Go Explore (A How-to Guide)
I CAN’T remember the exact moment that I decided I WANTED TO travel.
But, I CAN remember the exact moment that I decided TO travel.
So, what’s the difference in the two sentences above?
One statement speaks hypothetical, a “want”, or desire to do something. We ALL want MANY things. We dream about these things and we place them in the box of “one day.”
The other statement speaks directly. It’s a sentence of intention, of doing.
When it comes to traveling, like many other things in life, you have to be proactive. You have to make a step in the direction of planning- or your “one day” will continue to reside in the future, and in many cases, will never arrive.
I’ve had many people ask me, even more so recently, how it is I can afford to travel like I do. Let me be frank in saying, I don’t travel NEAR as much as I would like, and I am planning on traveling even more in the near future, with trips already in the making.
So, the question remains- HOW??
MAKE A PLAN
I can’t stress this point enough. Making a plan is your first step, and the most crucial. Whenever I decide I want to travel somewhere, I always start with a plan. I ask myself those questions we learned about in grade school english class: How, When, Where, Why, What, and Who. Who am I going with, if anyone? What am I going for? Why am I going? Where exactly am I going? When do I plan to go? How am I going to get there?
For many people, that last question is the kicker. HOW? How am I going to afford this?
I love culture. Learning about new culture, and experiencing it, is one of the main reasons I travel. It’s a passion of mine, and I love learning new ideas, new ways of doing things, and new stories. Rich cultures inspire me- and because of that, I find myself wanting to submerge myself into the middle of them.
If you want to travel- it has to become a passion. It has to be something you love, and it has to be at the forefront of your thoughts. Everything you do, you must do with the goal of traveling in mind.
For me, and most everyone else, affording to travel is where the line between dreams and reality lies. It costs money to travel (however, not as much as you’d think- but i’ll discuss this later). Being direct in your plan and allowing that plan to drive you as a passion, will help you save and plan financially for your trip.
BE OPEN TO NEW IDEAS
For many people, the idea of traveling seems unfeasible because they only know how to travel in the comforts of their own current state. Five star restaurants, nice hotels, resorts, luxuries… Now, if that’s how you like to travel, and there’s no talking you out of that, then I probably won’t be much help to you. However, I can offer ideas and alternatives that can give you a great trip (even better, actually) and you can still very much enjoy yourself.
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
If the reason to travel is to live in the same bubble you do now, why leave your home in the first place? Become a local, get away from the tourist traps, and find yourself among the people. Eat where they eat, stay where they stay,
I love Airbnb, it’s what I use almost every time I book any accommodations. You can find great places to stay- either private or shared- for much less than a hotel would cost. People rent out spare rooms or entire homes, much like a hotel would. These rooms are usually inexpensive, and offer the comfort of a home away from home. I’ve used this site many times, from New York City, Boston, Portland, and even Bali. It gives you all of the information up front, the cost, the host’s information, and reviews to read from others who have stayed there as well. You can find some REALLY nice places, REALLY cheap. Give it a try!
One of the most, if not, most expensive parts about traveling is transport. Planes, Trains, and automobiles. Be mindful when making these purchases, and be flexible in your dates and times. I always start by booking my flight- before any accommodations are made, or any activities are planned. Allowing a few hours, or a few days, of flexibility can drastically change the amount of money that you spend. Airlines will charge hundreds of dollars more, or less, depending on the day you choose to fly. Try many different combinations and options- and look at multiple different airlines. Allow yourself the time to do research and you could save a hefty amount of change.
Also, try many different websites. Fly multiple different airlines. Try websites like cheapoair and cheapflights, where you can compare many different airlines’ prices at the same time. Many of these websites also give you day to day comparisons on prices, so you can easily plan what days will be better to fly.
FIND WAYS TO COMPARTMENTALIZE
As a creative, a Virgo, and a very emotionally driven individual- compartmentalizing my life isn’t always the easiest. This, unfortunately, spills over into my finances, and I can get very overwhelmed when trying to budget my money when it’s all in one place. I’d suggest either opening another account to put money in for travel, or, like me, I keep my traveling money as cash and hide it in a place that only I know, so that I’m not carrying it around with my everyday, and can’t easily spend it with the swipe of a card. Taking cash out of the ATM periodically to put in my stash, or not spending any of my cash tips from work, helps my travel fund grow, and doesn’t seem overwhelming when it’s time to spend it.
Tip: Randomly getting out $20 cash back when using my debit card at Walgreens and placing it in my stash will build over time. (I usually do this right after pay day, so my funds are not already exhausted.) Don’t do it all at once, find a system that works for you, and gradually save.
LOOK FOR PLACES TO SAVE
Back to making travel a passion, just like any passion, you’re going to put effort into it, and you’re going to make sacrifices to be able to fund it. I quickly found out- thankfully- how expensive it is to go to clubs and party of the weekend. I burnt through way more money than I should have in my earlier 20s and now can only dream about the places I could have gone on those dollars. Be mindful in your spending. $80 at the bar or club each weekend can be a week of accommodations on a distant vacation.
I also budget when I grocery shop- which sounds like a burden, but really it’s become sort of a game. I like seeing how much food I can get at a lower price. I usually only buy things that are on sale, or that I know can go a long way. I rarely go out to eat, and instead cook at home- which saves TONS. I buy ingredients that can be used in multiple different meals, and I plan accordingly. Food can be one of the biggest drains on your bank account, so watching how much you spend will free up travel funds.
MAKE DEADLINES FOR YOURSELF
As I mentioned earlier, when I make a plan to travel, my first goal is transport. It’s getting plane tickets or car rentals, or even train tickets, taken care of. I buy my plane ticket first. I do my research, I answer all the of the questions above, and then I make a deadline to book my flight. I usually do this a while out, so that it’s taken care of and I can make other deadlines for myself.
Accommodations are usually next. Booking where I’ll be staying ahead of time allows you to free up that part of planning, and takes away the stress the closer you get to your trip. Now, I love when I travel places and can stay with friends! Thats the best, and makes the trip much cheaper. However, if that isn’t the case, get this taken care of as soon as you can afford to.
After the flight and accommodations are set, any money from that point on that is saved can go to spending on your trip. Food, excursions, taxis, souvenirs. Getting things like this taken care of early on really helps the planning process.
I want to conclude this blog by saying, I’m currently sitting on my balcony at Balangan Beach on the Southwestern coast of Bali. My balcony is right on the beach, and I’m only feet from the crashing white waves of the Indian Ocean. There are surfers and sunbathers, people are drinking from coconuts and eating fresh fruit. I can smell the grills of warungs (or balinese restaurants) and my room has bamboo walls and a grass roof. There’s an orange cat sunbathing on the table near me, locals are chatting on a grass mat down below, and I can hear the crashing waves at night while I sleep. Here’s the best part, I’m paying 17 USD a night to be here.
You can travel, believe me, just do your research and make a plan. And then enjoy the journey.