How can I afford to travel?
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One of the most asked questions is how can I afford to travel as often as I do. Which always seems funny to me as a lot of the people I know travel way more often than I do. Especially when looking at how much they travel for fun.
Still, when I look at it objectively I have to admit I do travel more than the average person. So how can I afford to travel?
Well, I wish there was a super easy answer to that but there isn’t.
I didn’t win the lottery, I didn’t get rich of a company I sold (although technically I should have been but that’s another story entirely) and I don’t have rich parents who sponsor me. So how do I do it?
(if you travel by plane a lot also check out my headphones recommendation right here)
Anybody who knows me also knows that I always say everything is relative (see my friends traveling more than me) and that life is all about choices. Especially that last part plays a big role.
First of all, I have chosen to do jobs that allow me to travel. Part of the year I do IT contracting (when possible) while the rest of the year I do photography (mainly Salsa events these days).
Generally, when I do IT contracts they are not in the country that I live in so I get to travel. And although I often work 12+ hours per day, that’s not what you’ll see online. When you check my facebook or instagram all you’ll see is the pictures I take when going to or from the place I work, pictures of me having a drink in the city center after work or pictures I take when having dinner or walking around trying to find a place to eat.
Yes, it’s nice to see new places. But, when on contracts like this, I generally see just about the same thing as you do when you look at my pictures (although I do get to see them in real life which is a bonus). But between work and administrative work related to that work, there is generally no time for me to explore the town I’m in.
Especially as I’m usually not able to stay there for the weekend. I need to do laundry and the everyday things just like everybody else. Except, I don’t get around to doing those during the week so that’s what my weekends are for.
Then there are the events I shoot.
I love these because I get to combine several things I love, photography, dancing and catching up with friends.
I try to plan my event trips so I get to have at least 1 day, before or after the event, to explore the town I’m in. So these trips at least give me some time explore new places.
Sure, a day is not a lot of time. But it’s a whole lot better than having to run around town, when you only have an hour to spare, trying to see everything you want to see.
During the event itself there, generally, is not much time to do any exploring. After all, when I arrive I have to check the location(s) to see how the light is, which direction I can and can’t shoot from (nobody wants to see a pile of stacked tables and chairs in the background if it can be avoided), talk to the organisers to see if there is anything in particular they are looking for, go to tech rehearsals to know what to expect at which point of the show, copy pics from the camera to the laptop, make backups, etc, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s just part of the job and I don’t mind doing this at all. But, it does take up quite a bit of time as well.
Then, on multi-day events, there is also the quick editing of preview albums and publishing those as well. All in all, this too makes for long working days.
There is one big advantage though, copying and backing up pictures as well as editing of preview albums can be done pretty much anywhere. Including on terraces in the town I am visiting. So I do get to enjoy the views a bit more.
But it’s not just being able to work in different places that allows, and even forces, me to travel. It’s also the choices I make.
I try to keep my monthly expenses as low as I can. I don’t own property so don’t have the fixed costs attached to that. The last apt I rented in was a small 1 bedroom place. It was old and desperately needed work but it was cheap. I don’t drive a big car (just a tiny Smart) and I don’t buy a lot of “stuff”. When I know I’ll be traveling a lot I don’t even bother renting a place at all (luckily I have an awesome mom where I can store a couple of suitcases with my belongings).
Which brings me to the trips I take just for fun.
Unfortunately, these don’t happen nearly as often as they do for some other people, including the people who ask me the questions that started this post (“How can I afford to travel”).
If I get to do travel for fun once or twice per year I’m already perfectly happy. Often that doesn’t happen though. And when I do take leisure trips they are usually done frugally. So when I’m traveling just for fun you probably won’t see lots of pictures of me dining out. Instead, I’ll cook my own food to keep expenses down.
You also won’t see pictures of fancy hotels. I try to find the cheapest (clean) place and will stay there. Hostels, single rooms, and Couchsurfing are great ways to keep your expenses down when you’re traveling. Sure, when you use Couchsurfing or when you rent a room in somebody’s place you usually give up on luxury. But instead, you’ll get to hang out with locals which will give you a completely different view of the place you’re visiting. A less touristy view that I tend to prefer.
And you won’t you see pictures of me in taxis either. If a sight I want to see is too far for me to walk I’ll use public transportation instead. But, I prefer to walk. Not only will I save money but I often come across things I would never have seen otherwise.
And finally, you will definitely not see pictures of me in nice resorts. The price tag is just too prohibitive.
That brings me back to what I said in the beginning. Life is all about choices. I chose to give up a lot of stability (no guaranteed income and no long term place to live) as well as luxury in order to be able to travel.
Would this be for everybody?
Most people want to be able to pick their destinations and I have very little to say about where I go most of the time. Aside from that, most people travel to get away from work and unwind. Me, I do the opposite most of the time. I travel to places so I can work. And finally, a lot of people just want to do whatever they feel like on their fun trips while I do whatever I feel like. When my limited budget allows for it.
So no, it’s probably not for everybody. That said, I love it. And if you are willing to give up a bit of luxury and make some sacrifices in some areas of your life then it may just be for you.
So there you have it. How can I afford to travel so much? By making it part of work life, by saving money on other expenses and by frugal leisure travel. Turns out it’s really simple in the end after all 😉