There are an almost infinite amount of places that I want to see and really not enough time to do it in. Having said that, there are so many different ways of seeing the world and fitting travel into your life. Even when you can’t do it full time.
1. Long-Term Backpacking
The biggest trip I’ve ever done was my Gap Year, i.e. the year I took off between school and university. Whilst I may have spent most of the time working at home, saving for my trip, I did spend 3.5 months backpacking across America, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. This was easily one of the best things I’ve ever done. It gave me the chance to visit far-flung places of the globe and, between hop-on, hop-off bus tours and staying with locals, I was able to experience many things that they had to offer. I also got to see places that I may not have chosen to go to if I was simply flying out from home to one destination and back again; planning a route meant stopping off in countries I had never really considered going to before. Then there were the people I met, from all over the world, several of whom I kept bumping into along my route (it was fairly standard after all). I only wish I could have gone for longer.
Taking vast amounts of time off for travelling isn’t an option for everyone. Unless you’re a student, the most amount of time you can probably take out of work at one time (unless it’s a sabbatical) is two-weeks. Okay, you’re not going to get to see anywhere as well as you could if you had months on end, particularly if you have to spend days just getting there, but you can do a lot in a couple of weeks if you’re dedicated. Rushing around may not sound relaxing, but I find travel itself relaxes me. Y’know when I’m not panic-stricken about missing a flight or a bus. Case in point, I spent three weeks backpacking around three countries in Southeast Asia. I didn’t see everywhere worth seeing in each (far from it) but I had an amazing time. Another one of my favourite-ever trips was my holiday to Egypt in the summer of 2014. I spent seven nights in Luxor (with a whirlwind day trip to Cairo) and it felt like somewhere between a holiday and travelling. Being July, it was hideously hot so when I wasn’t exploring ancient ruins I basically had no choice but to spend a few days in my hotel’s pool. I came back home feeling both refreshed and as though I’d had a productive time. Granted, I would have loved to stay in that pool forever but I didn’t feel like I’d missed out. That much.
3. Guided Tours
I’ve heard mixed reviews about guided tours but, when it came to organising my three-weeks in Southeast Asia, I figured it was the best and easiest way to see the area in a relatively short amount of time. A guided tour meant that I didn’t have to worry about travel and accommodation costs when I was out there; I never had to figure out how to get from A to B; I had a tour guide to give me the down-low on the places I was visiting, and; I got to travel with a group of new people. Whilst I did go with a travel buddy, the other four people on my tour were all solo travellers but we all meshed into one big group pretty quickly. Yes, it was an expensive trip in a relatively cheap part of the world for travellers but it was worth every single penny.
4. City Breaks
Since I started my postgraduate course and my subsequent job (when the majority of my bank account had to go on commuter trains) I’ve discovered that city breaks over a weekend are my friend. I’m lucky, you can find some good deals on flights from England over to the continent. It’s also remarkably easy to hop on the Eurostar in London after work. In the past year and a half, I’ve made it to Venice, Berlin (again), Brussels and Dublin. I’ll hopefully be making it back to Berlin and Dublin again soon. For various reasons, on those occasions, I didn’t see all there was to see in Berlin (I was there for the third time so didn’t need to) or Dublin (I was mainly there to help a friend move for work) but I did do pretty well in Venice and Brussels. I’ve found that free walking tours, which are available in many cities, are the ultimate gift for the traveller on a tight budget and time-frame. They work on tips so you can give what you can afford, the guides are knowledgeable and you can see many sights in a city within the space of a few hours. After that, throw in another must-do activity, some local food and a night on the town and you’ve done pretty well.
5. Work abroad
I went abroad for work for the first time last summer, where I spent two weeks on a placement in Dusseldorf. Since I was in the office from 9am-7pm, I didn’t get to do the tourist stuff quite so much but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a fantastic time, as well as getting some great experience that will help me in my future career. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy the work itself but working meant that I had structure to my days, so I settled in fast, and I earned some money to cover my expenses. I also met some fantastic people who I was able to socialise with in the evenings and at the weekend and who gave me a lot of tips for things to do. Admittedly, I may not have had a chance to do many of them but hopefully I’ll get to do some when I go back to see them all again.
6. Study abroad
I’d wanted to do a language course in Berlin since I first went for a weekend in 2007. I finally made it in 2013, when I spent August in the city after I graduated from university. I found a remarkably well-priced course, which I thought must be too good to be true but it wasn’t. In four weeks, I felt like I learned as much as six years of studying German at school. My classmates were also great. My classes themselves took place between 9am-12pm, from Monday to Thursday. This got me up and out in the morning and left me with plenty of time in the day to explore the city- when I wasn’t doing my homework. I also had a three day weekend, which I utilised on one occasion to hop on a train and go to Prague, thanks to Berlin’s very handy train links. Since I was going to be in berlin for a decent amount of time, I figured the best thing to do would be to rent a flat. Fortunately, one of my university housemates was in the city doing the same thing so we found a flat together on Airbnb in Kreuzberg. It was the perfect base and helped to make us feel at home. All in all, studying gave a great balance between having a daily routine and being a tourist.