THE “BIG SECRET” TO MY TRAVEL LIFESTYLE REVEALED
As many of you know, Alec and I have been traveling for just over a year and a half now. We quit our jobs in California, packed our bags, and set off to explore the world. Fifteen countries later, we are currently settled in England. The question that I get asked MOST frequently, hands down, is “how can you afford to travel so much?” People are constantly asking us “what’s your secret?” and, you guys, we constantly have to disappoint them with the fact that there is, unfortunately, no secret. In fact, if any of you come across said “secret,” please, do share!
It’s funny because this whole glamorous idea of “quitting your job to travel” seems almost like a popular fad now— and that’s awesome, right on! However, back when we took the plunge, I had no idea that other people were doing it or how they were doing it. Alec and I chose to quit our jobs and pursue our dreams for one reason only: it’s what we wanted. I know there are many other travel bloggers and travel couples out there doing the same thing and claiming to have secrets in their tell-all books and online courses (nothing against those guys, more power to ya), but we just aren’t them. We did manage to find a way to make it work for us, and I hate to break it to you guys, but there is absolutely nothing glamorous or exciting about it!
THE TRUTH IS
WE WORKED OUR BUTTS OFF & SAVED FOR IT.
That’s it, there’s our big secret, guys! We don’t sell products online, this blog isn’t bringing in the big bucks, we aren’t carrying any credit card debts or loans, and we don’t have rich parents paying for any of this (but wouldn’t that be nice)! The cashflow that is supporting our year and a half+ of travelling through fifteen countries is the magical power of SAVINGS!
Alec is overall a fairly frugal person, and he had planned on doing this for some time, so his savings were set aside for this very purpose. I, on the other hand, am NOT a very frugal individual— at least I wasn’t until I met Alec! Fortunately, prior to traveling, I worked in finance, so saving and investing were already embedded in my financial portfolio. I hadn’t exactly planned on quitting my job to travel for years on end, but it’s fair to say that I was already taking advantage of my PTO days and earning miles by traveling as much as I could while employed. Once Alec had convinced me to take off and travel with him, it actually became much easier to save! I believe that when you have a goal or something to look forward to, saving or sacrificing a night out here and there becomes more “worth it” in a sense. I became more thrifty in my spendings for a while, and Alec helped me sell all of my (brand new) furniture which added a little bit to the pot as well.
One of the beautiful things about this lifestyle is the feeling of being free from all objects… if that makes sense. No monthly rent (and I mean those California rates), no car payments, no bill from a massive storage unit full of thousands of dollars worth of furniture covered in dust, no attachments to unnecessary inanimate objects that serve no current purpose in our lives. We sold our things, ended our leases, and said our goodbyes all at once. We left with only our backpacks— okay they are like 75 liters each, but it’s all just clothes and shoes!
Sure, you’re still paying for transportation, meals, excursions, and accommodation… but getting to stay in magical places with unique experiences all over the world is, in my eyes, worth the cost— and in many cases, it might even cost less than the average working adult’s bills. There are places where you can get an entire apartment for $11USD a night and a full meal for less than $1USD. If you do your research, even with minimal planning (because we really don’t plan much, nor do we encourage it), you can actually travel and live what might seem like a fuller life for less than your normal cost of living! It’s not always the case of course, and that’s why it was so important for us to save appropriately.
We travelled Southeast Asia for nearly six months last year. Honestly, we could maybe even still be there and living off of our savings at this point because it is just SO CHEAP! Depending on which region you’re in, you can usually afford to live like a king for less than the cost of your current gym membership. Or alternatively, you can take advantage of the inexpensive cost of living and travel for longer, like we did!
Like many backpackers do, we traveled along the classic route of SE Asia to Australia. And like those many backpackers, we also felt that broke feeling of going from the freedom of cheap Asian prices to expensive (or just accurately priced) Aussie cost of living. We know that feeling all too well! Alec and I had both traveled to Australia in the past, so we were not too surprised by this, and we were (very) glad to have our savings at this point.
As I mentioned before, we don’t plan. Our six month venture through SE Asia was initially supposed to be only three months, and our plan to visit Australia for a “little while,” turned into nearly a whole year (back and forth between other countries)! Since we sPoNtAnEoUsLy decided to live in Perth (Western Australia) for three months, we did what a lot of those, previously mentioned, backpackers do, and got jobs. Alec got a gig moving gym equipment around for a warehouse dealer, and I worked as an admin temp— and again, we saved. We rented a place next to the beach, and we only worked for maybe a month or two tops. We still had our savings, but incoming cashflow to spend when traveling feels a lot better than slowing draining a savings account. Also, I might add that working a casual job in Australia and living across from the beach is still 100% better than working a career-oriented, 9-5 job with an hour commute each way on the 405 (a traffic heavy highway in LA)!
So as much as we encourage saving for your dreams and being financially prepared for a venture like this, there are definitely opportunities to make money along the way to add a little extra cushion to your cashflow. There are so many innovative ways to make a buck these days (not referring to anything weird ok), so I definitely think it’s important to take advantage of opportunities and be open to new ideas— especially if it helps you get one step closer to pursuing your passion. When we were on the road, Alec and I worked through a temp agency in Australia and New Zealand, so we got to take up a lot of really fun and unique, one-off jobs. From working festivals to helping with concerts, we had the chance to make friends and gain experiences that, as a stockbroker back home, I would have probably never even come across!
I should add that Alec and I both have college degrees and corporate work experience— one of us even has a masters, so working these random jobs and events where we often worked side-by-side with people who have none of those things may seem, to some of you, like it was belittling or self-degrading for us… but it absolutely wasn’t! In fact, these were some amazing experiences, and we gained a lot from them (in addition to getting paid)! Having the will to travel freely and be truly open-minded involves being able to let go of that ingrained, corporate ladder mumbo-jumbo that society has fed us for too long. I know there are people that might not think much of this lifestyle, but the beautiful thing is that we never have to worry about running into them! When you’re so busy chasing your passion, living a life of new and exciting experiences, you don’t have time to waste trying to abide by made-up social standards. And the best part is that most of the people that you will meet along the way are already on the same page!
We still have our savings, and we still have many places in the world to see. However, eventually (pretty soon actually), we will both go back to working real jobs again. For many reasons, we’ve decided to consider taking a break from traveling, however, I’m happy to say money is not one of them… Okay, well obviously, we can’t travel forever on savings, so going back to work will definitely be for money (so it is kind of a reason). Neither of us went into this being rich, and a year and a half later, we haven not come out of this broke. Money should not be something that stops you from pursuing what makes you happy. We may be going back to work one day, but we are so much richer in travels and experiences now; plus we have friends all over the world that we can visit on any given PTO day! I used to work for an investment advising company, but my greatest life lesson and advice to anyone is to invest in your happiness.