How do I even afford to travel!?

I can’t blame people for asking me this. Everyone (or most people) want to travel. But not everyone can. And if I hadn’t taken the appropriate steps I wouldn’t be able to either.

First things first, here is how I am NOT funding my travels: Apart from the odd small money nudge like birthdays, christmas etc… my parents, family and friends do not give me a dime for my globetrotting. If you don’t know already, I come from a single low-income family. When I’m not working abroad or at uni, I live with my Mum, a clothes maker, and my Aunt, a hospital secretary. This does mean I receive quite a generous bursary each month as well as the highest possible student loan the government offer. I understand not everyone is a student so hopefully my advice below is for everyone and not just a select few! There is no company sponsoring me (I wish, lol), I am not riding on the cash flow of a winning lottery ticket, and I still haven’t snagged any unclaimed inheritance from a distant relative in Barbados.

So, how do I make it happen? In one phrase, it’s this: I save up, I became money savvy and when I’m not travelling, I’m working. It’s not easy, and it involves making a few sacrifices but I do it because I love it and I would do anything to avoid that fidgety feeling I get from being in the same place for too long. Let me tell you how I do it so you can too!

I grew my savings

Since I was 15 years old I have always had a job, except for maybe a few months gap here and there. I have been a retail assistant, a food service assistant, a bartender, a waitress and a convenience store assistant. On top of this I did various babysitting and tutoring jobs when I was younger. These are not glamorous job titles by any means and I can safely say I do not love them but they help me massively with my travels. For example, last year with my job at a convenience store (around 24 hours a week at most), I was able to put away just over half of my earnings into a savings account each month and that allowed me to pay for my trip to Japan.

I avoid buying things as much as possible

Consumerism is a problem many of us deny having – including me! But consumerism isn’t just wild scenarios like astronomical card debt or over-stuffed cupboards of clothes you can’t afford. Consumerism is subtle. It’s the day-to-day justifications you make when buying things, the impulsive replacement of items that are still in fact functional, the habit of shopping for the fun of it.

In the last year or so I have become extremely savvy with how I spend my money. I only really spend it on valuable, worthwhile items or items that I see as an investment. It’s impossible to afford travel if you are constantly picking up the next new handbag or pair of shoes. Ask yourself: do you REALLY need this?

In short: avoid spending ‘danger zones’ like shopping centres, socialise cheaply, make your own food, downsize, and make cuts if necessary. Live for moments, not things.

I travel cheaply

Yes, flights can be expensive. But save up your airmiles, look for discounts and do not buy flights on the most expensive days if you can avoid it.

Book cheap accommodation: hostels, private rooms in airbnb’s, couchsurfing- there are so many ways!!

Use public transport or WALK. Just yesterday in Tokyo I walked one hour and a half somewhere, and back again. This way, I saved money on transport, I got in some good exercise and I saw Tokyo in a way I hadn’t before.

Seek out free local events, walk instead of paying for pricey tours, and do not visit every single paid attraction- sometimes you will find yourself somewhere simply because it’s where everyone goes. Really make sure you know where you want to go and what you would be interested in seeing- don’t just see it because everyone else is.

Lastly, travel light! Flights cost way more when you have luggage to check in. Just pack a backpack and a smaller bag for necessities and you are good to go!

Here are some other ways you will be able to afford to travel:

– If you are a student, make the most of your student loan. Each term (semester), the majority of my loan went towards accommodation but if I could I put a portion of it in my savings. This way, at least I know I won’t splash out on a night out and spend it all.
– For those with their own property or those who are renting a property, find ways to charge money for something you already own via the sharing economy. E.g. Hosts on Airbnb (you can even charge for a camping spot in your backyard, or your sofa!). Besides your home, you can make a profit on nearly any item you own – from renting out an unused parking spot or bicycle, to giving visitors a tour of your hometown or providing them a home-cooked local meal.
– Consider tutoring, teaching online or face-to-face, babysitting, dog sitting- anything to put those few extra travel coins in your pocket.
– Travel to places where your money goes far. There are plenty of options, depending on what you’re looking for. Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe are great places to start. My most recent low cost country was Morocco- a must see for anyone and everyone!

Travel blog Travel tips

Georgie Bolam View All →

Student Journalist, Creative Writer, Poet, Traveller, Eco Warrior

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