During my brief stint in Washington D.C., I casually dated a stocky guy who worked for a consulting company. I’d met him through an online dating site. The idea that the site had even paired us through its advanced romance-honing technology was ludicrous, as we had absolutely nothing in common aside from a shared participation in basic bodily functions.
“Can I ask you something?” he said one day, not even pausing before asking anyway. “Do you have like a trust fund? Is that how you travel so much?” It seemed like a weird kind of put-down.
Perhaps I should have been more patient with him -- I know that from the outside my life can seem confusing to people -- but this made me mad. Very mad.
At the time I was living in a studio apartment that I later sublet out and then got rid of completely and everything I owned fit into 3 boxes and a suitcase. When you make unconventional choices, people feel they have the right to openly comment or question them. Nobody would have asked this guy how he could afford his car or colossal flat screen TV. As a single dude, this guy was living like a married person with piles of bills. He was paying 150 dollars a month for a gym membership he never used and another hundred for cable. He wanted to travel but he just couldn’t afford it he told me. He couldn’t understand how I could do it.
I've had this from other people too. "You're so lucky," people have said as though my life were magically gifted to me.
But I’ve given up a lot to do this as well. I have a few close friends sprinkled over the world and no permanent home base (yet). I also have almost no stuff and missed most of the major live televised events that have taken place in the past decade. Still, for all of the people I've met and things I've seen, I think it's worth it.
Maybe you have your own ways of affording to travel. These are just mine. I know they aren’t for everybody.
This is how you can afford to travel:
1.Get rid of your apartment.
No apartment = no rent. Voila! Depending on where you live that’s at least a grand saved per month. If you want to keep your apartment/have too much stuff to deal with, you can Airbnb the hell out of your place and make money by being away.
2. Find a job that allows you to travel.
This is a big one and I know it doesn’t work this way for everyone. However, there are creative ways to make cash while you’re on the road. If you work in business or medical fields, you can search sites like idealist.org for opportunities all over the world. It might not be much, but if you’re going someplace cheap, you can definitely survive on it.
If nothing else, you can always teach English, which in many cases only requires you to possess a proficiency in English and vocal chords.
3.Have no bills.
I have no cable, no gym membership, no car and no store cards. My only bill is for my one credit card. I have a phone into which I pop a sim card from whichever country I’m in. I also keep my old iPhone, which I no longer pay for but use for Skype when I’m anywhere with Wi-Fi. I keep up with "The Daily Show" on my computer.
4. Don’t be a snob about where you stay.
Obviously, if you are trying to save money, you should not be staying at the Hilton or any hotel with “Grand” in its title. I have shared rooms with tarantulas and toads and slept countless nights under mosquito netting.
Luckily, if you plan ahead you can avoid some of the less-than-ideal sleeping situations I've endured. You can look at Yelp or Tripadvisor to see what people say about hotels in the area you want to stay. Literally anywhere. Yesterday I looked up hotels in Rwanda and there were all sorts of helpful reviews.
5. Eat Cheap
If you are anywhere in Asia or South America, this is super easy and the food is way better if you buy it street side. Just go where it is crowded to avoid getting whatever diarrhea euphemism people use in that country.
6. Travel to places that are not in Europe
Ugh, I’m flying back to England next week and writing this post will pay for a bottle of beer which I suppose I can toss into the ocean with an S.O.S. note when their exchange rate leaves me broke and homeless.
This is what works for me. What do you think? Does this sound fun or painful? Anyone have any other tips for saving money on the road? Does anyone else out there live like this?