Today, we have an interview with Craig Martin, author of the new ebook Travelling Europe. Craig gave me an advance copy his book–which is full of advice of how to research better, travel smarter and spend less. I loved it. It gives practical, real world advice on how to travel Europe on a budget, and who would know better than Craig and his wife Linda, who have been traveling full time for almost 3 years. Craig and Linda also host the Indie Travel Podcast, covering everything you need to know on independent travel. This week they featured a podcast on Vienna, Austria.
Did you want a free copy? Well Craig has graciously offered a free copy to one of the readers of EuropeString.com. Just post a comment below, give us a shout out and next week we’ll pick a winner to receive a free copy of Travelling Europe.
Craig, I’ve been following your podcast for a long time now, but for those readers who don’t know you, can you tell us about yourself?
Sure. My name’s Craig Martin and I’ve been travelling around the world since February 2006. My wife, Linda, and I are addicted to it now: travel’s become a way of life rather than something to do when you’re not working.
In November 2006 we realised we were learning all sorts of things we had never read about or heard about. Travelling independently isn’t well documented! We decided to start a website on it and, being a geek, I wanted to give podcasting a try. The Indie Travel Podcast started off rough and ready but we have learned a lot since then. We’ve also added articles by guest writers and video podcasts by ourselves and also people who are sending in video from around the world.
I was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand and, probably typically, I like to hike and muck around in boats or in the sea. New Zealand’s far away from everything though, so we knew we didn’t want to just go somewhere for a month. We had a stop-over in Hong Kong then hit Europe. We ended up spending two and a half years there and visited almost every country you don’t need a visa for. We spent two months or more in the UK, Spain, Austria, Italy, Turkey and Malta. We’re trying to warm up again now, so we’re spending this December in Perth, Western Australia. It’s time to save for our travels in the Pacific and then South and Central America in the coming years.
What gave you the idea to set off on this long term adventure?
There’s this Kiwi and Aussie thing called the OE – short for Overseas Experience. Basically it’s normal for us to travel and work overseas for six months to two years. Most people plant themselves in London and never make it out again.
We didn’t want to get stuck in the London trap. We really wanted to do something different and also to really travel, not just set up home in a new city. I guess it’s that culture of travel and the passion for unconventionality which has lead us to travel like this. Now that we’re hooked I’m eyeing up visiting every country in the world. Or perhaps attempting to circumnavigate the world on foot (I’ve even got a route pencilled in). We’re crazy enough, so who knows?!
When it comes to money, it’s a concern for everyone. I know there are lots of ways to finance a trip… how do you make it work?
Finding the funding for travel is no small task, even though travelling is often a cheaper lifestyle than living in most American or European cities. Taking off on this trip wasn’t an easy thing: we spent almost four years killing off our debt then saving to get us started and as an emergency fund.
We tried to do it smartly though. After finishing University we decided to do a TESOL qualification — allowing us to teach English to speakers of other languages in private schools around the world. We worked at home gaining experience and paying off our overdrafts and student loans. We lived simply, but lived well and indulged when we wanted. We travelled through New Zealand and visited Australia and some Pacific islands during that time. And all the time we were dreaming of heading off.
Now that we’re on the road, TESOL is still our major earner. At other times we have worked in call centres and retail shops and started to dip our toes into the travel writing market. It certainly doesn’t pay well though! Most people will make a lot more spending an hour in a classroom than an hour pounding the keyboard.
For someone who is just starting out, what are some of the things they can do to plan a low cost trip?
It’s a difficult topic and one I tried to condense and address in this article. If you’re looking to travel mid- or long-term then simplifying your life now is probably the best thing you can do. If your trip is less than a year away begin to sell off things you don’t use. You really won’t want it when you get home. Trust me. That money’s better off destroying your debt.
Begin getting involved in online traveller’s networks. There are lots around so find one that suits you — I like Matador and Couchsurfing, for example. Start subscribing to travel blogs and posting comments; that way you’ll be able to ask questions when you’re after some advice. Start reading as much as you can: use free resources like the internet and the library rather than spending money on new books. If you know someone who’s travelled invest in taking them out for a drink…and take notes!
If I can be cheeky, I’ll pimp my own sites: the Indie Travel Podcast is focused on independent travel and, since we’ve spent so long in Europe, it’s got lots of great advice. Eurail Stories is all about the Eurail train pass and travelling through Europe by train. I also wrote an ebook on travelling in Europe. I called it…Travelling Europe! It’s a great resource for beginner travellers and it covers things like budget airlines, train passes and accommodation options amongst other things. OK, pimping over.
Now that you’ve traveled through Europe, what are some unexpected things that you loved and what are some areas you’d avoid if you could do it again?
The things I loved are too numerous to count. Almost every day I woke up loving life and looking forward to the day. If I had to pick, two highlights would be visiting Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic and walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
We had just finished a short teaching contract and were looking for a small town to relax in for a week. Cesky Krumlov was recommended so off we went. I just remember sitting outside the Two Marys: sky stained red, a cup of hot mead warding off the night’s chill, the Vlatava River bubbling past us and thinking “life is very good”. Linda and I both started laughing with pure joy. OK, maybe the mead had something to do with it.
The Camino de Santiago de Compostela is a mediaeval pilgrimage concluding in Santiago de Compostela near Spain’s north-west coast. We took a month to walk from Pamplona to Santiago, then onwards to Finisterre and finally Muxia. Life was so simple and so good. Get up and put twenty kilometers behind you then eat, wash and relax in the afternoon heat. The trail community really makes it special though: people are walking for all sorts of reasons but there’s a wonderful cammeraderie and spirit on the trail.
What’s your advice for someone thinking about traveling?
I’d definitely recommend doing it. Go on!
Preparation will save you headaches on the road, so do that well. When it comes to planning an itinerary, however, make sure you have some rest days in there and also plan as loosely as possible. Don’t book 12 months of accommodation before you set foot out the door! At most book the first week or two weeks if you’re really nervous. You’ll need time to find your rythym and get on-the-ground recommendations from travelers. You don’t want to find yourself walled in by your itinerary.
Any final thoughts?
Plenty more, but I think people will soon start getting bored! Europe is a fantastic place to travel through: enjoy it.
Want to order a copy? Travelling Europe is available online.