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Hotspot report

Two years’ travelling with no fixed plan – here’s how it works

Switzerland, 15/01/2018 by Céline Neuenschwander

Further education or round-the-world trip? Thomas Bardellini chose the latter; the now 29-year-old went traveling for almost two years. In this interview, Thomas reveals how he prepared for his adventure, which mistakes he would now be able to avoid making, and how he presents this “gap” in his resume. More of Thomas’ travel tips can be found on his blog: www.travelguide.ch.

Hi Thomas! Where did your round-the-world-trip take you, and how long were you traveling?

I visited around 20 countries in 22 months. I traveled in Asia, Australia and South America.


What made you decide to go on this adventure?

It’s simple, really: a round-the-world-trip was always a childhood dream of mine, one which I was able to make a reality. I often went on trips abroad with my family even as a child, but I had always wanted the feeling of freedom of a round-the-world-trip with no fixed plan. And no, I wasn’t running away from anything.


What kind of provisions did you make in terms of insurance and security?

Firstly, I obviously saved up for a long time. I never moved out of the family home, instead I set aside as much money as I could. I managed to save up around CHF 20,000 per year. Secondly, I had to notify insurance companies, banks and the authorities. And here, Soliswiss was a huge help. Among other things, Soliswiss gave me the valuable advice that I should continue paying AHV [Swiss old-age and survivors’ insurance]. In terms of the travel route, I quickly threw any plans out the window. I bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok and booked the first three nights’ accommodation in advance. After that, the trip continued completely off-the-cuff.


How much did it cost and how did you finance it?

The trip cost me CHF 53,851 in total. While I was traveling, I helped out at a hostel in Luang Prabang (Editor’s note: Laos) for a while, working on their website in return for board and lodging. Apart for that, fortunately I never had to work during my trip and instead lived off the money I’d saved. Most employment for backpackers is illicit, which seemed too much of a risk to me.


Did you end up in any precarious situations while you were traveling?

The worst thing that happened to me was having two pairs of shoes stolen. Apart from that, I was actually very fortunate. The biggest problems I encountered were with Swiss banks. About three months into my trip, the bank I was with at the time closed all my accounts. After numerous attempts to clarify the situation with the bank and the Swiss Embassy, we were able to find a solution. This saga was the biggest problem of my trip.


What did you miss most about Switzerland, and what did you miss least?

I missed my family and friends the most, and all the activities with my own social circle – which I only experienced as an outsider when I was away. That made the first few months quite difficult. Apart from that, at some point I started missing the food and the fact you can just drink straight from the faucet. Was there anything I didn’t miss at all? No, not really. I left on a good note and wasn’t running away from anything.


How would you define “home”?

Good question! Home for me is my family and friends. During my trip, at some point I got so overwhelmed by all the experiences that I started to take more time, travel at a slower pace and interact more with the places and the people. And then after a certain amount of time away, I asked myself: what shall I do now? After a while, I’d seen everything I wanted to see. That’s when I decided to come home. Back to family and friends.


How did you find settling back into “normal” life?

In terms of a job, it worked out perfectly. While I was on my travels I got offered a job starting just three weeks after I got back. But it took about half a year until I really felt I’d completely re-settled at home. A lot changes when you’re on a long trip, and you change, too! I had to get used to different structures again, which takes time. The new job helped me to settle back into “normal” life again.


Did you ever get lonely while traveling?

Yes, of course, there were always moments of loneliness. In Myanmar, for example, there were often moments when I felt lonely, and I spent a lot of time alone. You can’t expect to go away on a round-the-world trip on your own and never get lonely. How you deal with it is different for everyone. Even if I was alone for a while, I made the most out of the time and had fun. There were also times when I consciously took time out, away from the other backpackers.


When and why did you make the decision to come back to Switzerland?

As trivial as it sounds, after 22 months I just wanted to go home. There comes a point when you’ve had your fill of beautiful beaches, waterfalls and national parks. For me it wasn’t that I had to go home, but more that I could go home.


Training, study, internships – lots of people our age would like to go traveling but are prioritizing other things like internships or volunteer work. Are you worried you’ll have a gap in your resume?

Yeah, I know the concern. But is traveling really a gap? I think it depends what you make of it. For someone who spends the whole time drinking and partying, then yeah, it’s probably a gap. If you can say you spent this time getting to know foreign cultures, significantly growing as a person, then it obviously isn’t. I refer to my round-the-world trip clearly in my resume. World travel is a kind of school for life. If an HR person sees that differently, then working for that particular company is not for me. I encourage everyone to take this step. And if you market your travels as gaining experience in the school for life, you really shouldn’t have any problem with a resume “gap”.


And what about now? Any new travel plans? What’s next?

So far, I haven’t got any big trips planned. Of course, I still enjoy traveling, but I’ve ticked off my dream of taking a round-the-world trip, so now I’ve got other priorities. After all the many trips I’ve done, traveling for the sake of it is also no real challenge for me anymore.

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