What’s Stopping You From Traveling

Don't call me lucky to be able to travel. Instead ask me “what are you sacrificing in order to travel?" Read to learn what I give up in order to afford a life of travel and learn about what you can give up to do potentially do the same. What’s stopping you from traveling? | http://passportandplates.com

“How do you afford to travel the world?”

I don’t know a single frequent traveler who doesn’t get asked this question incessantly. It’s innocent enough, and frankly, I don’t mind answering it. In fact, I prefer it to the other option of “you’re so lucky you get to travel so much”.

Hold on. Stop. Wait a minute.

Yes, I am lucky that I get to travel. But if you hold an American passport or any one of these passports, you’re just as lucky as I am. You can travel as much as I do. One of my favorite bloggers, Gloria Atanmo, recently wrote an article on why calling someone lucky is an insult, and she truly hit the nail on the head. Calling someone lucky is an insult because it implies that there was zero sacrifice and/or hard work on her/his part to get to where (s)he is. That is almost never the case.

 

In order to be “lucky” enough to afford to travel the world, I…

  • Lived at home for nearly 3 years after graduating because spending the equivalent of a plane ticket on rent every month didn’t fit into my life plans.
  • Commuted four hours every day to and from work so I could live at home and save said money.
  • Worked a corporate job that I didn’t particularly enjoy for two and a half years (and I worked in advertising, so I definitely wasn’t balling by anybody’s standards).
  • Budgeted. A lot. (I like mint.com)

 

I consider myself to be practical. I don’t think everyone can travel [as frequently] as I do. There are factors in life other than finances  that need to be taken into consideration. But 99% of the time when I ask people why they don’t travel, it’s because they “can’t afford to travel the world”.

There’s a genuine difference between not being able to afford something and choosing to spend your money elsewhere. And that’s what people fail to grasp. Most frequent travelers out there aren’t relying on a sugar daddy or earning a six figure salary. But there are some crucial things that they’re sacrificing and not spending money on. It’s precisely those things that are stopping you from being able to afford to travel the world.

 

Rent

Los Angeles is the third most expensive city in the U.S., and I’m embarrassed to say that rent is a steal here when you compare it rent in San Francisco and New York. If you want your own studio in West Hollywood, one of Los Angeles’ trendy neighborhoods, you’d be lucky to find a place for $1,500 per month, not including utilities or parking. Do you know what $1500 buys you in travel? Two round-trip flights from North America to pretty much any other continent. I get that you want to be an independent adult, but you can still #adult with a roommate or from outside of the trendy part of town, where rent costs closer to $1000 per month.

 

Meals

I grew up in an Arab household, where it’s a crime for women not to learn to cook. Yeah, yeah, it’s sexist, but the bottom line is, I know how to cook. Which means I save a lot of money by making myself lunch and dinner at home. Even if you don’t know how to cook, putting together a quick salad and sandwich (or grabbing one from Trader Joe’s) is infinitely cheaper than buying lunch and/or dinner out every single day. According to my super rough calculations, buying food at the grocery store can easily cut your food expenses by a third, if not by half.

 

Coffee

If there’s anyone that should hire me as a brand ambassador, it’s Keurig. Good quality coffee without the mess and hassle of a coffee maker? I jumped on that bandwagon so fast, let me tell you. Keurig coffee costs anywhere between $.50 – $.80 per cup, so it isn’t as cheap as taking the old school coffee maker route.That being said, it sure beats a $4-$6 daily Starbucks habit which, over the course of a year, equals the cost of another round trip ticket to Europe. Being able to afford to travel the world one cup at a time. 

 

Online shopping

Or regular shopping for that matter. My clothing budget was more or less non-existent due to sheer laziness – I don’t like online shopping for clothes and I’d rather suffer through a cold winter than brave the mall on the weekend. For others, it’s not as easy. But the price of clothes adds ups really fast, especially if you have certain brand preferences. Resist the urge to hit “purchase” and save that money instead. Chances are you don’t need more clothes anyway. 

 

Travel costs

Yes, travel is an expense, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s expensive because we pay for convenience: direct flights during peak season, accommodation in the best part of town, fancy guided tours, etc. Did you know that if you fly to Europe in February, you can find round trip tickets for around $300? $300! I know because I checked…and yes, these were from Los Angeles, not New York. Did you know that, if you monitor flight deals, you can snag some amazing prices (like Los Angeles to Costa Rica for $140 RT)? Read some of my money-saving hacks here, and suddenly being able to afford to travel the world will look a whole lot more doable.

 

Work

Boy, do I understand this one. Work is always busy. There’s never a good time to say bye to your inbox for a week. It’s always too much of a hassle. Here’s what I learned: there is never a convenient time to travel. There is always more work to be done and more emails to be answered. Get as much done as you can the week before you leave, find an out of office backup buddy, and go. When it’s your coworker’s turn to take a vacation, you can be his backup buddy. The world will not collapse if you leave your inbox for a week, I promise.

 

Fear

There’s no way that I can summarize, in one paragraph, the many reasons you should not be afraid of the world. Thanks to the “news” (more like the fear-mongering machine), people have become accustomed to fearing the unknown and deciding it’s safer to stay home instead. Are you so scared for your life that you’re stopping yourself from living it? I’ve gotten lost in Kenya, ridden some shady motorbikes in Indonesia, and gotten stitches in Egypt. I’m alive, and I’m not scared. I’ve been more scared in certain areas in the U.S. than I’ve ever been abroad. I implore you to research before making decisions based on the media. You won’t regret it.

 

Friends

I love traveling with my friends, especially those who share my traveling style. But when I quit my job last summer, I knew it would be impossible to find someone to join me on my six-week trip, so I opted to go alone. It was my first solo trip and I was initially scared to death, but I survived (and even enjoyed) it! The point is, don’t let your (lack of) travel companion(s) stop you. I always meet solo travelers on the road, so solo travel isn’t a totally crazy suggestion!

 

As I mentioned before, I understand that there are some people who truly can’t travel. There are so many circumstances that could stop someone from traveling, that I could never address them all. But this is for the people out there who call me lucky to be able to afford to travel the world when they themselves are just as lucky. We just have different priorities. One of the beauties of life is that each person can choose to spend his or her money differently. Remember that the next time you call someone lucky.

 

Are you a frequent traveler? How do you respond to people who say you’re “lucky” to be able to afford to travel the world? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Don't call me lucky to be able to travel. Instead ask me “what are you sacrificing in order to travel?" Read to learn what I give up in order to afford to travel the world and learn about what you can give up to potentially do the same. What’s stopping you from traveling? | http://passportandplates.com

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  • This is such a great post. For me, my biggest hold up (besides limited vacation time) is monitoring my budget. I had a good friend tell me to write down my values, in order of importance. Then, for four weeks, track my spending using Mint.com. At the end, she asked me if my top spending categories aligned to my values. Um, nope! After that, I began prioritizing my spending and cut a lot of eating out and coffee to reallocate funds to things more important to me like family time, health/fitness, and travel.

    • Thanks Meg! And that’s AWESOME. I love mint! I definitely didn’t realize how much I was spending on eating out initially and now I’ve cut back significantly! I think it’s easy to lose track of where your money goes but if you want to make something else a priority (like travel), you really have to take a hard look at your expenses. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  • Oh my goodness – the “lucky” comments always make me crazy. You really explained my frustrations perfectly! As our kids grow older, we value the concentrated family time that travel provides even more, and have been trying to make it a priority to do more and more of it 🙂

    • Yes, me too! People don’t understand that we all have different priorities! That’s great that you make a point to travel with your kids – I think it’s so important to teach them to travel early on and family time is always great 🙂

  • Love this post! And it’s true, most people afford to travel, maybe not that much, but a trip or two a year isn’t impossible. We really want to travel and we love it so much, so the last year we’ve become more aware of our spending. We eat at home, we don’t buy unnecessary stuff, we’re not gong out for drinks, etc. We sacrifice a lot for our lifestyles, but this is what we want. This year we’ve also got ourselves some great flight deals too. Sometimes the airfares decide our destination, and that’s just fine for us 😀

    • Thank you!
      And yes exactly! i understand that sometimes other aspects besides money stop people from traveling, but I do think sometimes making spending sacrifices is the best way to save for travel! A lot of it depends on priorities! And flight deals are the BEST! 🙂

  • Great post! I find that traveling to places changes you a little bit. It might be quite expensive but the experience will take to places that transcends the price. Keep up the good work and I wish you all the best.-Chris Thompson

    • I agree 100%! I honestly wish everyone would take the opportunity to travel because it’s so eye-opening. Totally worth the cost in my book. Thank you for reading and commenting and happy travels! 🙂

  • Chantell Collins

    Love, love, love! I so agree that in a lot of cases it is a choice to travel or not. Of course, there are nationalities who have weaker passports and require visas for every single country they go to or have a currency that is hugely weaker than the USD, EUR or GBP – and I so feel for those people! But yeah – those who who don’t fall into those categories can definitely make choices to put travel as a priority. Like you I have definitely made many sacrifices along the way. I own nothing of value. My most expensive possession is my laptop, CAD $500 and I only just bought that after using the same laptop for 5+ years. All my money goes into travel :).

    • Oh yeah, definitely! Sometimes circumstances really are beyond your control – such as weak currency or passports. But you’re right that in general, we all choose to spend our money differently! For some people (like us!) it’s on travel whereas others like to spend their money elsewhere. There’s no right or wrong way to do it but I definitely don’t want people thinking that we just have a magic travel money machine 😀

  • Live Learn Venture

    These are great tips. I find so many people are quick to throw out excuses. Often times times it’s “I’m too busy” or “I can’t afford it.” The I’m too busy is often the fact that they’re not prioritizing. Or willing to make a huge and risky career change to free up time. You have a great tips here to save money — which I think your readers will find valuable!

    • Thank you! And yes, agreed wholeheartedly on the excuses! Sometimes there really are life circumstances that stop you but more often than not, it’s a lack of prioritizing!

  • Some great tips in there. Some I can do, some I can’t. Hardest part is balancing it all. I try to save money for trips but between trips I am so bored and frustrated with work, I spend on eating out, drinking etc with friends. That is the hardest thing to stop doing.

    you’re missing a few things but it probably relates to Asian culture more – Parents! Parents saying things like “traveling again? What about your job? etc.” The things that stop me from traveling more is $$$ and time off from work.

    • Thank you! And yes, I am totally guilty of eating out way more than I should (it’s also a fun way to socialize) but I think the balancing act is always a challenge.
      And yes, how could I forget parents? I’m Arab so this is definitely a factor, although I’m stubborn enough to not consider it an obstacle anymore haha. Work is a tricky one. It’s definitely a balance but people are surprisingly creative by negotiating remote work, workcations and more! 🙂

  • I don’t believe in luck at all. We are all responsible for our own outcomes (whatever our bent). I have put up with people (even family) for years saying I’m lucky because I own my house outright, don’t have any debt, can afford nice things, and I travel a lot. My “luck” has been created by me (and my husband) working our guts out for 20 years, amongst other things. All of this whilst they didn’t work hard, wasted money etc etc. Great article. You are spot on!!

    • Wow! I can’t believe people say you’re lucky for owning your house. That is a clear-cut “work hard and pay it off” situation in my book! But I agree with you wholeheartedly. Nobody wants to see the effort and sacrifices that go into achieving the lifestyle you want, and that’s frustrating. So we just have to keep reminding them that we work hard to do what we do. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • “There’s a genuine difference between not being able to afford something and choosing to spend your money elsewhere. And that’s what people fail to grasp. Most frequent travelers out there aren’t relying on a sugar daddy or earning a six figure salary. But there are some crucial things that they’re not spending money on. It’s precisely those things that are stopping you from traveling.”

    I don’t know how many times I’ve preached these words verbatim to friends of mine who are so bent on my traveling but prioritize unnecessary things. My philosophy has always been if theres a will, theres a way and since traveling too is of the utmost importance to me, I’ve made so many sacrifices to keep this dream alive and it sucks that people sometimes attribute it to sheer luck. As you said, it implies zero effort. I love your tips on how you budgeted. You need to read “Paris Letters” by Janice Macleod. The premise is about a woman who asks herself how much money would she need to move to europe and she follows through with her plan but she lists every method out too. It’s a great read 😉

    • Oh thanks for the recommendation, I’ll have to check it out!
      And yes, thank you! If someone doesn’t want to travel badly enough to make sacrifices, that’s totally okay…as long as they aren’t judging us for sacrificing for travel! I’m glad that you preach this to people because it’s frustrating that they think so many of us are lucky when in reality we work hard daily to make our (travel) dreams come true. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • I agree that people who are “lucky” are generally that way due to hard work! And it’s all about prioritizing travel and budgeting for it in advance

    • So true! Luck is 1% of the equation – most of it boils down to hard work, resourcefulness, and persevering!
      I know that there are some people who genuinely can’t travel but SO many people just choose to prioritize other things and then complain that we are all rich travelers. So not the case!

  • Yaas! I live in Boston which is always shuffling spots within the top 5 most expensive cities to live in. I work for a non-profit and while I can’t live at home, I’ve chosen to live with 4 relative strangers in a not-so-glamorous building 2 suburbs out from my workplace, just to save a little on rent (though it just went up 25% ><). I use the Level app to track every last expense and cook most of my meals at home. I give myself $20 for work-week "enjoyment" (coffee, pastry, lunch out) and $20 for weekends – I usually have leftovers from both because of my "Do I really need this?" mentality. I'm not giving up my gym membership or monthly fancy bagel (how could I resist a place called Bagelsaurus?!) because I make sure I squeeze every dollar of value from the membership, and its a form of socialization. I would LOVE to save 90 minutes of meal prep twice each week by buying meals out, but I just can't justify it (unless I'm within my $20 'enjoyment' budget). When people say I'm lucky, I just say that I've learned to make it my priority; finding cheap flights at times I know work will be slow… utilizing my credit card and the points system, and mostly just keeping my eye on the prize.

    • YES. This is the kind of thing I’m talking about! It’s definitely a challenge and a pain to have to budget so carefully and to sacrifice meals out or an apartment near work or any of that fun stuff. But when you realize you have enough money to hop on that plane and enjoy your next vacation, it makes it totally worth it. And we’re all allowed to splurge every so often – Bagelsaurus sounds delicious!

  • Laura & Juan Pablo

    This is such an excellent post! Thanks for sharing the inspiration and tips for planning regular travel into life. I love that you hammer home the idea that travel is possible – even with a full time job! I love planning vacations around holidays. Traveling on major holidays can actually be quite affordable, since no one wants to fly ON Christmas or New Year’s Eve, for example. Plus you’ve already got time off for holidays, so why not take a couple extra days and travel somewhere fun?

    Love your blog! Looking forward to reading more of it 🙂

    • Thank you! Yes I definitely do NOT think you need to quit your job OR be rich to travel. And agreed! I love traveling on major holidays. I’ve gotten some amazing deals traveling on Christmas (which totally works since I don’t celebrate anyway). Glad to hear you manage to incorporate travel while holding a full-time job!

  • Somebody insulted me just a couple of days back…how would they understand what all I have sacrificed to travel! Also, the hard work I have to put-in to earn to spend on my trips!

    • Whaaaaat, how rude! Yeah, everyone spends their money differently which people fail to understand. It’s easy for people to say they can’t afford to travel when they don’t realize the sacrifices we make! Best to just enjoy our travels instead 🙂

  • Jennifer Haun

    Loved this article! I studied abroad my senior year in college and did a lot of traveling as a result. I took out more loans and sacrificed my last year in school with all my friends to study abroad. I didn’t walk at graduation because of when school ended there (july). It was the most amazing experience in the whole entire world, but it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Now I am a travel agent and on occasion I get to travel. Again people call me “lucky” but I’ve always found that insulting. I worked hard at all the jobs I’ve had and while I was in school to be qualified for the jobs I had Of course, I’m extremely grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had, but I worked for them. I didn’t just fall into them! Thanks for this, put a lot of things into words that I’ve always thought about!