Reflections on the travel challenge – Question & Answer

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories” – Ray Bradbury

This year I set myself the challenge of travelling every month, travel is fuel for my soul and I’m happiest when on a trip, so thought I would try to do monthly trips to ensure consistent happiness. Everyone I speak to about this always has lots of questions, so I have tried to answer some of the most popular ones below.

How do you afford it?

This is the question I get asked most and I won’t lie it’s not easy, but I have been travelling for a long time so I know how to make things work and my limits. Yes it is expensive and I do have to make some sacrifices to do it, I am not some wealthy socialite who can go on trips at a drop of a hat and not worry about costs. Behind the scenes, I am freelancing on top of my full-time job and making these trips the main focus of my spending right now.  Some people would say they would probably prefer to do a couple of trips a year and really make the most of those and not have to make financial sacrifices in places, but I don’t ever feel that I have. I manage my expectations of places and try to make the most of them. I generally stay in hostels or with friends, take public transport and though I do eat out I don’t every night. If you want a more in-depth post about this let me know.

How do you decide where to go?

There are some places which were definitely on my to visit list like Porto and Berlin, but other places just randomly happened, like Hamburg and Marrakesh. I often do open searches on Skyscanner and see where is cheap to fly to (be careful though a cheap flight can often equal expensive accommodation). Being relatively flexible with your destinations and dates makes booking a lot easier. I’ve also really enjoyed deciding quickly and spontaneously where to go.

What has been the hardest part of the challenge?

This will sound funny to some people, but for me, it’s loss of habit regarding exercise and eating healthily. Both of these things are key aspects for balance in my life and when travelling they tend to drop off easily. When I’m at home I eat pretty much vegan and exercise 4/5 times a week as well as meditating. When I travel I tend to do none of these things, occasionally I will find a drop in class or go to the gym but it is often very difficult. Then when I return it takes a few days to get back into my good habits.

I would say loneliness has been a big factor, what makes a trip for me is the connection with people and when you don’t have this anywhere can feel lonely. In part, you have to invest and make an effort to meet and connect with people (Couchsurfing, Tinder etc) but sometimes things just don’t sync.

Keeping up with the writing up of the posts has been hard, around working fulltime, travelling once a month and generally leading a busy life I find it hard to keep up to date with the posts, but am getting there slowly and hopefully honing my writing skills and providing some good advice and recommendations for people reading this.

What have been your favourite places you have visited so far?

My favourite place has been Berlin, I got to meet with some old friends there and felt super relaxed and had so much fun and it felt like a turning point for me in these trips and this year.

I also have specific moments I loved, like sitting in Jamaa el Fna square in Marrakesh drinking mint tea and having a really great conversation with Anna from Canada, or having a beer with Renalto from Brazil in Hamburg at 7am on a Sunday morning at the fish market, being taken on a tour of the coolest bars in Florence with David, lucky for me the list is long and growing.

What has been the worst thing about the challenge?

Getting food poisoning in Lisbon was pretty awful then having to take an overnight bus the next day and wait for hours before I could check into my airbnb pushed my physical limits, but I did it.

Experiencing sexism and harassment in Marrakesh reminded me women and men do get treated differently, especially when travelling in certain places.

What have you learned from the challenge so far?

Don’t book a super early flight – the sacrifice you make in tiredness and energy loss because you had to get up at 4:40am is not worth the slightly cheaper flight price.

Try not to change hostels – as I’m in places for a short period of time this tends to disrupt the flow and add on loads of extra time and means I don’t have so long to meet people.

Organisation is key – I know in advance the next two trips I will take which helps keep the momentum going. All of my planning is done via Trello as it allows me to keep everything (to do lists, maps, boarding passes) in one place. Generally, I’ve sorted out flights and places to stay in advance, but left itineraries of the trip pretty loose collecting recommendations from friends and fellow travellers and basing it on the mood when I arrive.

Do you think you will meet all of the sub-challenges?

I’m not sure, to be honest. In all of the places I’ve tried to get hosted on Couchsurfing and that is proving quite hard. The driving and camping aim are questionable too, but I will try and work something out.

Have you thought at any time you wouldn’t be able to complete the challenge?

I have never doubted that I wouldn’t be able to manage a trip a month in some way. When I commit to something I generally stick to it. July was a bit of a hack as I ended up going to Milton Keynes/Leicester, but I still did it and going to UK places is part of the challenge too. Sometimes the timings of the trip can be a little weird, so I will not travel for 6 weeks then have two trips in the space of a couple of weeks. Ultimately though if I have a bad day or am feeling a little low I know I will always have something to look forward to and that’s why I love travelling every month.

Where else have will you be going on this challenge?

As of writing, I have plans to go to Paris and Dubai and still need to decide where to go for December. I want to go back to Germany so will maybe visit a Christmas market, but as I have learned this could all change so watch this space.

Will you continue this challenge next year?

I don’t know. I have plans for some trips next year, but doubt I will do one a month. My current thinking is to have a new challenge based around a different aspect of something I enjoy, so am trying to work out something to do with language learning at the moment.

To sum up

I often speak with people who would never consider travelling solo and that is fine, but in reality, it is easier than you think. You will always meet people, often the challenge is putting yourself in the right mindset for the trip. On some trips I want to spend time on my own, for example in Portugal I spent most of the trip in my own company whereas for Berlin and Marrakesh I was constantly with other people. As mentioned before on each trip there is always a special connection I have had in each place which is the one theme that I hope continues. It excites me to think about all the new people and special experiences I have to come.

So far all of the trips have been quite diverse, all good and amazing but in completely different ways. I am convinced this is the best decision I have made all year and that I will continue to reap the benefits of it.

At this precise moment, I feel amazing. If I think about the big things in life I am not where I imagined I would be at this point in life and things are certainly different to how they were a few years ago. But I am embracing change and trying to live as fully as I can while accepting that good things will happen. I hope this has given you some insight into the my travel challenge, feel free to ask anything else.

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