Last Updated: 5/24/21 | May 24th, 2021 (Originally posted: 6/20/12)
Remember last month when I wrote about Jessica and how she’ll never get to Ireland?
That’s ok. Read about her here and then come back.
OK, now that you’re back, I’d like you to meet someone similar to her.
Let’s call him “Bob.”
They’re different people but they’re two sides of the same coin. Whereas Jessica won’t travel because she is held back by the travel industry’s marketing, Bob is our resident travel naysayer and held back by his own cynicism.
Bob (I’ve changed his name — both here and in his original comment) came to my attention when he responded to my blog post about how I make money and afford to travel. He wrote:
I love this – “Anyone can do it”… Then we find he was able to save $20,000 before his first trip. Most of us are paying off student loans whilst juggling rent. See, folks? There’s always more to it – former high-paying job or lived with his parents so could save, a monetary gift from parents, taught English abroad, fired or laid off, took a trip, in right place at right time & got hospitality job or teaching or gardening job. It’s all very individual. There is no formula that’s why no one comes out and says. They want you to buy something. This site doesn’t seem that big/popular enough to generate enough money to fly 25 times/year. My niece has a bigger blog than this. [Matt’s comment: OUCH!!!]
Like I said, everyone wants to seem lucky. There’s always more to it than anyone will let on. I’ve been to 20 countries, but that’s because I’ve had rich friends/lovers & affluent parents. I once had a job that took me places, too. See? I said it. That’s honest. No expensive books w/some secret. I’m not trying to sound lucky or like I know something because I’m not selling anything.
I don’t know Bob. He’s probably a nice guy and I’m not here to pick on him personally; I simply want to discuss his line of thinking because I think it is shared by far too many. People like Bob assume that someone must first have some sort of helping hand, that saving money in order to travel can’t be as simple as I make it seem — and that I, and others like me, are just here to make a quick buck by selling a pipe dream!
Why Bob is Completely Wrong
Jessica will never go to Ireland because she will never break out of the mold the travel industry puts her in. On the other hand, folks like Bob might travel far and wide but will never believe it is possible to do so without a lot of money. I call this the Sarah Palin Syndrome, which I’ve defined as:
“The persistent belief that only those with means, helpful parents, or an upper-class upbringing can afford to launch a travel endeavor for any sustained period of time because normal people have too many bills, loans, debts, or obligations to travel.”
I’ve named it as such because while running for vice president of the United States, Sarah Palin stated:
“I’m not one of those who came from a background of, you know, kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents give them a passport and give them a backpack and go off and travel the world. No, I’ve worked all my life. In fact, I usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I was not a part of that culture.”
This is a pessimistic mentality. It is one that blames the outside world for your ills and then creates a “no” mindset so you never try to find ways to travel.
Bob assumed that I could only afford my original trip with the help of my parents. This goes to the heart of Sarah Palin Syndrome: the assumption that you need a lot of money (either through a good job or helpful parents) to get going and that if you don’t start out with a fair amount of savings, you can’t travel. In his follow up email, Bob told me:
I’ve lived in the South End. A $30,000 salary, in a city like Boston, particularly w/school loans, doesn’t bring forth $20,000 savings in three years. That math doesn’t exist, mate…unless you’re living w/your parents.
Yet, as I’ve pointed out before, the math can work on that kind of salary. I wrote a list months ago of 20 ways one can drastically cut expenses. These are the exact thing I did before I left for my first round the world trip to save money. It becomes pretty easy to save 33% of your salary when you are fully committed to your goal and, yes, also living with your family for a few months as well as ditching your car.
I think folks like Bob don’t think that it’s possible to save money in such a hyper-consumption world. But, when you stop buying crap, your bank account goes WAY up. When you cancel your subscription services, the bills they generate disappear. I lived like a pauper and made my salary work. And I have always said that I lived with my parents for the last six months before my first trip.
I’m not the only one. Here’s just a sampling of people I’ve interviewed on this website who have done the same:
- How DJ Made His Travel Dreams Come True
- How Will Traveled the World on $20 a Day
- How Jessica and Her Boyfriend Worked Their Way Around the World
- How (and Why) This 72-Year-Old is Backpacking the World
- How This Family of 4 Traveled the World on $130 a Day
- How Michael Saved $14k in in 6 Months Making $9 Per Hour
You don’t need a high-paying job to save money to travel. You just need the right focus and money management skills. Your bank balance isn’t going to double overnight. It doesn’t have to. Slow and steady wins the race.
Second, Bob assumes that you can’t do this while carrying outstanding debt. I am simply going to show you my student loan balance, which I have been paying off ever since I left my MBA program. Take a look at how much I still owe:
Traveling with debt is possible if you are smart about your money. I made sure to cover my expenses before I went away and put money aside to cover my loans.
But Bob’s figured it out:
There’s no secret or book needed. All anyone has to say/do is exactly what I communicated very briefly. All you need is $2,000 for an initial trip and week stay to make connections. It will get cheaper from there. Once you take a trip, go for a teaching job or hospitality, hustle, network. The more you do, the more things unfold. That’s the secret to most things. Just start. Figure the rest out as you go.
Bob, I agree. There is no secret to travel. It’s exactly about what you just said. Save up some money. Just make the leap. That’s really all there is. The rest of the stuff is just window dressing. Here are all the times I’ve made that point myself:
- Why There is Never a Perfect Time to Travel
- How to Overcome Your Travel Fears
- Everyone Says I’m Running Away
- There is No Secret to Long-Term Travel
- Now is the Best Time to Travel
- Why Being Broke is the Best Time to Travel
- You Have More Time to Travel Than You Think
How to Deal with the Cynics
The world is full of cynics. The world is full of people who want to get you down. Anyone who has lived for more than five minutes knows that. Folks like Bob simply believe that it’s impossible to do what I do without some sort of helping hand. They sneer at the thought that travel could be easy or affordable to all. Pssh, they say, you must have a trust fund. You aren’t telling the whole truth.
Bob isn’t as far off as others because he knows what I have long said — there is no secret to travel. You just go do it! You need to make the leap. But he is wrong that in order to make that leap, you must be well off in advance. Hard work and dedication can get you where you need to go. I worked my butt off so I could go travel. I taught English to recharge my bank account.
But cynics only see and hear what they want. I told Bob that I had loans, that the math worked out, that I wasn’t selling him an unrealistic dream, linked to all the articles I’ve written to share my experiences, and talked more about my past.
But I never heard back from Bob.
Sarah Palin Syndrome doesn’t let you see the truth; it only seeks to reinforce your beliefs. Once Bob knew my story (a story I never hide but that he didn’t take the time to learn), he went away. Cynics like to be cynics.
Bob is right — there is no secret to travel. You just need to take the leap. I’m not selling any larger dream than that. All I am doing is pushing you out the door and then telling you how to save money when you get outside.
There is bound to be a “Bob” in your life. People will dismiss your goals, accomplishments, and dreams. They will try to give you a sense of reality and tell you “the whole story.”
I believe people like Bob can’t dream the impossible. Where Bob and people like him go wrong is that they believe that only those individuals who hustle or have outside help can go live their dream. But your average person? They can’t do it.
They are completely wrong.
Travel is possible, even with a job paying $30,000 USD per year in a major city like Boston. The Bobs of the world will never believe that, though, because if they did, then they would have to accept that anything would be possible.
And then they couldn’t be miserable and cynical.
But I like the Bobs of the world because I can go out and prove them wrong. And, hopefully, I can inspire many of you to do the same by crushing the myth that travel is expensive or unattainable.
And then we can all say to Bob: “I know you’re wrong. I won’t let you get me down. I’ll only let you inspire me to do better.”
How to Travel the World on $50 a Day
My New York Times best-selling paperback guide to world travel will teach you how to master the art of travel so that you’ll get off the beaten path, save money, and have a deeper travel experience. It’s your A to Z planning guide that the BBC called the “bible for budget travelers.”
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
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Ready to Book Your Trip?
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