“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!