Making the Choice to Travel

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo, Japan

I've seen a LOT of trees around the world. And I can definitively say, money doesn't grow on any of the trees I've seen. Which is unfortunate, because how cool would it be if all we had to do was travel to specific trees in random locations to collect cash? Valid reason to be on the road long term, valid way to pay for it too. Win-win.

“How do you pay for travel?”

“Isn't traveling so expensive?”

“I don’t have that kind of money.”

Oh, the money questions and comments. Whether you write a travel blog or not, if you've been on an international trip in your life, you've probably had someone make a money-related comment to you.

This whole topic is so fascinating to me. First of all, I still think there is some level of misconception about how expensive traveling is. But in this particular post, I want to stay focused on making the choice to travel.

As with most things worth doing, making the choice to travel isn't always easy.

How much comfort are you willing to give up to see a brand new city?

This may not be true of more successful or established travel bloggers, but one way that a lot of young, longer-term travelers are making it work is that we are roughing it. I'm hesitant to say "roughing it", because there are ALWAYS places in the world that are worse than the worst hostel I've ever stayed in. But to my friends and readers from more developed countries who ask money questions, I want to be honest about the fact that backpackers rarely stay in the type of accommodation you would be used to at home. I generally always give up (on every trip): a private room, a private bathroom, privacy in general, fancy restaurants, expensive entertainment options and overpacked luggage with all kinds of clean clothing options.

Never glamorous, always worth it.

Travel will generally come at the expense of other stuff you want to spend money on.

I LOVE to eat out. And drink out. And dance out. And in general not have to stay in my apartment and miss out on fun stuff with my friends. But the reality of prepping for a big trip is that every dollar counts. You have to decide if it is worth it to pass on some of the ongoing, smaller expenses... in addition to the larger expenses... in order to fund a life of travel.

If you want to take that big trip, it is likely going to have to be at the expense of other things you want.

(Again, in my opinion, always worth it.)

Hustle and Sell Stuff

Personally, I'm attempting to start downsizing my life and possessions. The process is never easy, but you can't take it all with you (literally or metaphorically) and if it can add some cash to your pocket on its way out the door, then that is a win. In addition to selling stuff, pre-trip prep may involve some extra hustle. Saving as much as possible by avoiding unnecessary expenses is one thing (see paragraph above) but it may not be enough to get you where you want to be financially. Putting in extra hours, establishing some type of passive income stream and/or adding a second job are all ways to support making the choice to travel - and they all take extra time and extra hustle on your part.

Be flexible with your choice of destination

This is less of a factor on shorter trips with a set itinerary - if you want to see a specific destination, you can save up the right amount of cash to pay for the length of stay you are looking at in each place. However, if you are a bit more flexible with your itineraries or are traveling longer term, you will need to stretch every dollar. Unfortunately, that may mean avoiding long stretches of time in expensive locales (I'm looking at you, Western Europe) in favor of hanging out in more cost effective countries (hi, Southeast Asia).

Spend some time researching

My first international trip was 9 years ago. I've been putting together multi-city flights, finding cheap hostels and making the choice to travel for awhile now.... but I still have SO much to learn. A specific component of the traveler's arsenal that I haven't even mentioned is travel-hacking or using credit card points to fund travel. I know that the amount of travel resources online can get very overwhelming, but spending some time browsing prior to planning your trip can help save you money in the long run.

Feel free to share your own tips for traveling on a budget in the comments!

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