I’ve always been afflicted with a nagging case of wanderlust. In my case, I think it might actually be genetic. My 90-year-old grandmother has been in a semi-permanent state of travelling for as long as I can remember. I secretly believe that her love of travel is what’s kept her mind sharp, her body young, and her hair from going grey (so I guess what I’m saying is that travel is the holy grail that Indiana Jones was searching for all along)! From her, I’ve inherited both a permanent sense of curiosity, and a refusal to conform to what society expects from me. Which is why rather than settle down with a house and a car and a baby on the way, my husband and I took off on a year-long honeymoon.
I was privileged and lucky to grow up in a family that could afford travel and frequently went on trips both at home and abroad, making me an experienced traveller at a young age. My husband did not have the same privileged upbringing: travel in his family was a treat and an infrequent luxury, to be saved and worked for. When we met, he’d never been out of the time zone he grew up in. But although our backgrounds and our travel experiences growing up were quite different, we shared the same love of wonderment and curiosity.
For the entirety of our relationship – before we got married – we would take regular weekend trips, exploring the area around our home of San Francisco. We would rent a car on a Friday night, drive to somewhere incredible like Yosemite or Lake Tahoe or Big Sur or Monterey or Mendocino, and be back on Sunday night in time for work the next day. But as we began planning our wedding – and that nagging question of “then what?” crept into our minds – we yearned for more than our weekend getaways. We wanted to take a Big Trip.
Although I’ve got a serious case of wanderlust, I am also a highly practical person. Logical. Reasonable. Sensible. I’m the type of person who has a physical pocket calendar and a series of never ending to-do lists (oh my god, I’ve turned into my mother). It’s why I decided to name our blog Practical Wanderlust. I’m constantly balancing out my practical side with my urge to travel.
So while one-half of me wanted to leave it all and fly away with the love of my life on a romantic and spontaneous adventure, the other half of me knew it would require a lot of planning and saving.
Luckily for us, I’d already been budgeting and saving for a Big Trip for years. When I graduated college and landed my first reliable source of income, I created a budget that prioritised travel, and chiselled and saved on other expenses like food or transportation in order to build up my Travel fund. The budget was only enhanced by adding my partner into the mix: we now could save my husband’s income, plus we could divide household expenses. With both of us focused on money-saving, all of our little frugal habits like cooking and making coffee at home each day, biking and taking public transportation instead of owning a car, learning how to create or recycle things we would otherwise buy (such as gifts, household cleaning products, or decorations for our apartment), going on free or cheap “dates” like hiking or taking a bike ride together… our Travel savings added up quickly. We knew how we would pay for our trip, and we knew that we wanted to leave right after our wedding. All that was left to answer was, “Where?”
We planned our Big Trip alongside our wedding (a hellacious combination that I don’t recommend to anyone, ever). Since we planned to throw away all of my savings on this crazy, reckless, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, we decided to start with somewhere budget-friendly: South America! South America is an enormous continent with a huge variety of exciting things to do and see and experience: from the Amazon jungle to Patagonia to the Galapagos to Machu Picchu to the marble caves of Chile and the glaciers of Ushuaia to Bolivia’s Uyuni Salt Flats and Argentina’s Iguazu Falls, South America is nothing if not rich with wonders. And as a bonus, it’s incredibly cheap and Spanish speaking – the only language I ever learned other than English! So convenient. As we crafted our itinerary and mapped out our route through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Argentina, both our excitement and our nervousness grew.
Quitting our jobs was one of the hardest things we had to do since we both actually loved our jobs and our co-workers and were sad to leave. But to our surprise, everyone was extremely supportive of us and happy that we were chasing our crazy dreams! A few weeks after our wedding, as we packed up all of our belongings for storage and said goodbye to our friends and our home, we found ourselves in mourning for our old lives… but incredibly excited for what was coming next.
At this point in time, we’ve concluded our South American adventure. Currently, we’re travelling through Europe on a 2-month long backpacking journey that will include road trips through France, Spain, and Scotland. We’d love for you to follow along with our journey at our Practical Wanderlust.
The article is written by Lia of Practical Wanderlust and is published with their consent.