been wonderful. Worth every penny and around the same as what we had spent in London on just rent and bills!
Life may not be perfect, but it’s an ever-changing canvas waiting for us to paint our unique stories.
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