Ever fantasised about giving up the day job and going to live in Bali? Meet the Cork woman who did it and took Instagram by storm along the way.
“Let’s quit our day jobs and travel the world!” How many of us have uttered those words at one time or another?
Dreaming about it is one thing, but what about the people who actually do it? The ones who thrive on wanderlust and turn desk job daydreams into reality. Is the grass greener on the rice fields of Bali? Or does the sun ever set on a life of constant travel?
We spoke to Corkonian woman Steph, of Stephmylifetravel.com, about giving up her steady job in London almost three years ago, in exchange for a life of travel and adventure. From newlywed to digital nomad, Steph is making waves across the travel blogging world and boasts a stunning Instagram feed that is admired and followed by over 40,000 people.
We asked her about everything she’s been up to so far, what it’s really like to live in Bali and what advice she has for aspiring travel bloggers.
Ready, set, go
“Before we left, we worked in London. I met Tim at work, we both worked in IT, in investment banking. We lived in a flat in East London, worked every hour under the sun and tried to go away on a two or three week holiday every year. We would save all year and go off on these backpacking trips to Asia or interrailing.”
Making the leap from annual holidays to fulltime life on the road was spurred on by the couple’s engagement.
“We talked about going, from when we first met. It was always a topic of conversation, that one day we would give up our jobs and go travelling. Whenever we had a hard week we’d talk about it or whenever we went on holidays, it was just always there.”
“Then we got engaged and I said we should just get married and go! So, we started to save, we had the wedding, we picked a date and we went.” She laughed as she explained, “It was the world’s longest honeymoon.”
Saving for their big adventure took time, thriftiness and adjustment. Even so, they still enjoyed life to the full, starting with their wedding.
“When we got engaged, there was a point where we had to decide if we were going to spend loads of money on the wedding or what could that be used for instead. We’re quite thrifty and live on a budget, so a big fancy wedding was never really on our minds.”
“I kind of approached it like I do when I’m travelling. I found a big house that fit around 60 people in France, that wasn’t on a wedding website and I hired people in the local area to do everything, so it was cheaper. We managed to give a really nice French countryside wedding for not that much.”
For the two years prior to their trip, the couple had a strict saving regime of spreadsheets and frugal living. Travelling was their focus and every cent they saved went towards their dream. Seeing it all add up kept them motivated.
“We saved for two full years. We lived off the money I earned and everything that Tim earned we kept. I broke down our budgets by day and 'spreadsheeted' everything. The first thing we did was make all our bills as small as possible. We swapped out our phones for sim only contracts and we changed our electric and internet - we brought down all our bills. Every week we had a spreadsheet of what we saved and that kept us motivated.”
“We would have people around our flat instead of going out for dinner or drinks. So, not only did we not spend as much, we actually got even closer to our friends because we hung out with them so much.”
Her advice to anyone who is looking to travel or do a big trip is to focus on saving first.
Start to save, and really get to know your spending habits and what triggers you to spend a lot of money. I think it’s the saving that’s always the barrier people focus on most. Once you’ve got that out of the way, you can look at other reasons why you might be scared to go. Write down the reasons you’re not going and see what you can do about removing those barriers.
She also says that living on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life.
“You don’t have to give everything up. You could spend all your time at home not doing anything or you can just find cheaper ways to do things that you like.”
With their savings in place and the wedding celebrations over, the couple left for their new life. They landed in Bangkok, which is often referred to as the ‘Gateway to South East Asia’.
“We flew into Bangkok first. We had three nights in a hotel booked and nothing else planned. We literally didn’t know what we were going to do at all, so we ended up going to Burma. It was 40 degrees when we got there, and the aircon was broken in all the places we stayed because we booked really cheap accommodation. We boiled for about two weeks.”
“We did a route the whole way around South East Asia before heading to Australia. We did a year in there and then another couple of months travelling. We went home for a little while and then we went to Bali in June. We ended up doing 14 months in Bali.”
Bali has become a Mecca for content creators and digital nomads in recent years. Steph explained that it’s the lifestyle that attracts people to it.
“There are loads of co-working spaces there. There are loads of vegan and vegetarian places to eat and there are lots of places to work out. You’d wake up in the morning and go to CrossFit or yoga and then everybody would go and eat a healthy breakfast. Then you’d go to a café or a co-working space and you’d work for the day. Then in the evening everyone would go to the happy hours and have a beer or something and watch the sun go down and then go to bed for nine o clock. You’d wake up at six o’clock the next morning and do it all again.”
“It’s the easiest place. The whole area we were in, Canggu, was just there to give you peak life. We wanted to go to Thailand to do that, but we couldn’t find the same community there. I don’t know how Bali has managed it, but it’s perfection for working abroad.”
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been all sunshine and beaches for Steph and Tim. The couple was in a moped accident earlier this year in Bali which left them hospitalised, injured and facing an insurance nightmare. Since the incident, Steph has shared her experience online, using her platform to educate others about the importance of taking out insurance and checking your policy.
“We we’re driving home, and a bike drove in from our right. It was speeding down the road and they crashed right into us. We were wearing helmets, but we were knocked out and woke up in the hospital. Tim’s eye socket was completely smashed in, his cheekbone was fractured, and his nose was broken in three places. He was admitted to a private hospital and needed an operation.”
“We had insurance and thought we were protected because we’d claimed on it before. But basically, our insurance wouldn’t cover the operation in that hospital and they wouldn’t move him. We spent two or three days with him needing the operation and they wouldn’t reply to our calls or tell us anything.”
“Eventually they moved us to a public hospital, where they couldn’t speak any English and were talking to us on google translate. It was really scary, there was blood all over the place and he didn’t have a bed or food for about 24 hours, it was a really horrible experience and that was all the insurance would cover.”
“The doctor came in and said he didn’t recommend doing the surgery in that hospital for safety reasons. So, we got him moved back to the private hospital and it ended up costing us £14,000. The insurance company said they wouldn’t pay out because I was driving, and Tim was on the back, and they don’t cover you if you’re not riding the bike yourself.”
Steph believes that the power of social media is what eventually helped her with the insurance company.
“I had been on Twitter and Instagram, I was fuming and my sister had tweeted about it too. They paid about 60% of the bill in the end. That’s purely because it got a bit of attention, I think that’s the only reason. Other people don’t have that and it’s unfair. So, it’s really important to get your policy checked and make sure you’re covered for everything.”
Despite the accident, Steph still says that Bali has been the highlight of her travel experience so far. She currently operates a tour business in the paradise island, helping visitors to see all the famous spots around Bali as well as discovering hidden gems and secret waterfalls along the way.
“Living in Bali has been the highlight because we had a dog, we had a home, it showed us we can travel while living at the same time. That was probably the best experience.”
“I started off doing the Undiscovered Tour. Tim and I just went out for a weekend and we found all these waterfalls that not many people were going to, and we made a tour around that. Then I have one in Ubud, which is basically all the highlights of Ubud, but timed so that you’re not getting there when it’s all crazy. I do a tour to Nusa Penida, which is an island off Bali, and then finally I do the Mount Batur Sunrise Trek, where you can climb an active volcano and watch the sunrise.”
With no plans to slow down any time soon, Steph is currently getting ready for an exciting few months around Europe and South America, before heading back to South East Asia in the new year.
“We’re going to travel around Europe next for about two months. We’re going to go to Amsterdam and Belgium, Italy, maybe Greece, Spain and France and we’re going to go to Oktoberfest which is quite exciting. Then on the 30th of October, we’re going to fly to Mexico for Day of the Dead and then we’ll probably do a little bit of Cuba and maybe Columbia and then I think we’re going to head back to Asia for January.”
As for settling down in one place, Steph says she likes things how they are for now.
“I don’t think we’re going to think about that right now. I think we’ve always thought we’ll keep travelling until we find somewhere we love enough to stop, and I don’t think we’ve found that yet.”
To follow Steph’s journey, find her on Instagram @stephmylife
Written by Rachael Taylor Fawsitt @lovelytomeetme
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