You don’t have to be a traveling therapist to take extended time off to travel the world. Meet Julie Fechter, a speech-language pathologist who recently took a one-year long gap year from employment to travel the world full time! She started in Hawaii and moved west through the Pacific Islands, Australia, South-East Asia, Africa, and ended in Europe. You can follow her year of adventures on her Instagram She has the most beautiful pictures!
While Julie is back home in Seattle now, her travels are definitely not over. Among other travelers, in January 2019 she is coming to visit me in Oahu. Julie + Julia: this sounds like a movie or something.
What inspired you to take a year off and travel the world?
I met a man who had just taken three months off from work and stayed with me for a week in Seattle. He broke my heart later (long story), but it was really his trip that inspired me! Into the Wild also inspired me to start solo traveling when I was 21 years old. It still resonates with me to this day.
You went SO many places-what were your favorite places and why?
Sri Lanka. The people, the food, the low cost, the things to do. You could surf one day and climb 1800 steps to the top of a huge rock in the middle of nowhere the next.
Tonga had my favorite activity: swimming with humpback whales. Undoubtedly the best days of my life so far.
Vietnam. The people, the fresh street food, riding around on a motorbike in Ninh Binh with two Germans, sigh.
How did you budget for the trip?
I looked at a lot of blogs. I’d been to South East Asia and Europe before, so I used that as a basis for part of my trip. I also looked at a bunch of places on Airbnb (I hate sleeping in dorms and private rooms at hostels were too expensive). I just figured $20-ish a day in South East Asia, $30-ish in the South Pacific, $75-ish in Australia, and $30-40 in Europe.
How did you decide how much money you needed to save for it? How did you decide how much you were going to spend daily/weekly when you were traveling?
I multiplied all the days I wanted to be gone times the budgeted amounts plus airfare and bus rides. I got a bunch of free plane tickets[miles/points], so I didn’t have to spend too much traveling from place to place. I decided what I’d spend weekly based on how much it would cost. I was willing to work for 1.5 years to save for this trip, but I ended up doing it in only 6 months (but didn’t save as much as I’d have liked.
What kind of work did you do as an SLP to save money?
I had a “full-time” job that wasn’t actually full time. I work in SNFs, so I worked PRN for 4 companies plus my job. I worked 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week when I was in Seattle. I’m sure you could make more money taking a contract in a high-paying state, but I still had to do Airbnb and live my normal life.
Did you do any side jobs outside of SLP work to make money?
Just Airbnb! Nothing else I could do would make me as much money, to be honest. I rented out my house as much as possible on Airbnb for those six months. It is exhausting in the summer!
What expenses did you cut back on at home that helped you save money?
Here’s where you find out how much of a pampered princess I am: I shaved my head to avoid dyeing my hair blonde, I stopped getting my nails done, I stopped getting my eyelash extensions, I stopped going out to eat, and I stopped doing expensive things with friends. I didn’t stop traveling through. I went to Disneyland, California multiple times, Utah two times, and Aruba while I was trying to save money.
Did anything come up during your trip that you didn’t plan for that set you back?
Ugh, I had to pay for my IUD I got right before I left so I didn’t have to try to get a year’s worth of birth control, and it ended up being $1100. And I had a $7500 balcony expense back home. And I had some medical expenses (I was bitten by a monkey and other various things).
And then I decided I just wanted to do ONE big thing in countries: swimming with the whales, helicopter ride around Uluru in Australia, hot air balloon ride in Bagan, riding a camel around the pyramids, swimming in the dead sea, cruise around Halong Bay, visiting an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia, etc. Those were unexpected. I’ll never forget them.
Was it hard to get a SLP job when you came home?
Nope! I literally texted an ex boss, and I had a job the first day I was back in the states. She needed me for a month, which gave me enough time to get a full-time job.
Did you feel like your clinical skills decreased at all because you didn’t work for over a year?
A little bit. I kept up with Facebook groups and do feel like I improved as a clinician because of things I learned. But, for example, choosing which exercises to do based on impairments on an modified barium swallow study were more difficult.
Any other advice for clinicians who are thinking of doing something similar?
It’s stressful. It’s exhausting. It’s lonely. BUT IT WAS AMAZING. If you can, do it.
Do your vacation however you’d like to do it. Honestly, I watched a lot of Netflix lying in bed at night. I don’t like going out to drink, and it’s kind of expensive. If I didn’t go on a date, which I did a lot of, I just relaxed. And after spending all day, every day, around people, relaxing by myself was fantastic. Some people judged me and thought it was weird. “Why are you watching TV in Croatia?” Well, I spent the day out in public and spent a lot of nights out on dates with men.
Thanks to Julie for this amazing interview! For more on Julie, definitely check out her private practice in Seattle Sound Speech and Swallowing and her Instagram.