I know, I know, you hear it all the time, coming from high-school graduates to senior citizens alike. It’s an effortless, universal icebreaker when you meet new people; a bonding topic that we can all relate to. Many drinks can be drunk talking about all the places we want to go, all the things we want to see. I wish I could travel more.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that gloomy, regretful sentence uttered from someone’s mouth. I wish I had the money to travel. I wish I could take the time off from work to travel. I don’t want to use my vacation days.
You get where I’m going.
I’m lucky in that I’ve traveled all over the world. Oftentimes, when I tell people about Peru or New Zealand or Israel, their eyes light up, and they say one of the sentences above with some sort of lingering discontent. And I get it—I do. People are busy, people have jobs, people are just barely scraping by.
That said, I am here to energize you. I am writing this article in the hopes that you’ll read it and realize that you only live once, and in the grand scheme of things, almost nothing is as important as traveling. Let me explain why, and then I’ll explain how to travel more.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of why you should be traveling already. Different cultures, food, customs, people, religions, languages, ways of life… it’s all occurring parallel to our lives.
While you stop at a drive-thru on your way home from work, someone across the world is rolling sushi and speaking a different language. While you meet up with friends at a bar, someone is on their knees in prayer five times a day. While you might never consider plastic surgery, some cultures pride themselves on altering their appearances.
It’s easy to live your life, in your bubble, and never experience any of these things. But, with just one life to live, why would you? Travel has ultimately neither been easier nor cheaper than it is today. There are no more excuses. But, how can I travel more if I can barely save up enough money for rent? Onto the how…
Look, I’m not rich. My husband isn’t rich, either. We live fairly comfortably. We’re able to pay our bills and a little bit of our debt off every month. We don’t save. Really, we don’t. (We’re working on it). But somehow, we still manage to travel somewhere a few times a year, whether it be locally or across the world. And no, we refuse to accrue debt while traveling, so we save every. single. cent. beforehand. I’m going to go in-depth here and give you a play-by-play on how we manage to do that.
Take Advantage of Airline Deals
Pro tip: Use SkyScanner and type in the continent you wish to go, i.e. “Asia” or “Europe”. It breaks it down by the best deal. And Kayak Explore is great if you’re flexible because you can search worldwide. You don’t want to know how many times I opened it up, clicked on the map, and tried to figure out where I could go for $500.
Norwegian Air is also great if you’re looking to go to Europe. $129/one way to Copenhagen? Yes, please. Keep checking, too. They have deals all the time.
It’s Okay to Invest in Flights If Need Be
I know a lot of people don’t have the extra money to put down on flights, but after traveling to five continents, I can assure you that if you’re on a budget, flights are usually the most expensive part. So, it’s okay to invest.
Wait until you have that money saved before purchasing. Cut costs by eating at home, shopping for food in bulk, selling clothes and things you don’t use anymore.
I drove for Lyft for a summer to afford a big trip to Europe. Yeah, I worked a lot of overtime doing that, but eating Gelato in Lucca, Italy on a warm, summer night made it all worth it. Invite friends over for brunch instead of going out.
Babysit. Eat eggs for dinner a couple nights a week. Because when you’re seventy, you won’t remember the toast and egg dinners, or the weary eyes from working late. You’ll remember your experiences while traveling.
Couch Surf or AirBnB Your Way Across the World
Remember when I said flights would be the most expensive part of traveling? I meant it. There are so many options for booking cheap accommodation.
Bonus: My suggestions don’t include hostels, though good for you if you’re willing to put yourself through that. Ha.
Couchsurfing.com is a FREE resource for accommodation, and they have hosts all over the world, in every city imaginable. Airbnb.com is also a great site—we use it everywhere we go. It’s usually a fraction of the price of a hotel.
If neither of those sounds appealing, why not look at work-for-hire sites? Just Google “France Farm Stay” or join WWOOF and you’ll be well on your way to earning free room and board by helping out on active farms. There are so many options—you just have to look!
Eat Like a Local
Research before you go to find the areas the locals flock to. Chances are, they’ll be less crowded and much cheaper than the tourist haunts.
Give yourself a reasonable daily food and goods budget. We’ve done $20 all the way up to $100 a day, and we made every amount work. If you can spring for a fancy meal or two, do it! If not, hit up the local grocery stores.
Bonus: Airbnb’s usually have a kitchen. I can’t tell you how many times we cooked pasta and red sauce while traveling if we were on a tight budget. If you have friends where you’re visiting, ask them for the best deals. Also, the Groupon and Travelzoo apps are your friends.
I touched on this a bit above, but it really does help to be flexible. Flying to Italy in August versus flying to Italy in January are two entirely different things. If you don’t mind seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the snow, or traveling to the Riviera Maya in Mexico during hurricane season (just be sure to buy insurance!) you can get some incredible deals.
So, the next time you catch yourself saying, I wish I could travel more, think about how you want to live your life. The little things like dinners and possessions won’t matter when you’re older. But traveling? It’s worth investing in, and it’ll change you for the better. And those vacation hours will accrue again. However, your experiences won’t.