Travelling around the world is an expensive business, especially if you plan to travel long term, or even indefinitely. There is no doubt about that and no point in pretending otherwise. The flights, the accommodation, the lack of or at best intermittent work, all these things and more add up to an expensive bill and not much income – if any – to cover it.
It’s not easy, but it can be done!
I have travelled the world for over a decade now, sometimes as a full time nomad, other times on a full gap year and even on a series of shorter gap years. I haven’t won the lottery (unfortunately), I don’t have a trust fund from mummy and daddy and I certainly haven’t been on a bank robbing spree that has somehow miraculously escaped the eyes of the law and the media (as far as anyone knows, anyway!) Yet despite these supposed handicaps I can still afford to travel whenever, wherever and for however long I like.
The big secret is, there is absolutely nothing special about me, and there is nothing stopping you from doing the exact same thing!
So how then do so many people set off on their very own round the world adventures every day? Much less travel the world constantly for years at a time? How can you afford to do the same?
It’s easy! Well, in theory anyway. You simply have to utilise some of the same tried and tested techniques many of us long term travellers have been using for a long time.
Yes, it really is that simple. Save up. No one can travel long term without at least some kind of safety net. It isn’t always easy I grant you, and there are no quick fixes (bar the obvious examples mentioned above of course), but it is possible. It doesn’t matter how much you earn or how long it takes you, you can put something away every week or every month and sooner or later you will have a good lump sum to sustain you when you are on the road. The more you have, the longer you can stay out there.
Closely linked to your savings is the notion of sacrifice, and in my experience this is the one thing so many people don’t do. They allow themselves to throw up a barrier to having a decent travel fund in their savings account by simply not cutting back on things they don’t really need.
The fact is – no matter how unpopular it may be – you really can’t have your cake and eat it. If you want to travel, you have to make it a priority, and that will – unless you have a winning lottery ticket you aren’t telling anyone about – mean making sacrifices elsewhere.
You may have to give up those ultra expensive nights out every weekend, you may have to give up those DVD splurges when you are shopping online and you may have to give up those expensive coffees and posh sandwiches at lunch, but if you really want to travel – and my guess is if you are reading this you do – then these little things won’t mean much when you think of what you are getting. Just keep in the back of your mind that the money you have just spent on that foot long sandwich will pay for a beach hut in south east Asia or a hostel in India. It brings things into perspective, doesn’t it?
Okay, so it’s going to take a little bit of time to save up the money you need to travel for a full gap year or longer, so why not take advantage of that fact and let everyone you know to give you cash or something related to that for your birthday and Christmas? (Hell, backpacks and annual insurance packages are expensive but make great presents, and vouchers for STA or wherever you are buying your flight from will always come in handy!)
Unburden yourself of debt and possessions.
This one is common sense really. If you want to be travelling full time you aren’t going to need a lot of stuff and you certainly aren’t going to want to be burdened with debt, so get rid of both. Pay off any debt and sell the stuff you don’t need any more, eBay is your new best friend!
Think of what you can save compared to being at home.
Just stop and think for a minute how much you are actually spending at the moment. Rent, bills, petrol or transport costs, the list of everyday expenses never really ends does it? Just being at home seems to be an endless black hole that sucks all your money into it, and you are simply working every single day to keep feeding that black hole!
When you are travelling, all of that is gone!
Okay, you still have expenses, of course you do, but they won’t be anything compared to what you are paying now for your mortgage, rent and other bills, especially if you are travelling in the cheaper parts of the world. It may seem like a simple point, but once you wrap your head around this paradigm you will realise that you don’t actually have to work as hard or earn nearly as much as you do now to be able to sustain a travel lifestyle.
Put simply, it can sometimes be a lot cheaper to travel the world than living at home!
Earn money while you travel.
It doesn’t matter how much you manage to save before you set off, if you want to travel for the extreme long term or even indefinitely then your savings will start to dwindle eventually. That means you will have to find some way of earning a bit of cash as you travel. Don’t worry, it isn’t really as hard as it sounds and there are so many ways and means of doing so there is something out there for everyone. You can for example;
- Work in the travel industry: Working on a cruise ship or as an air steward for example are great ways to get paid to travel. Depending on your skill sets and where you want to travel there are so many options in the hospitality industry that this can be a serious option for many of you.
- Work abroad: This is slightly different to getting a job that allows you to travel, in that this is getting a job in the place you happen to be in. Professionals in certain fields find this very easy as in many countries the only barrier for nurses, doctors, au pairs or teachers for example is paying that extra few dollars for a working holiday visa or equivalent in the countries they are in as they are often very much in demand in demand in many countries. But don’t assume that it is only professionals who can do this. A great many travellers find work in the service industries such as bars or restaurants, get jobs in hostels or get minimal qualifications such as a TEFL to teach English abroad. The options here are literally endless. It is basically a case of finding work you can do, where you can and when you can for as long as you need to do it.
- Use your own skills: This is essentially the other side of the coin to getting a paid job. If you can think outside of the box a little there are so many amazing ways to earn a little cash (or even work for food and accommodation) by utilising your innate skills and talents. Everyone is good at something (no, not you guitar guy! Put it down, no one likes you!) And it is literally a case of finding what you are good at and figuring out how to make an income off it. Are you a hairdresser or can you cut hair? Then why not tout for business in hostels? Have you taken a massage course or gained any qualifications in that yoga retreat you spent six months in? Then get a few interested people together and teach a class! So many people essentially become their own little mobile business when on the road. I personally – given the fact that I have trained in martial arts since childhood and taught classes as home – taught a few self defence lessons from time to time, not often but enough to put a bit of extra cash in my pocket when I needed it. Utilising your own skills is also a great way to work exchange for food and accommodation instead of getting paid directly.
- Be location independent: If you have a talent for writing or graphic design, own or run a website, work as a translator over the phone or online or work in IT as a programmer, or in fact work in any field where you can essentially work from a laptop, then you have the ultimate work from home scenario in the making. The difference is your ‘home’ will just happen to be a tropical beach with a mango juice and a hammock instead of your living room with your slippers and a fat cat hogging the comfy spot on the couch. If you have an employer this may take a little negotiating, but it can be done. If you don’t and you rely on freelance work anyway, then what’s stopping you?
- Have a passive income: No, this isn’t getting your credit card bills paid by mummy and daddy every month. A passive income is essentially money coming in from something you have set up but no longer have to do any (or much) work on, and there are ways you can build a whole diverse range of passive income streams to give yourself an income when travelling. Travel blogging can be one of those ways. A lot of half truths and romanticism is involved with the myth of ‘start a personal blog about your travels and the money will roll in’. It doesn’t happen. At all. Not like that anyway. But saying that if you put in the hard work and treat your website professionally and as a business, it is possible. If you had a mortgage and a house before you left then rent it out, that is a great way to receive a steady bit of cash plus you will still have your property when you come back home too. There really are many different ways of doing this if you are creative enough.
Travel doesn’t HAVE to be full time!
Travelling long term is great, it really is, but it is by far from the only way to travel. Look around the internet or do a quick search and you will very quickly come across thousands of sites all proclaiming that you should ‘quit your job and travel the world’!
For some people it is absolutely the right option, and many go on to travel long term or even indefinitely and fund their travels by any combination of the above examples and more. That’s great, for them.
But what about those of us with careers? Or those who simply just want to break up their travels by coming home and saving up for a bit? Then that is all good too! Travel really doesn’t have to be full time, you can work for a bit and save up, travel for a bit, come home and work some more and save up some more money and then set off again, and just keep doing that on a constant cycle for as long as you need or want to.
This is exactly how I travel now. I have taken full gap years and travelled long term, but now I am a nurse I simply travel whenever I like, then come home for a while and work then I travel again. I am walking proof that you can build and maintain a decent career whilst travelling the world as much as you like too!
This list is far from extensive, but are just some of the ways you can afford to travel indefinitely or save up and fund your very own gap year. What about you? Did you do any of these or did you do anything different to fund your own travels? Let me know!
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