Why I travel the world instead of saving up for retirement
To travel the world – this is one of those huge things that many people dream about. May it be for some months, a year or even much longer. It is on many people’s bucket list, but often not fulfilled.
My first solo trip was full of up and downs
I started traveling solo when I was 19. I moved to London to finish my practical semester and worked in the head office for the London Design Festival 2007. Being a student it was a big deal for me to move to London and work for this famous festival. I was more than excited. Even though my living situation didn’t quite work out well, I had loads of fun. I explored the city, went out to dance and organised the London Design Festival.
If you travel the world, you will learn many lessons. I learned a lot in London, eg. that you shouldn’t trust anyone else but yourself, even though you are in trouble and think you can’t get through alone. Or that you should take good care of your drinks in a club and who mixes them – and what’s I side (Oh yeah, my drinks got spiked and hell did I have an overdose of whatever that was and it knocked me out for a week. Ouch.) Also I learned that one should never pay 3 months rent and deposit on top in advance.
Yep, I got badly ripped off. I lived in an outskirt area of London and had a room for rent. The first 2 weeks passed, and besides some weird actions from the girl I was renting the room from, everything went well. Just one night my landlord lady decided to storm my room with a huge kitchen knife and freaked out. Hell I was outta there the next morning. When I returned with my boss to ask for my money back, she said I was young and would probably make that story bigger than it was (nope. I wasn’t. This knife was huge! ) and I can neither come back nor do I get my money. Ehrm. Damn. What a big hassle having lost all the money and having to find a new place while working. And believe me when I say it wasn’t fun at all.
Then I started to travel the world a little more
Fast forward to the time after my studies. Germany was not anymore the place I wanted to be at and it was about to get cold soon (I mean, when is it not cold in Germany?). So I took my last 75 EUR on my bank account and flew to Gran Canaria, where I had an application running for a job in a dance ensemble in a 5* hotel. As traveling is always about learning new things, I figured out pretty fast that plans never work out they way you planned them. I indeed got a job in that 5* hotel and I was also dancing in the night show.
But my job did also include working in the kids clubs (like a holiday kindergarten), in sports entertainment and for the kids disco and entertainment in the evening. In the end I was working from 6am – 1am (yes I actually mean 19 hours per day) 6 days a week for unbelievable 500 EUR per months. The best part was the dancing, obviously! I loved the shows in the night, even so the costumes were far off from what I would have chosen. Other than that, working in a group of entertainers can be challenging and exhausting if there is someone bitching – and being the boss, too.
The next adventure was waiting for me
Well I did the winter season as contracted and moved onto a next adventure: Majorca calling.
New place, same work – much more money. My day started with a sports program, that I was able to create myself. So I would wake up our hotel guests with a good portion of aerobics. Oh yeah! We would then have an hour of water gymnastics and finish the morning with some rifle shooting. Yep. That’s right, we would some targets and would try to get the bullets in. So much fun! Our hotel guests would then have a break from our entertainment program for a bit. A little later my team mates and me would go around to call out the ‘Cocktail Game’ – the hotel’s favorite. We would play a game including fun facts or some activities the guest needed to do and the best would earn two cocktails.
Well summer season would be over soon in Majorca as well and I was out and about to move to the mainland. Barcelona was the place to be! A friend of mine had a room for me to live in about 70km off Barcelona, in a beautiful little beach town called Malgrat de Mar. I was so happy, she took me in, so I would travel 2 hours by train one way to work in Barcelona (and back) each day. At the weekend I had the best beach just 10 minutes walking from my home. What a life!
But plans never work out the way you want them to
Remember my lesson learned in Gran Canaria? Yep. Those plans just don’t work out, especially when you travel the world. So as I planned to stay in Barcelona and even move into the city, I wasn’t able to find a place that was affordable and livable. Livable you ask? I mean not a 5m² room without windows in the stairwell. It was ridiculous hard, so I stayed a little longer in Malgrat de Mar until unfortunately some issues back in Germany forced me to go back.
So after 6 months in Barcelona I had to pack all my bags and suitcases (yes, please don’t ask) and fly back. I knew I didn’t want to go back to my hometown, so I moved straight to Berlin. My company in Spain had an outlet in Berlin and so they recommended me to apply for a job there. So I did, applied for the job and 1 week later went to move to Berlin. Yay!
How to travel the world while being employed
Moving to Berlin, was one of those steps that kind of slowed me down traveling. I had a fixed job, a flat, a car, fixed cost every months and obviously wanted to eat something, too. For me, it was always easier to just not own anything, to not be on the lease of a flat, to not invest in a car. But I guess Berlin was the first attempt to settle for a while instead to travel the world constantly. I was working a lot in my first job, like more than anyone should ever work. Sometimes I would not go home in 1.5 days and shower and change at work. Being young I wanted a career, so I gave everything for it. After a while I figured I needed to travel again. So I saved up some money and left on a trip to Turkey for 5 days.
This would continue with a trip to Dubai later, a weekend trip to Norway and Prague and some other little side trips. After 1.5 years I would finally change my job and decided I would need proper vacation every 6 months. As Germany anyways has long winters (holy moly they are now something from October to April, not kidding!) I was able to run away from the cold twice. So I would usually plane to leave around end of October for 2.5 weeks and another time around February/March for another 2.5 weeks.
With this timing I had great opportunities to fly wherever I wanted, as long I was saving up enough in between. I took vacation in China, India, Morocco, Cambodia, Vietnam and some other great places. It was just amazing. But not enough. I wanted to travel the world!
I am going to move to see the whale sharks
So or with similar words did I open up my notice of termination. I was super nervous how to talk my boss. When we talked about my future in the company, I started to talk about whale sharks, Thai food and yellow (oh yeah, my favorite color!) and that I would need more time to explore all of that. My boss thought I wanted to take a sabbatical time off. I said that I was sorry, but I will move to Thailand in 3 months. She looked at me, silent, for about 2 minutes and I said, I will have to leave the company because I will move to Thailand to become Scuba Dive Instructor. Another minute of silence before she said she can’t believe it and if I was serious. I was very serious.
June 19th 2014 – My Independence day
That’s when I landed in Phuket. I left Germany for good. A new life started. My life that would let me travel the world constantly. That I worked for so hard. It was finally here. Very long story short, since that day I lived in Thailand, became Scuba Dive Instructor and had a blast. I traveled the whole country only on local transport from North to South and have seen so many stunning places.
After 14 months I moved to Sydney and worked there for a year before I started my trip through South America for 8 months (still going, yay!). I travel the world full-time now, still waking up some days being so fascinated because I can’t believe it’s happening.
So why do I actually travel the world and don’t save up?
Ha, now having talked about almost all of my travel history (in short form) I almost forgot to tell you: Why do I travel? Now here comes the real deal.
To answer this question I have to take you all the way to the beginning of this story and even a little bit further back. I was just 19 when I got really sick with one of my chronic diseases. I haven’t mentioned that I do have 2 major chronic diseases that I am carrying with me and that influence my daily life. If you like to know more about how I am traveling with them, I just had an interview published with the gorgeous Denise from Travelous Mind.
One of them is a nervous system disease. You will know it under the name Migraine and might think “Oh, that’s just a headache”. Well I wish you were right, but you couldn’t be more wrong. A Migraine is a disorder of the central nervous system. Simply (and non-professionally) explained, the neurotransmitters of the nerves in my brain are not able to communicate correctly and cause a ‘short circuit’ in my brain once in a while – the Migraine attack.
So what does my disease have to do with my travels?
In my teenage years I would have epileptic attacks which were only connected to the Migraines. That means, in case I had a bad Migraine attack chances where high I had an epileptic attack, too. My body would cramp up, I wasn’t able to control any movements at all and would often lose my consciousness over those attacks as well.
One of those attacks should change my life. It was an early evening and I felt the Migraine attack coming. Something was different – it felt deeper and heavier than ever before and it scared me. The epileptic cramps soon followed and I fainted in my bathroom hitting the back of my head on the bath tub. I woke up and felt I had to call help as this would be the strongest attack I would remember. In strong pain, I called my parents to let them know what happened, not able to speak properly anymore and asked them to come and also call an ambulance. Believe me, I was scared that this attack could seriously injure me.
An experience that would change my life
Not long time later, my parents arrived and I must have lost consciousness in my living room while waiting for them. I woke up when they entered my little flat and I felt my body cramping up so bad, I wasn’t able to breathe. I felt heavy, the light was way too bright and I couldn’t understand what they were trying to tell me. Everything was loud and heavy and suddenly it was just quiet around me.
My heart stopped beating.
I was having a heart arrest of 25 seconds due to the epileptic cramps my body was going through. The next day when I went to my doctor and had a brain scan he confirmed what I felt the night before – I was clinical dead for about 25 seconds and just made it back to life at the right moment.
Life can end at any moment – Take your chance!
It is that one experience I made, the so-called ‘near-death experience’ or ‘out-of-body experience’ that I encountered during that 25 seconds clinical death that made me realize: I have to live life to the fullest. In a way that makes me happy and only me! It is my life that is important and it is only me who is able to change it and make it a better life.
It took me quite a long time to understand what happened in those 25 seconds and to realize that this is a total new chance for me. I was also not able to talk with anyone about it for personal reasons.
This is the first time I am ever writing about it, it is probably even the first time that some family members (if they’d read it) will know about this, as it was always treated as “this never happened” in my life. But it did, it is proofed, too and more important: I have experienced it.
My conclusion – I need to travel the world
This heart arrest saved me, it saved my life in several ways. After realizing what happened there, I slowly started to become the person that I actually want to be. I stopped trying to please other people and stayed true to myself.
I started traveling more often, more regularly and I have been able to let my nomadic heart come to life.
It’s been 2.5 years now since I am traveling full-time, I have no plans where I will go after my South America trip, I don’t know where and how I will earn money after my savings ran out and I don’t know what the future holds for me – but that’s ok. My heart is filled with happiness every day I am waking up and I am able to live the life that I create for myself. And isn’t it exactly that what we should strive for? Happiness!
No retirement account can make me happy or make me feel safer, and you probably ask me what I am going to do when I am old and I am not able to work anymore. And I will tell you, I will find out by then 😉