You want to travel, but don’t have a super great paying job and savings, family money, or any idea where to start? You can travel. It won’t be quick and it won’t be easy, but you can do it. Here’s how to start.
START WORKING YOUR ASS OFF!
I worked my ass off, had virtually no life, moved across country where pay was higher and cost of living was lower, and spent 3 years paying off debt. Car payments, WAY overdue student loans, medical bills, and everything else I had, I paid off. Do whatever you have to do pay off debt too, even if this means picking up a couple shift a week flipping burgers at McDonalds or babysitting. If you have to get a second job to save, use that second job money to pay off debt while living off your regular job.
PUT $5 A PAYCHECK INTO A TRAVEL SAVINGS ACCOUNT
Or jar, or sock…whatever you can do (bank or keep it in cash in the house) that will make you save money, do it. AND START DOING IT NOW! Start doing this the second you decide to travel, even when paying off bills still. Use this money for only travel related stuff – passport, shots, your trip – and nothing else. Become strict. Once this money is in its savings place it no longer exists. If you can afford to put more money a week in go for it. Once a month or so count the money, and see how much you have saved. (You will either be excited to save more, or realize you need to cut back more to start saving more).
START A CHANGE JAR
Every day when you come home, empty your pockets and purse of all change (and maybe a few $1’s) and throw it in this jar. You will be surprised how much you can save (and how much you start TRYING to get change vs. trying to use your change when you go out.)
STOP BUYING STUPID STUFF
Until travel becomes more important than your morning cappuccino, you won’t ever travel! Think about what you don’t need to either survive or stay sane. You do not need that $10 lipstick in 3 different colors, that new pair of sneakers to go with the other 6 you don’t wear, or 4 new pairs of jeans. You also don’t need to go drinking with your friends Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, or spend $50 at the steak restaurant when you can buy a better steak, and cook it at home, for less than $10.
You may still need to go out with your friends one night every other week. You may still need to have a relaxing Saturday morning cappuccino at your local coffee shop while you research places to visit, or you may still need to keep that gym membership (or start using it you slob…you want to look sexy traveling, don’t you?).
Do what you love, just do it less. Way less!
MEET OTHER TRAVELERS
One of the best ways to get info, is to network (whether in person or through social media). Plus talking with experienced travelers keeps you motivated and they understand the stress, the “I’m never going to do this” feeling that will happen, and can help lift up your spirits when you get frustrated. Some great groups to check out:
- Meet, Plan, Go
- Local Couchsurfing.org community (many communities have meetups where you can meet travelers and hosts)
- Twitter. Follow the hashtag #TTOT (travel talk on twitter) to start meeting fellow travelers.
- Facebook. Search travel groups on facebook. Travel Bloggers, Travel Video Group, and Travel Photographers. There is also the Travel Blog Chronicles if you want to read stories from travel bloggers. Even if you don’t plan on shooting, photographing, or blogging, these are great groups to find and meet travelers.
GET A ROOMMATE
If you are living in an apartment by yourself think if you really need all that room. Of course you don’t! Splitting bills with someone is a great way to suddenly have a few hundred extra dollars a month for paying off debt, or putting in savings. Plus you are about to go traveling, and if you are this broke, you will likely stay in hostels, Couchsurf, or do some kind of working stay, so you might as well get used to living with people now.
If you are possibly interested in housesitting or learning what it is, read these House Sitting Guide and House Sitting Guide Part 2 posts from my friend Talon who has been traveling and housesitting around the world with his son Tigger for the past year.
GET A PASSPORT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Passports are usually a couple hundred dollars tops. Buy a thermos, and bring coffee from home for a month. Use the money you saved by not hitting up the coffee shop every morning to buy a passport. Once you have that in your hands, travel become much more real and possible and it will motivate you.
Also, keep it somewhere safe that you will remember! But look at it often. You can also photocopy it and tape photos of it to your mirror, fridge, coffeemaker, etc.
If you are lucky enough to have health insurance that covers travel vaccinations, get them. It will make you feel one step closer. Plus some places require certain vaccinations (like Yellow Fever, Hep A or Hep B).
If you can’t afford the shots in your country, look into countries with cheap or free medical care (like Thailand or Brazil). I actually do my doctor checkups in Colombia because it’s cheaper here.
What do you have that you don’t use, don’t like, forgot you have? Start cleaning and going through your STUFF. If you can sell it, do it and put the money in your travel fund. If you can’t (or don’t want to deal with) selling it, donate it to your local charity or thrift store. Getting rid of STUFF helps you save money on storage fees when you leave.
PLAY WITH TRIPS
Spend an hour in the evenings or 3 hours Saturday and Sunday mornings, looking up places to visit and cost of plane tickets over a nice glass of wine. Use sites like Skyscanner, which have a “To: EVERYWHERE” option to see where you can fly cheaply. They don’t always have the best deals, but they can give you an idea of what’s out there.
Constantly looking at travel makes you more excited for it, and more determined to save money to do it. Whether you know exactly where you want to go, or have no idea, playing around helps keep you focused. And you never know what new places you’ll learn about or what deals you may find.
Realistically there is a million other things to do, but these are the very first steps in planning your long-term travel. These steps can take months to years to finish before you can realistically buy a plane ticket and think about actual travel.
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED!
Talk with other travelers, they can help encourage you even if everyone else in your life thinks you’re crazy. You can travel. And the harder you work for it, the more you will appreciate it!
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST:
Once you pay off your first major debt (credit card, student loan, car) you will be so excited to suddenly have a few hundred extra a month that you may want to spend it all or save it all.
DON’T DO EITHER!
This is what you do:
1. Treat yourself.
You just paid off a major expense. Go out with friends to a nice dinner. Buy yourself a new outfit that makes you feel sexy. Go racecar driving. Whatever ONE thing you’ve really been wanting to do, but haven’t, go do it. You deserve it. Congrats!
2. Save half the money.
Each month when the bill was due, put HALF of what the bill was in your travel fund. Why only half? Because life likes to screw with you.
If you paid off your car, something in your car will break (or get stolen, like mine did). If you paid off a student loan, a major appliance goes. Something always happens, it’s Murphy’s Law. So save half the money in your travel fund, and put the OTHER HALF into a “That’s Life” fund (aka your regular savings account). That way when stuff goes, you don’t have to dip into your travel fund.
It took me about 3 years to pay off my debt and be able to do some long-term travel, but the lack of a social life, and daily Dunkin Donuts was worth it! (And I still had Dunkies sometimes, and treated myself to things like Cha Cha Velour’s 12 Week Burlesque Intensive Stage Performance classes).
Once travel becomes the most important thing to you, and you start believing you can do it, it will happen. Don’t give up!