April 24, 2024

I’m dreaming of taking a sabbatical to travel – how do I save enough to make it happen?

Alina* is 27 and lives in London where she’s an assistant restaurant manager. She wants to take a sabbatical to travel and needs to plan how much to save to make it happen. This is her money month…

I’m 27 and an assistant manager in a restaurant in London. I was furloughed during the pandemic, but we’ve been back open a few months now and things are pretty much ‘normal’ at work, although staff still wear masks. My job is OK, I kind of ended up doing it rather than having any kind of career path. Customers can be difficult, but mostly I do enjoy dealing with people. But having so much free time to think while I was on furlough made me feel as if I’m wasting my life a bit – do I want to turn 30 and still be working unsociable hours in hospitality?

I really want to take some time out (three months or maybe more if I can afford it) to travel and have some new experiences while I’m still young. A sabbatical might help me figure out what I really want to do with my life too. The more I think about it the more I think I’ll regret it if I don’t at least try to make it happen. Even if it’s just travelling around Europe and not flying too far afield, I just want to get my backpack and go! I know staying in hostels is a good way to keep costs down and meet people.

I live in a house share with three others, I didn’t know them when I moved in but we’ve become friends. If I went away I’d have to give up my room and help find someone else to fill it, but with enough notice I don’t think this would be a problem.

What I need to figure out is: how much do I need in savings to make this trip happen? Is this something I can afford to do in three months, six months, 12 months? Obviously a lot depends on the pandemic, but travel is opening up so much more now. I want to make a savings plan and get ready to go so that even if things get delayed due to Covid I can head off as soon as it’s possible.


Current account: £412
Savings account: £5,336


Annual salary: £27,314 pre-tax; £22,237 post-tax
Monthly wage: £2,276 pre-tax; £1,853 post-tax
Any other incoming payments: £0


Rent: £700
Bills: Around £250 a month
Splurges: I’m really conscious of spending as little as possible at the moment so I can put aside as much as possible for my trip.
Weekly budget: I really need one!


Student loan: £18k left to pay off


My worst money habit: I think I’m OK with money, I’m not that organised with it but I am careful with what I spend.
My biggest money worry: Never earning much more than I do now and struggling to afford to buy property down the line.
My financial hopes for the future: To find a career I enjoy that pays well.
Current money mood: ✈️ 🌍 📅

1. What can you save?
Before you pack your bags or even think about googling ‘How to get into the Berghain’, the most important figure you need is: how much can you realistically save each month? To get there, you’ll need to have a good look at your accounts. The three questions to ask yourself are: can you cut your spending? Can you increase your income? Are you wanting to use any of your current savings towards your trip? You might want to think about a ‘saving sprint’ – going cold turkey on most of the fun stuff for a short amount of time to maximise what you can save.

2. Start planning
With that monthly figure in mind, you can then plan your trip. There are two ways about this – either you think about what your dream trip looks like and then work out how to make it happen and how long to save for, or you set to set an ‘Escape London’ date, take how much you can save in that time and then plan a sabbatical within that budget. Which one you choose all depends on just how strong your itch is to get out of the city (and Covid constraints)! If you choose the first option, you need to list all the experiences you’d like to have and estimate roughly, how much you think that will cost you. Then divide by the amount you can realistically save each month. You might want to do both exercises and then find a happy medium.

3. Stay realistic
Whichever strategy you choose, the key information you need is: trip start date, length and monthly saving target. Remember to build in plenty of room for error and to keep your numbers realistic. Travel always costs at least 10% more than you think it will – suitcases break, things get stolen.

4. Your calling
While the trip sounds like a brilliant way to get some headspace, keep your expectations in check. Yes, travelling will inspire you, but don’t hold out hope that on a train to Rome one day, the clouds will part and reveal your one true calling. Firstly, I’m not sure such a thing exists and secondly, I’m a believer that the best way to work out what you want to do is by doing and also talking.

5. Enjoy the adventure
As you travel, chat to people about their jobs and if you can, why not spend some time in a hostel for remote workers or a coworking space? You can explore career options here in London too. Follow anything that makes you curious, go to events, take courses, message people on Twitter or LinkedIn. It might also be helpful to think about your criteria for work that makes you happy. This This post about the principle of Ikigai might help. Happy travels!

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