AN ARTIST has revealed how she impulsively decided to drop everything and travel the world, sometimes living off as little as £5 a day to do it.
Erica Pham, 27, felt like her life had hit a dead end after graduating from university and starting work in a nail salon.
On a whim, she and her boyfriend Terry decided to both quit their jobs, pack up their lives and start travelling with no plan and no tickets booked.
What followed was an adventure through Europe and beyond, taking in 16 countries over a three year period.
Speaking to Sun Online, Erica revealed how she managed to make her journey while spending as little as possible.
She said: “It was not in high season because it was literally at the start of the year. So we were able to find really cheap places, mainly through Airbnb.
“We wouldn’t stay in private places, we’d stay in houses in the middle of a village, where the family still lived there – and we ate dinner with the family.
“We stayed in hostels for £3 pounds and we volunteered as well, and they put us up in exchange for that.”
Initially Erica and Terry set off in their car, a battered old Peugeot, with its engine warning light on the day they left.
The hatchback took them all the way to Athens, where it was eventually scrapped.
While making their way through Europe, the pair learnt how to make the most of the places they were visiting, without damaging their budget.
“If you go to a city, you might get art museums and galleries for free,” said Erica.
“Or you can rent a bike for next to nothing and see an entire city in a day for basically free. But it depends what you want to explore.
“If you’re looking for a specific type of experience, you might have to pay money for that.
“But if all you want to do is just see the culture and what people are like, see what art’s around and things like that, you can do all of that for nothing.”
One of the main factors Erica and Terry had to consider on their travels was eating on the cheap – which meant very few meals out at restaurants.
However, the pair had experience of living frugally at university and managed to not only eat well while keeping within their budget, but also to have a good time too.
Erica said: “We were buying produce from supermarkets, you know, going to Lidls and Aldis.
“We even had, in the back of the car, our own little cooker, so we’d always make our own foods and it would just be like, pasta or just student food.
“Eating cheap doesn’t mean bad food either. It could be fresh vegetables and fruits and bread.
“And you get five litres of wine in the Aldi section – you get this fake-looking barrel that’s made out of plastic and has a tap on it. And it’s three quid for five litres of wine.”
After moving on from Europe, the couple visited both India and Australia before returning to the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The whole experience had a profound effect on Erica, who discovered a passion for art and, in particular, painting.
She has now revisited her journey through her work, which she does from a studio in Manchester.
She said: “I had started sketching while I was in Australia and it snowballed from there once I was back in the UK.
“I was painting all the nooks and crannies where tourists don’t usually go and it made me feel like I was revisiting everywhere I’d been.
“I needed that experience then to inspire me now and make me realise that I could get the fix of stepping out of my comfort zone, putting myself out there. and getting new experiences.
Erica is not the only travel expert to reveal how to get away on the cheap.
These Squeeze Team hacks could help you save on a trip this summer.
Meanwhile, this mum has revealed how she managed a summer holiday this year for less than £2.