#THISISMYADVENTURE - Jenna Bewsher, Nine Months in Europe
From the snow covered Arctic Circle to the sunny Mediterranean Coast and everything in between, Jenna Bewsher and her boyfriend spent an incredible nine months travelling across Europe! Now back home in Chester, we caught up with this British travel blogger for a Q&A session to find out more about this epic trip.
Have you always loved travel & adventure?
For as long as I can remember I have always been into adventure and travelling and some of my earliest memories are from holidays abroad with family or going on little adventures with my friends in the woods at the back of my house. I was very lucky in to have parents who loved to travel and so at the age of roughly 2 months old I was taken on my first trip abroad; this was followed by many other trips all the way up to being a teenager, seeing all kinds of exotic locations. Growing up in the countryside was also something that really helped contribute to my sense of adventure as rather than staying inside to play I would take myself off for little 'adventures', walking for miles and exploring the many fields, forests and lakes around me. My sense of adventure was only magnified when I got my drivers licence at the age of 17 and took myself off all over the country, the majority of my weekends I found myself in the beautiful Snowdonia National Park where I was free to walk, climb, camp and just generally roam as i wanted.
Firstly, money is of course a necessary to making something like this happen; how were you able to fund the trip?
We were able to fund the trip simply by saving and being really careful with our money. I spent the year before we set off working two jobs, one full time and one part time which was really draining but always felt worth it when I remembered what I was saving for. On top of this I also ensured that I wasn't going out for meals or drinks unless there was actually a special occasion like someone's birthday; this was at times quite difficult but something I definitely don't regret as I was still able to enjoy myself by going for walks with my friends instead of a coffee, or having them over for drinks and a meal rather than going out. Working two jobs also helped with this as I didn't have as much time off as I was used to.
During the trip myself and my boyfriend also tried to pick up odd jobs wherever we went, he’s a Chef so found it surprisingly easy to find kitchens that wanted to take him on for anything from a couple of days up to a few weeks and I tried to pick up as many waitressing, cleaning or bar tending jobs as I could. We often worked for 'cash in hand' but sometimes we would just offer to work in exchange for meals. This was unbelievably helpful when it came to saving money as we worked our way around Europe. This is not something we had initially planned on doing but we found we actually really enjoyed the work as people were always so kind and helpful and incredibly interested in what we were doing. It was also a great way to learn more about local food, culture and ideas and was something that helped us to feel fully immersed in local life and gave us a very 'authentic' local experience of each country.
Did you give yourself a daily budget and if so, did you managed to stick to it?
Before we left I did a lot of budgeting to work out what we could spend each day of our travels. We split our money into two categories with one being money put aside for specific 'activities' (eg. Canyoning, husky safaris and skiing) and the rest was our 'general funds' which was our allowance for everything else we may need such as fuel, food and accommodation. We worked out that each day we could spend no more than £40; this might not sound like much but you would be very surprised what you can get with it! We have kept track of what we have spent every day, some days we went over our budget and some days were under. This worked out well as, for example, on certain days we would only spend say £11 and therefore £29 can be carried over ready to be used for a day if we went over our budget. We have a book that we write all our spending in and have made sure to keep track of our money and keep a close eye on the budget because the money we saved is all we have to spend as we are not running off a credit card.
Any money saving tips?
The best money saving tip I can honestly give is re-evaluating how much you go out and what you actually need to buy. In the year leading up to our travels we still had so many great days out that were completely free and, as above, when we saw friends we tended to have them over for a meal or drinks rather than going out. During that year I also don't think I bought a single new item of clothing and I still managed to leave the house everyday feeling as though I was dressed OK. A second tip I would give is to get used to drinking instant coffee and always carry a Thermos with you! I know it's not as nice but honestly the amount of money I saved by not just grabbing a quick coffee from a café every few days is crazy! Finally, keep a book of your spending and making sure you are always keeping track of your money. Also, when buy food try not to have a set meal in mind, instead have a look around and see what foods are cheapest and see what you can make with them.
Did you plan everything beforehand or have you 'gone with the flow' so to speak?
Before we left we had essentially marked out a route incorporating all the countries and 'points of interest' that we already knew we wanted to see. When it came to accommodation we booked our first three weeks of travel before we left England and then, as we moved forward with our travels, just continued to book places to stay a few weeks or days in advanced before we got to them. This gave us the freedom to re-plan at any point if, for example, we were really over our budget and needed to cut out places or we found somewhere else that we hadn't seen before and really wanted to visit. We found this strategy worked really well especially as we often just camped when we were unable to find cheap accommodation in the area we needed.
How much luggage did you take? Have you tried to travel light or taken half the wardrobe ?
When it came to luggage we tried to pack only the essentials but despite this we still ended up completely filling up the boot of our estate car as there were so many 'what if' items, such as wet-suits and ski gear, which we weren't actually sure if we would need but still had a chance we would. We were also extremely lucky as a friend of ours had booked to come out and visit us for a week in Croatia which was the start of the 'warm weather countries', so for the first half of our trip we only packed our winter essentials (and 1 summer outfit in-case there was a warmer day) and then we payed to bring out a suitcase of our summer clothes on our friends flight meaning we were able to swap over and give her the winter clothes we had been carrying to take back to England. This was a lifesaver as otherwise we would have been very over-packed!
Any highlights/places that really stand out when you look back over the trip?
There have been so many places that have been so much better than we could have ever expected. As far as countries go, the ones that really stood out to me were Norway, Switzerland, Slovenia and Croatia - they were all insanely beautiful and had such a wide variety of landscapes to explore. In terms of experiences there are again many which stand out to me and that I would highly recommend to people. To name a few: dining on elk broth in an authentic medieval restaurant only lit by candle light in Tallinn, Estonia, Husky sledding in Finland and the Arctic Circle, skiing in the Swedish Arctic Circle and seeing the Northern lights, hiking through the Fjords of Norway, exploring the insanely blue lakes of Switzerland, underwater cave exploring in Croatia, swimming with horses in Greece, kayaking the Calanques of Southern France and canyoning in the Pyrenees Mountains. There were many many more too that I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to experience.
Nine months is a long time to be on the road, is there anything in particular that you've missed with not having had a permanent base?
In my time away I haven’t really missed anything as such, though there are certain things that you wouldn't think to even consider that you end up missing just due to convenience. For example, I've really missed certain foods which we simply cannot afford to buy or make on our budget or often don't even have the means to cook them. Another thing I have really missed is coffee! I've really had to limit myself going from 3 to 4 cups a day down to 1 maybe every other day purely to save the money to be able to do everything we want to. In terms of actual things that I have really missed I have to say my family dog. He is usually my little adventure buddy no matter where I go and is always coming with me on camping trips to Snowdonia and the Lake District so not having him around for the last 9 months has been really hard.
Would you do it again? Perhaps you already have something planned?
If it wasn't already confirmed in my mind, this trip has only solidified the fact that I want to keep on travelling and exploring as much as I can! We already have ideas and plans on the cards including the Americas, which I can see a plan formulating for over the next few years! And until we have saved for that we are going to continue exploring in small chunks for a few weeks, or so, at a time whenever we get the chance. But for us, definitely, long term travel is something that we are extremely passionate about and will continue to strive for!
Any advice for anyone else thinking about this kind of thing?
The advice I'd give to anyone thinking about this is, don't listen to negative things people have to say to you. Just because it might not be the most convenient or obvious path doesn’t mean it's the wrong one. If you truly believe it’s what you want to do and something that will benefit you and that you could actually make possible, then do it. There's so many opportunities out there, don't settle for convenience! I've been blessed with an amazing education but I can honestly say, as cliche as it is, I have learnt more about the world, other people and myself in these past 9 months than I was ever taught at any level of education. So yeah, if you have the means and the drive and determination to do it - do it! It's not all fun and adventures, it takes a lot of hard work and energy and some days are extremely difficult and exhausting but I can promise you it's worth it.
Follow Jenna’s travels on her Instagram here.