Before I had my child, the one thing that brought me joy was the ability to travel and immerse myself in new cultural experiences. I worked hard to achieve this and after a period in my life where I had to navigate the immigration system and was not able to travel, the ability to book a holiday on a whim without the added visa costs always bring me joy. This experience of planning adventures brings me great joy and a skill I use for my family and hope to share with others.
In trying to think about what to ‘blog’ about, I knew I always wanted to have a travel section. I was not sure how I wanted it to be exactly. I was also concerned that I did not travel a lot, (I mean when you look at other travel accounts, it appears as if they have deep pockets right, and don’t rely on a job funding their escapes and that is not my reality at this time). I wanted to show the steps I took to achieving this lifestyle without relying on credit. In an easy and affordable way that everyone can attempt if they desire it.
It may seem hard but it is perfectly attainable with a little discipline and hard work. I mentioned before I worked in the charity sector, this for me meant working with a limited budget. From my experience we often feel travel is exclusive to the wealthy when in fact it is down to forward thinking, budgeting and planning. I was one of those Africans who would decide to go on holiday (read go back home) at the very last minute. I would book my ticket a month before I went, and sync it with my next pay date for spending money, meaning I would return mid month and be broke until the next pay day. This lifestyle meant I was always playing catch up with my finances. This was not the way I wanted to live. I knew I wanted to travel more frequently so I knew I had to shake things up.
I remember watching an episode of Oprah where they had a visualisation expert on the show talking about how she used this technique to create the life she wanted (circa 2007/8). Armed with that knowledge I scoured several magazines and created my first (and to date only vision board with a friend, my travel buddy – I will revisit this soon) and on it was a career in health promotion, travel section, British passport, a home, love, baby, and business. I realise I need to create another board for my future with new goals. This will be a future post as I have achieved most or still working on set goals but am yet to set new goals beyond those.
Going back to how I prioritised travel, I also had to make sacrifices to achieve this. My standard holiday prior to this was going ‘back home’ which for many of you reading this will know is a challenge in itself. For me this meant going back to Zimbabwe. The cost of the ticket, spending money and the time you could justify being away often meant there was little room financially and leave days left to venture anywhere else. I worked out that for the price of the ticket alone I could have at least two or three (at a stretch) trips to other european countries. Mostly city breaks, or up to a week away with change. This opened me up to a different way of thinking and focusing on my travel needs.
The first thing was finances, I mentioned working in the charity sector didn’t bring in the big bucks so I had to look at what was coming in and going out and see where I could make savings to help me achieve my dream. I worked out that I spent about £100 a month to style my natural hair. I’m sure my hair dresser misses me but around 2013 after a birthday trip to Cancun, (no visa restrictions if traveling on a Zimbabwean passport with indefinite leave to remain) I knew I had to give that luxury up. I watched YouTube videos on how to section, wash, dry and style natural hair and practiced. I had been natural since about 2008, and had reached that point where I could no longer dry my hair alone (or so I thought). In doing my own hair I also saved myself an annual leave day a month, which was a ‘hair day’ used to take out the old style, wash and dry my hair before I went to the stylist for the new do. In doing this I freed up about £1200 a year and nearly two weeks of leave days. I used the money to process my naturalisation paper work, clear outstanding debt and use towards planning my escapades. I will also add that on one of these trips I had planned for myself, I was able to have a second (third, fourth, and fifth) date with my partner in Paris (he’d gone for work) as our conflicting schedules had made meeting up in London difficult after our first date.
Second, I didn’t let holding a Zimbabwean passport hold me back. It was a little frustrating and tedious but it was and is possible. You have to plan and research destinations where you may not need a visa and if you do need one find out what you will need to make the process easier. It may also cost a bit more when you factor in visa costs and that cheap city break is not so cheap when you factor in the visa processing time and requirements. And whatever you do, do not let ‘African Time’ impede on your travel plans, I remember I once booked a trip to Berlin, flight and hotel deal with British Airways nearly 2 months in advance, I then waited a month before calling to book my visa and the date I was given was on the day I was due to fly out! The phone number was also a premium number meaning the call cost me about £30 and I was not able to claim the cost of the flight back, or change the dates. Thankfully the hotel graciously gave me my money back.
I’d also add think about the order of countries on your list of destinations. I think the reason my visa was turned down to Morocco (another African country – what gives) may possibly have been because I had a visa to Israel in my passport. I had also paid the deposit for the Riad I was due to stay in (for the visa) and they wouldn’t return the money but agreed to ‘keep it’ for when I was finally able to visit. Best believe Morocco was one of the first countries I visited once I had my British passport several years later and the Riad to their credit used that deposit towards my stay. I ended up only paying for my flight and spending money as I went for a shorter period than originally planned. That was exceptional as you may not be that lucky with other establishments.
Three, if possible have like minded people you are able to travel with if traveling solo is not for you. It also takes confidence to do this with ease. I had my travel buddy and now God mother to my daughter with whom I planned several trips with. Although we are in different income brackets she was always happy to accommodate my needs to make things budget friendly on the trips we went on. We agreed on minimum requirements we would both be happy with, we also agreed to splurge within my ability on certain trips, and we didn’t let money come in the way of our trips by communicating.
We’d often draw up a list of countries we wanted to visit, and time of year to visit, and worked out that we probably went on a couple of trips together a year. We would agree when we would book the tickets and depending on the ticket or circumstances we booked them at the same time, or one person would book and the other transfer funds on the same day (only do this with people you know and trust). Communication is important when traveling with other people and trying to be mindful of their needs.
My only disappointment is we didn’t manage to go to Japan which was our big 2016 holiday and I had to let her know in 2015 during the planning stages that I was pregnant and would be a waddling mess at the time we were due to have gone. Now it joins the list of trips to go with a baby.
Four, just book the flight already! The rest will work itself out. On this point I will draw this post to a close as my aim was to write short posts, this one has the potential to go on and on. I realise I have not covered travel with baby here, but this point applies. Just book the flight already. My little one was on a plane at eight weeks to Montenegro. Crazy right… I booked the ticket when I was still pregnant, as well as our month away to California, me and baby alone. You could over think the merits of traveling with a child and best believe my mother thought I was insane for traveling with such a young child and bonkers for going alone when she was eight months old and I was scared, and nearly canceled but I still did it, and you know what if I can do it so can you.
Be sure to like my post and let me know what you’d like me to share on my blog. I will post a lot more on this section.