After working in HR for two years after graduating college, Ciara Johnson quit her job to travel the world full time. As wanderlusters ourselves, Jacqueline and I were inspired by every photo Ciara posted on her 3-month solo trip throughout Central South America. As soon as she returned home we reached out to Ciara to find out exactly how she prepared for her trip abroad.
Twenty Something SA: How did you prepare to travel abroad? i.e. save all your income, sell your apartment/house, sell belongings, etc.
Ciara Johnson: I traveled abroad for the first time when I was in college through a study abroad program. Since then, I’ve been hooked. Once I started working, I knew I wanted to keep traveling so I would see as much as I could through my allotted time off. Unfortunately, my job left me feeling unfulfilled. After work, I’d come home & work on my blog – it’s what kept me going! I wanted to encourage others to travel & seek out meaningful experiences.
So, while I was working I saved as much of my income as I could. I got a roommate instead of my own place, which cut my living costs in half. To avoid a car note or loan, I kept my old car instead of purchasing a new car like I could have & sometimes wanted to. I opted for Netflix instead of Cable. I ensured that my lease would be up around a specific time. I minimized shopping, eating out, & pampering as well. I made these choices from the beginning because I knew that travel was my long-term goal.
I did a lot of research on the costs of traveling long term & what locations would work out best with my budget. After two years, I took the leap and began traveling full-time. It was beyond scary to leave a life of security and stability, but so far I’ve been enjoying the ride. Mind you, I’m not living luxuriously by any means. I’ve sacrificed a home base & other comforts to travel for such an extended period of time. It’s been worth it.
I plan to travel for at least a year, but who knows? I’d love to lead a location independent life long-term.
20SA: Do you have a plan of all the places you will be traveling to?
CJ: I normally do not make plans. Sometimes I’ll have an idea of what I want to do, but I am not a very structured or routine person – which makes this lifestyle doable.
When I do plan, I look at blogs, Instagram, Tripadvisor, Viator, and Lonely Planet. I also like to leave my itinerary open to allow for some spontaneity, because that’s where the magic happens.
20SA: Will you return to your corporate job any time? Will you continue traveling for life?
CJ: I don’t have plans to at the moment. I’m not completely against corporate jobs. If so, I would hope that it’s a job I enjoy with plenty of flexibility. I think that is possible in 2017.
Right now, I am not just traveling. I am in the process of searching for & creating opportunties that will enable me to be location independent. I would love to start my own travel business in the near future.
I LOVE traveling on my own. I get the chance to do things how & when I want. It can be very introspective and rewarding, if you open yourself up to the experience. You also get the opportunity to connect with people from around the world, in a way that is less possible when you’re traveling with others.
And don’t get me wrong, I love special trips with loved ones, it’s just a completely different experience.
There are rare moments where I may feel lonely, but I feel those same moments when I am at home – so I try to remember that. I also try to focus on gratitude. If I’m feeling a bit ‘homesick’, I’ll stay in, facetime/call a friend, watch Netflix, or do anything that gives me a bit of familiarity.
20SA: What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned through your experience so far?
CJ: I’ve learned that most people are kind. While traveling solo, you have to depend on yourself and others. You may have to ask someone for directions, or ask someone to help you translate a language. You may need to lean on someone you don’t know. We often don’t realize it, but travel has taught me that we are hardly ever alone. On a daily basis, I’m blown away by the kind people I meet who expect nothing in return for their kindness. It’s extremely refreshing. I don’t mean to sound all ‘Kum ba ya’, but being human is the greatest connection that bonds us together – no matter where were from or what language we speak.
20SA: What are your plans next?
CJ: I was able to visit home for several weeks, but I am now traveling throughout Europe for the next few months. I plan to continue traveling and showing others how to do the same.