From Europe To Myanmar: A Life Update
Updated on January 24th, 2020
As I sit down and write this post it has been exactly one year since I left Australia for Europe. Now, travel isn’t something new to me. As most of my adult life has been spent living, working and travelling overseas.
However, reaching this year mark does make me sit back and think. Did I ever think I would be in Myanmar writing this? Nope. But is it a surprise? Also, no. I have come to accept my life as a giant ride of unknown events. As I live my life with very few future plans, that leaves me open to new experiences and opportunities.
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What happened this past year?
The last 12 months of travelling stemmed from Ben and I living and working on the incredible Lizard Island. Which is where we met, awwww. I had been there for almost a year and Ben closer to 1.5 years. Now, for anyone who has worked in a remote place, you’ll know that is a long time. Although we had amazing adventures and wonderful friends it was time to move on.
We decided to pack our bags and go travelling in Europe for a year. With the only real plan to work in a ski resort in the Alps over winter. If you want to read about the first 6 months, this post dives into the highlights and lowlights of 6 months abroad.
If you have been following along on the journey, you will know we didn’t end up a ski resort in the Alps, but Jasna Ski Resort in Slovakia. That was the first of 9 volunteer programs we did during the trip. Some good, others great and a couple much below average.
In total, we visited 16 countries in Europe and had a 4-day stopover in Bangkok before spending a month in Australia. Making that a total of 19 countries in the past 12 months, including Myanmar.
All about the volunteer programs
There are two volunteer programs I am apart of, Workaway and Worldpackers. Both of them have their individual perks. I love having a couple of options to see what opportunities are out there and the membership for a year is really cheap when you consider how much you will be saving.
By exchanging 4-5 hours of work a day 5 days a week we were able to get free accommodation and food. We did this for around 31 weeks of our travels.
Assuming we would have spend $40 AUD a night on accommodation that saved us almost $9,000!!! Not to mention food costs.
This is such a great way of travelling because not only it saves on costs, but you get the chance to live with locals and become part of the community.
Worldpackers is a smaller but more personal organisation and growing rapidly with the increase in this type of travel. With over 5,000 hosts around the world, there is sure to be something for you. Worldpackers offers mostly hostel help positions which makes it perfect for the solo traveller looking to meet others or people interested in learning a new language.
You can grab an annual membership for just $29 USD which is $20 off the regular price if you use promo code CURIOUSLYERIN at checkout or click the banner below.
The two things I love most about Worldpackers is they verify all of their hosts to ensure you are going into a safe program. If for some reason the host is not living up to their profile they will help you find another host or pay for up to 3 nights accommodation in a nearby hostel. Having done programs myself where I have left or wanted to leave this is a nice insurance policy.
Workaway has a much larger selection of hosts (at least in Europe) but memberships are more expensive and as there are also more members competition is high. When signing up for Workaway make sure you complete your profile and send individual messages to hosts to increase your chances of receiving a response. Find out more about Workaway and why you should sign up. Annual memberships are $42 USD.
How we moved around
Funnily enough, this question gets asked to us the most. Travel throughout Europe is very easy. Especially from city to city. We mostly travelled by bus. Buses are cheap and frequent. While trains are more comfortable and nice because you can move around, we found them to be significantly more expensive.
We didn’t take a single internal flight. You can definitely find cheap flights in Europe, especially in the west and could be well worth looking into if you are skipping over countries. Although we mostly moved between neighbouring countries. The two exceptions were when we travelled from Poland to Croatia and then from Albania to Slovenia. The worst of these was the latter, 1 2-hour bus and 2x 10-hour trains. Eek. We were over it by the time we arrived in Ljubliana.
We also hired cars in a few places to go on day trips. If you search around you can get some really great deals. The last 3 weeks of our trip we hired a car in Italy for $119 AUD through Holiday Autos. It would have cost us a lot more to get buses than what we paid for hire and fuel.
The overall highlights
So obviously this is the most asked question. We loved Montenegro! The country is so beautiful and there is so much to explore. There are places to hike wherever you go in the country. We spent 7 weeks living in Lake Skadar National Park doing a Workaway at an activity centre and guest house. Lake Skadar is Montenegro’s wine country and compared with places on the coast and Kotor, it barely gets any visitors. Durmitor National Park in the north was one of our favourite places to visit within Montenegro.
It’s hard to pick a favourite because everything had its perks for different reasons. Hiking in Switzerland and the Italian alps was up there for me. As was Cappadocia in Turkey. The scenery is nothing like I have ever seen before. We also loved Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia. Ben’s bucket list destination was Slovenia and it did not disappoint. We lived right across the road from the beautiful Lake Bohinj.
What we didn’t like
There was nothing that stands out as bad. However, we found the people in Slovakia to be very rude (not all – sorry to my lovely Slovak friends), but overall the locals were not very hospitable. We also got sick of the same foods. We didn’t realise how lucky we were in Australia to have such a wide range of restaurants and fresh produce available to us.
Lastly, it was probably a bit too long. By our last month overseas, both of us were ready to go home. So much so that we even looked at changing our tickets, but the cost wasn’t worth it.
Ben started applying for jobs with about a month until we returned home as his field as a marine biologist is very competitive. Yet, the first job he applied for he got, which is the one in Myanmar. Ben will be working as a marine field coordinator in Myeik which is the northern part of the Mergui archipelago. This area has 800 islands, many of which have not been explored by foreigners.
Myeik itself only opened up to foreigners in the last few years, so there aren’t many expats or foreigners here at all. We’re hoping enough people will speak English though so we can make some local friends.
What I will be doing
I’m currently in the process of applying to teach English online. I knew it was highly likely we would end up in an area where it might be hard for me to find a regular job so I completed my TEFL certificate earlier in the year. The wonderful team at The TEFL Academy are offering 50% to my readers for their online course. This is the exact course I did so if you have any questions about it, let me know, I’m more than happy to help 🙂
I’m also going to be working a lot more on my blog. I have loved this blogging journey but feel I didn’t have a lot of time to dedicate to it overseas. Now, I plan on running it more like a business with set hours. Is there anything you would like to see featured on Curiously Erin? Let me know in the comments below. Specifically towards Eastern Europe, budget travel or becoming an expat.
There are some other projects I will be working on, which I am very excited about sharing with you soon.
I want to hear from you
This blog is all about creating and sharing content that will help you travel more and feel confident to take the leap to live a life overseas. Wherever over the seas might be for you. What would you like me to create for you?