How to Travel the World when You’re Not Rich (and Still Have Fun!)
I am not a superstar travel blogger that hotels invite over just to get some coverage. I’m not making a ton of money, I wasn’t lucky enough to win free accommodation packages, I don’t have rich parents to help me out… and I am far from being rich myself. However, just like most people out there, I love traveling the world. But how to do it if you’re not rich? Don’t you need tens of thousands of dollars in order to even allow yourself to dream about a life of constant travel?
No, you don’t!
You’ll probably be surprised to find out that most of the people who travel constantly, including digital nomads who are always on the move, always visiting a new country or city, are not rich. You can travel the world if you don’t have a lot of money and still have a ton of fun doing it, staying safe and creating memories that will last for a few lifetimes.
So… how to travel the world if you’re not rich? It’s easier than you can imagine!
I’m a normal person, just like you. I have my fair share of problems, bills to pay and mental barriers that are constantly trying to hold me back. I have a family, which makes things even more complicated and expensive. But, I also have dreams and a little bit of persistence.
You don’t just wake up one day and realize you’re on a 6 month holiday in SE Asia, soaking in the sun all day and living the dream life. It takes setting goals, planning and determination to get to that point – and usually it’s not as carefree as most travel bloggers – or your imagination – make it seem like. But it’s still extremely enjoyable, that’s for sure!
The best part of it? It sounds like a cliche already, but it’s true: If I can do it, you can do it to! Why? Because I’m not special. Most of the people doing it already and enjoying the digital nomad lifestyle are not (sorry for saying that, guys!) And, most importantly: I am not rich. They are not rich. You don’t have to be!
I may be, at times, a bit of a workaholic – which helps in the long run – but I’ve never had very high paying jobs or been gifted huge amounts of money. I live a very frugal life because I chose to do so, and I never have anything really fashionable in my wardrobe. I work endless hours on the computer to try and make my work from home life work for me and my travel needs and for the most part, I manage to do so.
My back hurts, my eyes hurt, I am tired most of the time and my life is not a constant travel from beach to beach, eating fancy food and drinking cocktails all day long. But it’s a lot better than being part of the concrete jungle, spending most of my life between four walls, letting the routine of a traditional 9 to 5 job drain all the energy out of me and the crazy commute times drive me crazy. And, despite the negatives, I’ll do it all over again if I were given the chance to start over.
Actually, I’d do it better and start sooner. But you might be younger and in a better position that I am to start living your dreams, to travel the world, to make what you want out of your life. And I have some tips and tricks for you on how to do it. How to travel the world when you don’t have a lot of money. How to learn to enjoy life and experiences without an excessive need for money:
1. Don’t think about quitting your job (just yet)!
It might sound like a dream profession to be able to work from anywhere in the world, to hit the Chiang Mai area and meet digital nomads, or to relocate to the beach and work from there. However, it’s not a thing that everybody would enjoy, it can get old and, just like anything in life, it does have its fair share of Pros and Cons. It’s not perfect. It’s not without problems, even though unfortunately most travel bloggers and nomads make it sounds like that.
The truth is that having a traditional job is not really a bad thing. Even though a 9-to-5 job is not ideal for the free souls out there, it does one important thing: it provides you with stable income.
So don’t rush to quit your job and drop that stable income. You can still travel the world and do so extensively without quitting your job! Just plan ahead and take advantage of all the free days you have each year. If it still looks like the thing you’d like to do full time, only then should you start considering other options. You’ll be surprised to find out that more and more employers accept their employees to work remotely just because good, skilled people are hard to find nowadays.
So a solid alternative to just quitting your job and leaving to travel the world: become an important asset for the company that hires you and you’ll have more chances of getting approved for remote work. Having constant paychecks beats the uncertainty of being a freelancer, travel blogger or just having to start over from scratch.
Of course, not all jobs can be performed remotely – in which case, you could start looking for alternatives and jobs that can!
2. Learn to save money
Stop spending small fortunes without a reason on things that cost a fraction of what you should pay for them. For example, let’s take something that’s starting to get old, since everybody talks about it: Starbucks coffee. Just prepare your beverage at home or go for way cheaper options! A Grande Latte costs $3.65. That’s $1.332 per year. Or AN ENTIRE MONTH of living a good life anywhere in South-East Asia. Are you willing to trade your Starbucks coffee for that?
It’s all about learning to save money and that’s doesn’t mean that you should be miserable: you can still do the things you enjoy, but do them thinking long term. I don’t recommend people to turn into tiny Ebenezer Scrooges or live a life eating from dumpsters… but being careful with your finances always help. Learn put money aside each and every month and pretty soon your travel dreams will be easier to be turned into reality!
3. Get into the right mindset
If you’re not rich, it will be difficult to buy a luxurious house, a car, have the latest clothing items, fill your rooms with the latest gadgets… AND travel the world at the same time.
But do you really need all these things? Do you really need a house with four bedrooms, out of which one immediately becomes a closet, one becomes storage space and one will always be empty, waiting for potential friends and family to visit a few times per year? You don’t need things. You don’t need to prove people around you that you’re successful or happy by amassing more and more things. You don’t even have to care what friends and colleagues and the world thinks!
Who are you living this life for? Yourself or the approval of your friends? Or maybe Facebook likes, Instagram followers? Or maybe for the fashion designers whose pockets you fill when you buy their overpriced brands?
Do you know who’s the only person that matters? Yourself (and your family, if you have one). If you are honestly happy with yourself, even if you don’t have a large house, a car and a few million items of clothing or the latest iPhone, then you’re doing great!
Don’t be miserable on the inside and happy on the outside. As long as you are happy, as long as you are satisfied, everything IS great. You will soon start to replace things with people that feel the same way, with experiences that are worth more than just money and you will feel accomplished. That’s all that matters.
Just get into the right mindset! It’s easier said than done, but always remember this: you should be happy your way, doing the stuff you enjoy doing, not happy as per the rules of your friends, colleagues or norms set the by the consumerist society we’re part of! Some are happy when they buy things, clothes, big houses and jewelry. Just take a moment and decide if you’re one of them – or one whose happiness comes from elsewhere.
4. Plan your trips well in advance
You can save hundreds of dollars per year or more by simply planning your trips well ahead. You will get special discounts, best prices and you’ll have a ton more options on where to go, how to get there and where to stay. Just spend some time planning and start making reservations at least a few months in advance.
At the same time, keep on open mind and always be on the lookout for amazing deals. Be open to massive discounts and take them when available. The thing with traveling the world is this: the places you really want to visit will always be there, waiting for you. The deals and special discounts will come and go! Take advantage of them!
5. Make the most out of your time
If you still have a job that doesn’t allow you to travel constantly and for virtually endless amounts of time or if you simply can’t afford to always be on the go, take whatever time you have and put it to good use.
Most people dealing with limited travel time are tempted to cram in as many places as possible when they plan their vacation, but that’s not the best approach. You don’t want to rush through countries and cities and attractions and everything just to be able to say “I’ve visited 70-something countries”. Spending an hour in a country doesn’t mean you’ve visited it! You’re lying to yourself if you do and there are no real gains from this.
Instead, take some time and actually get to enjoy your vacation and limited time, wherever you go. Don’t be in a race against time, not letting yourself take a moment to actually stop and look around, enjoying the views, take in a breath of foreign air and say: “Well, I’m here! This is beautiful!”.
Traveling is not about physically being in as many places as possible, but taking the most out of the places you visit. The world has too many hidden gems and beautiful places for us and we’ll never be able to see them all during our lifetime. There’s no need to rush things, just take your time and truly enjoy the places you visit: it makes no sense to take a month off and visit 30 different cities, being always on the run, always tired, always grumpy and not being able to actually enjoy the experience!
6. Start a blog
Most likely, you won’t get rich from blogging. Most likely, you won’t become one of the travel bloggers that you constantly read and envy for their life. But what if?
Starting a blog is extremely cheap & easy and it can be done by anybody. You don’t need to have any technical knowledge in order to do it, you don’t need a lot of money to start blogging and you don’t even have to be a native English speaker or a good story teller (although these two last things help a lot!) You can still give it a try though and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll have to gain from this.
In the end, if this proves to become a major source of income and maybe even a job, it’s all for the best. But being negative and not even trying definitely puts you in the losers team. Give it a try! There’s nothing to lose! Maybe in a few months or years, you’ll be the travel blogger that aspiring nomads will read and envy!
7. Set a budget and STICK to it
I love watching House Hunters International. But do you know what I can’t understand from that show, no matter what? The thing that most of the show’s guest seem not to care about the budget they set.
Yes, you will always find better and nicer things which cost more, no matter how much money you have. But there’s no point in getting them if this means that you’ll end up broke and homeless eventually or you won’t be able to live the same life in a few months from now!
Yes, a 5 star hotel or a fancy restaurant will almost always be better than a cheap AirBnb and eating in a small, cheap pub with locals… But it will also cost a lot more! And if you can’t afford it, don’t go for it, hoping for a better future. Take what you can afford NOW and upgrade once you can afford more LATER.
It’s easy in concept, but one of the most difficult things to get used to when traveling or living your daily life: sticking to a budget. Learn to do this, become a master of sticking to your budget and your life will be a lot easier!
8. Stay creative and open minded
I know that backpacking is not for everybody. Hostels are not for everybody. Couchsurfing doesn’t sound good to many and alternative travel options will make most of you frown.
But still, keep an open mind and be as creative as possible when traveling. You might have to compromise a little when traveling without a ton of money, and remember one thing: the most important part when it comes to accommodation when you’re on the go is that it offers a good bed where you can get a good night’s sleep and a clean bathroom.
And these are easier to get than you can imagine. No, you don’t need 4-5 star hotels with all sort of TV channels included, with a stuffed minibar and other bonuses that do nothing but drive the prices up! All you need is a clean room with a good bed: I hope you don’t want to spend your time in a foreign country or city watching TV or reading the free newspapers or staying locked inside your room drinking the free bottles offered by the minibar and chatting with your friends back home.
Hostels are not always (although they are generally) bad, noisy choices. AirBnb offers so many great options that you have a perfect place to starting looking for your next accommodation. Actually, apart from the times we spend in full vacation mode at the beach, we never choose hotels anymore, simply because AirBnbs are better. Just do your own research of the place you’re visiting, know what to expect and everything will be fine.
In conclusion, you really don’t have to be rich in order to travel the world! You can travel the world even if you don’t have a lot of money and you can do it well! Just be smart about it and always remember: you have to be happy when doing it, not anybody else. Not your Facebook friends, not your Instagram followers, nobody else! Only you can decide how successful or how happy you actually are, not the number of likes your photos get or what friends and strangers say.