In offhand conversation, and in some of the Facebook groups I’m a part of, I’ve seen this comment often made: “How do you afford to travel so much? I don’t have money to travel.”
Well, I’m here to say, that’s categorically false. Unless you have zero savings, assets, or income, you have money to travel.
It’s about choices.
But first, if you’ve been following my blog for a little while, you’d know that pre-covid, I traveled internationally often. In 2016, I went to Costa Rica. In 2017, I went to 10 European countries and Ecuador. In 2018, I went to Paris, Ireland, and Berlin. In 2019, I went to Colombia, Portugal, and Amsterdam. In 2020… well, I didn’t travel internationally, but I did go quite a few places domestically (and I’m still going — read more here!).
You’re probably thinking I’m super rich… but that would be false.
Once upon a time…
- I had a luxury car, which cost me $800 a month; payment, insurance, and premium gas included.
- I lived alone in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house, bigger than what one person needed.
- My shopping budget was $300-500 a month, for all the cutest clothing, jewelry, purses, houseware, and gadgets.
Back then, I made $60,000 a year, a nice wage in Phoenix, Arizona — but I lived month to month, barely able to maintain my lifestyle. I hadn’t been on an international trip in five years; I couldn’t see how I could afford it. As months went by and my bills continued to stretch me to the absolute limit… something started to change for me. Priorities.
(BTW, that international trip to Greece 5 years earlier cost me $3,000, not including flights. It was 9 days long.)
It hit me… I finally made changes, and re-prioritized.
- I traded in my luxury convertible for reliable and affordable transportation. This brought me now to $400 a month = a lower monthly payment, regular gas, cheaper maintenance, and a lower insurance bill. Sure, I looked more chic in a convertible than a Honda Civic, but… who cared besides me?
- I refinanced my 15-year mortgage into a 30-year, reducing my monthly payment by 40%. Then, I rented out my 3-bedroom house during the Arizona winter/spring tourist season for three years in a row at a nice profit, and moved myself into something smaller elsewhere. Sure, I had no dishwasher and it wasn’t really possible to “entertain” from my 400-square-foot casita, but I managed.
- I cut my cable bill, cut my memberships down, and stopped shopping. (I had so much already, so much that I really didn’t need, didn’t use, or was there just as a status symbol.) I read library books. I exercised outside. I re-wore the clothing I already had (SHOCKER!!).
With the money I freed up, I saved. I started prioritizing experiences over possessions. And I redistributed much of my earnings to (budget) travel vs. things. Since then, I’ve saved an incredible amount of money.
Travel can be affordable
Travel doesn’t have to be expensive or “luxury” to be possible and enjoyable. I spent 7 days in Costa Rica on $400, 8 days in Ecuador on $475, and 6 days in Ireland on $650. (Not including flights.) International travel can be done cheaply — for less than a monthly car payment or iPad — if you make it a priority.
And now, I travel full-time, as a digital nomad!
As of September 2020, my house in Phoenix is sold. I no longer have a place to call home, and I’m entirely location independent, moving on every few weeks or months across the U.S. I’m mostly staying in Airbnbs — sometimes, they’re cheaper than the cost of my (former) house and all its bills and household shopping list items combined!
This lifestyle would not be possible without the decision I made a few years ago: to live below my means. I need transportation, but it doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy. I need shelter, but shelter that’s minimal and rotating is still suitable. I need clothing and footwear, but not closets, chests, and drawers-full, to the tune of hundreds of pieces of apparel.
It took me a long time to get here, to this place of financial independence, but it was well worth it. I am not held hostage by material possessions or a need to define myself by my fashion sense or the brand names I can afford. I would much rather see more, do more, travel more. And travel is what makes me richer… not things.