Once upon a time, before the pandemic hit and when traveling was still allowed, I would take every opportunity I can to just go.
After traveling at least once a month for months in a row, I had a lot of coworkers raising eyebrows and asking me "how do you afford to travel so much?". A lot of people have also reached out to me on my DMs and asked the same question.
There is no magic or right/wrong answer to it. I would simply say to find what works best for you.
But now as I sit in my room, still stuck in lockdown and in a pandemic, a year later, I am sharing all the steps I took to making travel work for me. These are the same hacks you can apply to your life and eventually turn them into your habits. These can turn your life around and can apply beyond travel. Perhaps these tips will turn something you could only imagine, into your reality.
Make your dream a priority
Seeing the world was one of my dreams for as long as I can remember. Getting on a plane and discovering a new place was what made me happy. The temporary escape from my routine helped me increase my faith and allowed me to learn and appreciate other places and cultures more. When it came down to spending money on anything else other than food, I would think twice before getting it, because the first thing that comes to mind would be "where can I fly to with that money?"
That is where I would draw the line about whether or not I should really make that purchase, or save it for something more rewarding.
2. Generate multiple streams of income
While the feeling you get when you see a paycheck being deposited is great, working to the extent that you feel burned out, is not ideal. At one point, my schedule got so busy that I found myself balancing a full university course load and 3-4 part-time jobs at the same time. I would avoid doing that. At that time, I realized I was putting more energy in one job than another, or leaving other important aspects of my life on the back burner (i.e. social interaction, assignments, etc).
Earning money from different places at once is beneficial because it makes it easier to save. It makes it easier to split your earnings as well. It also makes it easier to earn more in less time. Find what works best for you and find the right balance to avoid burnout.
3. Don't be a tourist
How can you spot a tourist? By the way they dress, the way they act and the way they travel. Avoid falling for the traps. Avoid wasting money on major attractions. I am not saying to avoid visiting the best places - instead, find an alternative. Second, look at what is actually worth it and what is not. For example, I have a greater interest about the outdoors than museums, so I may pay for a day trip outside the city (such as if I was in Switzerland) to the mountains, instead of spending money on the major attractions in the city (like the Swiss National Museum in Zurich).
Some cities may offer a landmark with great views of the city at a tourist price. By finding an alternative that offers the same kind of views, you can save a lot of money. This is another example.
4. Travel smarter
While traveling solo is a great experience, traveling with a group is a great way of cutting travel costs on accommodation, food, experiences and more. I traveled to a few different destinations with friends, such as Spain, Iceland, Finland and more. We usually have one person who manages all the spendings (and keeps all receipts), then everything is equally divided when we come back and the person gets refunded or we split the roles (for example: one person would pay for all accomodation, another would pay for all the food, etc and then we split everything afterwards and payback). The amounts does not take into consideration money spent on personal items, such as souvenirs. Everyone brings their own pocket money.
Before you do this, ensure that the group you are traveling with is trustworthy, otherwise you may get nothing back. Group tours (led by professionals and different companies) can also be a great way of traveling affordably. Be mindful of who you book with, compare the prices and check reviews before you book. Booking in advance can also save you money or last minute deals can also help you score great travel offers.
5. Don't cheap out
Take advantage of the many free things there are to do when you visit a place. Spending time walking around by foot is a great way to get your exercise in, while exploring a new place. Additionally, going on walking tours funded by tips help make your travels more affordable. But, that does not mean that you should only rely on free things to do. Treat yourself. Splurge once in a while if you want to, but budget it correctly so that everything balances out.
When I travel, I like to ensure the place I stay at is clean, offers breakfast and is within walking distance to either a metro or to the places I want to visit. This means that I opt in to spend a little more on accomodation. To balance my expenses, this also means I would either skip lunch, bring a snack with me to replace my lunch or have a light meal if I feel really hungry.
The money I would typically spend on my lunch meals would go towards the accomodation and the breakfast that comes with the room (which most of the time is buffet). Buffet breakfast included with my room are worth it for me, because I usually eat enough (and look at what I eat; more protein than carbs for example), so that I feel full throughout the day.
The list goes on! This is all for now, but these are just some of the many ways that you can afford to travel, while not breaking the bank. These are the same hacks that I applied to my life while traveling pre-covid and that I will keep on practising, once traveling is safe again.
In the meantime, I am using the time in the pandemic to learn more and become richer in all things that will improve my future travels (no this does not only refer to money!) As a bonus hack, I would say to get rich. Learn. Be aware. Adapt. Practice. Implement. Try. Even if you fail, keep going. Find your balance. Find what works for you.