Since I began roaming the world, a common question I receive is how I afford to travel, and how it is possible so often. I have been hesitant to answer this for a while due to the different takes people have on travel. Many answer this with a simple, “Anyone can travel!” But I just don’t think that’s true. For one, not everyone wants to travel, therefore the sacrifice involved in budgeting for a trip just isn’t worth it for some, and second, everyone is in a different situation. Some people have work, family, personal, or financial obligations which don’t allow them to travel. I would never make the arrogant statement some make, “Just quit your job and pack a bag!” Not everyone can operate like that. With this MAJOR disclaimer, I do think it is possible for a lot of people who are just making excuses to actually make moves towards traveling abroad. The thing that gets them is one word: sacrifice.
Sacrifices are hard, and not many want to commit to this necessity in order to get out and see the world. Some are too complacent and stuck in the rhythm of life to make this decision. It is not just a one day, passive “Okay, I won’t have my morning Starbucks,” but a 24/7, round the clock, ACTIVE mindset. Once again, I realize that everyone has different situations. Some of these sacrifices might not be possible to make for you, just as I might not be able to make a sacrifice that you CAN make. If traveling is really on the forefront of your mind, you will be able to find things to deem unnecessary. The following however, is just my personal list.
- My phone service.
Everyone laughs at me for this one because I am probably the only person in the whole world with Cricket. Yes, sometimes I do not have the best of service, but I am only paying 60 dollars for unlimited everything, whereas with Verizon, I was paying an upwards of 100 dollars for limited services. You could even take this a step further and get a “dumb” phone. *GASP* No Internet!? That means no Instagram, Facebook… No Tumblr!? And while I have not made this sacrifice, and probably never will, it would definitely take a good chunk away from my monthly expenses. Once upon a time we functioned without constant internet… I’m sure it is still remotely possible to function without being able to like Kim K’s latest selfie.
- I have never made car payments
I currently drive a 1996 Toyota Corolla for which I paid 1,500 cash. It came with 200,000 miles on it, and zero bells or whistles. She was well maintained by the previous owner and gets me from point A to point B just fine. I have heard from friends that car payments are ruining their lives… So, I have concluded to forever stick to these old faithful types.
- Limit your nights out
Nights out can actually just be a metaphor for anything extracurricular you do that costs money. Luckily for me, I don’t have too many expensive hobbies such as shopping, drinking, cars, tattoos, guns. For many people with hobbies though, they would rather continue spending their money here, which is perfectly fine. However, if you are a person who wants to travel, but spends a lot of money on “nights out,” I encourage cutting back on how often you do these things. There are so many fun activities you can do -hiking, climbing, biking, video games- that don’t require you to spend money to hang out with your friends.
- Stop eating out
While this ties to the previous point, this has more to do with cravings to food, which can lead to a serious dent in your bank account. Skip the starbucks and make coffee at home, get comfort food to keep in your fridge, avoid impulse buys when you are standing in check out. All this adds up, and when you can avoid buying food while out, you will save a lot of money.
- Work your ass off
Many travelers I meet bust ass for 8 months straight out of the year. They work long workdays, never take time off, and pick up shifts when they can. They go for a well-deserved break and start it all over again. This is definitely an option, but I don’t work nearly to this extent, mainly because I prefer not to be away from home for so long. However, I do work hard, which could eventually lead to promotions and raises, and I could pick up side jobs to make my time abroad worth it.
- I took my time in college
Unfortunately, taking time off from school, and the idea of community college are both stigmatized ideas in the United States. I have no idea why, because both helped me to achieve my dream of traveling. A lot of Europeans take a break between high school and college. I occasionally took time off from school which made it so that I was able to work more hours, while community college helped me avoid taking out massive student loans.
- Flexibility is key
If you can be flexible on travel locations and dates, DO IT. This will save you on plane tickets, which is sometimes where half of my budget goes. If you can avoid popular destinations and times, such as summer and spring break, Christmas time, or even certain days of the week to depart, it will be your saving grace. Some airports are even cheaper to fly out of or into. Do your research and continuously be on the lookout for price reductions. There are some great websites and apps like Skyscanner, Adioso, and Hopper, my personal favorites, that compare prices and let you be flexible. Hopper is a good app because it predicts if a price will go up or down and whether you should wait on the ticket or buy it immediately. I recommend searching for flights in incognito mode on your browser because tracking cookies make it possible for the price of a flight to go up if it appears you are particularly interested in that location.
- Travel to cheaper countries
I mean, I wouldn’t exactly buy a ticket to Venezuela right now but be open to adventure. If you use common sense, traveling in poorer countries is not as bad as everyone makes it sound. I was spending roughly three to eight dollars per night for Bolivian hostels; and food, activities, and transportation costs were unreal. I have also heard that Southeast Asia is a shoestring budget location. Not only will you save money by going to these areas, but you will have way more stories to tell.
- Learn the culture
Once you arrive to your destination of choice, it is important to get a grasp on the culture to see where you can cut corners. For example, hitchhiking is common in many countries. There ya go, free transportation, as long as you are patient, and follow your gut instincts. A word of advice: don’t hitchhike at night, and make sure you are choosing worthy characters to ride with; families are usually a good choice. As a girl, I have only done this a handful of times, and only in specific circumstances. Uber is cheaper than taxi and figuring out the country’s bus system can be helpful. Couchsurfing is popular in Europe, but I have also had friends tell me it is fairly safe in South America. Hostels are cheap and a good way to make friends. They usually have kitchens, and making your own food is cheaper than buying it, in most places.
Also, learn how to barter. You can use this for almost anything, from transportation to accommodation. Learning the language or getting a grasp on basic survival sentences can aid in making sure you don’t get ripped off as well.
- Keep your travel friends
You will meet people from all over the world on your adventures. Stay in touch with them. You never know when you are going to be in their country.
I volunteered teaching English for the first month I was in Colombia, and while I still had to pay to get there, through a site called workaway, I was able to get free accommodation once I arrived. I was able to experience the country, culture, and language with no change in my pockets. To become a member on workaway, you must pay a one-time fee of 20 dollars and VOILA, you are now able to search for opportunities in any country in the world, in any field of work you’d like. In exchange for your labor, the receiving party grants you food and accommodation.
- Be money conscientious
In general, knowing where your money is going is a good tip. Whether it is saving up for your trip, creating a budget, and finally sticking to it once you arrive, every single step is important. These steps are often hard for me though, and I certainly don’t follow them religiously, but I do find it easier when I can bring the value of things into perspective. “A six-dollar Jamba Juice? That’s a night’s stay in Bolivia. A 30-dollar dress? That’s a week’s groceries in Panama.”
Traveling changes your life and the way you look at things. I encourage you to follow through with a strict plan if your heart really lies in travel and I hope these tips will help you get to where you have always dreamed of being. If you have any questions, pointers, or corrections, send me a message through here or DM me on Instagram @seriously_summer