…here’s how I survived three years and 16 countries on £5 a day
A Manchester woman has revealed how she walked out on her life in the UK to travel the world despite having no plans and very little money – and how she managed to travel across 16 countries over three years on a budget of £5 per day.
Erica Pham, 27, felt like her life had hit a dead end after graduating from university and starting work in a nail salon. She explains that, on a whim, she and her boyfriend Terry decided to both quit their jobs, pack up their lives and start travelling the world with no plan, no budget, and no tickets booked.
“We had both talked about our dreams of travelling the world but never made any plans. One night I just said ‘today’s the day’ and we packed everything we had into our little hatchback, quit our jobs and took what little savings we had down to Dover without even booking a ferry”.
Erica and Terry arrived in France at 4 am the same night without having booked a hotel, and spent the next 2 months driving 5,500 miles before scrapping their car in Athens – all while limiting themselves to spending £5 per day.
“We stayed in £3 hostels or made friends along the way who would pay for our meals or let us stay with them – one night we even slept on a train station floor in India surrounded by rats. It actually felt nice to only think about where we would stay that night and not worry about existential things like what I wanted my life to be. We were driving with no direction or plan, we’d just stop when we found something interesting so I could take pictures. When we scrapped our car we gave anything we couldn’t carry to a homeless guy and hopped on a train to an airport with our lives in our backpacks”.
After spending time working and volunteering in India, the couple found their way to Australia with £100 left between them, where they stayed with Terry’s family while they saved up money to get back home.
“We surprised my partner’s dad by arriving in Australia for his 50th Birthday. We were kind of like ‘surprise! We’re staying with you indefinitely because we’ve run out of money'”.
After spending two years in Australia and working in nail salons and as a door-to-door salesperson, Erica found her way back to Manchester during the pandemic where her boyfriend was an essential worker. During this time, she started painting some of the things she’d seen on her travels and found a natural affinity for art.
“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. Each painting tells a story and holds a fond memory for me”.
Erica now works out of an art studio in Manchester where she paints her pieces full time.
Erica Pham is a contemporary creative with a love of exploring the corners of the world and the depths of the soul. An avid daydreamer who chooses to look at the mundane parts of reality and turn them into beauty and joyful expression, mixing up all facets of life’s experiences internally and externally and transforming them into powerful poetry and pretty paintings.