So many times in my travels, I encounter people who enthuse over my nomadic lifestyle. And then they sigh. “I have no time for travel,” they say. Or, “I don’t know how you afford it!” There is always some sort of reason for why travel just doesn’t fit into their lifestyle. But I am here to tell you (yes, #YOU) that you only live once and that travel is right for everyone. Now, that doesn’t mean everyone can travel this moment, but aligning your actions with your goals can make travel a reality for most people—if you’re willing to take small actions every day that prioritize travel over other things.
So, at the risk of sounding like a corporate motivational poster, you CAN achieve your travel goals… this year, even! You just need a solid plan. The following are ways that I have traveled where I want, when I wanted, and ways that I know work for others. Again, I know that debt, family circumstances, and so many other things factor into why you might believe you can’t achieve your travel goals, but let’s reframe the conversation in three easy steps.
If you want—really and truly want—to travel, you have to make it a priority. This, by definition, means that you place it above other things in importance. Right now, examine your life for things that are holding you back from travel, and knock down those barriers.
For most people, money is something that they perceive holding them back from international travel. So what can you do to prioritize travel in the real world? The classic example is that daily latte from Starbucks, but really, it can be any daily indulgence that, over time, saves you money. I love my daily coffee and did notcut it from my life. But I did cut eating out, and I didn’t upgrade my tech for years. I mean many, many years with a janky old phone. And I was totally good with that, because I was traveling!
Focus on what you need, and not what you want. Do you really need to upgrade to an iPhone X, when your 5S keeps chugging along just fine?
Cut coupons. Buy used, and save the difference. Disconnect from cable. Take the bus more often. When you make travel the most important thing in your life, you’d be surprised how many less-important things fall by the wayside. Don’t cut out things you love, but cut back on the things that aren’t actually making your life significantly better right now—that’s where find the extra dollars in your budget for your travel fund.
When I graduated college and knew I wanted to make my first RTW trip, I sold my car and ferreted the money away in savings. I borrowed by first backpack—a 65L Eagle Creek backpack that I deeply loved—from a friend and didn’t upgrade for six years (and then it was only to a rolling backpack). I was incredibly intentional with every purchase, even my travel gear—I paid for any travel gearI needed (like packing cubes, which I swear by), and then made sure it would last for years. I didn’t indulge in other things many peers bought without much thought, because I wanted to travel. The point is, all sacrifices, big and small, count towards your travel goal.
Oh, and it should go without saying that the money you save must be put away every month. And if a life circumstance derail your saving plan for a time—that’s OK. It’s bound to happen if you’re planning to save for a trip over several years. This is a marathon, just keep prioritizing and saving and you will grow your travel fund, little by little.
Get On Top of Debt
I’m going to be honest with you here: Most experts will tell you that you should have zero debt before you travel, and I didn’t. I was still making student loan payments when I left home for Australia back in 2008.
Debt is a roadblock to travel because, obviously, you need money, and your monthly budget is going to be tighter when you have debt payments with which to contend. That’s why it’s important to get on top of debt (like a cowboy on a bucking rodeo bull) to the greatest extent possible before you step foot on a westbound train going anywhere. Or, you know, an airplane.
Pay down your debt to at least a manageable level, then simply make room in your travel budget for consistent payments along with everything else (epic adventures hiking Kyrgyzstan, anyone?!). One thing travel should not do, however, is damage your credit—even digital nomads like me return home at some point.
Harness the Power of Geoarbitrage to Choose Your Destination
If your travel goals include something long term, it makes sense to extensively research your options before squaring away a particular destination. Throughout the years, I have picked places to temporarily settle down where the cost of living is low in comparison with America, and where the dollar can really stretch.
I have spent months and months over several years in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and other destinations in Southeast Asia (mecca for expats) where I was able to rent an apartment on a short-term lease for half the cost of a one-bedroom shared lodging in the States, and where meals and entertainment cost pennies on the dollar. Sure, there will always be Rome, and Paris, and London, but I challenge you to take the path less travelled by, and fall in love with wild-flung destinations that will expand and enrich your appreciation of our big, diverse world.
Fellow long-term travelers, what are your best steps for helping newbies achieve their goals? Let us know your thoughts on Instagram or Facebook .
Related Eagle Creek Products:
Global Companion 65L Women’s
Gear Warrior Convertible Carry-On
Related Links (from the Eagle Creek blog):
How to Save Money for Your Next Big Vacation
Why a Life of Travel is Worth the Price
5 Budget-Friendly Destinations to Visit in 2019