How to Afford World Travel, Making Every Dollar Count
Let’s dispel a common misconception within the Latino/Latina community: solo travel is not only for the wealthy. For many years, we have been made to think that solo travel or travel in general, is outside of our grasp. This misconception has been influenced by various factors that have also shaped the mindset of many Latinos and other communities. These factors include a lack of representation in travel media, limited access to resources (both financially and non-financially), social pressures, misperceived higher costs, lack of information, and peer influence.
Promoting diverse travel stories is essential to change these misconceptions about travel affordability and encourage broader travel participation among Latinxs and other communities. Some crucial steps include sharing budget-friendly travel tips and providing resources that empower more Latinas/Latinos to venture on their journeys, regardless of their socioeconomic background.
First, let me tell you the story of how I began to afford to travel on my own. In Oct 2013, I had to quit my managing director job in NYC and move back to FL due to health reasons. The snowball effect started when I spent one month in the hospital in New York during the summer due to respiratory issues. After being released from the hospital, I often visited doctors because I still was not feeling well. I didn’t have much family in NY, and I was terrified of being in such an expensive city and unable to pay my bills.
At this time, I had minor credit card debt that I was paying off. I was about $2000 away from debt-free except for student loans. Regarding savings, I had approximately one month of expenses at the time.
When I quit my job, I did not get a severance package. I was only paid out my accumulated vacation time because I decided to leave the company. The medical bills were piling up, and I was very stressed out.
Feeling Like I Was Taking 15 Steps Back
I arrived in Florida and temporarily moved back in with my parents. Luckily, I was rehired at a marketing agency I had worked with since 2010. The job role was as a promotional specialist. It was an occasional part-time gig, and I was not guaranteed work. I would sign up for as many shifts as possible, but this was not covering the income of a full-time Director’s job in NYC.
I had been working hard for eight years, mainly traveling for work and taking only a week’s vacation here and there, so this was an excellent opportunity to give myself a few weeks of rest before I began my job search. In January 2014, I moved out of my parent’s home and continued my job search; the search would last until April 2014.
During this forced break, I racked up some debt to pay for my expenses. Finally, after four months of searching, I was offered a job. It was a job I had been applying to for seven years (persistence pays off)! The job’s biggest perk was that I would work from home. This benefit was one of the most coveted perks I had been searching for. I was happy to take the pay cut in exchange for not having to go to work for 8 hours of cubicle hell. The bad part is that the job paid about 65% of my previous salary in NYC.
Learning about FI/RE
Around that time, I was searching for resources about financial independence. I read a few articles and books about FI/RE, and my interest was hooked. I knew my dreams would only be attainable if I worked on my finances. I wanted to travel the world, but the idea of globetrotting felt like a luxury reserved for the privileged few.
A year later, I found myself, once again, with nearly $10K in debt, medical bills, and student loans. I was feeling suffocated. The church I was attending promoted a religious financial guru’s program to help church attendees with their finances. I enrolled in this guru’s “Financial University.” One of the best things I learned was how to create a zero-based budget, amongst other finance concepts. However, his methodology was too restrictive, so I applied a softer version of his teachings.
I committed to pay off my credit card debt while still giving myself something to look forward to. I calculated the amount I was saving in gas, car maintenance, food, and clothes by not going to the office. I would then apply that money towards my debt first and other areas of my budget. I created sinking funds for recurring necessary expenses and things that made me happy. It took three years to pay off all debts (except for student loans) and another two years to save $30,000.
After going through all of this, I learned a lesson or two about how to fulfill my travel dreams. Here are my tips to help you afford solo travel by making the most out of the money that you invest in your solo trip. With careful planning, smart budgeting, and creativity, you can make your dream of traveling the world solo a reality.
Shifting your Financial Mindset and Prioritizing Travel
Changing your mindset and setting your priorities is the first step on this journey to make your travel dreams come true. It will take some serious conversations with yourself to evaluate your spending habits. This step brings you to a fork in the road: you either cut costs to find money to destinate towards travel or find additional sources of income. By identifying your priorities, you can make intentional choices that bring you closer to achieving your travel aspirations.
If you decide to cut back on costs, consider cutting back on non-essential expenses, such as dining out or entertainment, and redirect those funds towards your travels. I worked a 2nd job, and still do, for many years to add more income to my budget.
Create a Budget and Stick to It
The amount of cringe I felt when I realized that I needed to create a budget…UGH!! Just hearing the word budget would make me feel anxious about my finances. I eventually learned to see my budget as a way of giving my money direction. I stopped feeling like the budget was restricting me. I included categories for fun and entertainment (such as travel). I was very mindful and intentional with my spending. I was able to create an emergency fund. I never wanted to face another job loss with only one month’s expenses. I learned that by incorporating flexibility, I created a budget that supported financial goals without sacrificing the enjoyment of life.
Create a Dedicated Travel Sinking Fund
Creating a budget was the best tool that helped me pay off my debt. I spent two months tracking all of my expenses and categorizing them. I looked at where I spent my money and made decisions based on my findings.
A Travel Sinking Fund was one of the first lines I added to the budget. Having this line in my budget and assigning it a monetary value I would be committed to saving every month kept me highly motivated. I opened a separate bank account specifically for a travel sinking fund. I set up automatic transfers from my main bank account to my travel sinking fund to ensure consistent contributions. Watching my travel fund grow motivated me to stay committed to my goal. Any extra money I had, big or small, would be designated to that travel fund. In a matter of 3 years, I was able to save my goal. I had not yet researched how much traveling would cost, so I planned on traveling for two months with those funds.
Embrace Frugal Living
Embracing a frugal lifestyle doesn’t imply sacrificing your quality of life; instead, it involves deliberate choices that align with your travel goals.
People often ask about my frequent travels, and here are some strategies I adopted:
- I rely on a 14-year-old vehicle for transportation.
- I maintain a low cost of living to allocate resources for travel.
- I reserve dining out for special occasions, supported by a “dining out” sinking fund.
- I prefer free or low-cost events for entertainment.
- I only charge expenses to my credit card if I am sure to pay them off by week’s end.
- I shop purposefully, online or in stores, with a predefined list to guide my purchases. Items not on the list don’t find their way into my cart.
Is this way of life applicable to everyone? Certainly not, and I acknowledge that fact. However, it empowers me to venture on month-long journeys at least once a year and several shorter trips throughout the year. It’s about prioritizing what resonates with me. I recommend that you find what resonates with you.
Generate Additional Income
If the pandemic taught us anything, we should not rely on a single source of income. Finding additional sources of income to add to your primary source of income can accelerate your savings (especially for your travel fund). Find freelance opportunities, part-time gigs, or remote work options that allow you to earn extra income. Direct the earnings from these efforts directly into your travel fund, bringing you closer to your solo travel dreams.
Sell Unused Possessions
Decluttering your life can have a dual benefit: you create a minimalist lifestyle and generate additional travel funds. Sell unnecessary possessions online or through garage sales. Not only will you free up physical space, but you’ll also contribute to your travel fund.
Flexible Travel Planning
I have said this multiple times across multiple posts on this blog: The easiest way to find a travel deal and travel for less is to be flexible.
Being flexible with your travel plans can lead to significant cost savings. Be open to traveling during off-peak seasons when prices are lower and destinations are less crowded. Utilize fare comparison websites and apps to find the best deals on flights and accommodation. Consider alternative airports and explore various routes to optimize your travel budget.
For more tips, check out this blog post.
Volunteer and Work Exchange Programs
Engaging in volunteer or work exchange programs allows you to experience new cultures while offsetting travel expenses. Research opportunities to work or volunteer abroad in exchange for accommodation, meals, and sometimes even a stipend. This reduces costs and provides a unique way to connect with locals and make a positive impact. For a quick overview of websites where you can find these opportunities, click here.
Travel Hacking and Reward Programs
This is one of my favorite ways to afford to travel often. Travel hacking involves strategically utilizing credit card rewards, loyalty programs, and travel deals to minimize travel expenses. Research credit cards that offer travel rewards and sign-up bonuses. Accumulate points and miles through everyday spending, which can be redeemed for flights, accommodation, and other travel-related expenses.
You can find much more information about travel hacking here.
By reading this blog post, you can see that traveling the world is not limited to a privileged few. Solo travel is an achievable goal for anyone with determination and a strategic financial approach.
It’s not just about reaching your destination but about embracing the adventure, learning from new experiences, and connecting with the world meaningfully. With the tools and strategies I present in this guide, you’re on your way to embarking on a solo journey around the globe that will transform you completely. Travel safely and explore with joy, sister!