Committing to a trip like this was easy. We didn’t need much convincing to quit our jobs, sell all of our stuff, and leave our secure lives in London. Planning a trip like this, on the other hand, was something neither of us had any real experience in doing. It was definitely a learning curve. Initially we had no idea where to start, but once we had worked out our own system, eighteen months’ worth of planning and saving just fell into place.
To avoid this being too lengthy, I’ve stuck to bullet points. No fluff, just the facts.
- First we had to decide how to get from the UK to New Zealand. As mentioned in our Route section, to do this, we listed all the countries we both wanted to visit and joined the dots.
Then we created a shared Google Doc for each country along the way, using headings such as ‘Visa’, ‘Weather’, ‘Border Crossings’, ‘Tips & Advice’ and ‘Food’ to research.
When researching online, we saved useful websites using Toby Bookmarks. Toby is a more visual version of your standard bookmarks tool. It shows all your bookmarks on a new browser window or tab, which you can save under headings and then categorise further using the Tabs feature.
We saved specific places and attractions using the ‘Want To Go’ feature on Google Maps. This gave us a more detailed route through each country.
On top of this, we also read a heap of books, watched a load of documentaries, went to a few talks, and quizzed everyone we could, saving everything we learned in the relevant Google Docs.
Budgeting/saving was arguably the main part of the whole pre-trip process. If we didn’t stick to the budget, it would affect the route, and in turn, the planning. We needed a realistic end figure in order to plan for the right trip.
To get this figure, we wrote down all our fixed expenses, such as rent and bills, and all our non-fixed expenses, such as food, beer, travel etc. From this, we worked out a monthly amount we could both afford to automatically transfer into a savings account on payday. This gave us a definite end figure, which we could then only add to.
We re-assessed our non-fixed expenses every six months or so, reducing them slightly, so we could increase our savings pot and buy kit. In the final few months, we were living on a weekly budget of £60-£75 a week each, including transport, food and socialising. It was tough, we’re not going to lie, but so worth it now we can enjoy the trip we wanted to take.
To boost our savings even more, we sold pretty much everything we owned that was in good nick. From bikes to a freezer, and an air bed to an old MacBook charger, it all went on eBay and/or Gumtree. The trick was to make sure we transferred the money earned straight into savings, so we didn’t spend it.
We used Google Sheets to keep track of all money coming and going. Keeping this regularly updated kept us on track throughout the eighteen months.
Monzo Bank really helped us budget, too. Payments appear instantly on the app, so you always know where you are with money. And you also get a monthly spending report, which groups your purchases into categories, such as travel, groceries and eating out.
Monzo also offer £200 fee-free ATM cash withdrawals abroad, charging 3% thereafter, plus unlimited fee-free card payments abroad.
As we had to buy so much kit, we naturally became very savvy shoppers, earning ourselves over £1,000 in cashback and bonuses. I’ll explain how we did that in another post.
This was by far the most fun part of the whole process. We became obsessed. Reading countless reviews and watching endless YouTube videos, we curated the best kit for our budget.
The most crucial pieces of kit were the bikes themselves – the Surly Disc Truckers. We had them custom built by Billy at Cloud 9 Cycles, where we also had a bike fitting with Tony Corke, to ensure they fit like a glove.
Hunting around for the best deals, we found that smaller, lesser-known online retailers offered much better discounts – some even offered you deals like £5 off if you joined their mailing list. Sites like Alpine Trek, Mantel, Cycle Store, Simply Hike and Outdoor GB.
We kept track of purchases instantly using a shared list on the app Wunderlist. This meant that we always knew how much we owed back to the kitty or credit card.
Finally, we created a hero kit list on Google Docs, detailing every piece of kit we bought and linking to where we bought it. This also included the discount we saved by shopping around.
Full kit list here.