More risk, more experience, less stuff, less regret. This is the life I have chosen.
In 2017, I made roughly $18,000. I know what you are thinking, "That is absolutely nothing". You're right, it's not very much at all. The only good thing is that I had very minimal expenses; no rent, no phone bill, all student loans paid off, and no recurring monthly payments in general (i.e., Netflix, Spotify, Hulu, etc.).
Many people have asked me how I afford to travel. The short answer is a little focus, determination, and prioritizing it as a must do, instead of something I will do eventually. I would like to break it down more in depth in this post and help anyone who is considering how they will afford a trip coming up by showing exactly what I did- because I have no other advice other than to simply be candid about my finances and spending habits.
I won't lie, this frugal lifestyle is not for everyone. It can be tough, especially at first, but with a little practice, it becomes a habit and your decisions are made for you through your own willful automation. I do not require much. I would rather repair a broken bag instead of buying a new one, or I would rather meal prep for the entire month than go out to eat at all. I have gone as far to teach a friend how to cut my hair by letting her mess it up to learn how to do it so I could pay her in beer and wine. Call me selfish, but I have been known to sacrifice developing friendships (meaning I have chosen to stay in instead of go out) in order to save $10 on a meal or drinks. I have learned that just because "it's only $5 or $10" really means "it's $5 or $10!". That only $5 turns into 100 "only $5" and before long you have spent $500 on stuff you didn't need. Over the course of a lifetime, this $500 a year is broken down as such; $500 x 50 (years of remaining life expectancy) = $25,000. That "only $5" turned into a new car, or in this case, a lot of trips (or what you want it to be).
Keep this mindset and you can save all that money on things you don't need in order to spend it on the experiences that matter. The experiences that give you life and meaning. Science has proven those who spend money on experience over material objects are happier and expected to live a longer and more fulfilled life. I am not sure about this, but I am positive it gives my life more meaning, more structure, and allows me to keep less stuff and more value in my life. So here we go.
I made dirt wages at Edelweiss. I'll give you the template. (Not 100% accurate, but very close).
I did not make very much at Edelweiss, but I picked up as many hours as possible while working there even though it was only "part-time", I was able to maximize the lack of hours and wages.
As you can see, my wages greatly outweighed my expenses, so I was bringing in a surplus. Many people might be wondering about all the trips I took. Yes I did not add these, but my last 6 months trips totaled to around $3000, so we can take $3000 out of the surplus for a new surplus of $3283, this new number is what I would use to budget my next 2 months in Asia.
For Asia, the main budget eaters were my flights totaling $1500 for all of the stops including heading home. With $1700 to spare, I could have lived in India for 6+ months if I kept the same mindset I used in the western world. It was incredibly cheap. I spent less than most people would because I did not buy souvenirs, or stay at many hostels. I used workaway, couchsurfing, and a meditation retreat as my resources to travel and stay around in order to maximize my experience and minimize my expenses. I rode passenger trains and tuk-tuk's that ranged from $0.15-$4 per trip. My main meals consisted of popular street food stands, curry dishes at restaurants, and eating with my hosts. I ended up spending slightly over $200 for this leg of my trip, leaving me with $1500 to utilize in the remaining countries.
With $1500 to go in Thailand, Vietnam and South Korea, I decided to treat myself and get advanced scuba diving certified. For 12 dives, a place to stay, and an excellent experience, I paid $650. On top of this $650, I spent about $100 on food for 3 weeks by eating a lot of street pad thai and cup noodles, and also went on 2 tours (Elephant camp and a temple tour) for an additional $110. I paid another $40 for splitting an airbnb for 5 days. This leaves me with $600 to go for Vietnam and South Korea.
Vietnam was incredibly cheap as well, it was the 2nd cheapest place I went to. A bowl of noodles was about $2.50 and I ate a lot of them when I could. I decided to utilize my resource of workaway in Vietnam for 10 days again. This covered my stay and food for these 10 days in exchange for some physical labor on a family farm. Again, this maximized my experience and minimized my costs. I spent $10 on my first 2 days for food and a hostel. I also talked a local shop owner down on a $50 "NorthFace" jacket to $15. Then took a bus for $3 to my destination, I did not spend money again until my last 3 days in Vietnam. When I left my workaway, I bussed to SaPa Valley for $3 and stayed at a homestay for $4 per night at 2 nights, I decided to hire a guide to hike the mountain for another $60 (completely overpriced hike but I decided to follow the law and pay the toll instead of rebelling). I had to take motorbike taxi's to get around at $1.5 per ride and rode about 6 of these totaling $9. If you are keeping track, I spent around $170 in Vietnam for 2 weeks. This leaves us with $430 to spend in South Korea.
You get the point. I looked for ways to greatly decrease my expenses while maximizing my experiences, and this was the theme of my trip. Save money, increase value. I did not want to go to these destinations and simply do the tourists things and then leave. I wanted to get a feel for how locals live and I got a pretty good idea of that in India and Vietnam, I sort of treated myself in Thailand and South Korea and could have made my trip even cheaper, but I wanted to live a little.
*As you can see, this is how I budgeted my trip, or was able to afford my trip. Although, the real trick is changing your mindset about money, when you do that, you can save for anything you want. It might take some time and a lot of sacrifice but it's possible, and you will never get there if you do not begin immediately. If you have high rent and a large car payment, no one said you had to live in a luxurious place or drive a brand new 2018 car, you made that choice. No one said you had to eat your avocado toast and drink your 3rd wave drip coffee from Kenya at your local coffee shop for $18 per sitting, you made that choice. No one said you had to order all those clothes on Amazon for $250, instead of hitting a 2nd hand shop or being satisfied with what you have, you made that choice. "You can't have that cake and eat it too." I finally understand this quote. You have to choose what is important to you. Your life is a long succession of decisions that you make, and each decision compounds from the last decision. One day, you might be somewhere in life and realize you have been living the rat race life marketed to you by society and be very upset and begin pointing fingers, but the goal should be to realize the error in our ways and correct them moving forward. I have simply chosen to live a simpler life with less stuff, less eating out, and a little more risk in order to maximize my experiences and minimize regrets in life.
"We don't regret the things we did, we regret the things we did not do."
If you read this far, thank you. If you need any money tips or advice then feel free to reach out. I am trying to figure out how to share my tips without sounding like a broken record or lecturing too much. Sometimes it is difficult for me! The biggest step is narrowing your focus, changing your relationship with money, and prioritizing what you want then going for it without wavering. Good luck!