In the last 10 years I’ve visited over 33 countries. I’ve climbed to Machu Picchu through the Andes Mountains, sipped wine in the South of France and backpacked through Southeast Asia. The number one question I get asked is, “how do you afford to travel so much?”
I’ve crafted this nomadic life with intention. It hasn’t happened by luck or because of a trust fund (man, wouldn’t that be nice). I’m learning to manifest my destiny by working to create a reality I want to live in. And the good news is that anyone can do it. How did I do it?
1) I am frugal in my day to day life.
I’ve had a job consistently since I was thirteen years old (I worked at a bakery in the food court of a shopping mall) and have always been very scrupulous about my spending habits. Bills are inevitable, and everyone has different financial obligations, but it’s not as difficult as you thinkto save money. You just have to make a conscious effort to do so.
Here are a few ways that I cut back on spending: I prepare three meals a day at home during the work week and only eat out on weekends. I rarely go “out out”, so I spend very little money on booze. I’d rather invite my friends over to cook a meal and share a bottle of wine together anyway. I don’t drink caffeine, so I save an estimated $5 a day on a coffee. If you do the math, that daily Starbucks can cost you a $150 whopping a month ($1,800 annually), i.e. a flight and accommodation to almost anywhere in the world! If you budget intelligently and make small adjustments to your daily life, you can save a LOT of money over the course of a year. Hello, travel fund!
2) I spend hours scouring the internet for cheap flights.
With the US Dollar being stronger than ever and the emergence of new transcontinental budget airlines like WOW! and Norwegian Air, flights prices to Europe and Asia are much lower than they have been historically. I subscribe to (way too many) travel blogs and airline email blasts, so I frequently get notifications when deals for cheap flights arise. I recently found round-trip flights from Los Angeles to The Philippines for $450. Not one-way, round-trip! Insane deals are out there, you just have to be vigilant. It helps to have flexible travel dates, so you can fly on less popular (less expensive) days of the week. When I do have to travel to a specific destination on specific dates, I’ll use the travel booking website Hipmunk to set “fare notifications.” Hipmunk will alert me via email when the price of that flight I’ve been eyeing goes up or down, so I can strike when the rates are at their lowest.
Often times I will choose the cheapest flight, which usually means the most inconvenient route (2-3 layovers, 8 hours sitting in Heathrow, etc). It recently took me over 30 hours to fly home from SE Asia, but instead of dreading the journey, I like to look at those hours optimistically as time to “get stuff done.” I’ll catch up on work, edit videos, read a book or binge on the latest movies I haven’t seen. Traveling cheap is all about compromising comfort, something I’ve become quite akin to. Over the years I’ve developed a high tolerance for discomfort. I’ve actually trained myself to sleep anywhere, anytime. Busses, boats, trains…it’s basically time travel! I highly recommend it. But, if you can’t sleep on planes or stomach the idea of being in transit for 30+ hours, then save up a little extra money and splurge on the non-stop flight.
3) I sometimes use airline miles to fly for free.
You can garner airlines miles in two ways: By physically flying and accruing miles from the actual route distance, or by making purchases with a mileage credit card. I highly suggest opening up a credit card that gleans you airline miles for every dollar that you spend. I have the United Milage Plus (they are not sponsoring this blog, btw) and Chase Ink Business Plus card. Instead of using my debit card, I swipe those bad boys like they’re going out of style and after a few months or years (depending on your spending habits), I can rack up enough miles to get just about anywhere in the world, for free! I don’t spend my miles frivolously, though. I tend to hoard them and save them for journeys that I know will be expensive. So, if it’s $600 to fly home to see my parents for Thanksgiving, or $2,000 to fly to India for a yoga retreat, you bet I’m going to save my miles for the more expensive journey to India.
Also a fun fact: If you have a layover scheduled in a city, you can actually call the airline and have them extend the length of your layover (usually at no cost). So for example, on my India trip I had to fly from LAX->NYC->Milan->India, so I called the airline and asked if I could extend my layover to spend four days in NYC and four days in Milan. I stayed with friends in both places and boom, “free trip” to NYC and Italy!
4) I seek out inexpensive countries where my dollar goes further.
When I reflect on my personal travel style, it’s essentially, “how can I get as far away from home as possible, and shock my senses with a drastically different culture…for the least amount of dollars?” Usually, I end up on continents like South America or Asia. It is possible to do Europe on a budget, and I have, but I find that I can get the most bang for my buck in developing nations. Plus, I tend to be drawn to quiet beaches and unfamiliar landscapes over bustling metropolitan cities and large hotels. It’s a personal preference, of course, but I’m pleased to say that I’m happiest where it’s cheap!
These days, companies like AirBnb make it really easy and affordable to shack up with a local. If you want something even cheaper, but you’re too old for the “eighteen-year-old backpacker scene,” you could stay in a hostel, but rent out their private room instead of a twelve bed dormitory. I’ve even come across some “designer hostels” that feel more like a chic boutique hotel than a lackluster hostel. If you’re looking for something more low-key, you could seek out a quaint little B&B that includes free breakfast (one meal paid for, score!).
On the topic of food…as a general rule you should always avoid restaurants that advertise their dishes with large pictures of the food blown up to scale out front. These restaurants are made for underscoring tourists. It’s a trap! The food will always be more expensive and usually of a sub-par quality. In Asia, I like to choose my meals by finding the street cart with the longest line of locals, pointing to what they’re having and join them. Not into obscure street meat? Put that coffee shop wifi you’re stealing to use and Yelp or TripAdvisor a local restaurant with great reviews and minimal dollar signs ($$$). There are all kinds of crafty little ways to cut spending while your traveling. Adopt them so you can travel for longer or save up for your next adventure!
5) I seek out jobs that take me to cool places!
I work as a Freelance Filmmaker, so on a good day, my work might take me across the globe. After college, I worked as a videographer for a travel company in Thailand, where my job was to film and photograph six-week tours of Thailand and create marketing content for the company. More recently, I hosted a traveling yoga documentary for Yoga Journal Magazine, where we spent six-months traveling across the United States and Canada by van. Just last week I was invited to a five-star resort in Thailand to help create viral travel videos for the luxury resort. Did these jobs pay me tons of money? Heck no, they barely paid me at all. But, I can say without hesitation that the immeasurableexperiences that I have been able to enjoy through these traveling jobs has always outweighed any paycheck I’ve ever received.
Even if you’re not a filmmaker or photographer, there are still loads of jobs that you can do while traveling. You can teach English in Vietnam. You can work at a hostel in Brazil and live rent free. You can be a tour guide in Buenos Aires. You can be a surf instructor in Bali. You can work in a bar on the slopes of The French Alps. You can volunteer on an organic farm in Costa Rica (true story, I’ve done it). Do these jobs not appeal to you? Thanks to the digital era and the prevalence of decent wifi across the planet, careers in web design, coding, writing, marketing and more can now be done remotely. Keep your day job, but consider doing it somewhere else.
So what are you waiting for? If you’re inspired to travel, feel stagnant in a dull job or are anxious to see the world, then just do it! Start saving up for your dream trip and make it happen.
*All of the opinions expressed in this article are my own. I have not been sponsored or compensated by any company to mention their name. I do this because I love to travel and I want to share that love with the world.*