I get a lot of questions asking me how I find the money to do all this traveling. Am I rich? Do I travel for work? Am I a male gigolo? Sell drugs to little kids? Sadly, it is none of those. As I said in a previous post, desire is what motivates and keeps me going. I want to travel so I do. But there is always the practical question of money. No matter how cheap you can travel, you do need some money.
So how do I afford to travel? I work a lot. I save. I’m frugal. A lot of people have this misconception that travel is expensive, that whenever and wherever you go, you are going to spending a lot of money. In some places like Europe, that may be true. In some people’s cases, that is always true. But for most of us that isn’t true. Travel can be cheap and cheap doesn’t mean bad.
I tell my former co-workers all the time that I just travel cheap and images of awful service and rundown hotels pop into their mind. Backpacking isn’t for them and they want their comfort. I want my comfort too. I eat out and do nice things while I’m away. It’s not all 12 person dorms and instant noodle meals. So maybe frugal is a better word to use. I don’t travel cheap. I travel frugally.
When I am home, I work and I save. I don’t go out every night and am careful about how I spend my money. I make travel my monetary priority. That’s the most important part of the puzzle. Don’t waste your money. If you are always spending on something else, travel will always seem out of your reach. You need to make travel a priority too. Once it becomes important, you begin to find ways to save. Cut out the Starbucks and the fancy lunches.
Before I went away in 2006, I saved for over a year. I acted like a pauper so I could make sure I had enough money to travel. When I was on the road and ran out of money, I taught English in Bangkok.
Once you do that, you have to make sure you spend your money wisely. People, especially Americans, have this image of travel and hotels, of fancy things and shopping, and luxury. All they see is dollar signs but you can have a comfortable vacation without comfortably spending your life savings. A good alternative to hotels are local guest houses and B&Bs. They offer comfort, breakfast and laundry but with a more local feel and a lighter impact on the wallet. The owners aren’t big corporations but locals who are thrilled to be sharing their part of the world with you. Moreover, hostels, house swaps, and couchsurfing are all good ways to keep travel cheap.
Flying might be more expensive than it was in the past but there are certainly good deals out there and those flight tickets don’t have to cost a fortune. I always seem to manage to find prices that don’t kill my wallet and that’s because I look hard and just don’t jump on the first flight I find on Expedia! Find an alternative to flying if you can. Trains and buses may take longer but are a lot cheaper. Most people don’t take a trip because flight costs scare them but, if you do your homework, you’ll find a cheap deal.
Step out of your guidebook and find those little tiny local restaurants with great food and little tiny price tags. Eat where the locals eat not where Frommer’s tells you. The locals aren’t spending a fortune living in their neighborhood and you shouldn’t either. You travel to see new places not new hotels. So see the place and you’ll find that living locally and traveling differently will save you money and give you a richer travel experience.
This site is dedicated to keeping you motivated, telling tales, and showing you how to travel frugally. You don’t need a lot of money to travel- you just need to think differently. Forget packaged tours and expensive hotels and overpriced restaurants and souvenirs. You can still have a luxury vacation without a luxury price. You just need to think different and do a little work to get the deals. Booking that package on Orbitz isn’t going to save you money!
And that’s how I find the money to travel and how you can too.