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Travelling for a year: When 6 months turns into 12!

This week we are celebrating our one year travel anniversary! After initially planning to be away for no more than 6 months, I reflect on why we extended our trip, what has kept us going, the challenges we face and how this has probably changed our lives for good.

So how did 6 months turn into 12?

Quite by accident! Although we didn’t book a return flight to the UK, our trip preparations were based on a 6 month timeline – from the itinerary, right up to what we packed. We had no idea that we’d end up travelling for a year.

Travelling to Kelor Island in Komodo National Park
Kelor Island in Komodo: The first three months of our travels were full of new experiences!

The half-way point

The first three months of our journey absolutely flew by, as we absorbed ourselves in new cultures and adventure. At the same time, our previous life was still lingering a little in the back of our minds.

We found ourselves in Manila at the end of November 2017, struggling with a visa application for Indonesia. After a few frustrating days spent in a dark Internet Cafe, I was starting to question whether all the stress was worth it.

It was here that I felt an overwhelming sense of longing for my old life. I distinctly remember standing outside our hostel on the phone to my parents one evening. After hearing their reassuring voices, it made me stronger. We’d come so far, I couldn’t give up. I had to go on… and go on we did!

Time and travel goals

Once you pass the 3 or 4 month mark, the concept of time starts to blur. The future is often based on your current visa status – 30 or 60 days flies by, then all of a sudden it’s Christmas or your Birthday.

By February 2018 we had truly fallen into the travel lifestyle. We’d just spent two months scuba diving in West Papua, with an intention to dive in Maluku or North Sulawesi next.

However, as backpackers on a budget, this amount of diving was eating into our savings. If we carried on at the same rate, we knew that the cut-off point for our trip would be around 6 months as originally planned.

Getting sick on the road

But then Nick got sick… after weeks of non-stop water activities in West Papua, he caught a sinus and outer ear infection. Without the proper medication, this lead to a middle ear infection. To top it off he perforated his ear drum, leaving him mostly deaf in one ear.

Raja Ampat Homestay during rainy season
Rainy days in Raja Ampat: Being sick in remote places is not easy

We didn’t know if and when he’d be able to dive again, and had no choice but to put our plans on hold for the time being. So we did what most travellers in Indonesia do when they need a little solace. We headed to Bali. Its comforts and affordability offered us time to heal and figure out what to do next.

The 6-month mark

Despite Nicks ear trauma we were loving everyday life in Bali; waking for sunrise, running through lush rice terraces of North Ubud, eating huge bowls of fruit, jumping on our bike and riding through curling countryside roads.

The ‘6-month mark’ quickly came and went, and as the weeks passed, the prospect of leaving became even harder. On top of that, we still had a burning desire to dive. It was glaringly obvious we weren’t going back to the UK any time soon.

But with no diving on the cards until Nick was fully healed, we were left without a travel agenda. After a while we became restless, and felt conscious of all the free time and fun we’d been having. As two natural workaholics, we were craving a project to sink our teeth into.

Mixing it up

The break from diving gave us a unique window of opportunity to do something creative with our time. So we put our heads together and Remote + Afloat was born. And here we are 12 months later, blogging our way around South East Asia! Can you believe it? We can’t!

What has kept us going?

Primarily this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We are incredibly fortunate to have been able to continue travelling for a year. Life is short, so our intention is to embrace it to the maximum for as long as possible!

Rice Fields North Ubud Bali
Time for reflection: Bali got our creative juices flowing!

Our travel blog

Remote + Afloat is our fun way of documenting our journey and we also wanted to help advise other travellers. Most of the information we sourced prior to going away was gathered from various blogs, I guess this is our way of making some sort of contribution.

Managing our budget wisely

Since we currently have no form of income, we live on a strict budget even if this means going the long way around things sometimes. Like when we were in the Philippines and decided to travel 4 and a half hours to Padre Burgos by bus rather than taking a taxi. Not only was the journey incredibly scenic, it was a really fun way of observing the local culture (plus, it was about 90% cheaper!!)

When staying somewhere for an extended period, we opt for Air BnB properties that offer long-stay discounts and kitchen facilities so we can cook our own food, which is generally cheaper and healthier than eating out.

During our bike tour of Southern Thailand we moved to a new hotel almost everyday, so we gave ourselves the fun task of spending less than £10 per night. We were pleasantly surprised that this made little difference to our comfort levels. Of course its nice to have a pool or restaurant, but for us, these luxuries are not necessary. As long as our accommodation is clean, has good AC and WiFi (and free coffee) we’re pretty happy!

Having a goal or theme

Travel goals keep you focussed and remind you of why you’re travelling in the first place, as they often reflect your passion (for example if you enjoy hiking).

A goal or theme helps guide you when planning an itinerary. The destinations we choose are often dictated by our love of snorkelling, diving and getting off the beaten track. With that being said, we enjoy plenty of other activities that don’t revolve around the ocean, but fundamentally our core theme remains the same.

Is there any downsides to 1 year of travelling?

Despite what people may think, there are struggles on the road, things we don’t necessarily talk about.

Thai Tonkinese Wichien Maat Cat
Push: One of our toughest moments was leaving our adopted ‘Wichien Maat’ cat in Bangkok

Homesickness

The biggest downside for me personally is being away from my loved-ones. I often daydream about them being here too, as there is so much I wish I could show them! I combat this is by keeping in touch as much as possible. Where would we be without Whatsapp?!

How it effects people back home

On the flip-side, its also hard knowing how much we are missed. This has a tendency to leave you with feelings of guilt. I must stress that no one makes us feel this way intentionally, its just an emotional battle you inevitably deal with as a traveller.

This can be particularly difficult when absent from special occasions such as Christmas and Birthdays, receiving bad news or if someone you love is going through a tough time and you can’t be there to support them, or simply give them a hug.

Living with less

We have trained ourselves to live with less. But after travelling for a year on a budget, occasionally I wish I could indulge in a little retail therapy. But then I have a word with myself and put things into perspective – these are minor materialistic desires!

Visa applications

Whether its a border hop, application, extension, or having to deal with corruption and bureaucracy, visas are quite honestly an expensive pain in the neck for the long-term traveller!

Money worries and the future

We wish there was an endless piggy bank to keep us travelling! Unfortunately there’s not, so of course we live with financial concerns especially after one year of travelling.

This experience has taught us to let go of the fears, expectations and social conditions that relate to a ‘normal life’ so we try to avoid putting pressure on ourselves for our future. The big question is ‘do we want our future to revolve around travelling, and if so, how do we sustain this?’…It’s still unanswered, but one step at a time.

Our top 3

Diving with Oceanic Mantas in Blue Magic Raja Ampat
Scuba diving with Oceanic Mantas has to be one of our favourite moments from this trip to date!

Favourite moments
Arriving at Beser Bay Homestay in Raja Ampat
Our private liveaboard in Komodo
Diving with Oceanic Mantas

Scariest moments
Being caught in a huge storm and swells on a tiny boat to Arborek
A bumpy landing into Coron in a very small plane
Nearly drowning in the current at Pink Beach

Challenging moments
Saying goodbye to our adopted cat ‘Push’ in Bangkok
Applying for our Indonesian visa in Manila
Getting sick in remote West Papua

Reflecting on travelling for a year

Looking back, I never could have guessed we’d end up travelling for a year, but I’m so happy that we have. Thank goodness I didn’t allow my emotions to overrule that day in Manila, and in hindsight I’m kind of glad Nick perforated his eardrum!

After travelling for one year, we have gained peace, perspective and a better understanding of balance. We are more in tune with our mental and physical needs because we actually have time to breath, react and reflect on them.

You also figure out your likes & dislikes about how you travel and may even become a little more set in your ways. In our case we are more relaxed, open-minded and willing to try new things without the hang-ups we had to begin with.

Ultimately, travelling for one year has transformed our life story. Not that long ago we were sitting at home in our flat in London, dreaming about snorkelling remote tropical islands. If you have a dream, don’t give up on it!

Thank you so much for joining our journey! Please help us celebrate our 1 year travel anniversary by raising a glass wherever you are in the world today (beer 🍻 bubbles🥂a brew ☕️ we’re not fussy😂)

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