I’ve always seen myself going places with just a backpack. I don’t know why “just a backpack” or why would that be so important. Maybe because of all the years I’ve spent watching cartoons and reading stories, where the main characters were doing the very same thing. Or maybe that’s just how it would work for me. I would definitely not see myself (probably never) walking around random places with a trolley after me, Just hearing that annoying sound, all the time, it would’ve driven me insane.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
Before I’ve decided to leave, I’ve lived in Bucharest, Romania. I was working for an IT company and I was doing server configurations. Funny enough, as much as I’ve loved technology I’ve never thought I will end up doing this for a living. I mean, I’ve completed three years of journalism studies and had almost no IT credential. Who in their right mind would hire someone with that type of expertise? Well, my awesome former bosses who took a leap of faith with me and I hope during my time there I’ve never disappointed them.
Even though I’ve traveled only every once in awhile it was not enough for me. I felt unhappy and miserable in the routine I’ve created for myself. I didn’t realize this sooner because a lot happened after I completed my studies and I pretty much grew with each job I had. There was never time to think about it too much but eventually, things started to settle and I suddenly had a lot more time on my hands and I’ve started thinking again about me exploring the world.
One big step
I love my family and friends and I didn’t hate my job either. But I was hating the whole routine of waking up at 7AM, go to work, then work for the next 8 to 9 hours, then go for a beer or go home. The next day, repeat.
The thing is, you can easily step out of the routine if you choose to do so. I’ve had plenty of colleagues that were either going to the gym, going to the movies or walking around the city. Others were taking classes in different areas or just exploring a new hobby. And I did think of doing stuff like that but I just simply didn’t want to. For me, it just seemed like another thing added to my on-going routine.
In my lowest point this year, where I was battling a very tiny beginning of a depression, I was just browsing around and reading articles, getting on that part of the internet again. That’s when I discovered this article. Mind you, this wouldn’t be the first time when I would discover some innovative solution or idea for me to explore and not go through it (my friends and family can vouch for that). So, I’ve discovered “Workaway” by reading this article about this couple who traveled to Thailand (I don’t remember where I’ve read it), and they were trying to save money as much as possible. So they’ve decided to try this platform and volunteer a few hours a day of work in exchange for free accommodation. I thought to myself “huh, you can actually do that”. So I kept on researching about it and end up discovering also HelpX, and Wwoof.
So there it was – my solution to break out from the routine. But this is the thing, once you are in a comfortable place, where you have a constant income and the assurance that next month there will be money again in your account it is hard to step out of it. I’ve wanted to have the time and flexibility to go wherever I want for as long as I want. I didn’t care about the amount of money I was making, they were not making me happy anyway. So, I started weighing my options and did some random calculations in my head.
For the time I’ve been employed full-time I’ve never had enough money to do all the stuff I’ve wanted to do. I don’t have my bachelor’s degree either (but that’s a different story for some other time – maybe with a beer next to me) so not having that, didn’t help me either in my salary. I thought about just moving out of the country by taking a job somewhere else (my mom’s suggestion – love you, mom!). But then, I would still need money to do all the changes: going to an interview, arrange for transportation, relocation, etc. It felt like so much trouble for something I don’t even want to do all of my life – which is working in a company. It just felt like I was going from a routine in Bucharest to one in… Prague, for example.
All of the suggestions I’ve received and the ideas I thought of didn’t give me a good feeling, didn’t click with me. I still had in my head the idea of me traveling and volunteering. At the beginning of this summer, I said to myself “Alright, I will invest 20EUR in this account for Workaway and I will just pick a place in Romania and go volunteer with my last vacation days from work”.
Once my account on Workaway was active my good friend, Mircea, messaged me as he was seeing me on the map of the program as an “active volunteer”. He thought I was already in the north of our country, volunteering and he was already doing the very same thing I was trying to start.
He then made me an offer (I really didn’t purposefully made a Godfather pun) to join him at this hostel in Cluj-Napoca, north of Romania. I wasn’t getting much of a reply from the hosts I’ve reached so I’ve accepted. A week later, I was on a train and on my way to what would turn up to be my decisive point of my year.
“Working away” for a bed and maybe, some food
At first, I volunteered at Zen-Hostel in Cluj-Napoca for a week and two days only. But by the second day there, I was already decided: I must go back and quit Bucharest altogether.
I knew how awesome it can be to stay in a hostel. The first time I’ve ever stayed in a hostel was last year in the summer. I wanted to go to the seaside with two of my friends but there was always this problem of me being single and never having someone to share a room with or the expenses. In Romania, people know now what a hostel means but when I was growing up a hostel was never recommended. Probably also because this business appeared a bit later in Romania than in the rest of the European countries. Or probably because the whole concept reminds too much of the dirty and disgusting college dormitories. Or maybe because we Romanians really care about our privacy and intimacy. Either way, I never knew much about it. In an attempt to save money I decided to stay at a hostel and it was the best experience I’ve ever had.
For a week I’ve talked with people all over the world, heard their stories and shared experiences. I’ve changed bed sheets, cleaned the floors and even bathrooms. I met awesome people, that were kind, relaxed, empathic and the opposite of the cynical and judgemental people I’ve met in Bucharest. Obviously, I am not saying this is only in Bucharest but this is what I was used to on a daily basis.
Leaving Cluj, was the hardest thing to do after that week but I knew I will be back. In my final day, I told the owner the dates I will probably be able to arrive and that I will be staying for a month. I went back to Bucharest, quit my job, bought a 30 L backpack and a one-way plane ticket and I left.
Almost 2 months have passed since then and I am finally writing my first post in my blog, while sitting in my friend’s studio in Brno, Czech Republic, preparing for my next trip to Faro, Portugal. I travel insanely light and even though I’m always short on money, I don’t end up without any (like I was in Bucharest). The way I finance my whole traveling thing is through freelancing work (article writing, logo creation, template creation, and so on). It is not easy to find jobs like that but if you are determined and don’t lose hope, you can easily find something. And yes, I mean it, don’t lose hope!
I don’t regret anything and I don’t see myself going back to Bucharest either. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, in the longest time I could possibly remember. I will probably not be doing this forever and ever. I dream of having my own hostel business at some point, but until then… enjoy my poorly written blog entries and the horribly taken pictures from my travels. 🙂