Due to a series of (un)fortunate events, I recently decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do: book a one-way flight to Europe and see what happens. I’ve spent my whole life admiring the kind of people who, with a fierce passion and boldness, abandon their lives in pursuit of full-time travel.
Unbeknownst to me, my journey actually began a year ago, when I was promoted at my previous job. My job, at a shady for-profit college – which already had me jaded about the corporate world in America – was all but ready to implode on itself. So I started saving about half of my new income every month in preparation for the company’s inevitable collapse. My preparation eventually paid off and the company went out of business in October.
After that, began the parade of bad jobs in my life. Between weeks of unemployment, I started a variety of different gigs, each less lucrative than the last. As it turns out, Miami has one of the worst markets for job seekers in the country and I was experiencing that firsthand. Everything was quite manageable while I lived with my boyfriend and split expenses. Due to a series of (un)fortunate events, I decided to leave him, thus cutting my cord of financial stability. I searched for about two weeks for a decent place to live that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. As it turns out, Miami has one of the worst markets for renters in the country.
But I eventually did find the perfect place. It was an adorable, renovated studio in a great part of town, well within my budget. I started creating a shopping list at IKEA and looking forward to my cute little apartment. But when I got the lease… I couldn’t do it. Here was this wonderful confluence of circumstances, a great opportunity for me to do something I’ve always wanted to do and instead I was going to tie myself down for another year to a city I’m not particularly crazy about.
So I did something better. I decided to use part of my savings for something much more interesting and fulfilling than a security deposit and new furniture. I bought a one-way flight to kick off what was supposed to be a week-long vacation with my best friend. I quit my job and I spent two weeks putting all my earthly possessions in a storage unit. I have to say, storage is cheaper than rent.
I gave myself a $5,000 budget to see how long I can survive in Europe before I become homeless. I’ve spent the past two weeks applying to jobs, either online, or abroad, still to no avail. But I’m fairly confident everything will fall into place. Everything always does. In the meantime, I get to take this fantastic indefinite vacation to everywhere I want. The rat race is overrated and if I’m going to struggle at home, I might as well struggle in a place where rent is $600 a month (read: Eastern Europe).
So how am I doing so far? After my best friend flies back home, I’m meeting up with another friend who lives in Italy. Splitting the cost of hotels with her makes a huge difference in extending my funds, especially since you can stay at a 4 star hotel for $50 a night in cities like Bratislava. I’m opting for buses where I would normally take trains since it can shave up to half the price. And saving on hotels anything I can travel through the night. If I end up blowing through my budget, I plan to take a cheap flight home on low-cost airlines like Norwegian or TUI Fly (formerly Jetairfly), or to use my accumulated airline miles and grab myself a free flight.
Whatever this ends up being, whether a new life abroad or a temporary vacation that leaves me broke and back in Miami, I feel pretty secure in this decision. I wasn’t sure about my work, my relationship, or my housing, but I’m sure about this. And the second I decided to take the leap and go for it, I had an immediate sense of certainty wash over me. And as I write this on the plane bound for Brussels, I still feel nothing but certainty. Well, I also feel super uncomfortable because I’ve been on a stuffy plane for 4 hours..
Despite the fact that I don’t have anything resembling a real plan for income or even a complete itinerary, and despite the fact that I just found out at the airport back home that they may not even let me into Belgium without a return flight booked because US citizens can’t stay in Europe longer than 90 days (oops!), I feel just fine. I feel like this is exactly what my gnome and I are meant to be doing at this very moment. And to the how of it… I’ve realized that for me and probably a lot of others before me, you don’t need a detailed plan or a safety net to catch you when you land, you just have to want to do it. And I’ll figure out the details along the way.