Some people live paycheck to paycheck. I live trip to trip.
The world calls my name, and I love it. Places I’ve never been, exotic places with unpronounceable names. Water so clear you can see the shadow of the boat, rippling on the sand at the bottom of the sea. An ancient walled castle, crumbling on a craggy hill. Bustling cities flashing in the night or forested roads wandering deep into nowhere… I want them all. I want to breathe the air, walk the paths, meet the people, and eat the food.
Unfortunately, that all takes money. And since I have a limited budget, getting money together for the next adventure is always on my mind.
Here are 3 steps that get me on the road. Use them to fast track your next journey outward.
1. Make it real.
When your heart connects, your travel changes from being a vague “someday, somewhere” into being a real part of your actual future. Suddenly this trip is urgent, pressing. It’s part of what you need to do, to be who you really are. And it’s do-able!
So make it real. Create a Pinterest page, develop a favorites folder, keep items of interest. Think specifics. What time of year would you want to go? Rainy season or dry? Any festivals you want to see? How much of the language can you learn before you go? Cover a poster board with pictures from the places that interest you, travel quotes that interest you. Work on an itinerary, research any dangers. Compare hotels, apartments and hostels. Put a local news site on your toolbar.
Immersion begins now.
2. Get real with money.
You need a realistic financial goal – not one that will leave you stranded or one that will scare you off.
Every trip has three basic money requirements: getting there, staying there, and living there. “Getting there” is usually the biggest expense, but even if you fly, you can often get better deals if you stay focused. The internet is full of good resources for cheap airfares. You can fly into a European hub city on an international carrier, for instance, and then take a low-cost airline to nearby countries. Play with it!
“Sleeping there” can be a huge expense, or it can be cheap, even free, depending on your choices. Willing to work for your room? Stay in hostels, or in an old convent with nuns? You can do it. You just have to do the research.
“Living there” is the cost of your daily life expenses, as you live somewhere else. Eating is part of living there, along with admissions, tips and side trips. Nights out for drinks, buses and rental cars are all part of living there. Explore local sources for in-country trips. They’re often less expensive and more interesting simply because they’re less “Americanized”. Live like a local in an apartment and cook some meals at home. Grocery shopping can be an adventure in another culture!
3. Make friends with your savings.
The money you save is not “money I don’t get to spend.” It’s “the trip I’m getting ready to take.” It’s for you. Own it.
Name your trip – “Bali for New Years”, for instance, or “Eastern Europe with Jack and Ellie”. Make a spreadsheet, or better yet, get an actual ledger or a notebook, and put colored tabs on it. Keep track of your savings in your ledger. When you enter an amount, record it in one of your three basic categories – getting there, sleeping there, or living there. You may want to designate a little for each area, each time you save, or finish one and start on the next – that’s my usual system.
The big amount you put in first, directly from your paycheck – that could be transportation money. The money you make from overtime, or pick up from babysitting for your neighbor’s kid on a Saturday – that could be one night in the over-water bungalow. When you stay home and eat cereal instead of going out with friends, and put the money into your account – that’s dinner on the beach.
To encourage yourself even more, recognize how much you’re saved as you go along. Basic airfare – check. Between country hops – check. Hotel in Singapore – check. Hostel in Bali – check. Romantic dinner on the beach – check. You get the idea.
Naming things helps you remember what really matters. You may want a new car. You may want to go to Vegas with the wedding party. Or out for mid-week dinner and drinks – every week. And those are good things. But you probably can’t do all of them, and still go on that fabulous trip.
You get to decide. If it’s between dinner out tonight or vague travel sometime, we’ll probably choose going out tonight. But if it’s between dinner out tonight, and hitting my hotel goal tonight when I put that $25 into my trip savings, I may very well decide to stay home and eat cereal!
Planning for your favorite things, learning about your new place, seeing your resources build – it’s an exciting part of the trip. And before you know it, you’ll be off to live your adventure in a whole new place.
Dr. Deborah Kukal is a licensed psychologist with a broad sense of her home in the world. She is Board Certified in Health Psychology, and she writes on health, sleep, spirituality and meditation, as well as life enrichment, travel and current events.