Traveling extensively really comes down to a few factors: time, money, and willingness. If you’re willing, you are capable of creating the time and funds to take a trip. If I, the least motivated money maker on the planet, can scrape together enough cash to travel to 15+ countries, you can too. I absolutely despise money and trading my precious time for work (some people read this as being lazy, but I assure you I’m not), but travel motivates me to make paper. Traveling is a drug and I am in the throws of addiction. Life feels dull if I’m not exploring. Here’s how I motivate myself to maintain a life revolving around travel.
Cash, connections, and confidence seem to be the key factors and all are easily obtainable.
On the day to day:
- Simplify your life. Adopt and appreciate minimalism. Try to lead your life with the leave no trace standards. Experiences over things.
- What do you love to do? How can you build travel around that or use that to travel more often? Type out a list and update it often. Think of unconventional ways to use your skills abroad.
- Stick to a budget every.damn.day. Think hard about every single purchase. Really. It will be eyeopening.
- Stop buying new clothes and ‘stuff’ every season. Stop being materialistic. For the most part, I avoid malls, department stores, and online shopping. If I can buy something at the goodwill, I do, even random stuff like Christmas decorations and pots and pans, instead of daring to step inside a Target.
- Cook at home! This is definitely the biggest way to save money. Stop eating out. If you hate to cook, try to utilize frozen veggies and semi-prepared meals like roasted chicken.
- Look around and sell whatever you don’t need & don’t buy it again. You know how you find stuff every time you clean your closet and you’re like “Holy shit, my favorite sweater!!” It’s not your favorite if you forgot about its existence for three months.
- Always be saving for a specific monetary or geographical goal – more on creating a trip budget and saving for it here. Even if you change your mind, that money you were saving will still be there.
- Maintain a flexible lifestyle with work in any and every way possible. Can you live a freelance lifestyle? Can you create your own schedule at work? Is your employer understanding of your travel habit? Is your job seasonal? Can you work remotely? Can you work for yourself?
- Stop saying ‘No.’ Open yourself up to opportunities and connections even if that means accepting a gig (with good compensation of course) six hours away. You’ll see a new city and possibly make more connections. You don’t have to explain your choices to others. If it makes sense to you, just do it.
- Ignore societies pressure to have a “normal” job. Forget about owning new car or buying a house. Do you really need a diamond engagement ring? Go on an amazing adventure instead.
- Realize that people live and work everywhere – you can too. Stop thinking your travel dreams are unattainable, chances are some else has already accomplished them with less.
Preparing to travel:
- Be flexible. Be flexible with every aspect of your trip, before, during, and after. Expectations and attachment to plans will set you up for sadness. I was once on a bus that was running 2 hours late, I was going to miss my sunset camel ride and desert camping trip. I was bummed, but told myself it would work out. We met someone on the bus that scheduled camel tours, he said he could arrange another one since we missed ours, by chance, he ended up calling the exact same people we were going to go through (we didn’t have their number only a meeting time and place) and worked it all out for us. If you allow yourself to go with the flow, your plans will never be ruined, only changed and improved. This happens time and time and time again on trips and it always works out wonderfully, it’s travel magic.
- Let cheap airfare and currency conversion dictate your travel plans. I check google flights and other search engines every damn day. It’s what I do when I’m bored. It’s fun to dream.
- Travel to cheaper destinations and stay there longer. You can easily research how to travel on a shoestring.
- Ask your friends for advice! Ask me. I LOVE suggesting and planning trips for people. Just make sure your viewpoints generally align with whomever you’re taking advice from. If you wouldn’t follow their advice in every day life, definitely don’t take their travel advice to heart. You could also skip everyone’s advice and follow your inner voice.. it won’t steer you wrong.
- Forget the need to have an exact plan. Wing it. Live in the uncomfortable for a bit. You’ll learn a lot about yourself during the ups and downs of traveling. It’s all pretty wonderful actually.
- Do a little bit of research, but not too much! Know where you’re going, but not every stop of the way. Try not to have expectations from the photos you’ve seen and reviews you’ve read. Get to your destination and take a look around. Explore every day, don’t just visit the places you know. Follow this rule in your hometown too.
- Think of your favorite weather and daily activities and do them abroad. It’s so much fun to live a “normal” day abroad without having a million things planned. That’s how I treat birthdays too, but we’re not talking about birthdays right now.
- Tours are bogus. All inclusive hotels are okay like one in 1,000 times. You’re an adult. You can do this shit on your own. Eat outside of the hotel. Plan your trip upon arrival. Talk to various local sources, actual human beings, and other travelers at your destination. If you’re scared of going alone, face that fear! Or invite your bestie along.
- Your debt can wait, within reason of course. Look for ways to reduce your monthly payments without your interest rate increasing. There are ways to temporarily pause paying for college while you go live your life. You could die tomorrow…
- Still nervous? Find a community before you go by applying for a job, joining a community of some sort, woofing, or volunteering. You could always book AirBnB rooms (that link will give you $20 credit) with hosts that like to show their guests around too. There are a bunch of ways to connect with people if you’re worried about it.
While you are traveling:
- Travel cheaply! Skimp on extras, share meals, haggle everything even guesthouses, and take cheaper forms of transportation even if they’re a little uncomfortable. My favorite travel partner and I traveled via overnight bus in India and I almost actually peed my pants because the bus never.fucking.stops. I will remember that pee pain for the rest of my life (and so will he because I practically cried about it) those are experiences money can’t buy 😉
- Earn income abroad. Think of your strengths and how to utilize them on a case by case basis abroad. You can teach skills like cooking or yoga. You can sell a product like travel photos, articles, or artwork. You can teach English (in just about any country without any formal training or certificates), help a hostel with their website, help a small business with advertising and marketing, etc.
- Barter. Giving up some of your time will allow you to do lots abroad. People will give you something they already own like a meal or place to stay rather than money they could use for something else. Ask your guesthouse, favorite restaurant, local school, or favorite hangout abroad how you can help.
- Earn income remotely. The USD is strong, especially right now, if you’re an American abroad, earning dollars by working remotely via the internet is your best bet.
- Make friends from foreign lands – talk to locals EVERYWHERE you go, even if it’s in the next town over. Short conversations lead to life long friends, which leads to an even greater array of experiences and connections. For instance, I made friends with my neighbors while studying abroad in Jamaica, I went back the next year and lived with them in their two-room home for the summer. I gave them grocery money so we could all eat well and at the end of the month I left them a bunch of cash. My American friend came to visit during that time and she brought a new high-powered blender for them, something they needed, but couldn’t buy in Jamaica. I think of them as my Jamaican family. My mom taught a few Brazilian boys English a few years ago, we all became super close and eventually my family went to visit them in South America. Now each year when they come to the U.S. we try to meet up with them. In the summer I’m planning a week long camping trip for them – they have never been camping. I love them as much as my family. Traveling expands your world.
- Host friends in your home – especially foreign friends and even friends of friends. There is nothing more special than a local’s experience, so offer that up to anyone you know! I met an Israeli in Thailand and ended up hosting him in my home for a weekend in Pennsylvania. I had yet another friend of mine pick him up from the bus station. He had an authentic central PA experience complete with a Penn State tailgating, a farm share potluck dinner, and some back country hiking and now and I know I’ll always have a place to stay in Israel. This summer I’m going on a road trip with an Australian girl I met in Thailand in 2011. She’s visiting NYC for a week by herself, so I asked all my NYC friends if they would hang out with her or host her in their homes. Traveling connections last f.o.r.e.v.e.r. They are more meaningful than paper currency.
- Come home broke, but have a job lined up. Search craigslist or ask friends and connections for any opportunities a few weeks before you return home that way you can really live it up, but not stress when you’re back in the swing of things.
JUST TAKE A TRIP ALREADY.
Everything I learned about traveling, I learned from traveling. Most things I know about myself, I’ve learned from traveling. My thoughts about life and the world we inhabit, I’ve developed over time from traveling. Living mindfully and leading a simple lifestyle happened naturally as a result of traveling. Not caring about material possessions, personal style or standards of beauty developed after I had lived abroad. Go experience the world. Make friends with people that have absolutely nothing in common with you. Listen to others experiences and share your own. Come back home and want nothing more than to leave again. Once you experience long-term travel and it has a hold on you, you will completely reevaluate your life. That will be terrifying. Face that and figure out where your next destination is. People are always asking me how I do it, just make the leap and you’ll figure it out and the crazy thing is, it will come easily. It’s travel magic.
Your personal relationships with people and pets will change and sometimes suffer.
The numbers in your bank account will scare you sometimes, but they won’t kill you. Think of experience as your currency.
You will not regret one moment of your trip.
Most of these images (including this one) were taken by my bff Saleem Ahmed. He teaches at our alma mater Temple. He also contributes to The Huffington Post.
The images with the snowcapped peaks were all taken this past fall in Nepal by my love Natasha. Follow her travel blog here.