Who is Josie?
Hi! My name is Josie (she/her). Only five short years ago I was an accountant. I would sit at my desk all day….and dream of faraway destinations!
It wasn’t always like this. I grew up in a small country town in South Australia with parents who didn’t exactly encourage travel. I didn’t venture out of the state until I was an adult. Travelling internationally was not even vaguely on the radar for me. There were no thoughts of “one day I’d like to go to…”! No one I knew had ever been outside of Australia. Once or twice a year we would travel the 800km to our state capital of Adelaide and that was our grand adventure.
I went through life on the usual path – high school, university, job. I married young, and had my first taste of overseas travel, with my new in-laws giving us a few days in Bali for our honeymoon. We came home, bought a house and didn’t think about going anywhere again. Our honeymoon was that once in a lifetime trip to us then. By the age of 25 I was a stay at home mum to two girls. Our passports gathered dust as we contended with the day to day struggles of a young family with one income.
Twelve years after that trip to Bali I had my eyes opened to travel again in a fairly major way – my husband Simon was offered an opportunity to move internationally with his company to Dubai. There was a long and convoluted process for us to go through, and we were on the roller coaster for ten months before finally deciding, with regret, that we could not accept the position. In hindsight it was the best decision of our life financially, because two months later the GFC hit, and it hit Dubai in particular with a vengeance. Who knows what would have happened if we moved.
During the months of working through the process, I read and learned everything I could about Dubai, expat life, Muslim people and lifestyle, and even started learning a little Arabic. We travelled to Dubai for nine days, not just as tourists, but looking at houses, schools and meeting expats who were living the life. Somewhere in the process, the travel bug bit – bad! My dreaming had begun.
Back in Australia we made decisions that would again put travel on the back burner. Our children were about to start high school and we chose to send them to a private school. We knew this meant I would also have to work in a full time job for the eight years we would be paying those school fees. I could not see a way we could even remotely afford to travel.
But I was hooked. I had to find a way. Without understanding fully, we got a credit card that earned frequent flyer points. I figured all of those school fees may as well be helping in some small way towards my travel. My goal then was to take my eldest daughter on a trip for her 18th birthday, still five years away.
I scrimped and saved, and two years after that trip to Dubai we were able to go to New Zealand for ten days. This trip was a big first for me, because I had a strict budget and had to change the way I thought about holidays to make this happen. There were no fancy hotels or eating out. We stayed in cheap places and bought food from supermarkets. It was absolutely brilliant.
We cruised the Bay of Islands, saw giant kauri trees, floated on an underground river through glow worm caves, watched rabbits being shorn, blocked our noses in Roturua, attended a traditional hangi and rode horses on the beach. Now the rest of the family was hooked on travel too.
Another two years passed before we did our first backpacking trip to Singapore and Malaysia. This was followed the next year with Vietnam. On our return a friend introduced me to travel hacking. My whole world was turned on it’s head. I could now find ways to travel for longer and further. Those few meagre frequent flyer points I had earned over the years soon grew exponentially. I met many other travellers and learned more than I ever imagined. We then travelled overseas multiple times, heading back to New Zealand (twice), Dubai (twice), UK, Thailand, Hong Kong, Turkey and Greece.
About eight years ago I started to talk about my urge to travel long term. I decided then that our youngest daughter could not have a year off when she finished high school – both girls would need to stay home and look after the house while Simon and I went on gap year. I joked that we deserved it after all those years of working to pay for their school fees.
Since then we have made it a reality. I left my job at the end beginning of 2017, and Simon had 55 weeks of leave approved. He has been at his job for a long time, and has been able to amass a substantial amount of leave so was luckily paid for most of the time we are away. He also had a job to go back to on our return.
In April 2017 we left Australia for twelve months of backpacking through Europe, the Middle East and Asia. During this year we visited forty countries and experienced so many different aspects of not only the places we visited but long-term travel in general. It was truly life-changing and I am using this blog to share my experiences and knowledge with you.
That, though, is not the end of my journey – in fact it is more like the start. When I left my 9-5 accounting job I did not plan to go back. Not to that job, or any other like it. I planned to become location independent. I can still see us living in Adelaide for the foreseeable future, but I would love to build freedom and options. I was not sure of the path I was going to take yet, but I was so excited to start the ride towards living the dream.
And then, as with all good stories – life threw a curveball. In October 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was very lucky to have found it early, so I did not require chemotherapy or radiation, but I did undergo a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction to hopefully ensure the cancer does not return. Just as I was recovering from the multiple surgeries, the world was changed by Covid-19.
No one could predict that for two years international travel would be impossible for those of us here in Australia. But I believe travel is a mindset, so I explored my city and state just like I would if I was in Europe or Asia. This lead to me building a second blog all about my home state, Exploring South Australia.
Finally, those international borders started to open, and it wasn’t long before I was back on a plane, “enjoying” another 14-hour long-haul flight. It was like my first real trip all over again, to the same destination too, Dubai! The excitement made my stomach flip flop and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
I’ve got plenty more travel planned and I can’t wait to share more of my favourite places and travel tips here on Josie Wanders to help you do the same!
Here’s my bucket list I will be working through over the next couple of years
Fifty Before 50 – A Travel Bucket List