The Price of Travel
The coins at the bottom of my bank account don’t even rattle against one another (at the moment) that I know of; certainly in some foreign countries, there is a coin large enough to cover the contents of my life savings in just one coin so it has nothing to jingle against outside of the small metal box I imagine is sitting in the bank with all my material possession.
Everyone knows travel takes financing, and not many people begin with the kind of funds that it takes to sustain extended travel, and I can promise that I wasn’t born into a trust fund that never ended. But because my one dream was to travel to faraway lands and never settle for the white picket fence life, I’ve managed to find a way (so far) and so can you.
So you’re not a blogger–no big deal, you can still make bank from your travels. If you’re an avid photographer, there are apps like Twenty20 and Foap that can sell the commercial rights to the photos you take everyday, and it means you get to choose the rates that you sell your Insta Hits. If you’re really good you can create a premium, add an online website like Tumblr to help increase your traffic, or even branch out to making postcards and prints of crowd favorites.
Other ways to freelance your way across the world is to find work-stays, either in hostels, eco-lodges, or other volunteer programs that trade a certain number of hours of work for lodgings and food. It’s a great way to continue on your way even when things are strapped, or to help you out when you’re low and on your way home. Hostels and guesthouses trade everything from help doing housekeeping, to bar work, painting murals, or even giving walking tours, so don’t sell yourself short on what you can offer. Just make sure you look relatively clean and reliable when you make your pitch, it can only work in your favor.
And last, reach out to travel magazines that you admire, or blogs that you frequent, with your proposed itinerary and a word of praise for their product. Maybe they will say no, they don’t need anything now—no writing, no photos, no Q&A column—but maybe down the road they’ll be open to podcasts where their subscribers can ask you questions about your journey’s, photo essays in multiple-page spreads that could launch your professional explorer career and feed right into your own show on the Discovery Channel. The key with this is just to make connections before you leave, and make them all along the way, so you always have an avenue to pursue.
Some of my friends would cry if they saw my credit card bill–you owe how much?!
But for the ones that are sitting at home and taking loans out for school, or cars, or houses, I can’t make them see the hypocrisy of the situation. Yes, I pay for my flights on a credit card, and I sometimes draw money out of the ATM on my credit card if the places I’m going only accept cash and I don’t want to deplete my reserves. I still go out for dinner every once in awhile, or treat myself to a new pair of sneakers. It’s the price of keeping on when you’ve got yourself and a backpack and nothing else.
But here’s my point: travel is the only thing that you can buy that will make you richer. Be that through experience, or actual material wealth (who knows, you could land a sweet deal with Nike trekking gear and be set for life), you grow, and change, become a more complex, adventurous person with every step you take out that doorway.
Accrued Miles Programs
When you fly, there’s no reason not to get double back on those frequent flyer miles. While they do have a tendency to expire, if you’re travelling as much as I do, you’ll have very little downtime between the next flight and the end date, so you can just keep putting one towards the other.
Things to look out for when choosing a good miles program (and this works even if you’re buying your tickets through third party like SkyScanner or Kayak) is whether they have credit card bonuses, a donation program,
And even if you never use those points toward things likes hotels, cabs, or more flying, you can trade them in for cash with programs like Points.com. It’s a nice little cushion for mastering the travel bumps that are sure to come your way.
One of my grandmother’s best friends had a grandson (I was told this story at a very young age, maybe 7) who graduated college, worked on the stock market for a year, and then changed his mind about a career, sold everything he had on eBay, and went cross-country in Europe for six-months. The way she told the story was more cautionary than inspirational—he went through his savings in the first three months, then worked in hotels, restaurants, and tour companies to make it back home—but in my 7-year old, and now almost 20 year old, eyes, it made perfect sense.
So before you head off, don’t forget about the junk you’ve got lying around at home. Think simple, both for travelling, and your life after travelling (which will probably include a lot more travel) and sparse down to the essentials. Do you need that desktop computer or will your laptop suffice? That stereo surround sound just gathering dust in the corner? What about the acoustic guitar you had to have but never played? Big ticket items can become pocket change for places like Paris, but in locales like Thailand, you could keep things afloat for two weeks or more on what you could sell a TV for.
When it comes to clothes and supplies, I don’t skimp when it’s possible–I’m one for quality, whenever I can afford it.
Here’s my logic: you can buy one pair of Chaco’s (at almost $100 USD ticket price) or you can buy multiple pairs of sandals that are cheaper but aren’t made as well. Northface rain jackets, Columbia parkas, Patagonia backpacks all come at a pretty price, but how often do you hear someone say that this piece has made it with them around the world three times, or has been their staples carry on item for the past ten years? More often than not, if you go with quality, and not just a bargain (or a brand), you’ll save money in the long run, even if it’s just at the drugstore for the price of Bandaids because the hiking sandals are the only ones that don’t give you blisters.
Trust me, when the going gets rough, you want things to be reliable, and the way to get reliable is to buy quality.
They’re all right, all the skeptics: this kind of life isn’t easy. But neither is the one that everyone else is leading. You just have to pick your battles, and it’s a tough one, but not impossible. So don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do exactly what you want, and run away after a beautiful sunset–it’s your life, and you’ll never know how precious it is until you take it for a ride.