Brian Peters: Transitioning from Briefcase to Backpack
[singlepic=1522,250,,,right]How does one go from working a white collar 9-to-5 job to traveling around the world, sleeping in hostels from Thailand to South Africa? Brian Peters from No Debt World Travel shares how he did it.
I worked for years in corporate America in Information Technology, moving up the ladder, changing jobs, taking severance packages and being a good soldier in the corporate wars. Professionally I was accomplished and liked my work but felt something was missing.
I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I thought about traveling to see all the places I’ve always seen on TV. In 2006 I woke up one morning and decided to sell my house. I did not know where I was going to go with that, but I felt that I didn’t want the house to weigh me down if I wanted to make a move. Selling it gave me options.
Thankfully the house easily sold before the real estate market meltdown. A year went by and the thoughts about travel stayed with me. Then in February 2008, the job told me I was being laid off. Most people would react with disappointment or even anger. I was quietly excited. Before this I didn’t know how I was going to leave my job. This was my opportunity.
[singlepic=1526,250,,,left]I knew I was going to have to save money on this trip. Being in my 30s and staying in hostels was not appealing, but I did my research and found that hostels have upgraded themselves in the last few years. Modern amenities with low prices sounded really good to me. I’m pretty easy going so I felt I could deal with dorm room style sleeping arrangements.
The next decision was deciding where to go. I took out a poster size world map, spread it out and picked out places I wanted to go. I got an around-the-world ticket and booked the following locations:
Hilo, Hawaii, USA – Tokyo, Japan – Bangkok, Thailand – Angkor Wat, Cambodia – Cape Town, South Africa – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – London, United Kingdom
So if you’re contemplating a trip like this, how do you get adjusted from the 9 to 5 to living out of backpack? Here’s how I did it:
Ease Into It
Hawaii was a good start when I set off in October 2008 because I was still in America and got used to hostelling and being on the road by myself. When I got to my next stop in Tokyo, I was completely relaxed and excited to be there. It was my first time in Asia and there was no anxiousness about being in a foreign country with English not being the main language. I was able to completely enjoy the experience and that carried through the rest of the trip.
Start Off with Group Trips
[singlepic=1525,250,,,right]One thing that prepared me was the extensive world travel I had done in the few years before taking off by myself. All of it was group travel (ranging from seven to 120 people) to Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, Egypt and Ghana. I got comfortable traveling and being in new environments, so traveling solo was the next logical evolution. I felt ready for my solo trip and had no problem readjusting.
If you can’t globetrot internationally, even domestic travel by yourself will get you familiar with airports, dealing with taxi, public transportation, etc. Your mindset is just as important to traveling well as is having the money and time to do it. How can you really enjoy it if you’re more worried about the relatively ‘small’ things? And starting off on smaller trips is a great way to find out if you’re cut out for long-term travel before you commit to it.
Prepare With Reading
I didn’t know anyone personally who made a round-the-world trip, so I read a lot of blogs online and spent some time at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon reading. All I kept thinking was, “If these guys could do it, so can I.” That philosophy has not only followed me during the trip, but in other facets of my life as well. People who do seemingly extraordinary things are no different than you or me. They just had the determination to follow through on their dreams. Why can’t you?
[singlepic=1523,175,,,left]Cut Expenses on the Road
You may be used to corporate or high-end travel, but don’t be afraid of the “cheaper” options you should take advantage of on a trip like this.
RTW tickets and discount airlines were how I was able to travel cheaply. The RTW tickets are specially designed to save cash for extended travel. Once I got to Europe, I traveled mostly on EasyJet out of Gatwick Airport. It was generally cheaper to fly out Gatwick than Heathrow. That is the case in many places – the smaller airports outside the city centers will have cheaper fares because they host the discount airlines.
Hostels were another way I kept money in my pocket. Beds were usually anywhere from $13US per night in Thailand to $25US in Hawaii to $30US in Tokyo. The cost savings was significant compared to what even a 3 star hotel would cost.
I spent a lot of time in Asia. Southeast Asia was so cheap you can spend an extended period of time there and not burn through your budget. I stayed at a hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia for $6US a night. That’s not a typo. SIX DOLLARS. Not a hostel, but hotel. That is why Southeast Asia is such a popular destination for round-the-world trips, extended stays, volunteer work or even ex-pats deciding to settle there.
Now Pick Up The Backpack
Preparing and experiencing my trip was one of the best periods of my life. If you are ready for it, you’ll find a way to do it. With the Internet, great resources are literally at your fingertips. If you’re nervous about traveling, taking group trips to locales you always wanted to go to will prepare you mentally.
Once you’ve been through different airports and had your passport stamped, your anxiety about taking a long-term trip will greatly decrease. So get out there and experience the world!