I get a lot of people asking me how I earned, saved and budgeted for my long term travel. I get questions like “how do you make money while you travel?” or “did you win the lottery?” Also, I hear a lot of “how much money did you start with?” and “what’s your daily budget?”
I think long term travel is hard for anyone to wrap their heads around, particularly Americans. The American society is based around hard work, financial growth and success. On average, American’s get roughly 3-4 weeks of vacation each year. Honestly, many only get 2 weeks. We also have a lot of debt and financial responsibilities, such as student loans, car payments, insurance, mortgages, credit cards, and the list goes on.
Long term travel IS possible for anyone. Yes, it may be harder for some to achieve than others, but I honestly believe that if you have a will then you have a way. Traveling long term around the world was my absolute dream and so I made it happen. Now, let me break it down how I saved for long term travel in hopes to inspire you.
MY JOURNEY TO LONG TERM TRAVEL
I’ve never lived the conventional American life. I didn’t go to college, so I don’t have student loans. I’m not interested in owning a home so I’m not tied to a mortgage. Being in the service industry, I wasn’t offered insurance through work. I’ve never paid for an insurance plan because it’s so pricey and I could never justify the expense. Although I have owned cars in the past, I’ve never had an expensive vehicle. I’m simply not materialistic or into designer things.
The one thing I did have was credit debt. In my early 20’s I made a lot of financial mistakes and overall wasn’t smart with my money. I had a full commission job selling mortgage loans that left me with no incoming money for months on end. Never did I think twice about charging things to my credit card. Paying just the minimum payments on my cards caused them to quickly double. By the time I moved back to WA state I was in a serious amount of debt that I couldn’t get out from under.
Now I must say, this stuff doesn’t make me proud and I have deleted this section several times because I feel ashamed. With that being said, one thing traveling has taught me is to be more transparent, to except my shit and own my flaws. I know that my experiences are unique and I’m a better person now because of the mistakes I have made and worked through. So I vow to you that I will always be honest. I’ll own up to my mistakes. In doing so, I hope you can better understand me and maybe what I have learned can help others avoid similar mistakes.
DEALING WITH DEBT
After I moved back in with my parents when I was about 28 years old I started doing some soul searching. I needed a fresh start, I had become depressed about my debt and felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore. Bankruptcy had come up years prior, but I always said no because I felt responsible for my debt. After all, I had accumulated it so I would deal with it on my own. However, it had become apparent that I would never be able to handle this. I needed help.
Here’s the thing though, asking for help is not my cup of tea, I’m terribly independent. Going through with bankruptcy was the first time I truly realized that I can’t do everything alone and learned to accept my downfalls and weaknesses. It was a time in my life where I felt the lowest and I believed myself to be a failure.
SAVED BY BANKRUPTCY
Bankruptcy saved my life. Now I’m not trying to advocate for bankruptcy nor do I think this is the answer to peoples financial problems. With that being said, it was the answer for me and it was the right decision for my life. Every situation is different and unique.
My journey through bankruptcy was seemingly painless. The process took a few months in total and in the end, my debts were wiped clean. As part of the bankruptcy process, I took part in some very helpful courses on how to manage money and how to move forward after becoming bankrupt. I also learned how to properly budget and save, which allowed me to accomplish my goals of long term travel.
READ MORE: Want to learn how I became a travel addict? Check it out here.
LEARNING HOW TO SAVE TO TRAVEL LONG TERM
After my bankruptcy, I saved every penny. Since I was living with my parents, my only bills were my car insurance and phone bill. I was working at a high-end swanky bar at the time and was making really good money. I would put away all my tips and when I reached $1k I would give it to my mom to stash away for me. I soon moved out of my parent’s house, but I still continued to save in this way. My bills were higher with rent, water, and electricity, but I never lost my saving momentum.
Having my mom keep my money gave me the out of sight, out of mind mentality. In hinds sight, I should have put it into a savings account and let it grow, but then I would have known what was there. I became obsessed with filling another envelope with $1k to stash away.
Right before my 30th bday, I was fired from my swanky bar job. It was an absolute blessing in disguise because it forced me to recognize how unhappy I was there. The companies values did not align with my own and I had started to hate the person I had become there.
WORKING 2 JOBS TO SAVE
Shortly after, I found a new job and then another. Suddenly, I was working all the time and my savings started growing exponentially. I worked 6 days a week between the 2 jobs and worked doubles half of those. I had very little time for anything else, however, I was happy because I knew I was working towards my goal of long term travel. I held two jobs for 3 years which allowed me to save a giant chunk of moola.
About mid-year 2017, I pulled the plug and bought that one-way ticket. I had been working like crazy for so long and I was at the “shit or get off the pot” point with travel. I had saved plenty of money, fantasized over making my travel dreams come true and people were getting sick of hearing me talk about these plans that I never seemed to make happen.
I’ll never forget the time I was talking about my long term travel dreams (that I wasn’t putting into action) with my mom. What she said to me really got me thinking. She told me “It was ok if I wanted to change my dream. That maybe I didn’t really want to travel and that’s why I hadn’t taken the plunge.” It forced me to recognize that I was ready and simply was making excuses. I did want to travel, it’s the only thing that’s been truly important to me. I wanted it, I needed it.
PLUNGING HEAD FIRST INTO LONG TERM TRAVEL
I bought my one-way ticket to Thailand with about 6 months in advance, which offered me awesome pricing. Also, it gave me plenty of time to plan, prepare, research and save those last important pennies. I made sure that the timing lined up perfectly with the end of my lease and I told both my jobs of my plans so they could start preparing to replace me.
READ MORE: Interested in how I felt about Thailand? Here are my 18 Hilarious Facts.
After I bought my ticket, I started to work on the details of my money and how I would keep it safe while traveling. I took all my cash from my mom and opened a savings account through Chase and set it up in a way that it wasn’t accessible through my debit card. The reason I did this was that if I was held at gunpoint, heaven forbid, or my card was stolen then when the card was used at an ATM machine no one could see that I had savings. On a monthly basis, I would transfer small chunks of money into my checking account.
Now that I had all my money in a savings account, I was able to see just how much I had. I had deposited $16,000 and I still hadn’t sold my car. I decided my goal was to have $20,000 before I left for my long term travels. It would be tough, but I was determined. I stopped going out, made all my meals at home and stopped drinking La Croix (I was addicted).
SELLING MY CAR AND LEARNING TO RIDE THE BUS
The first thing I sold was my car. I was lucky because I lived within walking distance of both of my jobs. The car had been paid off for years and I hardly drove it. In fact, I don’t even really like to drive, so I was famous for catching rides whenever necessary.
At the time, I worked with a very good friend of mine and him and his wife were in need of a new vehicle. The first day I spoke about selling my car it was gone. I sold my car to my friends for $4,000, canceled my insurance and never looked back. Being without a car seems like a giant challenge for people, especially in America. I think about 90% of Americans own a car and drive it daily. That’s a lot of people dependant on their vehicles.
After selling my car, I started using the bus system even when people offered to drive me places. The reason I did this was so I could learn and build confidence using public transportation. Sadly enough, I had never ridden a public bus in my life. I am that privileged, I’ll admit that. I had simply always owned a car, so why bother with the bus.
DEALING WITH PUBLIC TRANSIT MISHAPS
In all honesty, it was nerve-racking in the beginning. At times it was stressful and it was always time-consuming. Sometimes buses were late or didn’t come or I couldn’t find the bus stop. Other times I was standing on the wrong side of the road or boarded the wrong bus. I was happy to face these obstacles in my home country where everyone speaks my language.
These learning lessons helped build my confidence to be able to face much harder challenges and long days of travel on the road. Because let me tell you, when you travel long term, especially on a budget, you will be challenged.
SELLING ALL MY THINGS TO TRAVEL
My second key to preparing for departure was to sell all my things. Yes, I mean that I sold ALL of my things. People get really hung up on this detail when I tell them. I think it feels too final for people, too definite. I’ve learned that people are very attached to their belongings. That has simply never been my style.
My worldly possessions mean nothing to me. I’ve never been attached to a bed, a chair or my clothes. Probably because everything I’ve ever owned was a hand me down or a thrift store purchase. I have never bought new furniture or designer clothes.
I knew I didn’t want to pay for a storage unit while I was gone. I didn’t want any bills or financial responsibilities. My parents were allowing me to store a few things in their attic, but there wasn’t a ton of room up there. I definitely wasn’t going to be able to haul any furniture up that sketchy ladder.
Another reason for selling everything was to free myself of any ties. I didn’t know where this journey was going to lead me. I certainly didn’t want to have to deal with a ton of stuff if I decided to never return. Knowing that long term travel would change everything and would open up new opportunities for me.
LETTING GO OF WORLDLY POSSESIONS
I can’t begin to explain how freeing this process of purging was. There are so many things that we hold on to for no good reason. As I sold things and simply got rid of others, I started to feel a giant weight lifted off my back. It was as if these insignificant worldly possessions had been holding me back, weighing me down and rooting me to that one spot I had inhabited for so long. This was my first taste of freedom.
Selling all my things was a bit of a process and at the time felt stressful. Looking back now it seems like it was effortless. I sold the majority of my large furniture to friends or people I knew. The smaller things like knick knacks, collectibles, clothes, shoes, jewelry, art, and dishes I sold online using an app called Offer Up.
This was VERY time-consuming. I had to photograph and list every single little thing. Then I had to write a description for each one. I had to stay on top of messages from people and it was often challenging setting up times that I could be home to show and sell things. Luckily, I lived in a locked building and could go down to the street and meet people to sell things so strangers were never in my home.
In the end, the things I couldn’t sell I just took to the goodwill or got rid of. I would have friends and family come over and told them to take anything they wanted. The place started looking quite empty. It was bare bones in the end, but it made me happy because it reminded me that my dreams of long term travel were about to come true.
SAYING GOODBYE TO MY FUR BABIES
Two of the hardest things for me to get rid of were my cats. I’m a big-time cat lover, my cats were my babies and they meant a lot to me. I felt guilty about finding them a new home and would have nightmares of them being neglected. Luckily my best friends Mom offered to take them for me. It was an answer to prayers. I knew she would give them a loving home and they would be spoiled.
I took the cats to their new home a few months before I left. My apartment was starting to look like an empty warehouse. I knew it was starting to stress them out that everything was disappearing from underneath them. Also, I wanted time to find a plan B if for some reason it didn’t work out.
I’m lucky enough to say that they are living their best lives, thank you so much, Lisa, if you’re reading this. I can’t even begin to express my loving gratitude that you have given them such a wonderful home. You’re a hero to me and to them.
MY LAST FEW MONTHS PRIOR TO LONG TERM TRAVEL
Those last months before I left were full of excitement. I spent a lot of my time organizing my travel things, packing then unpacking and then packing again. My long term travel dreams were finally in my reach and I could focus on nothing else.
My final days at work were spent training my replacement. Saying goodbye to my coworkers and regulars was really hard because I had become really close with many of them. However, they were all very excited about my journey. I made plans to see friends and family knowing it would be a while until I saw them again.
I paid my last bills in full and set up my mail to be forwarded to my mom. Then I called my bank and credit card and told them I would be leaving the country. Giving them a full itinerary of the countries I would be traveling to in hopes of avoiding my card from being shut off by fraud prevention.
Also, I called and canceled my cell phone plan with T-mobile. Giving them the day after my departure as my last day of service. I had paid off my phone in advance so I was able to unlock it. This would allow me to purchase and buy local sim cards in each country and use those for internet while I traveled.
STARTING MY BLOG
Starting my blog was more of an afterthought. Not even thinking to start it until a few weeks before I left. I had bought a laptop to travel with and wanted to be able to keep a journal to remember my experiences. Having the blog would be a great way to avoid having to tell the same story over and over again to my friends and family. People could simply just read my blog to keep up with me.
It took me a few months to learn how to create and build a website. With a lot of time and dedication, I was able to make it into something I am proud of and people enjoy reading. I never really knew I had a passion for writing or that I was any good at it. However, this hidden little talent inside of me continued to grow.
Along the way, I continued to learn and decided this was something I wanted to continue to nurture and pursue. I bought courses, read books, watched countless youtube videos, talked with other bloggers and started to invest more time and money into making it a success.
Here it is now, you’re reading this and the website continues to grow as I invest into it and also because you’re supporting it. I have only just begun to monetize in an effort to make money from my endeavors. More on that in a separate blog to come.
LONG TERM TRAVEL AND DIGITAL NOMAD LIFE
As I continued my long term travel I realized it was something I wanted for the rest of my life. I want to be location independent. To be able to work from anywhere, on my terms and at my own pace. I want to be able to make money from my laptop wherever I am, as long as there is wifi.
I started researching things I could do that would allow me to achieve this goal. What I landed on was network marketing. I have only just begun to break the ice on this idea and have really enjoyed learning about this new opportunity.
READ MORE: Want to read more about my new network marketing gig? Check it out here.
LONG TERM TRAVEL IS NOT FOR EVERYONE
It’s true, this lifestyle is not for everyone. I know how lucky I am that I work in an industry that I can quit my job, leave for long term travel and then return and get another job. Most people have a career where they fear if they leave they will never be able to find another position. I personally would never sacrifice my dreams because I feared the future. However, I know we are all different.
There are many of you out there that have small children at home keeping you in one place. I never had kids so I honestly can’t begin to understand what that is like. However, I met A LOT of families traveling together on the road and they were all amazing, cultured, mature and well rounded. I can only see benefits from traveling as a young child. It teaches a slew of life lessons that couldn’t be learned otherwise.
People tell me all the time, that they can’t leave their home. Unfortunately, this is a pretty lame excuse. There are many amazing options for people who want to travel but don’t want to sell their homes. Consider looking into house sitting if you have pets or need someone to water your plants. Airbnb offers a great opportunity to make money from your home while you travel.
The bottom line is, anyone can travel long term. No matter what your excuses are that are keeping you from your dreams of long term travel is that they are simply just excuses. I made them for many years before I pulled the plug, so I do actually understand. The truth is, I had a dream and I did whatever it took to make it happen. Today, I continue to live out that dream and you could be living out yours too!
SHARING IS CARING
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