SELLING EVERYTHING TO TRAVEL- MY EXPERIENCE & A GUIDE
In January 2019, I was on the brink of leaving a job, and yet still found myself looking at apartments.
My 2+ year lease on my current flat was ending, and I knew even if I stayed in London, I didn’t want to stay there.
It was a conflicting time- I looked at dozens of flats I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live in.
In the end, I left London.
This post is less about that decision. Deciding to leave the life you know and are likely comfortable in to pursue something unknown will be different for everyone.
Instead, this post is about the process of selling everything to travel.
When I first moved to London, I came with a few suitcases. I didn’t ship anything from the States, opting instead to clean out my NYC apartment- selling a lot and moving a few other things to my parent’s home in Pennsylvania.
Moving into an unfurnished flat in London though meant I acquired a lot in my two and a half years.
Furniture aside, I’d also decorated the flat with art, plants and other homewares because I imagined spending at least a few years there.
In the end, I did spend a few years there, but realised living in London wasn’t bringing me happiness or fulfilling me the same way it had when I first arrived.
How’d I go about selling everything to travel?
Once I made the decision of selling everything travel, it was just a matter of coordinating many, many details.
Tool wise, I used an excel sheet to help me organise what I was selling, offers received, pick-up dates and times, buyer contact info, etc. This sheet also served as a checklist of what I needed to do before I left London (contact my bank, cancel my utility accounts, and so on).
First up: Working out a plan for earning money while travelling
I decided to spend the first few weeks of my travels relaxing and simply sightseeing. Until I took a break from the agency world, I didn’t realise how truly burned out I was. I needed time to focus on bettering myself, developing healthy habits, and honestly, heal.
Before I left though, I had a plan for how to start earning money while on the road.
Enter: Teaching English as a second language digitally with VIPKid.
Before I could start teaching, there was a lot that I had to go through to be accepted by VIPKid, certified to teach several levels, and comfortable doing so.
If you haven’t saved money to cover the first few weeks or months of your travels, and decide to do something like VIPKid, I’d recommend starting several months before you leave.
I’m working on a more detailed post about what teaching and traveling with VIPKid is like, but it takes time not only to be accepted by VIPKid, but also to learn the ropes of their program, build a following of students, take workshops, and really, make it something that works for you.
Next up in my process, selling everything to travel
In some ways, selling everything to travel felt easy. I’ve never been too attached to material things, so selling things like my sofa, bed, dressers, etc. was relatively easy from a parting stance.
Logistically, there were a lot of headaches. Ideally, I’d start this process earlier than I did, giving myself months- not just weeks to sell possessions of an entire flat.
Looking back only a few months ago, I can’t even remember most of what I sold. And, in some ways, I take comfort in knowing I’ve furnished and decorated a flat before and can do so again if I ever need to.
Currently, I have a few things in storage in London but plan on returning to further purge what I really don’t need, and to send things I’m not willing to part with (for example, a t-shirt blanket made of shirts from races I’ve run) to my parent’s home.
Truthfully, I should have shipped the sentimental items home before I left to avoid storage costs, but wasn’t sure how long I’d be travelling or where I’d end up next.
And, as for actually selling everything to travel-
The process of looking at things I owned was generally- sell, donate or throw away.
I ended up selling or donating 90% of what I identified as things I no longer needed.
What did I end up selling to travel?
Everything from major furniture- a bed frame, mattress, two dressers, wardrobe, desk, shoe closet, sofa, armchair, tv stand, tv, table and chairs- to mid-smaller home items- pillows, plants, blankets, rugs, picture frames, decorative pieces, plates, glasses, flatware, small appliances- and to personal items- clothing, purses, shoes.
In London, I used a variety of apps- Facebook Marketplace, GumTree, Shpock, eBay, and got the word out through my personal network (Facebook albums, Instagram stories, email).
Facebook Marketplace was the most successful for me in terms of people interested in buying, and getting the price I wanted.
GumTree and Shpock are more so platforms where people expect to negotiate (viciously, at times).
On eBay, I listed items (mostly clothes, shoes, accessories or small homewares) for auction with a fixed price noted for ‘buy it now’.
A note: I found Shpock users to be less dependable, and show the greatest likelihood for not following through on pick-up/payment. More than once I had to report user accounts for agreeing to buy an item. I did so because when they confirmed they wanted to buy, I’d hold the item / remove my other listings for (per Shpock’s user terms), only to never hear from that person again. I’m sure this happens on other platforms, but I only experienced it on Shpock.
My Top Tips for Listing Items
In the process of selling everything to travel? Then, you know how painstaking it can be to create dozens and dozens of listings.
Take multiple photos of the front, back and side of products. Try to so in good lighting- natural lighting is usually best. Sometimes, overhead or side lighting can cause glares, which don’t make your item look as presentable.
Write a detailed listing– be sure to describe what you’re selling, how much the item has been used, note any issues or flaws with the item, colour nuances, and reiterate specifics on where the item is, whether it’s pick-up only or shipping is offered, and if there’s a ‘sell by’ date.
On Shpock and GumTree, I experimented with their paid offerings.
I found the ad units on Shpock to be helpful in getting my items to surface in the feed, and cheap. GumTree was less successful for me, so I stopped experimenting with paid units there since they cost a bit more. I spent nothing in advertising on Facebook Marketplace and would say that was my most successful platform for selling. If you’re trying to move an entire flat of furniture, it’s likely you’ll need to try a combination of efforts.
I was generally okay with spending a small amount on advertising if it was for a larger item (furniture or an appliance) I knew I’d see a bigger return on.
Another tactic to help your items surface- take advantage of the bump up features available on Facebook and GumTree to let you ‘move up’ your items after a certain amount of time has passed.
In some posts on GumTree and Facebook Marketplace, I also showed multiple items together– offering a deal for buying several at once vs. individually. This worked well with moving pillows and other homewares, like picture frames, plants, plates and glasses.
For pricing items, I’d check what I originally paid and then search sites to see what similar prices were for items like mine. Then, I priced competitively.
Because I was short on time, I priced a bit lower on some items than I would have liked in the interest of getting rid of them before my lease ended. But, if you start the selling process sooner, you should leave yourself enough time to be flexible in what you decide to accept.
And, remember- it’s up to you whether you decide to accept a seller’s offer. There were multiple times I walked away from a deal because I simply wasn’t willing to go as low as what the seller was offering, and felt confident I’d get another offer at the price I wanted to sell for.
At times, I even tried the tactic of letting the seller know I had multiple offers and wouldn’t be willing to accept below a certain amount. Remember, it’s also their decision to make you an offer or find another item.
For mid-larger items like furniture, I started a bit higher than I thought people would pay so I’d be able to ‘discount’ my item 1-2 weeks after listing. Often, discounting in the platforms resurfaces your item near top of feed.
What about items you can’t sell or donate and can’t just throw away?
Google trash / removal collection services and book in advance. Expect to pay a fee for these services, so try to only use them if it’s truly necessary. In my case, a broken dehumidifier is something that warranted proper pick-up (chemical concern), and a rug that was in a truly gross condition and beyond repair.
Arranging Pick-up Of Items
I never delivered items to people– I was firm in pick-up only, or shipping for smaller items (if the buyer paid for it). Beyond making the process easier on me, this also meant people who came to buy one item sometimes saw another and made an offer on that one as well.
A few times, a buyer was interested but unable to pick up the item for a few days or a week. In those case, I asked for a deposit to be paid for me to hold the item. I viewed it as reassurance they wouldn’t change their mind or flake.
So, how’d selling everything to travel actually go?
Did I sell everything I wanted to?
Just about. There are just a few items- photo frames, vases, etc. that I wasn’t able to sell, but the money I would have made off them was minimal in comparison to the larger ticket items so I decided to put them in storage for me to sort out at a later date.
No one can make the decision to sell everything to travel except for you.
Having done it and been traveling for nearly five months now, I can tell you it’s easily one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Living out of a backpack is a topic for another post, but it’s freeing to realise how little you truly need to survive and thrive.
Have you ever sold everything you owned to travel long term? How was your experience?
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