As a travel blogger and expat who lived in Spain for more than two years, I often get messages asking for travel tips and advice about life on the road. I’m always so excited to hear from people who read my blog and love your feedback. There is this one question I get very often: “How do you afford to travel?”
Ask anyone who travels full time, and they will agree…this is an awkward and difficult question to answer. I mean, how often do people ask you about your spending habits and bank account statement? I do understand that it all comes from a good place…a place of utter curiosity and the desire to travel, which is why I’ve decided to write a blog post on it to give you my take on the topic.
It’s about sacrifice!!
I live out of a literal backpack. That means I don’t go on shopping sprees. I don’t have a car. I don’t have a house or apartment. I don’t have a SIM card for my cell phone. I don’t even have normal sized shampoo and conditioner! But this is the sacrifice it takes to have the freedom to travel the world and live a nomadic lifestyle. If you’re passionate about seeing the world, there are many material things you can cut out of your life to start saving for your travels. I’m not saying you have to give up everything you love to go on a backpacking trip to Europe, but you can become more conscience of what you’re spending your money on. Don’t eat out as often. Take the bus instead of getting an Uber. Cut back on the Starbucks. Get your clothes and shoes repaired instead of buying brand new stuff the second it breaks.
My advice is to track all of your expenses for a month to see what you spend your money on. From that list, see what expenses are unnecessary and instead put that money in your travel funds. This isn’t impossible. It’s about research, passion, and your commitment to making it happen! How bad do you want it?
The best plan is no plan. This is a great motto to have while traveling on a budget. A meticulously planned
weeklong vacation to Italy during the holidays is an absolute nightmare for finding the cheapest flights and accommodation. Basically, rigid travel plans make traveling way more expensive. Going with the flow and following the cheapest travel plans will seriously help the bank account. Airlines like EasyJet and RyanAir can be extremely cheap, though they try to add extra charges so be careful! Megabus and other bus companies like this one offer insanely cheap prices for cross-country and cross-continent bus rides. You just have to do the research and you’ll find that it’s cheaper to travel than you think.
I understand that most of you have jobs that won’t allow you to just travel on the whim, but if you have an open agenda, you can choose the flights and destinations that are cheapest. When I lived in Ibiza, Spain, I took an unexpected trip to Milan because the flight was only 19 euros there and back. That’s less than what your dinner costs! If you save up and travel long term, you have the time and flexibility to travel in the cheapest way possible.
If you start running out of funds while abroad and want to make your money last longer, there are options:
You can sign up for Workaway, which is a work exchange website. You work about 20 hours per week in exchange for free accommodation and food. The jobs range from helping out in hostels to working in on an eco farm.
You can save money on accommodation by staying with locals through Couchsurfing. I did this while traveling through Gothenburg in Sweden. It was a great way to see the city through the eyes of a local. And if you’re not traveling, let the world come to you by hosting travelers from all over the world!
Find a way to live abroad
My all-time favorite type of travel is slow travel. This implies that you stay in a certain country for a long period of time, usually at least a month or longer. Slow travel gives you time to learn the language, take in the culture and get to know the locals. As far as finances go, doesn’t it make the most sense to find a job in the country you want so badly to explore? This option is not for the faint of heart. This is for you if you are really, truly passionate about going out there and making travel and exploration a central part of your life. You want to step away from your comfort zone through big change like moving abroad.
The benefits of living abroad, like I mentioned above, is that you can really get to know a place. The idea is that you’ll have a job in this country, thus you’ll have a paycheck. With my teaching job in Spain, I received a monthly salary of 700 euros. It wasn’t much, but it was enough! Other teachers also taught private English lessons on the side for extra travel money. If you’re interested in working abroad, you can apply to work as a North American Language and Culture Assistant in Spain like I did. You can take TEFL courses to become a certified English teacher, which allows you to work in many different countries as an English professor. Australia and New Zealand offer work holiday visas that allow you to legally work there for up to one year. There are many options! You just have to do the research. If you want it badly enough, you can make it happen.
Freelance means freedom
I have just recently started taking on freelance projects as my primary source of income. This work involves writing, editing, transcribing, social media management, and marketing consulting. I find clients mostly through word of mouth or through this blog. There is also a website called Upwork.com that helps you find freelance projects, though they take a percentage of what you earn. Freelance work is a great way to travel and work remotely, so you can work no matter where you are.
So there you have it. These are just some of the ways I’ve been able to afford to travel the world over the past few years. There are so many resources available. The important thing is that you do the research, put in the work, and want it badly enough to make it happen!