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Long Term Travel: Why This Time Feels Different

It’s taken some processing that we’ve actually left our home country of the UK on our second set of one way tickets to the other side of the world. That we’ve achieved building up enough freelance clients that we don’t need to and haven’t been employed by a company in over 18 months. So crazy! That we’re no longer on a travel gap year, this is it now, this is our lives. By and large we have complete control over our days and are living our dream of long term travel. Yes we wake up with a smile on our face everyday but that doesn’t mean it’s been, or is easy. Here’s why this time it feels different.

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James walking at the street with text overlay LONG TERM TRAVEL WHY THIS TIME FEELS DIFFERENT


The Long Goodbye

In some respects it feels like we’ve been saying goodbye to our friends in the UK from the date we arrived back in the country, knowing that we’d probably only catch up with some of them once during the time we were back. And then, busy schedules pending, never knowing whether an occasion would be the last time we saw some of our friends. We noticed more so than ever that people are busy, us included, I think it just sort of happens as you get older. Careers and families take over and only being able to find one weekend in the space of 6 months to catch up with one group of mates for example has to be expected.

James and Sarah with friends in the snow

Then there’s family. Because of our flexibility in where we can work we’ve been able to spend extended periods of time staying with our parents and siblings which has been great. But in building our freelancing careers we’ve been working long hours and we rightly often felt their and our frustrations at knowing we only had a limited amount of time together until we’d be jetting off over the other side of the world again. Particularly with our 8 year old nephew, having to work when he wanted to play was just rubbish. During the lead up, it also at times felt like an elephant was hanging around in the room with no one wanting to address it.

James with his nephew

The fact that we’ll be back in the UK early next year for my sister’s wedding, rather than being on an open ended period away from home I think has been easier in some respect. But it’s still a long time and both of my grandparents are in their 90’s, a detail we were both painfully aware of when we said goodbye to them. And then there was the point in time that we had been dreading since we decided to carry on travelling. Permanently rehoming our lovely cat. That goodbye still hurts alot and the memory has the capability to reduce me to tears whenever I think of it.

Sarah and her grandparents

Packing Pros

Aside from waiting on a few blogging equipment essentials from amazon, we packed everything that we needed in a couple of hours. Last time it took days, maybe even weeks. We went about packing our bags for 8 months like most people would for a weekend away. By that I don’t mean we just stuffed a load of random things in, but at this stage we know the things we like and need to have with us on the road so it’s easy to do. Since we started travelling we have also adopted a very minimalist approach when it comes to our belongings, hence why we now only travel with carry on.

It’s definitely not for everyone, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to have lots of fashionable outfits with matching accessories, but for us it works. Carrying the least amount of things that we need only adds to the awesome sense of freedom we feel from travel. This time we packed clothes that we love and feel comfortable in, regardless of their ‘practicalities’. We also consciously didn’t pack anything that was non-essential to day to day living. So gone too are the unused portable washing lines, countless strips of painkillers and endless boxes of batteries – looking back we must have thought shops didn’t exist in other parts of the world!

James and Sarah at the UK airport arrival

By far the heaviest components of our belongings are the equipment we need for work. It’s laughable to us now how we were trying to run a blog, even on a part-time basis with only one laptop like we were doing last year. This time around we’ve been much more realistic with the stuff that we need and are carrying things like a tripod for our camera and a surge protected travel power strip so we only ever need one plug socket. In turn this also means that we carry some pretty expensive gear with us but it’s like this, we need it to comfortably earn a living and we are as careful as we can possibly be with it.

No Savings & No Plan

James’ brother was in disbelief that by the time we left for the airport to fly to Mexico we hadn’t booked a place to stay for the night that we would arrive there. I think he thought we were joking. We weren’t, it’s just how we travel now. Which I should add is completely different to how it was when we first started out. We would have plans booked up weeks and months in advance but we soon grew to dislike how inflexible that was. And so unless it’s necessary we just don’t do it anymore. From a quick accomodation search we knew there lots of places available in our first stop in Mexico City and so in our minds there was no rush.

James and Sarah

We also as of yet still don’t really have any real kind of itinerary drawn up for the next 8 months. We love the liberating feeling of that, but Mexico is also huge and there’s lots of it that we want to see, so over the next few weeks we will start pencilling things in. We also only have a 180 day visa so if we decide to stay in Mexico the whole time we need to plan in a visa run. But our approach will be completely different to the few days here, few days there itinerary we had last year. We know we like to travel slow and get to know places – hence why once we’d confirmed that we liked Mexico City, we booked an apartment for a month.

Last year when we left on a one way ticket to Argentina we had healthy bank balance of over 25k. This time we jumped on our plane with a little over £500. The difference? This time we’re working and so long as we have a decent internet connection we can earn money wherever we are. I will admit that I would have rather have had a tad amount more in the bank but now that we’ve rented our house and are no longer paying the mortgage or accompanying bills our outgoings have plummeted. On what we are currently earning we are expecting to be able to put away a substantial amount per month whilst affording a comfortable standard of living here in Latin America.

Be sure to follow along on our social media channels – especially Instagram stories and Facebook over the coming months as we explore Mexico. You can expect serious food envy for the abundance of tacos we’ll be munching and wanderlust like you’ve never experienced before!

Ryan Biddulph

Wednesday 28th of June 2017

Hi James and Sarah,

Totally dig your adventurous spirit. We built savings before traveling. Then 2 years in, watch savings dwindle to 5 USD LOL! But we built things back up and now have 6 USD to fall back on. No we have more money than that. Seriously though, it helps to have some sweet coin coming in even if you're at a few hundred pounds or whatever, fellow happy hustlers. Thanks for the fun share :)


Sarah McAlister

Wednesday 5th of July 2017

Hey Ryan,

$6, ha ha ha! So great to know others who've been in the same position. We just need to eat plenty more of the 15p tacos here in Mexico while it builds back up!

Cheers,Sarah & James


Saturday 24th of June 2017

very interesting and honest reading, you are very lucky to have a home to rent out and so always have a home to return to, unfortunately we rent our home so people who, like us and some of our friends would be taking an enormous risk having no home to come home to, too big a risk in later life I believe, hope you have an amazing stay in Mexico xx

Sarah McAlister

Monday 26th of June 2017

Thanks so much for your kind comment Eileen. We are very fortunate that we have a house back in the UK - it does certainly give us a reasonable amount of stability even when we are over the other side of the world. I guess in your position it's more about taking shorter trips - we really enjoyed doing this while we were back in UK and there's so much in Europe to explore, we've hardly seen any of it! xx