For many people travel is somewhat of a rarity and, if ever attempted long term, is seen as the definition of ‘financial nightmare’. It’s certainly not something that’s commonly done as anything more than a short trip at the end of the year or a quick two week getaway to refresh the batteries and escape the winter cold.
Many people also have the added obstacle of responsibilities or commitments such as mortgages that aren’t going to pay themselves or children to look after that don’t allow for long term travel, but what about the people who have no hardcore commitments or responsibilities? Why is it that those people find it hard to travel more than just a few weeks a year, leaving long term travel to be seen as something only rich people can achieve?
Well I suppose the most obvious answers are money and fear. Money, being the evil little creation, seems to get in the way of everything, because although some people don’t have monstrous amounts of tie-downs, they still seem to have bills to pay and things to buy. This is usually because, let’s face it, spending a heap of money after you’ve been working all week feels f*%^ing fantastic!
Fear on the other hand is what we we all instinctively feel when we know very little about something. ‘Fear of the unknown‘ is something that can have a detrimental effect on our ability to try something outside of our comfort zone. The first step is to understand that it doesn’t really have to be scary, dangerous or intimidating and that if someone else can do it, what makes you think you can’t? Looking for reasons as to why you can do something as opposed to why you can’t is infinitely more productive.
“Are you rich? You must be to be able to travel for so long!”
Isn’t this just an annoyingly common misconception? Well, yes and a question I’m sure any long term traveler is used to being asked. I for one can assure you that any jobs I have had haven’t been anything more than a little above the average wage nor have I resorted to selling my body on the streets of Melbourne…yet. It’s honestly nothing overly outlandish or special, I simply noticed a obvious difference in the way I could save and spend my money when compared to the average person.
During the summer (December) of 2013 I returned home from a trip through Eastern Europe without a dime to my name. I had completely drained my bank account within 6 months of setting off on, what I thought was going to be, nothing less than a year long adventure. I was deeply unsatisfied. My previous overseas trip had also been cut short and I swore it would never happen again, but inevitably, due to my seemingly relentless thirst for things I didn’t necessarily need, I found myself in the same predicament – broke as hell.
This had me thinking – what could I do to make sure my third long term trip ended when I wanted it to end? What could I do to ensure I never felt that familiar dissatisfaction boarding my flight back to Australia?
I had to change my priorities and I had to change them immediately. I had to sit down and look at my earning versus my expenditure. What was I spending my money on that was more important than traveling the world full time? For me there weren’t many things more important than travel, freedom and happiness besides my family and friends, so from that day onward I decided to truthfully ask myself a set of questions relating to my financial needs versus financial wants.
Did I need to go out and get drunk every weekend? Maybe, but that can be done for 1/10 of the cost overseas.
Did I need to buy new clothes all the time? Not if I wasn’t going out every weekend and besides, looking a little bit like a bum kind of suits me.
Did I need a car? The train would get me to work a lot slower, but that’s not something getting up a little earlier couldn’t fix.
Did I need to buy food from a restaurant? I could cook or I could be lazy, but is that laziness really worth the hundreds of dollars I could spend on travel instead? Nope.
Did I actually need coffee? 1 coffee per day @ $3 x 365 days = $1095. With my budget this equates to around one month of travel. Nope, definitely don’t need coffee.
It was a simple case of confronting my bad spending habits and accepting that, in order to get things done, they needed to be shown the proverbial door. Within 7 months not only had I paid off all of my debt, I had managed to save around $12,000 – more than enough to have me back on the road again.
Want free accommodation and food? Why not find a volunteer job?
One of the great ways I have managed to keep a lifestyle of travel more sustainable is to find a volunteer job overseas. Most of my jobs have consisted of pouring drinks behind the hostel’s bar, however, because drinking nearly every day is almost a requirement, if you actually value your vital organs in anyway I would only recommend doing these types of jobs for no more than one month. It is really fun, but seriously not a day longer. Your wallet and liver will thank me afterwards.
Where do I find these jobs?
As I’ve mentioned on a previous post www.workaway.info and www.helpx.net are pretty much all you need to find all types of volunteer work almost anywhere around the world. Simply walking into a hostel you’d like to volunteer at has worked for me also.
The funny thing is I’ve met travelers who have ridiculous amounts of cash and because of this they tend to spend ridiculous amounts of money. I’ve also met people who travel on next to nothing who spend next to nothing. The lesson to be learned here is that it’s not about the amount of money you have, it’s about how you spend it. Learning to spend your money before you leave will have you mentally geared for a budget lifestyle whilst on the road.
Perpetual travel is a perpetual mindset, because at the end of the day you have to really want it. It’s not easy and only you can make your own choices, but if traveling long term is what you truly want, then it’s what you’ll do.