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Stop Asking How I Afford To Travel

It’s on the tip of their tongue either because they are genuinely curious about the lifestyle and are looking for tips on how to become a traveler, or because they are just trying to know about your business.

The moment people realize that you seem to always be off somewhere, they become curious about how you afford all these trips. And, one day, over coffee or wine, the question comes out: “How do you afford all these trips?”

Side bar. Unless a person contributes to my lifestyle, they have no business monitoring my finances. Because, sometimes, that’s what this question is about! The person thinks you're living above your means, or they think you’re holding out—like you won the lottery and didn’t tell.

That said, it’s all about the tone and the person who asks.

Here’s what I’d tell that friend who is genuinely curious about the lifestyle.

Traveling has a cost

If, like me, you don’t get paid to travel, you know that weekend getaways and Eat, Pray, Love type of journeys—and everything in between—have a cost. And depending on one’s travel style and budget, it may be on the pricey side.

To be clear, I don’t think that embracing the lifestyle is as easy as bringing your own lunch to work or opening a travel account—all tips that may work for some, but not for all. Because travel has a cost, I consider it to be a privilege. Also, it is to be noted that some people may have the interest and not the budget. And vice versa.

Balling on a budget

But traveling may not cost as much as people think. A lot of us out here are balling on a budget. We’ve become adept at looking for and finding good deals. We are skilled in the art of using travel apps. We spend quite some time doing our research.

And it’s nothing to be ashamed of! Most people like a good deal, regardless of their finances.

Traveling on a budget often means splurging on some things and being a bit more conservative on others. For example, I often choose to spend money on fine dining experiences rather than paying for a photoshoot. There’s no right way to spend your money, only the way you see fit. You can’t go wrong by spending towards things that genuinely bring you joy, but don’t put you in the red. More on that later.

It’s not always glamorous

Some people will automatically think that you travel business class, stay in the most expensive hotels and dine at the finest restaurants while you’re on the road.

While this may be true for some, it is not the reality for most.

Sometimes, a cheaper flight means an extra layover (a long one, if you’re lucky!), not enough leg-room, fixed travel dates. It may mean spending hours researching the best credit card to collect miles. If you’re booking your trips yourself, add in a few more hours to do research about accommodations, how to get around, etc.

The "how"

Financing the lifestyle is a beast of its own. Some may have enough discretionary funds and not have to worry about it. Most may require a little extra effort.

Open a travel savings account.

You can decide to save until you can afford your dream vacation. Or you may choose to plan a trip with the amount saved over, say, a year. Either way, seeing that fund grow may help you keep your goals in mind. I find that this requires discipline—a quality I lack when it comes to money.

What works best for me is sòl (I’m Haitian), a collective savings system (it’s known as tontine, esusu, susu in other parts of the world). The idea is that there’s a pot in which contributors put in money each month, and each month a different contributor receives the entire pot. It’s a system based on trust and community. This works for me because I don’t have access to the money and am accountable to others.

Get a side hustle.

We keep on reading about how good it is to have multiple sources of income. One of these sources could be used to cover your travel expenses.

Book a trip with a payment plan.

If, like me, you are just not disciplined as you should be with your savings, a payment plan may be a better option for you.

Turn your passion into a career.

If seeing the world is what you want, there are opportunities out there that will allow you to get paid while living your passion. It may require a change in career. It may be your side hustle.

Don’t do it for the Gram

It’s easy to look at what others do and try to do the same. But being in the red so that you can one-up another person just isn’t cute. Finding a balance between the travel style you want and the travel style you can actually pay for is key. Be realistic about what you can afford.

Just like that, I’ve become one of these folks who try to tell you what to do with your money… And for that, I apologize.

What are some tips you’d share with someone who’s curious about the travel lifestyle?

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