In the words of my wise friend, “travel is my jam.” I love discovering the world and all her splendor but I do it on a budget.
Since graduating five years ago, I have yet to make more than $10,000 a year. I fund my life and trips abroad pinching pennies along the way.
On my journeys, I meet travelers who follow different methods. Some sell everything to go. Some alternate between saving at home and taking trips abroad. Some work full time and bank on vacation time. Some take the long road and wait for life abroad until retirement.
To integrate travel in my life, I follow four key principles:
1: Eat In, Not Out.
Unless I am invited to a friends’ place for dinner, I hardly eat “out”. In places like the US and New Zealand, cooking at home is often better quality and cheaper.
Other times, in Africa or S.E. Asia, I find host families or the most local cafés possible—i.e. not large dining restaurants or fast food chains.
If you are not sure what I mean, choose a place without printed menus. ;)
2: Use Miles, Not Money.
I briefly discussed mile hacking in a previous post, including resources on how to start. Use money DURING the trip. Not for tickets to go.
I recommend avoiding budget airlines too. Redeeming miles with them is hard because many are not part of the large airline alliances (i.e. OneWord, SkyTeam, Star Alliance, etc).
Plus, the cheap ticket can quickly become normal price because of hidden fees. I recently got smacked with an $105 NZD charge for bringing 12kg when the limit was a measly 7kg— on an INTERNATIONAL trip—a cost half the original ticket price…
If you decide to take a budget flight travel light and expect nothing. Not even peanuts on board.
3: Travel Slow, Not Fast.
Once I arrive to a new country, I find a “base” rather than hopping around to see everything. In Thailand I was based near Chiang Mai. In Sicily I chose Palermo. For New Zealand I chose two: first a city outside Auckland, then one on the South Island.
Why? Moving to and fro adds up fast—choose monthly accommodation rather than nightly; sporadic bus/train/car rides rather than constant trips.
I maintain a short list of the top 2-3 places I want to visit before leaving. The list often changes as I discover new places or receive insight from locals and fellow travelers.
Less moving = more money.
4: Avoid Convenience Purchases.
Though small individually, the convenient things add up fast. Think beyond that $5 cup of tea or coffee (use rule #1 and make it at home).
It can be $2 for 15 minutes of wifi, a $20 upgrade to take a taxi, or the $30 cell phone bill each month.
Break these habits as much as possible—find a café or public library for free wifi, walk/bike/take public transportation instead of the private ride, use GoogleVoice or Skype for local and international calls. Yes—it might take longer but time is the best currency when traveling with little to no income.
These travel principles have taken me far but remember: they are not hard fast rules. Think of them as instincts and adjust when necessary.
Most importantly ENJOY each trip; travel should not feel like a chore or budgeted routine.