Wednesday, 6 August 2008

She Says - The First Month of Planning

Before going to work on Monday July 6th, I started a list of pros and cons for going on the trip, or staying in the UK for another year and doing UK/European travel instead. Did I really want to give up that opportunity? Europe is a long way away and the opportunity might not come again to see it so easily. All Monday, we had trouble concentrating on work, were emailing each other about the possibilities, and had independently started making preparation lists.

Xander also contacted his parents and asked if money held in trust for him for his first house/wedding present could be used for travel instead, as it’s looking ever more unlikely we’ll get a house! At least it wasn’t just for some frivolous holiday, but a useful career break that would help build experience and employability for both of us. Xander also asked them to help with selling the collectables he still had in the US – an unhappy decision but something we’ve figured would have to happen for a while now.

By the end of Thursday 9th, I think we’d pretty much decided we could do the trip, and my pros and cons list from Monday was now ignored! Xander had made a spreadsheet for us to start trip planning, compiling our two separate lists. I’d started telling people in my office we were thinking about travelling. However, we made a promise we wouldn’t stagnate for the next year, as there were still things to see in the UK and we should enjoy the time we have left. It would mean bike travel as much as possible (considering the rapidly rising petrol prices!), camping instead of bed & breakfasts, and no more pub lunches on days out but grocery supplies instead! So we put this into practice straight away that weekend on a day trip to the Peak District, where we enjoyed salami sandwiches on the roadside for the first time in a long time.

Things started kicking into overdrive after that. Xander’s parents agreed to give us the money. We altered our savings and immediately cut back on unnecessary expenditure – no more takeout dinners! Xander ordered a bigger tank and the pro-oiler, and repadded the bike seat once again. I don’t think it’s going anywhere this time but time will tell! We started really listing all the things we could sell (a surprising amount of stuff!), and I made my first clothing and junk cull (I expect to get harsher!).

Xander launched into making a website for us. We discussed linking with a large conservation organisation so we could do fundraising for a worthy cause, and find good volunteer projects and maybe reduce some daily costs, allowing us to travel for longer. We thought about how to approach an organisation, what would they get out of working with us, and whether this link would help us gain sponsorship for things we need to buy in return for advertising. We realised we had our experience to offer, and publicity through fundraising and media opportunities. We could offer the organisation extra promotion through articles we hope to write and sell as part of the trip. This is something we’ve talked about for a while, since our Spain trip last March and more so with this year’s Romania trip. Xander particularly wants to work on his photography, and this trip would be a great way of finding unique subjects. Great photos would be a nice promotion for any conservation project we worked on, so another thing to add to our credentials!

The lady who told me they travelled on £20 per day said that before the trip, every time they went to buy or do something, they thought in terms of ‘how many days’ travel is that worth?’ to make them decide if it was worth buying or not. Grant and Susan from Horizons Unlimited also noted £20 per day in their talk at the meet. Both concepts, correct on cost or not, are something we’ve quickly adopted. We use it as a bit of a joke (at least for now!) because we’ve been trying to get our heads around whether this is really going to happen or not, and just how tight we have to be to make this a reality. Now that it really does seem to be happening, I think it will become more seriously used!

So, a month on and where are we at? Xander has the bare bones of the website ready to launch, having bought the domain name and hosting package over the weekend. I’ve created an uber-spreadsheet detailing all the things to do, buy, sell, plan, etc. I even have the beginnings of a planning timeline, as we need a plan of action. We immediately sold the old panniers, seeing as the trial run of the new panniers at the HUUK meet went really well. That went straight towards buying the new tank. We’ve sold some old camping gear we replaced last year, and a remote control boat a former work colleague left when he moved. So we’ve already made £55 - that’s 2.75 days travel! ;-) Anything sold in aid of the trip has to go into our new ‘no touchies’ savings accounts. We’ve got extra money thanks to Xander’s parents. We’ve got the savings and cost-cutting under way, cleared our credit cards, got the new tank nearly paid off, and still managed to bank a little extra savings after pay day. Nice one!