I get asked all the time how I can afford to travel the world so much a lot. There is often an assumption that you need to be rich to take a gap year or travel long term, or that you need to be of a certain background to be able to throw some things in a pack and travel somewhere new. 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’m living proof Here is how I can afford to travel as much as I do.
I have travelled all over the world for over 20 years now with well over 100 countries under my belt, 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 before they found their next group to target. 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. These were the same really poor, minimum wage crappy jobs that everyone else has to put up with. I didn’t particularly enjoy them, but I didn’t really have a choice. They were a simple means to an end, nothing more nothing less. There was no free education or a free ride for me, I had to earn my way. I paid my full tuition for my degree, paid my bills and rent and saved hard to put whatever money I had left 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.
Work Hard, Save, And Make Travel A Priority.
That’s it. I work hard and I save money to put in my travel fund. It’s not really a ground breaking secret, is it?
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 very young etc) 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, the little white picket fence and a holiday to Benidorm to sit by the pool once a year. That is fine. As much as I will never understand that personally if that is what they want and it is what makes them happy 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 Travel Dreams A Priority.
Once you know what you want, you have to make it a priority at the expense of everything else. If you keep pushing it into the long grass you will never achieve your dreams.
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? Is it blowing all your wages on the latest fancy smartphone every few months? 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. And I am not exaggerating with that comparison.
It was often those very same people who turned round to me before I left on another trip and questioned how I could afford it! In my former nursing career I used to work for a short while and then take at least half the year off to travel. I had nursing colleagues on the exact same shift as me saying they wish they could afford to do what I do. Bitch please, we earn the exact same damn wage!
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. You have to make up your mind whether you want these fancy things now, or travel later.
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. There is a little balance to be found in all things and there is nothing wrong with treating yourself from time to time, as long as it isn’t all of the time.
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 actually really 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. Then take all that money and follow your travel dreams.
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 Travel.
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.
Then of course a lot of backpackers have shown a lot of entrepreneurial hustle and 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.
Others use a specific career choice to travel. My former career in nursing is a prime example of this as the skills are in demand all over the world and it is easy to get a job anywhere you like and use that as a springboard to explore that country or region, and of course that applies to a wide variety of career paths too.
Many travellers have even found ways to work remotely as they travel. There has been an explosion in the digital nomad lifestyle in recent years and there is no reason to be chained to a cubicle anymore. Again I am a prime example of this as I have managed to turn my passion for travel into a full time, very profitable business that I can run from anywhere in the world.
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.
I and many other backpackers do this all the time. And if we can all do it, you can too. So what the hell is stopping you?
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.
10 Easy Ways To Save Money For Travel.
How To Completely Blow Your Budget When Backpacking. (Or Ways To Avoid Blowing It).
How To Manage Your Money On Your Gap Year.
Excellent points. It is easy to save a little bit if you want it enough.
This is so true! There is so much judgement from people as well once they hear you have taken a gap year, a lot of people think you are rich and spoilt. I worked hard to save up for my trip! Why do they get to try and make me feel guilty for it?
I totally agree Stephanie.
You make it a priority! That is it, right there. Too many people just make excuses.
We do many of the things you mentioned, but there are also many new ideas here. Fantastic. Thank you.
Great to hear, thanks for commenting
Always dreamed of traveling the world. Explore as many countries as possible. I’m not filthy rich. This blog is quite informative. Exactly what I needed to get inspired. I can definitely see myself traveling far and wide.
Very few backpackers are filthy rich Isabella, (I suppose there are bound to be some). I’m really glad the blog is inspiring you and I hope it’s enough to give you that push to do it! Because you definitely can. 🙂 Thanks for the comment.
I definitely agree with you, I have just taken my own gap year (with loads of help from you, thank you), and I saved every penny myself. It took a long time but I did it. And if I can on minimum wage, anyone can!
Exactly Dan, and glad I could be of help!
Such a great post! You really don’t need to be rich to travel!
Exactly Steph. Thanks for the comment. 🙂
Brilliant post. I’m not exactly rich myself but I worked and saved (minimum wage job) all year so far and am well on my way to taking my gap year next January! (Great blog by the way, I’m using it for all my planning!)
Thanks so much, I’m happy you are finding it useful! Keep going and you’ll get there, all the hard work will all be worth it when you step on that plane, trust me! ;D
Glad you agree! ;D
Great post! Totally agree! Just packed in my teaching job after saving for a year travelling. South east Asia for 2 months then Will be working in Sydney for 6 months saving for the next leg of the trip!
That’s awesome! Have a blast in SEAsia, and come back and let me know how you get on in Oz too!
Yes! This! I too a gap year last year and have lost track of how many ‘youre so lucky’ or ‘its alright for some’ conversations I have had. It really winds me up when idiots who don’t have the courage or determination to do it themselves try and belittle your achievements so they can make and justify their own excuses. Know what you want, focus on it, work your arse off for it and you will get it. It is that simple. (By the way Im currently saving for my next gap year next year! Thanks for the inspiration!)
That;s awesome John, and I’m glad I could help! ;D And of course you are absolutely right, it can be annoying when people do that. Ignore them.
Beautifully explained . Such great posts on Budget travel did help me to save some good amount of cash.
Glad to hear it. 🙂
Brilliant post, it is all about going for what you want.
We are currently saving up to begin a one year world trip in 2019. Budgeting will be the hard part for us because we are so used to splurging when on international trips on a two-week vacation. We have to think, every dollar spent is one that will not be there for that next flight or epic experience. Thanks for posting this.
It gets easier I promise, and when you are on that trip it will all be worth it. 🙂 It’s a good idea to learn to balance out budgeting and splurging on your big trip too, there’s no point missing out on an epic experience because it is too expensive! ;D
It’s easy when you work hard and save! Budgeting is incredibly important and once you get in the habit you’re set. We’ve worked hard on those habits and love seeing other people doing it!
Exactly! It’s hard work sometimes but it is possible, and I think that is what most people get put off by, the hard work. So many people just want a quick easy fix.
At least we know it pays off with the hard work. Keep at it! :):)
Genuinely inspiring! And I agree it is all about priorities!
It really is Nicole!