One of the most common questions I get from friends, family and people I meet along my travels is something to the effect of “How are you funding your travels?”
After a while, I realised this is obviously something people are curious about and often people don’t feel like regular, long-term travel is something they are capable of doing.
This article breaks down how I can afford to travel so regularly (and for so long) and provides advice for people who would like to start saving for their own travels.
Just to make this clear, I am totally ok with people asking me how I fund my travels, I definitely understand their fascination. I think people often assume that my parents support me financially because I travel so regularly (which also means I don’t work as much as most people). This is certainly not the case and I’m actually really proud of this (even though it would be nice to get a lump sum of money every now and then). My parents have always encouraged my brother and I to be independent (including financially independent) so we have learnt to work, save and spend wisely (for the most part).
It’s important to point out that my travels are possible through a combination of the following:
- Hard work – when I was working, I certainly made sure I was working hard as much as possible. I started working in 2009 when I was 14 years old and worked consistently until 2015 when I was 21 years old. I started out working at Mity Mart, a local fish and chip shop in my hometown. When I finished school I started a Reception/Administration traineeship with MP Recruitment & Training (formerly known as MP Personnel and Training). I worked for MP for a year full-time and two years part-time while I studied a business degree at Charles Sturt University. This job gave me an incredible start to my career and saw me work as a Trainer/Assessor by the time I finished in 2015. I love MP so much that I went back to work for them again in 2016 and 2017 (between my travels). I will be forever grateful for their support over the years I worked for them. I also spent time working for my family business, Border Tanks before we sold it to a wonderful new owner in July of 2017.
2. Saving carefully (without missing out). I would put as much money as possible into a savings account when I was earning. I would also make sure I was careful when I was spending (while still living a great life). I wouldn’t splash out on new cars or new clothes and shoes on a regular basis. I have also been lucky enough to be able to live with my parents on-and-off since leaving home in 2015. I have a blog post coming up about ways to save for travel so keep an eye out for that.
3. Taking up available opportunities (which I am extremely grateful for). For starters, the Australian Government has a great loan system called HECS which allows Australians to defer their university payments until you earn about a certain amount of income. They also have loans available to assist with overseas trips that are study-related. I took advantage of this loan system twice. The first time was to assist with my study abroad in California in 2015. I put the loan money directly towards my housing and food costs while staying at on-campus accommodation at my host university in Stockton, University of the Pacific. The second time I took out a loan was to complete a month-long internship in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where I worked for Sheffield Executive, a recruitment and training organisation based in Mid Valley, KL. I was also fortunate enough to get a scholarship as part of the Australian Government’s New Columbo Plan. This scholarship and loan assisted me to pay for my accommodation, transport and living costs while in Malaysia.
4. Looking up AMAZING deals. Because I am often travelling long-term, I have ultimate flexibility in terms of when and where I can fly to. I often jump on Skyscanner to compare prices and locations to travel to. I also check the budget airlines that operate in the general areas I want to visit as sometimes they do not show up on a Skyscanner search. I always play around with dates, times and location to find the best possible prices. I have generally found that Wednesday’s are the cheapest (and quietest) day to travel so I often move from one place to another on a Wednesday. I recently bought a ticket on Norweigan Airlines from New York (state) to Dublin, Ireland for $89 US… Crazy right?!?
5. Saving money on the road! I’m certainly not a luxury traveller – quite the opposite actually. I often stay in hostels, with friends and also Couchsurfing hosts. I also avoid taking taxis and ubers as much as possible as transport can be one of the biggest costs when travelling. Don’t be afraid to try out the public transport system in new places. It is often super cheap and relatively easy to navigate. Apps like Uber and Lyft are always a good backup option if you get totally lost (which always makes for a great story later). There’s this great app I use called Rome-2-Rio that compares your options for getting from one place to another, including the cost and trip duration. I often cook for myself as well to keep my meals relatively healthy and inexpensive.
While these strategies are not always easy to stick to, the effort certainly pays off and I wouldn’t have it any other way. So if you’ve been wanting to travel but don’t think you can afford it, remember that there are many ways to make it happen, you just have to think outside the box and get creative. Anyways, here’s my general advice to people who think they can’t afford to travel:
- You can totally do it. I recently heard Melbourne based motivational speaker Winston Marsh speak at leadership conference and he was full of encouragement to follow your dreams. One of my biggest takeaways from his presentation was the following quote:
“You can do anything you want to do, if you want to do it enough.” – Winston Marsh
- Stop coming up with excuses. Come up with a plan and make it happen. Set SMART goals for yourself and track your progress. Never heard of SMART goals before? Check out the below visual from blogger Adrianna Smallwood that breaks down the concept.
An example of a SMART goal for me would be to save an addition $2,000 for my upcoming trip to Mexico in March 2018. I will do this by saving $100 per week from now until the end of February 2018.
Think about what is stopping you from travel and come up with strategies to overcome these challenges or barriers.
Feel free to contact me if you would like to have a chat about your ideas and get any advice. I offer a free 30-minute chat (subject to availability) so I would love to chat with you about your plans and get you on the right track to travelling and experiencing what the world has to offer.
- Read Nomatic Matt’s bestselling book – How to travel the world on $50 a day (it’s a bestseller for a reason). Matt is an incredible blogger and his site is full of handy information and travel advice. Matt’s book is also full of great advice and strategies for travelling the world on a budget.
More specifically, my advice to young people in their teenage years who interested in saving to travel at some point is:
- Stay at home with mum and dad till you are in an established financial position (trust me, it’s hard to come back once you’ve left. I love my parents more than anything but I will admit it can be tricky for all involved when you come back after being away for a long time).
- GET A PART-TIME JOB! I can’t stress the importance of this for so many reasons but in the context of this article, part-time work is the perfect way to start earning money while you’re still in school. Save as much as you can (while you can). Here’s a picture of my brother and I at our first part-time job, retail assistants at Mity Mart, a fish and chip store in our local area (apologies for the poor-quality photos – camera phones weren’t the best quality back then).
- Look for opportunities for financial support e.g. scholarships, government loans. These can make an enormous difference in your financial situation and take the pressure of your parents as well. There are a number of opportunities for financial support, you just need to look for them and apply as necessary. This isn’t always an easy process but it’s TOTALLY worth it. Also, make sure you apply even if you don’t think you will be successful – you may be pleasantly surprised.
So to sum this up for you in three easy to digest points…
- I afforded to travel through hard work, carefully saving, taking up opportunities, looking for amazing deals and saving money on the road. If you are wanting to save for travel, remember you can do it.
- Stop coming up with excuses and read Nomadic Matt’s book called “How to travel the world on $50 a day.”
- For young people (I’d say high-school age), stay at home until you are in a good financial position, get a part-time job and look for opportunities for financial support.
Feel free to tag a friend interested who may be interested in saving for travel.
Stayed tuned for an upcoming post about how to save for travel before you go. You can subscribe for my blog updates by entering your name and email address on the home page at alarkinabroad.com.
Thanks heaps (it’s an Aussie phrase meaning “thanks a lot”) for reading and happy travels.