A common question that I get is, “How do you afford to travel as much as you do?” This is a bit of a loaded question, as there are several ways in which I do this. It certainly isn’t easy, and it has involved quite a bit of work. Though it has brought me some of the most amazing experiences that I’ve ever had. Yet somehow I still have money in the bank and a zeroed out credit card balance. This post will provide an overview as to how I’ve groomed my life in order to afford to travel the world.
The first thing that I want to point out is that I’m no one special. I’m not famous and I’m not rich. Money is something that I obviously have, but I’m willing to bet that many people who’ve asked me this question probably have a larger bank account than I do. Like most people, I’m just a regular person, but in some ways, very different. There are certain things about me that allow me to afford to travel as much as I do. These are also characteristics of other world travelers as well. Some of which include:
Living a Spartan Existence
This is just a fancy way of saying that I live a very basic lifestyle. One that involves owning very few material possessions. Just about everything I own can fit into my four-door sedan and be taken anywhere. Much of this lifestyle came as a result of my Peace Corps service in The Gambia. Where I spent two years living with only the things I could fit into two checked bags and a carry-on. It was also a similar situation when I moved to England for a year to study for my Master’s degree. Having fewer material possessions has led me to focus on spending money on travel and other experiences, and not things. Whereas some people would spend hundreds of dollars buying a new TV, I would spend that money on a plane ticket.
Though this lifestyle does allow me to better afford travel, it does have its drawbacks. I’ve had to move back into my parents’ place a few times in order to save money, and I have had to choose not to buy certain things that I wanted. For over a year I’ve been wanting to get a PlayStation 4 and a new laptop, and I still haven’t bought either. I’m also a shooter, and have had to refrain from getting certain modifications for my pistol, and purchasing the awesome rifle that I want. However, for the most part, I’m willing to do so in order to travel more. Because over time I can, and do, get bored with many material possessions, but I never get bored with traveling to new and exciting places!
I first heard this acronym, meaning Keep It Simple, Stupid, when I was in the Marine Corps. It was told to me by a few leaders on how to go about doing certain tasks. And I apply this during my travels as well to save money. Though budget travel is not my area of expertise, it’s something that I have experience with nonetheless.
While in my 20s, I spent many nights in hostels, which are among the cheapest accommodation options you can find. Now that I’m in my 30s, I’ve started veering away from hostels and choosing hotels instead. Which does mean that I have to spend a little more money, but often not too much. As the hotels I book are anything but luxurious, which I’m certainly okay with. I don’t travel to foreign countries to spend the whole time in a hotel, I travel to experience the place. So luxury hotels and all-inclusive resorts are just not my style. For me, hotels serve as a place to sleep and secure my things, nothing more. I’ve also had the great fortune to make friends from all over. So I’ll go visit and stay with them and experience the country in which they reside.
Aside from lodging, I also apply the K.I.S.S. rule to usually only spend my money on essentials. This includes transportation, food, and any attractions. I don’t care for souvenirs, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve bought one. Mostly because I don’t see much value in them, and they also take up space in my bag and at home. I do make exceptions for gifts or very unique items that aren’t found in your typical tourist hotspots. For the most part though I just prefer to take pictures.
When it comes to food I try to go for cheaper options. If I have the means to cook at my hostel or hotel, then I’ll get groceries. I also may pack meal bars to eat on the go. For my recent trip around Europe I lined one of my bag pockets with Condition One bars, and they were a Godsend! If there are local markets with vendors serving cooked food, then I’ll see what they have available. Not only are they usually cheaper, but they also can provide an authentic, local food experience, which I like. Though there are times when I will indulge a little bit and go to a nice restaurant, but I make it a point to not do this all of the time.
Another way in which I save money is that I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. The former I gave up seven years ago, and the latter I tried once and thought it tasted like shit and never had it again. So my travel budget is not diminished by either one.
Pursuing Something Greater
This refers to my stints as an expatriate. As mentioned earlier, I’ve moved abroad to two different countries, and each one provided great ways to travel more. During my first stint I moved to The Gambia in West Africa to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer. During this time I was relatively close to Morocco. So I was able to get a cheap flight there. My second stint was to England to go for my Master’s degree. While I was there I was able to find convenient flights to places like Germany, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates, all at very reasonable prices. I’ve also used some of my student loan money as well. Which I’m know I’ll have to pay back, but most of my education has been covered by my GI Bill. So my loan amount isn’t all that much for someone with a Master’s degree.
Both times that I’ve moved abroad was because I wanted to do something more with my life. I became a Peace Corps volunteer because I wanted to expand my horizons and be of service to others. I moved to England in order to further my education and look into a different career path. Lo and behold they led to some of the greatest experiences in my life. And put me in positions where I could travel more, for less.
To Sum it Up
The keyword that encompasses all of these points is Sacrifice. That’s what it has taken in order for me to have traveled and experience as much as I have so far. I’ve had to sacrifice buying things that I want in order to pay for the logistics of my adventures. Instead of the glitz and glamour and amenities of a nice resort, I chose to stay at simple and basic hotels or hostels. Moving abroad also came with many sacrifices. I’ve missed holidays with family, time with friends, or things that I enjoy about my home country that I can’t find elsewhere. Like Jimmy John’s sandwiches and shooting, just to name a few! There is also, of course, the student loans that I’ll have to pay back as well.
Here’s the kicker though, I regret none of it. My travel experiences have been absolutely amazing! I’ve seen the sprawling dunes of the Sahara Desert, I’ve been to the summit of Ben Nevis in Scotland, I’ve been kissed by a dolphin in Dubai, and the list goes on! To reiterate the point from before, I’m no one special. I’m not rich or famous, I’m just regular person that hails from a small village in rural Michigan. Yet I’ve been able to afford to travel and see and experience so much, and you can too. It will take some sacrifices, but I promise you it’s worth it. So before you shuffle out a bunch of money for something big at the store or online, think about a place that you want to visit, and how that money you’re about to spend could go towards getting you there!