It's been nearly a year since I decided to pack everything up in Hawai'i, sell my car, and say one last good bye to the homeland.
Prior to this year I had only visited one country, Mexico, and now here I am, on my 10th month of travel and nearly 20 countries later.
The best part,
I am in no debt and I still have money to keep me going!
The craziest part?
I haven't really been working all too much during these months - a few social media things here and there, but for the most part I've just put being conscious of my money and my spending as my priority.
I also didn't work excessively while living in Hawai'i, just enough to give me a comfortable life and live within my means. I've always been good at living simply, and don't need much to make me happy. I was able to save any extra money that came into my life without much effort because I wasn't spending much money on anything else there besides on food and my room.
The number one question I get is how I afford my travels... and the truth is, I afford to live the life I do, because I know that traveling doesn't have to be expensive.
Unfortunately, a lot of us, especially those raised in the US, think that you need a large sum of money saved up, or need a job that you can work remotely from in order to live the nomadic life.
All the power to ya if you have a sweet work situation set up that will allow you to work remotely - but if you don't, and you just want to travel without spending thousands in a few weeks - here's a few simple things i've learned along the way:
Set budget and Track Spending - Oh budgeting... joy. I'm sure we can all think of a few ways we'd rather spend our time while traveling. But man, it really works. I set a strict budget for myself while I was traveling around London - and it really saved me on that trip. I made it as simple as possible - set a reasonable budget mostly focusing on food expenses per day (allowed myself €10 per day on my food) - and just kept a small pocket notebook with me. The notebook in your smartphone works great too. Each time I purchased meals or food i'd write down the cost. I was just mindful of the totals everyday, and at the end of the week i'd add them up and see how I was doing. Having all my expenses written down in the same spot made this process so much easier than saving receipts or looking back at bank statements.
Tip: Ideally, you write down the expense anytime you spend money on anything! But do what feels right for you! It's mostly just getting in the habit of pulling out the notebook and remembering to track it immediately, then it just becomes natural with minimal effort.
Don't drink - For me this is easy. After graduating college I was ready for a lifestyle change. I went from drinking every single night of the week, to completely sober for a good year. Now if I have a drink, I ACTUALLY enjoy it, and I appreciate it so much more. It has been the best lifestyle change and I feel great - mentally and physically. Not only have I saved hundreds of dollars, I also am able to make the most of my days because i'm not hungover. The truth is, drinking adds up. A drink quickly turns into a few, and then we have taxis, transportation, drunk munchies, and hangover meals to remember as well. You are literally drinking away your travel money in dimly lit bars, and fast.
Hostel life - If you want your money to let you go as far as possible - hostels are the way to go. And in all honesty, I love hostel life! It might seem a little weird at first sharing a room with a handful of strangers, but you'll get used to it quickly. I've been surprised time after time at just how cool hostels are! It's a great way to meet and connect with people from all over the world, and most of them are in their mid twenties. If you are planning on traveling to European countries, I especially recommend hostels because they are so common there, and usually located right in the city center. You'll have plenty to choose from and they will be your cheapest option. Hostelworld.com is the best way to search and book.
Tip: Plenty of hostels offer free breakfast, coffee, tea, and/or have a kitchen! If possible, go with hostels that offer as many free things as possible. The breakfast will be mediocre, I can promise you that... but, Hey! We're trying to save money here, right?! Take advantage of places with kitchens, cooking your own meals as often as possible! Eating out is expensive, let alone the places where you also have to pay tax + tip. I've also stayed at plenty of places that offer free or very cheap "family style" dinners a few nights of the week. Do your research when finding the right hostel for you, these little things really help!
Workaway, Woofing, Couchsurfing - If you are really serious about saving money - then look into different websites that set you up with volunteer work in exchange for accommodation. I lived with a family in Switzerland and spent less money in the two and a half weeks living with them, than I did the few days after I left the family, traveling around the country. In addition to saving tons of money, in a VERY expensive country, I was able to really experience Swiss culture and had such a wonderful time being welcomed as part of the family. You can read all about my experience watching their kiddos and living with them here. I also couchsurfed a few times during my travels, and I only have great things to say about my experiences. Just make sure to read reviews, and follow your intuition while doing so.
Walk instead of ride - Transportation adds up quickly! Subway passes, trains, taxis, ubers, motorbikes - everything is extra cash spent that you could have saved. I am obsessed with walking - it's my favorite way of getting around. I enjoy taking things slow and seeing everything around me. I've noticed when I walk, I end up getting to know the city much better, and actually feel the surroundings. Walking slows everything down, so if you are looking to enjoy your days and just take them as they come - walking is ideal. You'll discover parts of the city you didn't know existed, and you'll end up finding something new every step. If you are on a tight schedule and have a packed few days of specific things you want to see, then you might want to stay in a cheaper hostel outside the city a bit, and then spend the cash you'll save from that on your transportation so it balances out!
Cities or Nature - It's good to keep in mind the place you are visiting. Is it a city where everything you want to do will cost you money? Or is it an island where you will spend most of your days at the beach or hiking? Cities don't have to break the bank - there are often times free museums, walking tours, and attractions to see. But, you are less likely to be *influenced* to spend money while you are around nature in less consumer focused places. Also, keep in mind the currency exchange in the country you are visiting. Will your dollar go far? Countries like Indonesia, Thailand, India will allow you money to stretch much further than Countries like Australia or Iceland.
Long term renting vs nightly - If you plan to be in a specific place for a while then you might want to consider looking into a long term rental through sites like Air BnB. Many places i've stayed at have offered weekly, or monthly discounts at about 10%-20% off the total nightly price. This is a great way to save money - and also time. Once you're in a place, you don't have to worry about check out times, constantly packing and unpacking, and moving around - which could easily cost you extra in transportation from place to place.
Tip: Just make sure it's a place you absolutely want to stay before you commit to long term. Plenty of places will be glad to show you the room / common areas before you book. Another option, is searching for places that are available for the month you will be there - and then just booking a night - feeling it out, and then booking the rest of the month after you stay for a night.
Packing correctly - This one is so important and easily overlooked. If you are planning on taking flights - be mindful of weight limits on airlines. I have only traveled with a backpack, which means I carry it on the plane with me. Very rarely have I ever flown on an airline that makes you pay to bring a carry on. I have also never flown on an airline that doesn't charge to check a bag. Paying for checked baggage quickly adds up, as they usually charge upward of $25 each bag, every flight. That's a no from me. I am not into the idea of spending $25 or more just so I can check a bag. In addition, you also have to worry about your bag not making it on the plane or getting lost. When I carry on my backpack, it's free, and it's safe! Which means less is more!! It's important to pack clothes that fold well, don't wrinkle excessively, aren't too bulky, and are pieces that match with most of the other clothing in your bag. Be mindful. Ask yourself: Where am I going? What do I need vs what do I want? How necessary is each and every piece of clothing / item I am bringing? How well does this compact, and will it look good after being folded for days in a backpack? Does this bright patterned shirt match with only one pair of pants i'm bringing? You get the idea.
Tip: Some airlines are very particular with size dimensions of your carry on / checked bags. Look these up before, and make sure you are not drastically over the weight limit. Be ready to throw on a few extra layers of clothes if needed to make your bag weigh less. I've done this many, many times. I've found that budget airlines (Spirit, Allegiant, WOW Air) are very strict with following their requirements. I'm sure this is because they are offering you cheap airfare so they attempt to charge you for as much extra stuff as possible. I had to put on 9 layers of clothes for my flight to Iceland because WOW Air was so strict with the weight of my backpack.... A good laugh, and also sweat. Just avoid this by packing light!
Coffee addictions - Yup. I'm guilty. I love coffee, I also happen to have a best friend who is a coffee connoisseur and has trained my taste buds to enjoy a very certain type of coffee - expensive, quality, speciality coffee. It's wonderful, except not. In Australia I was spending $6 on a cup of coffee EVERY.SINGLE.MORNING.
Was it delicious, yes. absolutely.
Was it worth it? Hell no!
It's pretty much like going out and having a "drink" every night, it adds up! And quickly....
Tip: I know caffeine addiction is a very real thing, so my advice, don't start drinking overpriced speciality coffee, and seek out accommodation that provides free coffee. If you're open to the idea, switch over to tea. Most cafes will give you a cup of hot water for absolutely free. Amazing. So what do you do? Buy a box of tea at the market for something like 20 bags for $2. And there you go... wander into a Starbucks (except I really don't promote Starbucks for anything, not even hot water...) and ask for a large cup of hot water to go. Enjoy your nearly free beverage.
so what's your excuse for not traveling now?
time to book the ticket, and go.