I have had a lot of people ask me "how do you afford to travel so much?" And it's normal that the first thought that pops into someone's mind when they see photos of airplanes and mountains and far off lands is "money." That's what you needed to travel once - so much money. But from my personal experience, I know that this is changing. We live in a day and age where money does not have to be associated with travel, where freedom does not need to be associated with 'rich.'
This misconception of money=freedom=travel stunts so many young people from experiencing the freedom they desire to have. I truly believe that when young people say "I want to make millions" they don't really mean that......they really just mean that they want to have the freedom that millionaires have. And I believe each person can have a taste of that through traveling.
At only the age of 22, I've had the honor to travel the world and the country - making an income that would hardly be considered wealthy and still making it work. And if you would like to do something similar, before you do anything else, you must:
Determine what your values are.
To travel often as teenagers and now twenty somethings, Ryan and I have made choices that lead to the things we love. We don’t spend our money on things we feel don’t get us toward our permanent goal - which we have made travel.
Now, if you truly value other things or even if certain circumstances (bills, school, job) do not allow you to travel, or you are just not in the season of travel due to life, children, etc....there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But we have decided that, as young adults, traveling is a huge value for us. We feel closer to our faith, to each other, and to others when we travel.
So I skip out on things like cable, I shop at goodwill, we drove a beat up old car (darn those brakes), and I choose not to drive my car very often to save gas, I could have afforded a much bigger apartment and yet I choose to live in a smaller apartment. These are things that I am willing to compromise on in order to allow my larger goal to be travel and experiences. Put your money only where your values are.
Here are some simple steps on how to put this in action:
1. Find out what places that you can go to that work around your schedule with job/school/commitments.
Let's face it. Not all of us get to have a job that allows 3 months of backpacking in Europe. I get that. But there are a whole lot of places all around you that you could go on the weekend - hiking, backpacking, tenting, coffee shop exploring. Find some cheap places to stay and make an adventure weekend out of it. A cabin in North Carolina. A kayak trip down the Florida coast. Hiking and tenting in Georgia. A cute little B&B in the town over.
Or, if you want a longer trip.... take a hard look at your calendar and find the two weeks you have off at spring break or the week you could take off from work during the summer. Then, determine where you want to go and start the financial planning process way in advance.
2. Don't let commitments become your excuse for not traveling.
There's always time available for short getaways and for seeing something new within driving distance. You don't always need the big trips to find adventure. Be an adventurer in the little things - like weekend trips and nearby locations.
But either way, if your heart values traveling, near or far, don't let anyone (not even yourself) talk you out of it. There will always be something more important and more responsible to do.
3. Find the things that you can cut out of your life that are less valuable than travel.
Going to Starbucks everyday is not my dream. Really. It isn't. Sorry Starbucks. I love coffee, but I would much rather live out the dream of hiking Mount Kilimanjaro, exploring Galilee, and learning how to make wine in the country of Italy.
So I take steps to cut out what I did not really want. Coffee more than once a week is cut out. I don't go to see movies in the theatre....I waited until they were on netflix or DVD. Chipotle runs are less important.
Ways to save:
Some simple figures
Our apartment was $300 less a month than the average apartment in our city. That's $3600 a year. You’ve got a pretty good chunk of money there you can use for an international trip…and we used that to go to Spain.
Cable is about $100 a month. That is $1200 for a year. That's another really great chunk of money that you could use for an in-country trip…and we used ours to go toward our Washington trip and hiking in the North Cascades.
Let’s use your phone bill as another example. You can get unlimited talk and text on a cheap phone for $25 a month, while many are spending $60-$80 on their phone with data (and the iphone cost too, of course). Ryan chooses to have a cheap phone and we use my phone for data, so he saves about $600 a year on that…..which can be used for various weekend trips, camping trips, and other fun experiences.
There are so many other awesome ways to save money….but you have to understand where your priorities are. What personally makes your life full? You can't have everything so you must pick a couple things you value or your money will be spread thin between too many things.
4. Spend time searching for the cheapest options.
Research: Let's say you decide where you want to go, you start cutting out things to save for the trip, but now you actually have to start buying the plane ticket and booking the hotel.....things get a lot tougher! The problem is that most people just accept that they have to pay a lot of money to go anywhere and they over pay on things...making it truly impossible to ever go anywhere. Most times, spending a few hours doing research (google, baby!) can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. I have found that tour companies and booking through fancy websites can often pack on the dollars, so research your own trip and do the planning yourself. It may be more work at the beginning, but it's always fun in the end.
You don't have to stay in a $200 hotel in each place. Be creative. When my husband and I travel, we rent vacation homes by owners and try to keep it under $70 night. The result = a whole house that feels luxurious and authentic compared to a hotel room at a portion of the cost. Airbnb is our favorite website for finding affordable home (sometimes even yurts, treehouses, campers, and caves!) that are unique and fun! Other times when we want to go even cheaper, we stay with friends....and sometimes we just rough it and sleep in our car.
Determine your values...again: When you begin to travel you should also determine what your main value is. You can't do everything - so what would make your trip the most full? For me, I love exploring coffee shops and going hiking in the outdoors. You may want a really great spa experience or time on the beach. Maybe you just want to experience the local food and feast the days away. Whatever it is, pick what will make your trip the most full for you and don't spend money on too many other things.
5. Find creative ways to travel
There are so many ways to travel that don't always involve the normal methods. I once traveled out of the country with a tour company after I had won a video contest talking about why I loved to travel. Ha! Don't be afraid to apply to things like this. Submit videos. Get creative. Network with others who like to travel. Teach english in another country. Volunteer with an organization you believe in. Film a travel documentary and fund it using kickstarter or gofundme. Start a business that involves travel. There are so many unique things you can do....don't limit yourself by only thinking in the traditional mindset.
6. Understand that travel teaches you things that nothing else can.
It's easy to think, 'I'll travel when I'm older,' but traveling truly taught me some of the most important lessons of my life. Though I got so much from my college education, nothing could have educated me more than sitting down to a sabbath dinner in the heart of a Jerusalem with newfound friends, hiking through old war bunkers on the border of Syria, learning how to make wine in the vineyards of Tuscany, listening to our Spanish neighbors sing and pray as we fell asleep on the rooftop overlooking the Alhambra, watching the sunset over Morocco, riding in a tap tap in Haiti, holding the hands of a child in an orphanage, laughing with new friends in Israel.
Perspective is everything. And everyone has a different viewpoint and a unique story. Travel allows you to glimpse into another's life for just a moment and see their heart as if it was your own. And when you do this, you learn how to love them. You see them and you love them for their similarities and their differences and you grow more than you ever thought you could.
*Some of my favorite online resources for traveling:
Kinfolk City Guide
Hey, friend! I'm Chelsie!
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