I spent about 10 of the past 12 months traveling. At the end of last school year, I quit my job in NYC and hit the road. Lots of people have asked me, more or less, “How can you afford to do that?!”
My ideas are nothing new. In fact, I found a lot of them in my research while preparing my trip. But perhaps the blend of these ideas is unique – or at least consolidated.
Regardless, here is what I did to make this “sabattical year”, as I’ve deemed it, work.
Budget and Save
You’re going to want to make a budget before you head out and try to save money when you can while traveling. I’m pretty sure both of these things go without saying. What many people have seemed surprised to realize, though, is that I actually starting budgeting and saving for this trip months before I left the U.S. Further, I adapted my monthly budget while living in the New York in order to increase my savings. This doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything fun for the months before I traveled – I was living in NYC, after all. I just didn’t spend as much money.
Some simple ways that I saved money were as follows:
- When I’d go out with friends, I limited my drink purchases to 2/night. In New York, this practice easily saved me $50 some weekends. Multiply that over the course of a few months and you have yourself a plane ticket.
- I cooked for myself for just about every meal. In fact, I limited my weekly eating out to one meal a week (usually Friday; usually Thai food). By my estimates, basing this off of my friends who ate an average of 6 meals out during the week, I was easily saving $75/week. That adds up quick.
- I went to the library instead of buying books (this one was hard).
- I rode my bike or walked to work instead of paying for transit. This cut my monthly transit budget by about $50 (depending on how many late-night Ubers I took…).
- I took coffee to work instead of buying it on my way (not so hard – because riding bike with coffee is hard).
- I’d suggest meeting up with friends at the park, or at an apartment, instead of always going out somewhere to eat or drink. Not only did everyone save some dough, but we usually had a better time exploring a new part of the city or catching up in a place where we could actually chat.
Plan and Purpose
Being a teacher, and a kindergarten teacher at that, I know well the importance of having a plan – or, at the very least, some sort of skeletal outline. Especially for shorter trips, planning can be really important so that you get the most out of your week or two week adventure. But when planning a longer sojourn such as what I did, I learned that planning was made much easier when I had a clear purpose.
I met all sorts of people traveling with different purposes- some were simply traveling to travel, some to build relationships, others because of work or studies. For me, the purpose of my travels was to study Spanish. Once I had this nailed down, it made making (some) decisions a whole lot easier.
Of course, this overall purpose did not get in the way of me having adventures or meeting some amazing people. But it did help keep me grounded with some decisions – should I do this thing where I’ll speak English all day or put myself in situations where I will need to actually speak Spanish?
No matter what your purpose is, volunteering can save you money and give you a super authentic travel experience. A lot of places will trade time for board – or, in other words, trade some volunteer hours for a free place to stay. If this seems interesting to you, check out Workaway.
Take the Risk
The biggest thing I tell people who ask me about my traveling is simple: do it. There are so many excuses and reasons to not travel, and a lot of them are valid – work, loans, etc. But if you want it, you can (and should) make it happen.
Create a plan and a timeline that works for you, take the risk, and go. You won’t regret it.