If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “oh, you must be rich,” when I tell people the number of countries I’ve visited, I’d have more money to go to more places.
That response to my extensive travel resume has always urked me. I think, in part, it’s because it assumes that everyone who travels has a money machine called mommy and/or daddy to fund lavish trips to faraway lands on a whim. While there are plenty of people like this in the world (I’ve met more than a few), I am not one of them.
Almost all of my international journeys have been self-funded and I am very proud of this fact, so I decided to share how I do it. I’ll give you 4 basic tips to start.
4. Budget – This is probably the most basic step to funding your own travels. If you can’t control your spending in the short-term you won’t have enough for what you want in the long-term, i.e. traveling the world. Set a budget for yourself and stick to it! The way I do this is I put at least 40% of each paycheck into my savings account, no matter how small. Once this is done I set a weekly budget with the rest of my money, which is usually $20/25 a week. I carry that amount with me in cash so I know exactly how much I’m spending and once the money is gone I know I’ve reached my limit. If you know you have trouble controlling yourself, leave your debit card at home and only carry a fixed amount of cash.
A lot of you might be thinking, “$25 a week is nothing. How do you have fun?” but it’s actually not that hard. Instead of meeting your friends at a coffee shop to chat you can meet at their house and make you’re own lattes or smoothies together. Instead of waiting until the last minute to hit the club get there early. Most clubs have free entry and free drinks before 11 pm or 12 am, especially if you’re a female. Not only does this save you money, you never have to wait very long to get in. Grab your wristband or stamp and come back later. Wanna shop? Hit your local thrift stores or Goodwill where you can find super cute clothes and even brand new ones with tags, if you look hard enough. Concert? No problem. Check the newspaper or Creative Loafing for free events in your city.
3. Shop Around – One of the best things you can do to find the lowest prices is to research. As I travel more I am finding that the sites I thought had the best deals don’t always come through. In general, Skyscanner is a great place to start but it is always a good idea to compare prices from other sites. If you are not in the United States it is a good idea to look at smaller budget airlines like RyanAir & AirAsia for example.
2. Book Early – Along with shopping around, it is very important to book your flights as early as possible however, exactly how early to book depends on your destination (check this article for more details). While you can get lucky every once in a while with a last minute flight, it is much cheaper to book in advance. This is especially true if you’re going international.
1. Know Your Priorities – I think one of the best things you can do to fund your travels in your 20’s is to know want you want out of this life and out of yourself. There are many people that have absolutely zero interest in stepping foot outside of their country or even their city. While I find this heartbreaking, I understand that some people just don’t care about seeing the world, and if you don’t that’s fine. If, however, you are like me traveling is one of the most important and rewarding things you can do with your money. Because I know this about myself it is much easier for me to save rather than spending money on other things; for example, alcohol, brand name clothes, or eating out.
The truth about traveling in my eyes is that it is so much more than that. When I visit new countries I try my best to immerse myself in everything about that place, the people, the food, the language, the music, everything. I have found that by doing this I not only build short-lived yet meaningful relationships with people but I also discover and reaffirm things about myself. Through my journeys I have become more connected with my spiritual being, the earth, and our creator. The more I travel the more I realize my self-worth, my goals, and my power, but it’s not because I am lost. It’s because I know exactly where I am. I see myself in everything and everywhere I go, even now here in South Korea. I wish everyone knew this feeling. I hope everyone knows this feeling.
Sitting on top of the surrounding walls of Amer Fort (Amer City, Rajasthan, India 2012).