When I tell friends and family about my trip, after the usual response of, “Please don’t die,” they usually say they’re jealous and wish they could come. I always respond, “So come!” to which they blame jobs, boyfriends, girlfriends, school, and most often: money. When people ask me how much I am spending on this trip, they are always surprised by my answer because of how little you really need to afford international travel. Since a lot of my friends have expressed to me that they too would like to traipse about abroad for an extended period of time, here are five tips to help get them (and maybe even you!) where they want to go:
1) DON’T BUY SHIT.
Seems obvious, I know. But you’d be surprised how quickly people, especially young people, will allow money to drain from their bank accounts. I had to really cut back- I don’t eat out unless I made over $600 at work that week (or my parents invite me out). I realized I was drinking 5 chai lattes a week, which is not only bad for me, but bad for my bank account. Now I have Chai-day Friday and treat myself at the end of a long week to my favorite beverage. I only buy what I need– and that is really and truly not a whole lot. When I look for clothes now I think to myself, “How will that fit into my backpack?” “Is this versatile/basic/well made enough to take on the road?” And the answer 99.9% of the time is hell no- my backpack is only holding 60 L and a sleeping bag, first aid kit, flashlights, and a buttload (yeah, a buttload) of other gear are taking precedence over tank tops and sundresses. If you want to have money you have to save your money- and that means not buying stupid shit.
2) SAVE, SAVE, SAVE.
Here is the thing about saving money: it’s hard. But when it results in you living your dream, posing for pictures at the Taj Mahal, sleeping on beaches in Australia, eating pho for breakfast in Vietnam- it will never have felt more worth it. A lot of us have jobs that don’t yield much money, which means it may take you a while longer OR you can pick up more shifts/work crazy hours. I didn’t commit to a “career” job yet and am still waiting tables, as I have done all throughout college. I worked four doubles in a row, with today being my first day off in, well, awhile. I’m working my ass off, but I have my eyes on the prize and so does Kate. She’s working 6 doubles in a row…I know! She’s crazy! But when a hostess comes up and says, “Do you want me to cut you or do you want to take this last table?” we just look each other in the eyes and say “Trip money”, and it’s decided. Kate’s bank account is filling alongside mine, and our memories of our twenties are going to trump most people’s, which is a constant reminder to pick up shifts, put that money in the bank, and forget you ever made it. In two weeks at work I made $1100, so realistically within a month or so I could buy yet another RTW ticket, then continue saving for the remainder of my time in Fort Lauderdale. Luckily, I already bought my ticket with money gleaned from graduation cards and the like and am well on my way to 9 months of backpackin’ bliss 😀
3) Use budget travel sites.
Sites like STA travel and Star Alliance offer amazing deals on international travel. For 14 international flights from LAX to Cairo I spent $3200 with the help of my trusty travel agent at STA. She helped me design a round the world ticket and worked with me every step of the way to make sure I was happy with my flight times, airports, etc. Booking a RTW ticket is a big decision and a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the long run for your wallet and your time, because you can get all your flights figured out and not have to worry about it. The greatest thing about RTW tickets is that they are also easily changeable- you can switch your flights for about $100 each- not too bad! And with the added benefit of traveler’s insurance you really can’t ask for a better deal. Check out STA– a typical RTW ticket is London-Singapore-Bangkok-Sydney, but mine is quite a bit longer and and amazing deal!
4) Research, research, research.
There are so many amazing resources online and in bookstores, even in your local community for world travelers. If you’ve been bitten by the travel bug, rest assured you are not alone. In fact, there are people out there who WANT you to travel as much as you do! I know! Crazy!!! But honestly, there are a million resources. At the very least you have hostelworld.com which has a zillion reviews of hostels, hotels, bed and breakfasts, etc. all over the world! It’s super easy to use and you can book online. Then, there’s Couch Surfing, Help X, and Volunteer Alliance, which offer cheap accommodation alternatives and volunteer opportunities globally. Another great way to meet other travelers who have been where you plan on going, or have plans to be there too is through social networking sights like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Search things like #Varanasi (a city you plan to visit in India) #RTW (to connect with other round the world travelers) or #airchina or #barnacleshostel to see photos of airplanes or hostel dorms you might end up on. Facebook has been a lifesaver for me- being able to search the page of the volunteer network and then click through the photos to see volunteers tagged, I was able to message them and ask a million questions. A lot of people I connected with were able to give really helpful tips that actually changed a lot of travel plans for me! Check out these resources- you can sleep for free with Couch Surfing, live for free (accommodation, food, etc.) on Help X, and help save the world through Volunteer Alliance, and that is just scratching the surface. Check out other travel blogs and google search anything you have questions about.
5) Don’t stop believin’
The best thing you can do- more important than any of these other tips- is to never stop dreaming. If you want to do something, set your mind to it and do it. The only person holding you back is you. When I started planning this trip there were times it felt like it was never going to happen- that I could never pull it off. But here I am, 78 days away with my plane ticket purchased and a heart full o’ excitement and dreams about to come true! There is nothing holding you back but your own negativity when it comes to traveling and adventure. You CAN do it! If I can do it, anyone can. This trip is going to change my life, and a similar one could change yours.