This is a guest post by Alex the co-creator of the travel blog Career Gappers.
In this post he shares with us the details of his round the world career break including his travel budget and travel style. We also learn about his most essential travel items, his favorite place and accommodation.
Alex shared with us his greatest challenge during his travels and the one thing he learned from it all.
Before I hand over to Alex and his story I would like to tell you about some other guest posts in the RTW Travel Planning category on my blog. Nina shared her trip around parts of Europe with me and from Zenja you can learn how to travel around the world in six months. Let’s also not forget about an amazing 16 months Latin America backpacking adventure by that leaves one truly inspired.
My entire adult life I had wanted to take a year out of work to travel the world, but for many years this was merely a distant ambition. Soon after my wife Lisa and I started dating back in 2012, we decided that we would take the leap together. Looking back now, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.
Many people assume that if you ‘step off the career ladder’ to travel, you are trying to escape something. That was never true for us. We loved the work that we were doing. We wanted to travel because we were curious about the world, and we thought that it would enable us to develop in other ways that would benefit our careers later.
It took us five years to plan and save for our trip, and when we packed our bags in the summer of 2017 we were both in our 30s. Over that time we managed to save in the region of £40,000 between us, which would pay for an 11-month journey through four continents and 20 countries.
We wanted to save enough that we would be able to enjoy activities and nice local food without having to scrape by on a shoestring. At the same time, we are far from being luxury travellers; we usually went for money-saving accommodation and transport options. We love staying in hostels because they’re such a great way to meet people, and we see taking public transport as part of the travel experience.
Our journey began with a three-day layover in Miami before a five-month traverse of South America, culminating in a month in Patagonia. We then journeyed through New Zealand, Fiji and Australia over the Christmas period, and finally spent four months in Southeast Asia.
It took a few weeks for us to settle into our travel groove and figure out what we really needed in our bags. If I were to begin the trip again, these would be the first five things I’d pack:
The packing cubes by Gonex are little miracles when it comes to optimising space in our backpacks and packing efficiently. If you also want to pack your backpack efficiently check out Gonex Packing Cubes on amazon.com.
We do a lot of hiking and walking on our travels. A camel pack makes it so much easier to carry plenty of water and access it quickly. You could buy something similar to what we are using. For example a Chameleon Hydration Backpack, which you can buy on amazon.com.
On those long, overnight bus journeys you need a source of entertainment. I got through a LOT of books on our journey reading on my Kindle reader, which I bought on amazon.com. Check out the latest models there.
Silk sleeping bag liners came to our rescue in both hot and cold extreme weather. When camping in freezing temperatures they provided a vital extra layer of warmth, and when sleeping in heat they were a lighter alternative to our sleeping bags. They can be bought quite cheaply on amazon.com
There are countless lessons that travelling has taught me, but the one that really stands out is that wealth does not necessarily equate to happiness.
We voyaged through towns and villages where people were living in abject poverty. But in many of these places, the people seemed far more content with life than the suit-clad folk I see rushing around in London.
I will never forget the sight of a group of children playing in the Nam Khan river in Luang Prabang, Laos. These children had no material belongings and lived in relative squalor, and yet they were the happiest human beings I’d ever seen.
One of the great things about taking a travel career break is that it allows you to develop new skills that you otherwise never would have. For example, during our time in South America, I used the opportunity to pick up some Spanish, and relished the challenge of trying to converse with locals in their native tongue.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for me, however, was learning to scuba dive. Many years earlier, on a holiday in Jamaica, I had taken an introductory scuba course and experienced difficulties with the process of ‘equalising’ – regulating the pockets of air in my head while descending. While I saw some amazing things, the problems made me nervous about ever trying it again.
Fast-forward to our round-the-world trip, and while in Fiji, Lisa and I did some snorkelling. We were immediately captivated by the amazingly colourful marine life. A few weeks later, we decided to take a step further and try a scuba diving lesson on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.
The prospect of overcoming those equalising difficulties again was a daunting one, and on the boat to the dive site I was petrified that I wouldn’t be able to do it. It didn’t help that somebody in the group before us got out of the water a couple of minutes into the dive because they were feeling too uncomfortable. But with the combination of Lisa’s encouragement and a great instructor, I managed to do it.
Within two more months, Lisa and I had passed both our open water and advanced scuba qualifications after taking courses in Bali and Thailand, and doing some practice dives in the Philippines. We’re now free to dive anywhere in the world, and who knows where it will take us? We’ve met other travellers who have turned this passion into a profession.
Of the many beautiful landscapes we witnessed during our journey, there were none that rivalled Patagonia, the giant wilderness on the southern tip of South America.
We decided to hike the W Trek in Torres Del Paine, Chilean Patagonia. The price of a guided trek was beyond our means, so we opted to do it independently.
This was another gargantuan challenge. In four days, carrying all our own food, clothes and a tent on our backs, we covered over a hundred kilometres, scaling summits, scrambling over rocks and wading through rivers.
The pain was worth it for the sheer beauty all around us every step of the way. We trekked past perfect-blue lakes, shimmering granite peaks and colossal glaciers. It was incredible.
We’ll be back again one day to hike the O Trek, an even longer and more demanding circuit in the same national park.
During the course of our travels we stayed in hostels, hotels, guest houses, jungle lodges, eco-camps, homestays, beach resorts, airport lounges, apartments, AirBNBs, our own tent, and in the homes of Couchsurfing hosts.
One of the accommodations we remember most fondly is Rayuela Hostel in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While the facilities and setting were nothing special compared to other places we stayed, the thing that made this place stand out was the legendary asado night.
Asado is the national meal in Argentina, and somewhat of a ritual for family celebrations and social gatherings. Various cuts of meat are cooked slowly over a BBQ for several hours before being sliced and served.
The asado night takes place at Rayuela every Thursday night from 9pm around a packed table of travellers. For a price that equated to about 15 US dollars each, we drank unlimited red wine while the hostel manager served up different meats for over two hours, giving insightful commentaries on each. We had great times at these nights and met some awesome people.
Rayuela Hostel became like a second home to us. We stayed there for a few weeks after we were robbed in Buenos Aires and had to wait for new passports to arrive. The staff were incredibly supportive and helped us to turn a nightmare situation into a very positive one. We are eternally grateful, and we will be back!
Returning home at the end of our trip was an overwhelming moment of mixed emotions. We were sad that the adventure was over, but we knew it wouldn’t be our last, and we were eager to be reunited with our family and friends.
The first couple of weeks was a rollercoaster of catching up with everyone while trying to get our life back in order. Lisa was on the job hunt, and when she found one it was time to look for a flat.
During the trip we had made the decision that I would take a shot at full-time blogging after our return. This idea evolved in the months after we arrived home, and Lisa and I have been building a new business together.
Our lives are so much different now. One of the first things we did when we got home was to throw or give away most of our stuff. We much prefer living with less. We think differently about our careers and what we want to do with our lives, and we value our spare time much more highly now. We are making an effort to explore the place we live. At the same time, we feel we are a lot more effective in our work.
Overall, our travel career break has been a transformational experience that has improved our lives beyond measure. We are now embracing the life of career gapping. One day we’ll set off on another journey again, but in the meantime we will make the very most of our time at home.
Alex Trembath is the co-founder of Career Gappers, a blog that inspires and equips people to take travel career breaks. He has spent over a decade working in a variety of writing and communications jobs, and has travelled to over 50 countries. You can follow Career Gappers on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Lena is the creator of the Social Travel Experiment. Planning her trip around the world took a lot of effort. To make it easier for future world travelers she has made it her mission to teach others how to have an unforgettable trip around the world, through short stays with locals, without wasting valuable time or money.