I’ve seen so many articles and blog posts about how you should quit your job and travel the world. They make it seem so simple and give you a 5- or 10-step plan of how you can live the dream – you just do this and that, book a plane ticket and off you go to have the adventure of a lifetime in some cheap Southeast Asian place where your Pounds, Euros and Dollars are worth so much more.
The advice usually goes like this:
Sell everything you have.
Rent out your apartment.
Cash in on your trusts, bonds or investments.
Get a credit card.
But what if you don’t have anything to sell? What if you don’t own an apartment to rent out or if you don’t have anything to cash in on? What if scraping the money together for just a plane ticket is difficult? And if you can’t do any of the above, who on earth will give you a credit card?
The truth of the matter is: It’s NOT that simple!
These writers make it sound like such a fairy tale. The headlines of their articles are inspiring with quotes and photos. They say things like “stop dreaming and just do it” or “you only live once”. I love inspirational words, but it’s not always that simple.
The thing is that the writers of these articles or blog posts have something they often don’t tell you about. They have money and enough of it. They have a back-up. Some of them have some kind of online job, they make money through their websites, or they freelance or cash in on that rent check they receive every month, or…they are actually working an eight-to-five while they are travelling. They have a back-up. Often their blog posts are not happening in real-time; it is a write-up of memories of a recent trip, because in real-time they are doing the same thing I’m doing, the same thing you’re doing – they are working to save for that next big trip. They are working towards their back-up.
The truth of the matter is: You NEED a back-up.
Even though it is insanely cheap to travel in some countries – cheaper than living in your home country – you still need that back-up. Even though there are ways to travel cheap such as CouchSurfing, hitchhiking, busking or begging (frowned upon if you are a traveler in a foreign country), you still need that back-up and a pretty decent one. Unfortunately you can’t hitchhike your way into a plane, unfortunately in some places you can’t camp out in a public park for the night and there are some laws that won’t allow you to work in some countries. If you want to travel for a long time, you need to start all over again when you run out of money. Unfortunately the responsibility of surviving will always be there.
This post is not morbid or cynical or a reason to give up on the dream to travel forever, but it’s reality. If you have nothing, you can’t do it.
So here are my tips to travel the world:
Before the trip
1. Save and cut back on anything expensive.
2. Pay off your debt and stay away from a credit card.
3. Travel and work – if you are fortunate enough to qualify for a working holiday visa, go for it. If you have a degree, go teach in Asia. If you are from an English speaking country, go teach in places such as Thailand or Japan where you just need a TEFL certificate.
4. Stop talking about some day – if you talk about that trip you’ll do some day, you’ll wake up on some day and still say some day. Start saving now for some day.
5. The Internet is your best friend – if you can make money online while traveling, do it. You are in an extremely fortunate position when you have a back-up that is not tying you down to one place.
6. Don’t buy expensive gear – you don’t need an expensive backpack or expensive shoes. Seriously, if you are not going to live, hike or survive in a jungle for months, just go with something simple. If it breaks, use superglue. Improvise and remember less is more – use it or lose it!
On the trip
7. Don’t behave like an alcoholic – hangovers are expensive. All that money you’ve just spent on Whiskey buckets or beer could have funded a few more days of traveling. Do the math.
8. If you really want to travel, but want to eat or sleep in expensive places, think again. Rather opt for the cheaper option – stay in hostels, use CouchSurfing and eat local food.
9. Don’t give money to beggars – if you are traveling in third world countries, don’t give money to beggars or fall into the “friend trap”. This might sound harsh, but giving out money will open a world of problems. The locals will see you as a human ATM and will see the next foreigner as one too. Learn to say no and know where to draw the line.
*If you want to help people in need (without going through an organisation) rather give them food or toiletries.
10. Do you need all that crap? Shopping for cheap souvenirs is great fun, but in the end you’ll have a lot of stuff that you probably won’t use and you have to carry it with you until the end of your trip. Keep your souvenirs to a minimum and learn to haggle!
Traveling forever is the dream of many, but it’s not always that simple to fund it and unfortunately you do need a back-up to survive. There are a lot of options out there to fund your trip, so don’t give up on that dream, just know that with hard work and living in a simple inexpensive way; you too can travel the world. Sometimes all you need is just a tiny plan to fund your dream.