Some people have told me they are curious how this all got started. Some of you may think of implementing a similar type of journey. Here I shall relay a bit of the process, the story behind my five month trip. I hope it helps to plan your own and gives some insight what it includes.
Some of you may think that a trip this size is easily done, or that everything is consciously planned. NOT AT ALL! I guess it is a combination of a humble wish, opportunity, coincidence and a bit of luck. This was my way.
The story begins, when I was 18
First of all, I had a dream.. like you! A scary but true one. It had been in my mind for years, inspired by people who had done it.
I remember being 18 years old, when even going to a festival was frightening, not even talking about going hitchhiking or Interrailing! It was too much. I was afraid of strangers and had no confidence. I was little and inexperienced.
There came a time when a friend of mine, experienced with hitchhiking, took me along. He was my guide. We made several trips together, also with Couchsurfing. He eased my pre-thoughts a lot and strengthened my confidence with meeting foreigners.
I was so lucky to have an opportunity for a university exchange in Ireland. My English skills and trust on my independence improved. I started hitchhiking alone and abroad in Europe. I met people who had experienced world-tours, voluntary working and adventures. They promoted awesomeness, uniqueness and how everything goes well. They supported my little dream to come true along the way, but I didn’t know that at the time. Later I even got some world travelers as my flat mates.
Improved social confidence and English skills got me plenty of international relations. One of them, a Peruvian guy had a special role later on. Faith in life and in myself had also improved. I also saw myself pretty free, curious and had a bit of madness to do something that first seemed impossible. The opportunity just waited the right moment to reveal itself.
Final piece of the puzzle
Final piece of the puzzle was this following strange coincidence. It was late evening on February 2015. I was walking from band rehearsals on a dark and snowy street in Kallio, Helsinki. A man walks along the street to same direction. He notices my guitar and asks if I am a guitarist. “Oh yes”, I replied. This conversation ended up in forming an Afro-rock band and amazing plans to go on a band tour in Africa. This man was from Ivory Coast and apparently had some connections there. I just needed to reserve ½ year to give it a chance. I was tremendously inspired, so I didn’t even hesitate to do so. Therefore I had ½ year break from my studies for the spring 2016. What actually happened was that the plan never completed but I had ½ year to do something completely different with my life. I started seeking options what to do and I remembered my crazy little dream: to go on a long journey to the world.
Next step was to brainstorm concrete aims on my trip. I thought about meeting several people and places around the world, in Croatia, Peru, the US, Ivory Coast, Taiwan, Trans-Siberian railway, India… and Latin America in general. I was intrigued by culture of native people of the Amazon, The Incas, The Andes, drinking Yerba Maté, learning Bossa Nova -guitar. I wanted to visit spiritual places, go voluntary working and meet a particular person in the US to solve some past issues.
Giving time enough for the thinking process was essential in forming a unique journey plan. I thought about Croatia-Africa, ship through Atlantic ocean to Brazil, traveling through all countries of Latin America, continuing through Central America towards the US.
I started seeking for voluntary work in an organic farm. My friends told me about WWOOFing. I also found Help Exchange and Workaway. I chose Help Exchange. Although it didn’t focus on organic farms, it was more flexible with opportunities around the world with the same admission fee. I read a comparison about these sites to confirm my choice. I hadn’t confirmed my destination yet. I thought either Brazil or Perú. Essential part of my decision was my Peruvian friend who lived in Lima. Because of him, I considered Perú as a safe, trustworthy place to make the first step into the unknown. I didn’t make much plans, only clarified what I wanted. This took around two months, so I really gave time for it.
After a little search, I contacted three farms with a personal message via Help Exchange. One of them replied, a farm in the Andes. It was according to my values and interests and had a reliable and clear description. The owner was actually Norwegian, so a Scandinavian connection eased a bit.
First, I booked the flight Madrid-Lima on 12th of January 2016. It cost around 350 euros. Also a good thing was that Lima’s climate is rather convenient as it is in between of a warm and a cold current, temperature is around 25 Celsius. Next step was to start making practical preparations. I took a Spanish language course to ease communication and understanding. Language is also an entrance into the way people see and interpret things. It got me closer to Latin American culture.
I looked at the Peruvian embassy website to see what they inform for tourists. In case, I took a vaccine injection for yellow fever. I knew I was going to the jungle, but there was no need to take malaria-medication (SURPRISE: all the jungle doesn’t contain malaria). Then I updated my passport and I started booking other transportation for Helsinki-Madrid.
Planning the equipment
I started packing one month before departure. It took some time to figure out WHAT DO I REALLY NEED? I read this Finnish blog text about packing your backpack and it gave bunch of useful questions to ask.
Think with every single item: Do I need this?
I visualized possible situations on my way and made consideration by them. I categorized my equipment into these categories:
- 1. Packing volume: backpack, bags
- 2. Necessary items: passport, tickets, diary, contact details
- 3. Health and hygiene: painkillers, antibiotics, bandage
- 4. Survival: swiss knife, matches, tape
- 5. Nutrition: energy bars, nuts etc.
- 6. Electronics: phone, charger, flashlight
- 7. Clothes
What I didn’t need?
There were some items I knew in advance I can have them later. For example, I didn’t take water bottles because I can easily get them somewhere. I didn’t take any tourist literature about Perú. Local knowledge and people will give me advice then.
There were some items I didn’t really need, a heat bottle for example. I had good clothes that were water resistant and it was sufficient. I didn’t need that many pieces of clothes. I had 5 pair of socks, I could have made it with 3 pairs, same with shirts and underwear.
What about the budget?
Experience with low budget traveling and ability to compromise with comfort and conditions eased my budget a lot. Peru is a cheap country for low-budget travelers. Voluntary work gave me food and accommodation for free. I also had a buffer of 4000 euros so I was really confident that it won’t exceed.
I already had accumulated buffer on my bank account because I had no wise use for it. I thank my parents for teaching wise money use and supporting me financially a bit all these years.
I calculated money use afterwards. Everything included: Trip through Europe, Perú, The US and Canada and final trip in Scandinavia, all together: 2900 euros. Flights alone cost around 1000 euros.
Some helpful thoughts considering financial issues
The longer trip you go without using flights, the less financial buffer you need. If you are satisfied with traveling slow, you don’t really need much. On my way I learned to make handcraft, played guitar and made some smoothies to sell to have some financial resources on the way and that’s what travelers do. In the beginning it wasn’t comfortable to sell but it taught me a lot. And you’re not alone, you’re part of the traveler culture and people join you and you share skills and experiences. Now you know this in advance, I didn’t think about it. You can actually play with a thought: ”What would I do right now, if I needed to earn some money right now?”. Would you go collecting bottle deposits, like in Finland, or begging, or singing on a street, giving hugs, helping random people or what?
It’s good to make an estimation of how much money you need and exceed it a bit. Then you don’t need to stress about it. Of course some people are confident and rely on the abundance of universe and everything just goes smooth. They don’t stress about the future because they feel they are always in good hands and they have a strong intuition. I met some people and I also felt it as well. How everything solves out just well. We are being taken care of. Go traveling, surrender and you’ll see! ❤