You CAN Afford to Travel (Seriously!)
As a young person there are so many ways you can make travel work for you, you just need to know where to look and perhaps gain a little fresh perspective. I’ve put together a list of 7 things that will change the way you think about travel and help you realize it IS possible, IF you really want it.
- Travel is Not the Same as Vacation - Let’s get one thing straight: as a young person, travel is not going to be luxurious (at least not in the ‘all inclusive’ kind of way). Travelling is about seeing new things and experiencing a culture different from your own. It’s about broadening your horizons and meeting different types of people. Its description does not include paying for a private room, an all you can eat buffet and drinks delivered to you on the beach (although that's awesome sometimes too) - it's more: share accommodation w/ a million new friends; eat as much local food as possible, but still hit the supermarket; and DEFINITELY hit the beach, but pack your own drinks ;). You'll come away having seen more than the bottom of a margarita glass, with 10x more awesomeness to remember and still have some $$ leftover for whatever's next.
- Start Thinking Long-Term - I realize this is not an option for everyone, but if you’ve finished school/are not exactly working the job of your dreams/ have no kids, YOU LITERALLY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. Trust me, if you commit to an extended trip, anyone who actually matters in your life (family, friends etc.) will still be here when you get back eagerly awaiting your return! It's cliché, but anyone who isn't doesn't really matter anyway (within reason... 7 years is a long time to ask your mom to take care of your dog). My point is, as soon as you say goodbye to your home-base and commit to a long-term plan your trip now becomes a lifestyle. A huge portion of your travel budget goes towards flights and when you do a little trip here and a little trip there and head home after every one, things start to add up. Save up enough for a flight and some extra cushion to get you started and then take a year (or 2, or 5) and see some places, work while you’re out there (see #5) and suddenly you’re living a regular life, just doing some cool shit while you're at it :)
- Stop Wasting Your Money - Do you ever look at the year-to-date total on your pay check and wonder where the hell all your money went? I’ll tell you where, it’s going into pointless everyday purchases that don’t seem like they matter at the time. It’s going into your daily Timmies/Starbs, it’s going into that lunch you buy at work every day because you’re too lazy to pack your own. It’s going towards that trip to the vending machine in the afternoon for a pick-me-up and your bi-weekly manicure. All of these tiny little purchases are adding up to big money spent each month and it is so preventable. (Don’t believe me? Write down your purchases, no matter how small, for the next 30 days and get back to me). When you stop spending money on these things that add no value to your life and start putting that cash into your savings account - you’ll be well on your way to affording that trip.
- Hostels Are Your Friend - No, you're not going to get murdered staying at a hostel like on 'that movie you saw one time', and no they're not filled with creepy people who don't have enough money to afford a home. Depending on where you are, the majority of people will be young travellers just like you! Hostels are a great place to meet like-minded people and get advice on things to do in the area AND they're cheap (some more than others, unfortunately). Hostels are big-business around popular travel destinations and they put a lot of effort into organizing social events, free city tours etc. which can make your trip that much more awesome! Plus, they almost always have a kitchen, saving you a ton of money on eating out. Get used to them, because you probably can't afford to travel without them.
- Work While You Travel - As I mentioned above, there are ways to support yourself while you’re on the road and the process is pretty simple. Young Canadians can apply for a temporary work visa in a ton of different countries! See here for a full list of options. In most cases you will need to pay a visa application fee, have no criminal record, be under the age of 30 and be able to prove you have enough money in the bank to support yourself and to eventually purchase a flight home. Individual countries have different rules, all of which can be found here. Most businesses that are willing to hire travellers are usually looking for a 3-6 month commitment and it can be a nice break along the way to actually get to know some locals. For all you 'planners' out there it can be difficult to get hired before actually entering the country so I would suggest to make sure you keep enough cash handy to fly home if things get desperate and then to not worry about it!!! Hostels are always looking for new employees (obviously, due to the nature of the people they attract!) Something always comes up, and if not - see below for plan B.
- Work to Live for Free - There are other options to keep yourself afloat, even if you don't have a working visa (although some places may still require one). Many hostels offer free accommodation in exchange for housekeeping and cleaning services. You could also volunteer some labour on an organic farm in exchange for a roof over your head and some food. This is called WWOOF-ing (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) and details on that can be found here. (Caution: I would suggest doing your research before committing to a farm, as some working conditions can be less than favourable). If you're on the coast, sometimes sailors offer free room and board on their vessel in exchange for a deckhand or dishwasher etc. Again, I would certainly do your research and suggest meeting someone before getting on a boat and sailing off into the sunset with them, but the point is that these opportunities do certainly exist. Take advantage of them!
- Accept That It Won’t Be Easy - Doing things on a budget is never going to be the easiest or most convenient way! I'll be honest, travel is far less glamorous than it's made out to be. Keeping things economical is a lot of extra work and requires sacrifice, but I will also be the first to say that it’s totally worth it. You need to be dedicated to the cause while you're saving and you need to make a budget and stick to it on the road. En route, you may have to pass up a few parties, walk more than you take the bus and you're probably going eat more beans-on-toast than any human should in their lifetime. BUT, once you get out there and experience all these things that are so different than anything you’ve ever seen before you gain a different perspective and you'll realize that it was all for a reason. When you really want something, you’ll find a way to make it work and I guarantee you'll keep coming back for more!
Editor's Note: **If you've got student loans or other priorities, by no means am I suggesting that travel should take precedence. All I'm saying is, if you have enough to pay your bills and you can save enough for a plane ticket with a little cushion left over, you're golden, girl. Just go.