We’ve all read the articles about people who quit their jobs and travel the world, or scoop ice cream on a Caribbean island. And we ask ourselves while finishing yesterday’s leftovers from our cubicles, who are these people?
We think: she must be rich. Or she must be in debt. Because how else does the average person with a mortgage, a car note or student loans afford to frolic around the globe without a job?
I wondered these things a year ago. But after documenting the black travel movement as a senior editor at The Daily Beast, I stopped daydreaming about leaving my life in New York for golden sunsets in Africa, and took the plunge.
While the trend of chucking the deuces to nine-to-fives and traveling the world may not be for everyone, there are plenty of carefree black girls exploring the world and living life on their own terms. I’m lucky to be one of them.
Here are the questions I’m often asked about how I did it:
“How far ahead did you plan?”
I started planning six months in advance to wrap up my life in New York. I donated my clothes, sold my furniture, and put everything else in storage. I gave myself three months to find a tenant to sublet my apartment for one year. I also reconnected with people in my professional network to plant seeds for freelance work.
“How much money did you need?”
I knew friends of friends who traveled for a year on $15,000 budgets in countries where the U.S. dollar goes far. I chose destinations where I could spend less than $1000 a month, like South Africa, where the exchange rate dropped to a record low. Airbnb: $16/night. Dinner with friends: $7/person. Uber: $2/minimum. African sunsets: priceless.
“Where did you travel?”
I spent three months in South Africa, living in Johannesburg and traveling to Cape Town for long weekends. Friends joined me in Tanzania, Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia and Namibia. I also celebrated my birthday in Senegal.
While day-to-day expenses in these countries are significantly lower than the U.S., the cost of flights and visas in Africa can be expensive. I took a 20 hour bus ride from Zambia to Namibia for $40, and lived to tell about it, but generally opted for flights between $100 and $400. Visas ranged from $50 to $100.
“Was it overwhelming to plan so much travel at once?”
Parts of my trip were planned in advance, but ultimately I tried to stay flexible. I knew I wanted to start out in South Africa and I had an idea of where I wanted to travel from there. Once you’re out there, you never know who you’re going to meet or where you might have an opportunity to go and you don’t really want to lock yourself in. I based myself in South Africa because I knew it was a major travel hub. I traveled to and from different places while I lived there. I didn’t want to deal with moving all of my stuff from place to place. I wanted to be able to come back to Joburg and feel like I was back home.
“How did you pay your bills?”
The key is to eliminate most, if not all, of your bills before you depart. My biggest expenses were my mortgage, maintenance and utilities. I eliminated those by finding a tenant to sublet my apartment while I traveled. Since my cellphone contract with Verizon ended when I left, I bought local SIM cards abroad for $15/month, and used Google Voice to call home for free. My tax refund also came in handy.
What else do you want to know? Send me a direct message on Instagram.
Charlise is a travel writer and former editor at ESSENCE.com. Follow her travel diary on Instagram at @chartastical