“We decided we needed a change - that change had to include freedom and adventure,” says Harriet Evans, 28. Together with her boyfriend Josh, 25, they quit their jobs, bought a van and set off around Europe. “For months, we wondered if it was the right thing to do but it’s hands down the best decision we’ve ever made.”

Saving up for travelling

Harriet and Josh met six years ago through working for a children’s activity centre in Surrey called PGL. As part of their jobs as instructors and programme directors, food and accommodation was provided on site so they were able to save lots of their salary. But they still worked two jobs each from January this year, through to May - Harriet as a cleaner in a gym and Josh delivering pizzas.

“We worked as hard as we could and spent as little as possible,” she says. “We bought ourselves a VW Transporter van and converted it ourselves into our very own campervan - that was a big chunk of money and then we saved for all the everyday costs such as fuel and food.”

The view from their van in Switzerland

As part of their preparations, Josh started thinking about how they’d pay for everything while travelling. “I hadn’t really thought about it, but Josh rightly said that we needed to get better bank cards. He found Starling online and honestly it’s been one of the most helpful things we’ve had,” she says. “Starling is the perfect bank for us.” Unlike most high street banks, Starling doesn’t charge customers for using their card or withdrawing cash abroad.

“Applying for an account was so easy; our cards arrived promptly and the app was so simple to set up and use. We started to use our accounts straight away using Starling Goals to allocate money to different things we were saving for. It was great to see where all our money was and how far away we were from our targets - having this visual was so helpful.”

Setting a deadline

Going travelling is something that many people dream about. And procrastinate over. “We set ourselves the deadline of the 7th of May 2019 and booked our ferry from Dover to Dunkirk, where we would begin our six month road trip.”

Since then, they’ve visited Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Hungary, Montenegro, Slovenia and Italy.

Travelling with Starling

“Having Starling really is a weight off our minds - we can withdraw cash without charges and also receive the best conversion rates, pay for things without charges and control our spending with the Starling app. It’s hassle free, which fits in with the lifestyle we’ve always craved.”

Hiking in Lake Garda

Harriet and Josh set up a Starling joint account to pay for fuel together. For everything else, they pay using their personal Starling cards and if they owe each other money, they use the Settle Up feature. “The notifications of what we’ve spent in both currencies and where, also puts your mind at ease.” Every time a customer uses Starling abroad, they receive an instant notification showing what they spent in pounds and how much it cost in the local currency.

Highs and lows

So far, highlights of their trip include kayaking on Lake Bled in Slovenia, hiking to see Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, driving the Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria and visiting the National Parks in Croatia. “We met a British couple in the Czech Republic at a campsite and we found so much common ground. We only spent one evening with them, but we felt like we’d known them forever. We decided to meet up again in Croatia and again in Switzerland. It’s great to have other people out there to ask for help or speak to about the ups and downs.”

Kayaking on Lake Bled on the morning of Harriet’s birthday

Travelling is full of highs and lows. When they were in Italy, the van broke down, which meant they had to come back to Britain. “It’s something you don’t expect to happen, even though you do prepare for it when you arrange the breakdown cover. You just have to get over it and carry on.”

But every cloud has a silver lining - they were home for a family birthday and they’ve saved an expensive ferry fare to Greece. Once it’s fixed, they’ll go to Spain first and travel across to Greece overland.

It seems that Harriet and Josh have caught the travel bug. After this trip, their aim is to buy a larger van, convert it and see more of the world. Canada, America and New Zealand are among the top countries on their bucket lists. “We’ll take Starling with us too.”

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