I met Patrick on his first world trip (his second is planned for next year, and in between there has been a multitude of motorcycle trips lasting a weekend to 3 months, most of them with me along for the ride, and the later ones with me riding alongside! Or 200 kms behind depending on how fast he is going, but again I digress.) Patrick is a natural born saver. He hails from Baden-Württemberg, an area of Germany known for their wealth (Porsche, Mercedes and Bosch are just three companies that hail from the region) as well as their insistence on locking their millions in a vault and arguing over 50 cents.
This would imply that Patrick may be the better author for this entry. Prior to meeting him I funded my travel though the teach and travel method, never the months at a time without a job style that we do now. And although he does not have millions tucked away anywhere, he is a natural born saver. As in it does not cause him physical pain to deny himself something and put his money in a savings account. He only spends money he has, and creditors have no idea who he is. But then I thought a little more about it, and if I can save money for a major trip, then anyone can. Admittedly there were tears in the beginning, I may (or may not, its my word against Patrick’s) thrown things at his head and called him less than kind names, but in the end, my ways were converted.
For our major 3 month motorcycle trip from Germany to Turkey I managed to save the 3000 Euro required to go for 3 months (our budget, in the end we spent 2600, but we also returned almost 2 weeks early because of rain), as well as pay the 2000 that it cost to get my German motorcycle license, and actually buy the bike. (But as I was also paying off old credit cards and student loans, Patrick did have to help with the bike purchase). But again, rambling!
I did that while still paying my half of rent, contributing to the food budget, and living. I was not living the high life mind you, but I was still living. And although I still have one outstanding student loan, my credit card debt is gone and I am living within my means. So despite it being not always easy, it is not impossible. And although I have passed on budget saving ideas in other blogs, this one is revamped for Unleash your adventure, and with my present wisdom in mind. So without further adieu, my top 5 simple recommendations to afford to travel (and long term travel in particular).
# 1 – KNOW your travel style
Number one however is almost always the same. KNOW your travel style. If you are here because you are a motorcycle traveler then chances are you know you are a camper. Paying nothing and camping wild is something you would do even if you did have that million in the bank. You want to factor in the occasional shower (on the road I shower every 3 -5 days on average, its true, keep that in mind if you ever see us and want to have a meet and greet. We are always open, but maybe you won’t be so open to us. 😉 ) Your budget wants to take into paid accommodation for city stays, when you are sick, or when even your travel partner declares you need a shower. (You can also shower on the side of the road, therefore extending the amount of time in between paid accommodation. We think its fun.)
Of course that does not mean you HAVE to camp. If you are a backpacker or a motorcyclist who likes a little more luxury, check online at hostelworld or hotelbooking.com to get a feel for the prices of the style of accommodation you need. It makes no sense to lie to yourself about the costs you will anticipate. It just means that you will need to save more or find income on the road. When I was teaching English in Japan my trip to Thailand cost almost as much as my 3 months to Turkey and back. I could have done it cheaper, but I wanted to splash out.
You can also use hospitality club or couch surfing on the road as a free place to stay, or if you want to work for your board check out WWOOFing. However if the idea that staying with strangers freaks you out, don’t count it in when you take stock of your travel budget. You will either ignore the option and spend more than you planned on accommodation, OR it will suck the joy out of your trip. Neither option is optimal.
Another aspect of travel style that we forget to take stock of is our time. The faster you go the more money you need. That is why 3 months through a country will often cost the same as the same trip in 2 weeks. When time is a pressure you need to pay whatever price is required, or choose faster and more expensive over slower and cheaper.
# 2 – The Travel Jar
After you’ve taken stock of how you like to travel, you now need to go about accumulating the money you’ve decided you need. My number one recommendation: The Travel Jar. (It almost deserves music). But whenever I make plans that get canceled (be it movie, dinner, whatever) I consider it money spent. That money goes into the travel jar. At the end of the day, all my coins go into the travel jar. Yes setting aside a set amount out of your pay every week/month also works. But you would be surprised how fast you amass travel jar money when you play by the rules. And if you are faithful enough to take a set amount out of your pay that goes into another account to cover your budget, use the travel jar as money to buy something you want but do not necessarily need for your trip (like a new camera when your old one is still adequate, or those boots which you know will pay off but the thought of taking out a chunk of change come next pay day just hurts) or your on the road “treat” money. (A nice restaurant for your 3 month on the road anniversary, or a balloon ride over Cappadocia, Turkey)
# 3 – The library
The library is your friend. I love books. I do not just love to read them, I love to touch them, I love to smell them, and I particularly love the way they look on my shelf. But once I declare that I am saving for a trip, my book buying drops drastically. When I want to buy a book I go to the library first, and then the money I would have spent I put in the travel jar as money already spent. I borrow DVDs from the library, and I go there instead of to the local coffee shop when I want peace time between classes (be it the kind where I am the teacher, or the kind where I am the student), and again the money I would have spent on coffee goes into the travel jar. (That is not to say complete denial, I still meet my friends for coffee, it is just when I am alone I do not.) And when I find myself wavering I think of something like this:
# 4 – Use your employer
Find out if you even need to save. If you are really lucky you are a teacher within the regular school system, or in a union that lets you do “2 over 3” or the equivalent, in which you get less pay your first 2 years that you work, but then you get to take a year off with the same pay as the 2 years previous, Plus your job is still there when you get back. (And even if not, and you are less afraid of the money aspect and more of the job aspect, check to see if you can have an unpaid leave of absence).
# 5 – Buy less and buy smart!
I can’t even tell you how many dresses I have that I never wear. Chances are you have a closet full of clothes you barely wear and you keep adding to (men do it too!!!) The sad part is despite being aware of this I still spent almost 100 Euro at a Mango outlet in Ankara. 10 dresses, all less than 10 Euro! I bought them the end of March, it is now the end of June, and I have worn ONE and that was ONCE. I admit I will bite you if you try to take them from me. But now I avoid outlets. But if I had to buy clothes, I would recommend an outlet.
# 6 – Be environmentally friendly!
Environmentally friendly means using less of everything, less electricity (you don’t need to freeze over the winter, but if you are from a cold country think about an extra sweater rather than reaching automatically for the thermostat.) Your planet and your wallet will thank you. Before jumping in your car think about how far it is to walk, can you do it instead of wasting money on gas? Car pool instead of driving?
When you think about your wallet and the planet before buying something everyone wins. Do you really a need a brand new sofa set? Is “new to you” just as good? We can’t keep consuming at our present rate, our planet will give up and there will no longer be a point to travel (unless that is you always wanted to test your skills in the Thunderdome). Buying second hand is your friend!
# Most Imortant
Finally, outside of sticking to the budget, the number one rule of traveling is to not just pick a date, but tell everyone about that date. Then when you are tempted to buy things you don’t need, or break into your travel jar, you just need to remember how embarrassing it is going to be when everyone looks at you and asks why you haven’t left on that trip yet…..
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