My friends know me as the Traveller. Always planning a trip here or there, and who knows where I’ll be any given month. They wonder how I can afford it.
A few years ago, I read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. It’s an interesting read, and while I don’t subscribe to all of his advice, some things did sink in for me. For example, he talks about the importance of not leaving all your time off to when you’re old and retired and no longer as energetic as you were in your 20s and 30s. Instead, he recommends mini-retirements. 3 months here and there, perhaps once a year if you can do it. It’s been a lot of fun for the past 4 years. 🙂
Now, for many people, this concept seems downright impossible. In fact, if you ask a random American about their plans to travel they’ll usually talk about how they don’t have any leave left after planning Christmas and Thanksgiving and a single week somewhere else.
But taking 3 months off per year is doable. And hasn’t landed me in debt.
A few caveats:
- I am relatively healthy, not needing much in the way of health care.
- I am ok with moving every few months. I haven’t lived in the same apartment continuously for more than 9 months since the start of 2009.
- I am fortunate enough to work in a field which allows me to do contract work, sometimes short projects, and I can work in a variety of countries as it’s not country-specific work. Occasionally I can even work remotely.
- And I don’t always take the 3 months off in one hit. If I have multiple holidays/trips during the course of a year (some for a week, some for a month, etc) that works for me just as well. 🙂
So, how do I do it?
- I save up some money. Ideally enough to get me through a while without needing to work.
- I work while I travel. Getting jobs along the way, I meet people. My first job when I arrived in NYC was teaching English. And even though it doesn’t pay particularly well, it supported me for a few months. Here’s a list of useful tips to help you find work.
- I visit friends, family, couch-surfers, any one I can while I’m travelling. Rent/accommodation is a huge cost, so if you can stay with people for free, it’s a huge load off. (Also remember you may have to repay the favour at some point.) The other benefit of visiting locals in a city means that you’ll get a better feel for the culture there, and not just meet other travellers. Remember to be a helpful guest and thank your host.
- I give up my home while I’m gone. Sublet your place at least, or, like me, find somewhere else to live when you get back. The way I figure it, if I’m gone for two months, that’s two months of rent I shouldn’t have to pay in full.
- When I live somewhere, I don’t need a place to myself. I live in sharehouses, usually with my own room. But at times (eg at dance camp) it’s like living in a hostel. By not paying the extra cash for having a studio apartment, for example, I paid perhaps half the rent I would have in NYC. It’s a compromise I’m currently willing to make. I think of it as thousands of dollars a year which can be spent on travel instead of space or privacy. You choose what is important to you. For now, I choose travel.
- I don’t eat out all the time. Sometimes, just going to a local supermarket or market is a thrill. In Paris I’ve been buying the delicious produce they have here and cooking for myself a lot. It keeps the cost down a LOT. Don’t get me wrong though, I still like going out to eat every so often, I just try to limit it to once or twice a week. I try the local cuisine when I can. In most places it’s much more affordable than standard chain take-away or coffee places.
- Travel cheaply. Travel mid-week or on Saturdays. Avoid peak hour. Use trains/buses (Megabus, China town buses, Bolt bus) if you have time. Book ahead and it’s much cheaper. Remember cheaper airlines like EasyJet, WizzAir, TuiFly, RyanAir, Tiger, Jetstar, Virgin, etc. Use flight comparison engines: Kayak, Skyscanner, Webjet (for Australia). Be flexible with your flight days and times. Keep an eye out for cheap flights and deals, especially with tools like this one: Kayak Explore. Google Flights is also a nifty tool for short-term US flights. Use frequent flyer miles when you can. Maybe even ask if your rarely-travelling relatives have any they don’t need or ones which might be expiring soon.
- I volunteer at events while I’m away. My summers are often spent at dance camp. They have a set-up where you can get free accommodation and free lessons if you help out for a week. So I do. And that’s close to 2 months per year where my only cost is food (and occasionally new dance shoes 😉 ). You need not be a dancer to make use of this, though. There are many volunteering options around the world. Planning fashion events, exploring archaeological sites, tending to wild animals in Paraguay, I know people who’ve volunteered for of these activities. Find something you’re interested in and you’ll probably find a dirt cheap way to enjoy it too. To be honest, volunteering is an amazing way to make friends while you’re out and about.
- I remember that if the situation changes, I can and will adapt. Many people are afraid of the lack of security that being a traveller entails. Instead, it’s freedom to me. I change as I need to. And remember, life is short and travelling is a choice. Most people don’t realise how resourceful they can be and how much you can do with not much money. I fully expect that when life changes and when I want to be somewhere longer term, I will do that. I will figure out how. And so can you.
I definitely recommend trying it. Put yourself out there.