Full-time travel isn’t reserved just for trust fund kids or the few who’ve found their niche in a successful career or business that keeps them traveling. For those who have found that and are happy, awesome! For everyone else, you can still create a life full of travel, while being financially responsible. The key lies in trust, resourcefulness, and learning to budget. Here are seven more specific tips that have helped me sustain a (semi) nomadic lifestyle:
- TRUST! This is the first step. Traveling is not always easy. Not knowing what the next move is going to be or where you’re going to stay next week can be stressful. Not having a consistent income can be scary. Being away from the comfort of friends and family can get lonely. It’s so important to trust that despite the potential for unforeseen challenges, you can make your travel an extremely fulfilling experience. Things might not always play out exactly as you envisioned, but I find that when I plan too much in an attempt to secure a concrete vision of the future, things usually turn out differently anyway – often times for the better! Sure, challenges will come, but that’s how we grow. Trust that even when you hit roadblocks, you are capable of overcoming them. Talk back to your fears and doubts.
- Budget and Save. This is one area where a plan is good! Allow yourself a given amount for a period of time and/or trip and keep track of your spending. I’m all for treating oneself, but be conscious of spending and reevaluate ‘needs.’ I find separate bank accounts to be helpful – I have a Charles Schwaab checking account, which I use as a travel savings account because they reimburse all ATM fees. I only use this bankcard when I am abroad. I have another checking account, which I use to pay my regular bills. If you find yourself with some extra cash flow, I highly recommend opening a Roth IRA retirement savings account. The principle can be withdrawn at any time without fees in case of an emergency, or in case of an urgent need to travel.
- Seasonal Work. This is short-term, so it keeps you moving! It’s a very sustainable way to explore different parts of the world. Australia and New Zealand for example have great visa programs that allow you to work while on vacation. WWOOFing and Workaway.info are great ways to get set up with volunteer opportunities in almost any country (and they usually cover room and board). I find rotating seasonal jobs to be the best way to travel in the U.S. Try mountain towns during snow season, national parks, rafting or other types of guides, music festival jobs, trim jobs, restaurants, bars, or scuba instructing to name a few.
- Live like a local. Some touristy things are great, considering they’re a destination for a reason, however make sure it’s worth it. Eat at restaurants locals would eat at, learn some key phrases of the local language if you are abroad, take public transit instead of chartered busses or taxis, walk, wash your own laundry, cook meals at a hostel, be your own guide, get over FOMO and skip out on some things. Living like a local makes for a very enriching experience, and you have more of a chance to meet and connect with locals!
- Suspend any unnecessary bills. When I’m abroad for three weeks or more I put my car on ‘park’ insurance (around $5/month). You could also lease your car out to someone you REALLY trust (be sure full-coverage insurance is in their name), or consider selling it if you’re travelling long-term. I suspend my phone plan for a one-time $15 fee. Call and ask! Some student loans can be put on an income-based payment plan, although if you have extra money I recommend making payments. Sublease your apartment, or put your stuff in storage and go rent-free. Avoid leases that tie you down and try to rent temporary rooms if you need a place. You probably wont need Netflix on the road…
- Be creative with your lodging. Lots of seasonal jobs and volunteer positions include free or cheap lodging. Couchsurfing.com is a fun and safe way to meet locals and stay on their couch. AirBNB is usually cheaper than hotels, especially for single travelers. I can always stretch out in the back of my car and snooze if I’m in a safe enough area. Camping anyone? Also, while I don’t recommend mooching or ‘wearing out your welcome,’ use your network of friends, which grows fast as a traveler, and see if it is possible to stay with them for a few nights.
- Travel Hacking. This is a great way to rack up frequent flier points by taking advantage of credit card travel bonuses, while protecting your credit and staying debt-free. I rarely pay for flights nowadays! Check out Millionmilesecrets.com. If you want to keep it simple, and you can use a credit card responsibly, get one travel card with a good reward system and put all of your spending on there. I recommend Chase Sapphire Preferred card or the Capital One Venture card. Also consider being flexible with your destinations and departure dates to find the cheapest airfare. Skyscanner.com for example will show you the cheapest airfare throughout a specified month and allows you to search with flexible departure and destination locations.
Creating a life of travel is a process that involves figuring out what works best for you in order to meet your needs and your travel ambitions. I am constantly redefining what I want my travel to look like, exploring new ways to make travel sustainable, and reminding myself to trust through my fear and doubts. Good luck out there!
About the author:
Liz Tucker is a semi-nomadic writer who specializes in seasonal temporary work that allows her to travel. While her roots are in Minneapolis, MN and she can often be found in Northern California, it’s hard to pin her down. Liz has consciously dedicated her 20’s to “adventure and exploration.” In the U.S. she travels out of her car, and abroad a backpack. She hopes to connect with and inspire people on their own adventures. Mindfulness, healthy living, and feminism are themes often infused into her travel writing. You can check out more of her writing here: www.therollingflower.com