Lessons Learned: One Month on the Road

We set out on our adventure one month ago today and we’ve had some wild and wonderful experiences thus far. During our travels in London and Spain we have learned a series of lessons that we have recorded here.

  • Life is easier when you have an organized backpack.
  • You can’t do everything. You will miss full days of activities because it’s 100 degrees out. Your skin will thank you for staying inside.
  • Spanish pub crawls last until 6:00am: be prepared.
  • The budget is annoying at first, but it’ll keep you in check along the way.
  • Try new things: even if that means eating food that still has eyes.
  • Stopping for pictures is always worth it.
  • Cherish Mexican food when you find it, you probably won’t find it again.
  • Get out of your comfort zone! Yes, it’s cliche but when you’re uncomfortable, you are growing.
  • Spanish Red Hot Chili Peppers cover bands are the bomb.
  • It’s worth it to strike up a conversation with the strangers in your hostel.
  • Make sure your server gives you the correct change back. And never let your credit card out of your sight. And always ask for your receipt. Just always be aware when other people handle your money.
  • Sometimes the best way to get to the beach is to walk through the desert. (This is kind of a metaphor, but it actually happened to us in Cabo de Gata.)
  • Try to catch as many sunrises and sunsets (and pokemon) as you can.
  • When you have the opportunity to go camping on an island: do it.
  • The best way to learn about the country you’re in is by talking to the locals in their own language. This means practicing Spanish and sometimes embarrassing yourself.
  • Ramen + corn + chicken nuggets = culinary masterpiece.
  • Air conditioning is a privilege.
  • Waking up early is hard, but it makes you feel productive even if you’re only going to the beach.
  • Say “yes”/”sí.”
  • Mistakes are lessons learned. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Remember the mantra: “we are learning.”

 

London on a Budget

Before leaving home we developed a budget for how much we would ideally like to spend in London. Based on numbers from other travel blogs, the current exchange rate between dollars and pounds, and our personal budget goals for our trip, we calculated a spending goal for each day in London. The exchange rate has since changed drastically due to the Brexit (which we were there for!) so make sure you research the exact exchange rate before you go.  

We had initially anticipated spending about £72 per person/ per day (including the £32 for the hostel), and we ended up spending only £52 on average per day! We had jam-packed days full of drinking, eating, and sight-seeing and we came in at £20 under budget per day. Here’s how we did it:

 

Museums & Galleries  

There are hundreds of museums in London and the majority of them are free and open to the public. During our stay we went to the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, and the Victoria Miro Gallery. The Tate Modern has a new addition as of June 17th, fittingly named The New Tate Modern, which has an outlook on the top floor that provides a great view of the city.  

 

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Paul at the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Victoria Miro Gallery

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The view from the New Tate Modern

 

Theatre

London theatre is some of the best in the world. Though it can be pricey, it’s worth it to witness world-renowned actors and performances. Before we left home, we had already been talking about seeing Richard III starring Ralph Fiennes (aka Voldemort in Harry Potter). Our hostel roommate recommended that we use an app called TodayTix that allows you to enter a lottery to win seats. The show was sold out until September, but thanks to TodayTix we WON two available seats for only £20 a piece!   

 

The “Sights”

While you’re in London you’re pretty much obligated to see Parliament & Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tower Bridge, etc. These places are full of tourists, and therefore full of pick-pocketers, so be careful when you’re stopping to take photos!

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Buckingham Palace ft. tons of tourists

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Paul & the Queen 

 

Pimlico Fish & Chips

If you’re looking for classic fish & chips but don’t want to pay the £13 you’d spend at a pub, look for “take-away only” shops. This particular spot in Pimlico had no tables, was cash-only, and cost half the price of pub fish & chips.

 

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world and is totally worth visiting if you’re in London. It costs £12 to go on a tour of the cathedral: complete with headphones and a visit to the crypt and the dome. However, the Cathedral hosts mass services every few hours which are free and open to the public. We chose the latter option. We attended the half hour mass and then took a self-guided tour around the main floor.  

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St. Paul’s on a gloomy, London afternoon

 

Brixton

While at Honest Burger in Covent Garden (which we recommend for a good burger & beer), the waitress recommended that we visit Brixton if we like Jamaican food. Jamaican food? In London? Yes, and it’s amazing (and cheap). When you get off the tube stop in Brixton you walk right into a vast Jamaican market; complete with traditional patties and other delicious Jamaican dishes. We bought six of the £1.50 patties and saved a couple of them for dinner that night.

 

Travel Joy Hostel

We really loved our hostel in London. It was just a few blocks away from the Pimlico tube stop, and just a 30 minute walk from Parliament. Several bus lines stop directly outside the building and one runs 24/7. They offered guests free soft drinks, coffee, and tea; free breakfast, which included omelets and smoothies; and free salsa-dancing lessons and beer pong. Though it was a bit pricey, it was definitely worth the money for the experience we had and the friends we made!

 

London is an expensive city, but it can be tackled on a budget. Though we had a daily budget, our spending varied each day; for instance, our first day in London was Paul’s birthday, so we spent more on that day than any other day there. By remaining budget-conscious and seeking out the aforementioned freebies, we saved a ton of money and still had a great time!  

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Us having fun with the camera filters my brother got me for my birthday. Thanks, Luke! 
We were in London from June 19-June 24, 2016. Feel free to comment or message us if you have any questions!

Start Planning Your Trip

  1. You’re Here

If you’re reading this, it means you’re interested in traveling enough to search for travel blogs and that’s a great start! We’re not experts by any means, but we’re learning along the way and we’ll teach you whatever we can. Here are a few important steps to take in order to start planning your trip:

 

  1.  Figure Out What You Want 

Ask yourself the following questions: Where do you want to go? What do you want to do and see? Why do you want to do and see each of these things? Do you want to travel solo? What can you afford? When can you leave? Write down the questions and answers and refer back to them during planning. Your answers will begin your long, exciting research process.

 

  1. Save  $$$

As soon as you decide that you want to travel, you should try to cut excess shopping, going out, drinking, what have you, and save all of that extra cash for your trip. We try to remind ourselves that the money we spend on a beer in Syracuse could buy us a beer in London. It’s our money-saving mantra.

I used a literal piggy bank to save up my money for a while and at one point had over $1000 crammed into it. Paul cashed each of his paychecks so he could split up his travel money, gas money, spending money etc.  Do whatever it takes to get the cash out of your hand and into your travel fund.

 

  1. Research, Research, Research

We went to the library (fortunately I was working part-time at a library in Syracuse so we had easy access) and rented dozens of travel guides. These really are your best friends when you want to learn about a new culture, budgeting tips, and what to see or what not to see. We rented guides for countries that we might not even go to, but there’s no harm in learning what you can when you have free resources at your fingertips.

We’ve also spent countless hours reading blogs by other travelers like us. Many are relatively new to travel, but some have been on the road for years. Blogs give you a great sense of what it’s actually like to be a new explorer from a relatable and reliable source. Travel blogs are also where we read about which gear to use for our trip – this is a crucial part of the research process.

 

  1. Commit

This is the hardest step. You know that you want to travel, but now you need to actually do it.Buy your tickets. Our first conversation about our trip was December 28, 2015 in our church parking lot and we bought our tickets just a few weeks later. We decided that this was the perfect time for us, so we found a super cheap flight and went for it.

You can do this. You just have to come to terms with leaving your job, family, friends, and comfy home life in exchange for the experience of a lifetime. It’s not easy, but all the stress you feel now will disappear when you hit the road. Go for it!