The Secret to Long-Term Travel
When you travel a lot, there's one question that follows you everywhere you go: How do you afford to travel?
The sound of the question gets to be like nails across a chalkboard.
It's not that it can't be answered. It can be, and I'm going to answer it for you. It's not that it's hard to answer, either. I could answer it for you in a single sentence - and I will.
Want to know how I fund long-term travel?
I work and I save money.
I knew you'd make that face. Everyone always does. That's why I've grown to hate the question of how do I afford to travel: most people don't want to hear the answer I have to give.
The secret to long-term travel is that there is no secret, and anyone who tries to sell you one is a scam-artist. The reality of financing long-term travel isn't as exciting as people imagine it to be. People come at the subject looking for a cheat or a “life hack”. Most people don't want to hear that the cost of travel is hard work.
Everybody wanna be a traveller...
Earlier this year, Gloria Atanmo wrote an article for The Huffington Post, called Stop Asking Me How I Afford to Travel. It's a funny article that does a good job exposing some of the problems with the question.
There’s an assumption people hold that long-term travellers must have some secret that keeps them going. It's the reason “life hack” posts are so popular. We all want to find a shortcut to success. A cheat-code for our lives. The idea that we need to work hard and save money just doesn't sound right.
What's that look for?
Alright, you got me. There's a bit more to be said than that. But before I share with you the true cost of travel, do me a favour. Clear your head of any idea that this post is a "life hack". I'm going to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. This is danvineberg.com, not Buzzfeed.
... nobody wanna stop watching netflix
Even an honest truth leaves more that could be said. It's time to focus on the underwater part of the iceberg that we often ignore. It is here that most of the truth lies, and it's here where you will learn the closest thing there ever will be to a secret to long-term travel.
I have friends my age who have put down mortgages on houses. I have other friends who have bought new trucks.
At the moment I have no vehicle. I have no home of my own. Since returning from Europe in late May, I've been living at my mom's, working to pay off debt. I'm a few steps behind a lot of my friends, when it comes to the traditional life path of get a job --> get married --> have kids. I don't have many of the necessities that people heading down this path have accumulated.
Does that mean I look at every new truck and wonder where the money's from? Hell no! I chose my life path and they chose theirs. You can't look at someone else's success and see it as your own failure. That sort of thought pattern will slowly eat away at your soul. Be happy to see your friends accomplish things, not spiteful. Their win is not your loss.
To a lot of people travel is seen as a luxury, while other things are seen as necessities. From this perspective, they wonder how long-term travellers can already be enjoying luxuries, while they are still working so hard for necessities.
But here's the nearest thing there is to a secret to long-term travel. Are you ready for it? It's not going to be hidden under advertisements, or packaged in a five-part course and sold to you. Nah, I'm giving this sucker away for free.
Are you ready?
A traveller flips their priorities so that travel becomes the necessity.
Pause on that for a moment.
Travel becomes the necessity.
Everything else, even things you may think of as normal, like living on your own, buying a new phone, or having a few drinks on a Friday night, those all become luxuries. These luxuries are not so important to the traveller.
So when people ask me how I travel, the tip of the iceberg is that I work for it. The same way you afford anything else you want in life. But the true cost of travel, what you really need to be able to afford, has more to do with what you're willing to give up.
It isn't what you're buying, it's what you're not buying. Sacrifices need to be made. Both in the long-term, with larger purchases, and right down to the daily decisions. Do you eat out at lunch? Do you buy that coffee?
A traveller also makes sacrifices that have nothing to do with money. The sacrifice of losing meaningful relationships by being away from everyone you know. The sacrifice of losing a real place to call home. The sacrifice of not eating peanut butter. Where's the peanut butter at, Europe?
Travel isn't the most important thing in the world. You could have a very good reason not to travel. If you're a single parent raising a young child and that is your major expense, that's your top priority and it should remain that way. If you're a graduate student with a lot of debt, maybe you need to grind through a desk job for a while. The decision to travel today could make it harder for you to be financially happy tomorrow.
But if you are young, single, restless, adventurous, curious, nomadic at heart, or hungry for something new, then you owe it to yourself to try. Take a closer look at how you define your necessities and your luxuries. There are times when life presents you with two paths that you can take. Only you know the right choice, and only you can have the courage to say fuck it and follow your dream.
I like Netflix too. I just found out that I like travelling a lot more.
Hong Kong, summer 2014
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