One thing that is interesting about travelling is other people’s comments about my travels. While some are meant as compliments and praise, others are a tad judgmental. Here are some comments I get often, the good and the bad, “You are so lucky”, “I wish I was able to travel like you do”, “You are so blessed”, “I wish I had time to travel”, “I wish I had money to travel”, “You must be rich”, “Travel while you are young and don’t have any responsibilities”.
I have gotten these comments from many different people, numerous times. I want to kind of set the record straight about my traveling because I don’t think people realize how I do it and the hard work and saving I put into it. It is easy to make assumptions and quick judgments when you see the photos posted on FaceBook and not the sweat and tears that took place behind the scenes. Maybe these tips can help others realize that they can travel too, if it is their priority.
I do not consider myself to be lucky or blessed, but I do consider myself to be determined and hard working. Traveling, especially planning trips, is exhausting and takes a lot of time and even more patience. It is easy to make assumptions when all you see is the end result, the pretty pictures. Planning trips, abroad or even just a weekend trip can take me hours, days, even weeks.
The number one important ingredient to traveling is that traveling is a priority in my life. Because it is a priority, I have taken on a kind of lifestyle that allows for frequent travel. While this lifestyle works for me and makes me happy, it may not be for everyone.
Traveling can be very expensive but I do it the cheapest way I know how to. Here are the things that help my traveling be cheap.
I do not travel luxuriously or conveniently.
I travel to cheap countries first. While I am starting out my career and making entry level salaries, I am hitting up cheap countries first; like Costa Rica, Belize, Nicaragua, etc… I will travel to other counties that are known to be more expensive at a later date but for now I am sticking to South and Central America
If I am traveling out of the country, I buy cheap plane tickets that fly at inconvenient times. My last flight was at 3am at JFK airport. I live upstate. I took a bus down to the city for 4 hours then I took a 2 hour train ride to the airport. After arriving there at midnight, I slept for a few hours on the cold, hard tile until my 3am flight. Not luxurious.
My flights usually have a ton of stop-overs for hours and hours and hours. Direct flights are awesome and convenient so they can be more expensive. I do not take direct flights if I can find a cheaper one that is less convenient.
I do not stay in hotels. I stay in hostels or stay in people’s houses that rent out a room via airbnb.com. Hostels and people’s houses are less luxurious than a nice, fancy hotel but they are also much cheaper. But! You would be surprised. I have stayed at phenomenal Airbnb’s! Some even nicer than hotels.
I also like this option because you have the opportunity to meet other travelers and locals! It is usually local families that own the hostels.
I don’t drink. You would not believe how much money I save by not drinking alcohol!
I do a lot of hiking. Hiking is mostly free! Sometimes you have to pay a park fee but it usually isn’t much. I also enjoy walking around cities or towns. This is also free but you get to meet locals, try local foods, and experience the culture of the country you are traveling to!
In other countries, I don’t rent a car. I figure out public transportation or use shuttles.
I think people also don’t realize how frugally I live. My lifestyle is as follows:
Once again, I do not drink. This saves me a ton of money. Conveniently for me, I don’t like drinking.
I don’t usually eat out. I will with friends once in a while but most of the time I cook and bring my own lunch to work each day.
I do not own a TV so I don’t have a cable bill. I also don’t pay for HBOgo or Hulu or anything like that. I used to splurge on Netflix for the $9 a month DVD plan but I don’t even do that anymore.
I was never one to workout, but this year, working out and getting into shape was my new year’s resolution. I didn’t want to spend money on a gym membership so I workout to videos on Youtube. I also like this because it is more convenient and takes less time. I love the Youtube channel, FitnessBlender. They have diverse videos you can workout to in the comfort and privacy of your own room!
I just recently got a smart phone. For years I had a pay as you go, cheap, crappy phone. And I will have this phone for as long as it works. I will not be paying for the newest version. I have a basic version through Cricket Wireless. It is $40 a month for unlimited talk and text and limited data. Limited data also helps me to be more productive!
I don’t own a car. I use public transportation or carpool.
I keep a budget to keep track of what I spend my money on. At this point I spend most of my money on traveling and fun things. For a while I was spending a lot of money on eating out. I saw that and began cooking.
I pick out recipes every Sunday and go shopping for those specific ingredients. This eliminates a lot of wasted food. I save money by buying what I need for the week.
I buy used clothes. I don’t shop at the mall or clothing stores (only for bras, underwear, and shoes). I buy used clothing and accessories from thrift shops or used clothing stores. My favorite is Plato’s Closet! My friends and I also have trading events. Once or twice a year, my friends and I gather all of our clothes and accessories we don’t want anymore. We make this a party and trade all of our stuff.
For the most part, my boyfriend and I don’t exchange gifts. We only exchange gifts on Christmas and we don’t spend a lot of money. We usually spend under $50 on each other for Christmas. For Valentine’s Day we go out to dinner, which is such a nice treat for us because we don’t eat out a lot. This makes Valentine’s Day memorable and special for us. We like to save up our money so that we can travel together.
My friend’s and I don’t exchange birthday or holidays gifts unless we do secret santa. We will have a holiday party or all go out to dinner or have a party for a birthday. Not only does this save all of us money, it gives us time together and also relieves us of a lot of stress.
I don’t go to the movies and if I do, I go to a discount theater. Luckily they have one in my area.
We spend a lot of time outdoors. This is free.
I don’t have kids. This helps a lot but I do foster and rescue cats which takes a good chunk of my income.
I don’t buy books. I borrow them from the library.
I am trying to grow my own herbs and vegetables but I am failing miserably. I was not born with a green thumb.
Of course it is absolutely, perfectly fine for people to eat out everyday and buy each other expensive gifts and have cable. These are normal things in life. I choose to live a different way to save money for my priority.
This may all seem extreme and a dramatic way to live but it has become so natural to me and I find that I am happier. Also, I am a Social Worker. Look up Social Worker’s average pay and you will see that I am in no way rich. Living minimally allows me the freedom to do all the things I want to do and to travel to new and exciting places with a limited budget.
Do you have any awesome ways to save money that I missed? Let me know!