How to Fund Your Travels

“When you are old, withered and eating mashed bananas do you think you will remember the clothes you wore or the car you drove?”

When I turned eighteen I decided that I wanted to see the world. It became my mission, a near addiction, a focal point that would impact the rest of my life. Although travel isn’t my #1 priority (friends, family and health will always take the lead) I value travel as I value education and explore any opportunity to see a new place.

Travel takes both time and money. But anyone who desires to travel can find a way to incorporate it into their life. Think of it as an investment in your world perspective. Despite what advertising portrays travel is not dependent on your income bracket. You don’t need an impressive salary to employ these tried and true strategies to maximize your earnings and fund your travels.

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The Secret

The secret is that there is no secret. I don’t have any revolutionary ideas or get rich quick schemes for you. Quite the opposite. What I’m going to tell you is how to make travel happen based on logic and diligence. Several times I’ve heard “I’d travel like you if I won the lottery.” Well, there’s a 99.9% chance you will NEVER win the lottery. Instead of putting your bet on insurmountable odds, put it on yourself. Instead of wasting money on lottery tickets and slot machines set it aside in a separate account for new experiences.

Prioritize

People prioritize all kinds of things: family, their appearance, Fantasy Football. If you want to travel and you purposefully place it high on your list of priorities you will make it happen. Yes there exist socioeconomic exceptions but the fact that you are warm, dry, fed, and have an internet connection by which to read this article means you are not part of the more than 50% of the world living on less than $2 a day. You have choices. Use them! There are many complex external forces acting upon us but we still possess the largest impact over our futures. If you make seeing the world a priority you will make it happen.

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Cut the Fat

Step back and take a look at your expenditures. What things can you cut out that don’t Improve your quality of life? Examples include but are not limited to: daily starbucks, cigarettes, eating out, magazine subscriptions, bar tabs, and membership to a gym that you only wander into for the selfie photo. Banish cigarettes and coffee from your life to save money and improve your pearly white smile. Your body will thank you for it. Try cooking at home more and make bar nights a treat instead of the daily. Scrap the unused gym membership and ride your bike to work. It’s the small consistent changes that add up to big results.

From the onset cutting out coffee and cigarettes doesn’t sound revolutionary. How can a cup of joe add up to travel? But don’t be fooled the numbers add up quickly:

Are you a Starbucks addict? That almond mocha frappacino habit is costing you around $5 a hit. If you indulge four times a week thats $20 a week and a whopping $1,040 a year! That’s a couple weeks backpacking in a foreign country.

Cigarette smoker? Don’t even get me started on the endless negative side effects of this habit. Just the financial impact alone should be a deterrent. Let’s say you’re like most smokers and you burn through six packs a week at $7 a pop. This hazardous habit is costing you $42 a week totalling $2,184 a year! Hello bed and breakfast in the European cities of your choice.

Is the bar stool your go to? Let’s say you like to frequent your local watering hole four nights a week with an average bill of $30 with tip. That’s $120 a week and a startling $6,240 a year! Which is quite a traveling fund indeed. 

These are just a few estimated examples but you get the picture. No money for travel? Look at where you can cut needless expenditures and invest in real life.

So You’re Not a Trust Fund Baby

While it would be great to be a trust fund baby (I recently met an Irish guy who was gifted a lottery ticket for his baptism when he was an infant. He won, the money was wisely invested, and this lucky guy is set up for life) that’s not the reality for most of us. Honestly, be thankful for it. If you were born into the lap of luxury and never needed to question a thing you probably wouldn’t be the complex, inquisitive soul you are today. You’d be comfortable with occasional trips to Vegas and Hawaii and never branch out. Lame.

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It’s Not What You Make But What You Spend

I often hear “I don’t make enough money to travel.” But the truth is people usually spend too much money to travel. The daily costs associated with their lifestyle eat up all the excess. These same people could experience a $20,000 salary raise and six months later will complain of the same state of affairs. This is a phenomenon known by Psychologists as the “hedonic treadmill”. We earn more money so we seek more things for more happiness. We get a raise we want a new car, a more luxurious apartment, and nicer clothes. Basically we quickly adapt our lifestyle and possessions to our income instead of maintaining a balanced level of existing and seeking new forms of fulfillment. If you make $4,000 a month and spend $3,500 you really make $500 a month. If you make $4,000 a month and spend $2,000 you really make $2,000 a month. At the end of the day it’s not what you make but what you spend that effects your financial freedom.

Here are a few ideas for reducing expenses and building your travel fund:

Rent out your unused space

Switch to a more cost effective form of transportation

Sell unused items of value (If you haven’t used it in the last year why you have it anyway?)

Cancel your cable subscription

Get a fun weekend job and dedicate the earnings to travel

Rent out your living space while you’re traveling

Earning $ On the Road

While you probably aren’t going to make your millions while traveling there are opportunities for supplementing your travel fund on the road. Often the most marketable commodity you possess is your knowledge of the English Language. There are many countries hungry to learn English. Even without formal teaching credentials there are families that will gladly pay you to tutor their children. This is something you can often do without going through a school or getting your TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certification. Opportunities to tutor abound oversees. Network with locals and odds are you will find eager pupils.

Depending on your line of work, you may have the opportunity to work remotely in some capacity. For how to make the most of your job outside of the office I must refer you to the mastermind and author of The Four Hour Work Week Timothy Ferriss. He has perfected the art of traveling the world while working remotely and his book is rich with mind blowing insight.

Finding full time employment oversees is also an option. Take inventory of your work experience and skillset and start researching if these are commodities in other countries. Next, research what the requirements are for a work visa. There may also be opportunities to work under the table but this requires research and inherent risk.

How I’ve Done It

I’ve funded my travels and my education based on the principles above. I’ve always worked more than one job, kept my expenses low and my dreams within sight. I’ve worked a variety of jobs (hospitality, administrative, marketing) always looking for the income generating edge. I’ve kept my costs low by renting a room in a house, riding my bike to work, and kept drinking an occasional treat. I traveled most of the time in a cost effective manner and always had back up plans. All this and not a sugar daddy to be found. But you know what? It’s worked.

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Keep Your Eye on the Prize

When you are old, withered and eating mashed bananas do you think you will remember the clothes you wore or the car you drove? No. You are going to remember your experiences, how you faced challenges and the people who enriched your life. All the physical stuff fades away eventually. But the first time you stepped foot on foreign soil, plunged headfirst into a new ocean, or pieced together a conversation out of second languages will not be forgotten. I promise.

1 Comment

  1. Ben

    Hi Alexa,

    Hope you’re enjoying the beautiful weekend. I just found your website and love it! A lot of people talk about traveling but not many people understand what its like to always need to have a plane or train ticket booked for the next trip. I’d get on a plane tomorrow to just about anywhere. And I feel that way pretty much every day!

    Where’s your next trip to? I’m spending some time with my brother and parents in southern England and Normandy and then coming back to Boston by way of a week in Japan with short stops in Doha, Hong Kong, and Mauritius. I can’t wait.

    You don’t mention frequent flier miles anywhere on the site. Out of curiosity have you ever seen http://www.flyertalk.com or the BoardingArea blogs? This is one of my favorites: http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/ There are all sorts of ways to earn frequent flier miles for free. They’re great for funding (and feeding) the addiction — one that I fully expect to continue well into my old, withered and eating mashed bananas years. 🙂

    Ben

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