I get asked this a lot. There is often an assumption that you need to be rich to travel the world, or that you need to be of a certain background to be able to throw some things in a pack and travel somewhere new. This is ridiculous. The fact is none of this is true at all. Anyone can travel the world if they want to and they certainly don’t need to be rich to do it.
I have travelled the world for 15 years now, and I constantly get asked how I can afford it. Many people assume that I am rich or I have won the lottery somehow. They think that I have a huge inheritance or have somehow managed to do it all on ‘mummy and daddy’s’ credit card. There have even on occasion been ridiculous accusations of ‘white privilege’, as if somehow my race has given me a magical advantage and a get out of jail free card of not needing money to do things I want to do.
None of this is true. The fact is there is nothing special about me. I haven’t won the lottery and I’m not rich.
I grew up in a fairly average working class background. Both my mum and dad worked hard to provide for our family when I was growing up and I was technically one of those ‘latch key kids’ that sociologists and the media used to love blaming the ills of society on. It never had any negative effect on me, in fact I’d say it did the exact opposite. I knew my parents were working hard for me and it taught me independence whilst making me appreciate them at the same time. We never had much, but it didn’t really matter.
I have had a full smorgasbord of part time and full time jobs at different times through my life whilst going through college and gaining my degrees. Both of them. The same really poor, minimum wage crappy jobs that everyone else has to put up with. I didn’t really have a choice. There was no free education or a free ride for me, I had to earn my way. I paid my full tuition, paid my bills and saved hard to put money into my travel fund.
It wasn’t easy, but it was something I wanted so I worked hard to get it. The same is true now. I may have clawed my way up the career ladder a bit and I’m definitely earning more now than I was working behind all those crappy bars and on those nightclub doors when I was at uni, but I still work hard. I still have the same bills and responsibilities that everyone else has while I’m working. All that means to me now I’m earning more in a good career is that I can reach my saving goals a little easier and travel for a little longer.
You know what I am? I’m average. Plain and simple. Nothing special. But I work damn hard to get what I want.
And that is exactly how I manage to travel so much.
I work hard, I save, and I make travel a priority.
There’s no magic formula. No secret. No special ‘privilege’ that allows me to travel any more than anyone else. I just know what I want, make it a priority and work damn hard to get it.
There are always going to be exceptions to this rule of course, extreme poverty and certain experiences (such as some long term illnesses, having an unexpected family) will throw up extra barriers or challenges to the dream of world travel, but very few close off the opportunity completely. In general anyone can do what I do. And here is exactly how they can do it.
Decide what you want.
Look, I’m not saying travel is for everyone here. Many people don’t want to travel the world and are happy with the 9 – 5, the 2.4 kids and the little picket fence. That is fine. As much as I will never understand that it is what they want and that’s grand for them. However, if world travel is a dream of yours, then you have to commit to that if you want it to happen. And I mean really commit.
If you decide what you want, make it a life goal and fight tooth and nail to achieve it, then you will!
Make your dream a priority.
Once you know what you want, you have to make it a priority at the expense of everything else.
Remember what it is that you really want?
Is it that fancy low fat, mocha, crappy vanilla grande latte with soy milk and chocolate sprinkles every morning? Or is it spending your time hopping from one tropical island to the next or immersing yourself in a whole new culture and seeing some of the worlds amazing wonders?
I knew a lot of people growing up who would blow all their cash on ridiculous things like smoking, alcohol or going out every weekend to those endless money pits called clubs with drinks that cost more than a beach hut on a tropical island for a night. Then those very same people turned round to me before I left on another trip and questioned how I could afford it! The same thing again with those friends who were out buying the new must have clothes every weekend or constantly ordering the latest stack of DVDs from Amazon.
I know what you are saying, those things are what makes life fun, right? Well, to an extent. There’s nothing wrong with doing any of that at all, but if you want to travel the world, especially if you want to do it long term, then you have to make sacrifices.
I have turned down going on many nights out with friends, and I’m sure they had a great time. I don’t indulge in the ridiculous and moronic habit of smoking. I rarely drink alcohol. I don’t splurge on the fanciest brands.
I’d much rather spend my money on experiences.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you have to live like a frugal monk. I do go on the occasional night out. I get the occasional takeaway and splurge on the occasional DVD. The key word there, in case you haven’t guessed, is occassional. As in on occasion, from time to time, every now and then. What I’m saying is you have to make a decision on what your priorities are and devote the majority of your resources to that.
Yes concentrating on one thing as a priority does mean sacrifices in other areas. But look what you are achieving in return!
Work hard to achieve your goals.
That really is all it takes. The big secret to my being able to afford to travel the world so much.
I save up. As much as I can as often as I can.
Now I don’t find this too hard, probably because I am so used to it and I am saving for things that I want (usually the next airline flash sale). But working full time for a period and then spending the rest of the year (or more) travelling isn’t exactly a difficult reason to motivate myself either. So if world travel is your goal, then what’s stopping you? Do whatever you need to do to make that happen. Work, save, sell all the crap you don’t need anymore and is just collecting dust.
There is no big secret, no Tony Robbins style guru twelve step programme to buy into. Anyone can do this.
IF THEY WANT TO.
When you do all of this, you will find your travel goals are not only achievable, you will be well on your way to making them a reality.
So now that you have saved up all your money, bought your plane ticket and are setting off on your gap year, how can you make your budget stretch to keep you on the road for longer? It isn’t as difficult as it looks.
This should go without saying really but budgeting well means the difference between travelling for a long time comfortably and having to come home early because you’ve blown all your cash.
Budgeting well on your gap year (or long term travel) will mean a little planning, it will mean a little bit of forethought, but that isn’t hard and it means you can stretch out your travels.
I’m living proof you don’t need a lot to travel the world, you just have to use what you have effectively.
It is also important to remember that budgeting well doesn’t always mean that you have to sacrifice doing everything you want to do or travel on an extreme budget either, in fact upgrading to flashpacker status once in a while, grabbing a nice sit down meal or taking part in that once in a lifetime activity is all part and parcel of travelling the world and you really don’t want to miss out. You just have to make sure your budget takes these things into account.
Work while you are away.
There are so many different ways to do this. There are the traditional, formal routes of working abroad that are a time honoured tradition amongst backpackers such as getting the right working holiday visa and doing menial work such as strawberry picking in Australia or bar work. Nothing too glamorous but it does allow you to top up your funds and extend your travels for a while.
Teaching English abroad is still extremely popular, and you can always get your TEFL if you want to go down that route. Many travellers use this as a way to live in one place or region for an extended period and explore on their time off before moving on.
A lot of backpackers have used their specific skill sets on their travels to earn a small bit of cash. You may be a good hairdresser, a yoga teacher, a masseuse, it doesn’t matter. If it is a skill people want, then you can use it. As someone who has trained in and taught martial arts my whole life I have used that skill and taught a few self defence classes to other travellers during my travels to get a nights stay or a good meal paid for. Again, it isn’t much, but it all adds up.
Remember the endgame.
I know it can be hard to save money – no one ever said chasing your dream would be easy – but just remember why you are doing it. Every little bit of money saved means an extra night in that beach hut, every sacrifice you make means an extra flight or an extra month spent travelling through some of the worlds most amazing places.
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