4 Reasons Why I Can “Afford To Travel” In My 20s (So Please Stop Asking)

When you really think about it, “travel” is probably one of the few words in the English language that can make people feel a range of emotions, depending on how they feel about the idea behind it. Travel can feel exciting, daring, nerve-racking, and terrifying all at the same time. For some it’s a passion. For others, it’s simply a task they have no interest in.

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the ability to travel to so many parts of the world. My travel bucket list is long and never ending, yet each year I look forward to a new and exciting adventure. Lucky enough, it’s an interest I share with many close friends, and a topic of lively debate amongst those same friends. On the flip side though, over these past few years, I have noticed that conversations around travel have at times taken a turn for the negative. I receive statements like, “Well I can’t afford to travel because I have student loans to pay” and, “You must make a lot of money to be able to travel as much as you do…” to my personal favorite question, “How can you afford to travel and live in Chicago? Do your parents help pay for it?”

Honestly, it’s that last question that really gets to me the most. In case you are wondering, the answer is a firm no; I’ve taken care of all of my bills since I graduated college in 2010. And it’s a rude question. Why is there an assumption that I’m wealthy, don’t have any bills to pay, and live off my parents income?

I do understand the curiosity of the question, though. Travel, while exciting can also bring on anxiety, stress, and jealousy due to the finances needed to make it happen. So how do I afford to travel on a big-city-living single girl’s income?

1. Travel is a Priority

At the end of the day the answer is pretty simple — I prioritize it. Travel always has been and will always be at the very top of my priorities list. Therefore, I find ways to make all aspects of travel, from the logistical to the financial, an end goal with the choices I make in my daily life. Because when something or someone become a priority in your life, it’s easy to find ways to make it fit into your own world. If it ever starts to feel like a chore, it no longer becomes a priority, and you should drop it like a hot potato. (We still use that phrase, right?)

2. My Money Motto: “Outta Sight, Outta Mind”

I’m no stranger to the fact that, in many cases, it’s the cost of traveling that can be the overwhelming problem. Last year, I wrote a blog post about the 5 Money Choices I Made In My Early 20s That I’m Thankful For In My Late 20’s, and it’s those foundational decisions that have helped me set myself up for life of traveling.

Budgeting is not fun. However, the easiest way to save up money for travel is to automate your savings. Create a budget that allows you to set aside any amount of money toward travel. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount — even five dollars will do. Now, automate that saving to a new savings account dedicated exclusively to your traveling goal. When you don’t see that money in your checking account, you are far less likely to spend on things you don’t need. I personally have been using Smarty Pig for years, however I’ve also heard great things about personal finance apps like Digit and Simple.

3. Embrace Your Entrepreneurial Side

In this day and age, almost every single finance-related article will tell you a side hustle is the key to financial freedom. I’m constantly finding a variety of ways to bring in extra cash, which all goes directly to my travel fund. My key to success in the side hustle business is to not overthink it. Don’t expect to be raking in a huge amount of money from your side hustle, start small. I actually found $43 worth of change in 2016 just by picking up change off the sidewalks during my walk home from work. I sold old clothes that I no longer wear on websites like Poshmark & Ebay, and also picked up a few babysitting jobs. Every single penny of that money went directly into my travel savings account.

Have a talent for calligraphy or drawing? Teach a Skillshare class and make a few extra bucks teaching others your talent. The possibilities are endless, and every little bit helps you reach your savings goal.

4. Become a Puzzle Master

Traveling the world can get expensive, but the reality of that statement is that higher travel costs are almost always associated with a convenience factor. The trick with saving money and keeping travel costs low is to become flexible in your planning, and make your money work for you. More popular destinations around the world, like Paris & London, will come with a cost. However, if you expand your horizons, you’ll see that this world is filled with amazing destinations that are far more budget-friendly. Countries like Taiwan, Colombia, and Hungary are great travel destinations where the dollar has a lot of value.

Still interested in those more popular cities and countries? Learn to hack your travel like a puzzle master. Websites like momondo.com and travel apps like Hopper & Skyscanner are out there to help you book the best possible travel at the lowest cost. Take some time to figure out how to use them, and soon you’ll learn that with a few simple hacks, you can really save some money.

***

So if you’ve added “travel more” to your resolutions this year, truly do everything you can to make it happen. Everything is possible in this world, as long as you are willing to really work for it. Hopefully these tips help you achieve your travel goals this year. As for me, 2017 is gearing up to be an exciting year. I’m excited to be heading out to Costa Rica with one of my favorite companies, Under30Experiences to celebrate my 29th birthday. I’ve also book a trip to France and Spain for later in the summer, and am currently in the process of planning a quick trip to Greece.

Now, where to do you plan to travel this year?

Monica Modzelewski is a Chicago-based HR Professional by day and lifestyle blogger at night. Monica’s blog, Caravan of Style, focuses on career advice and affordable fashion for young women in the workplace.

Image via Unsplash

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  • SN

    I love this. My fiancé and I are going to be in Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa for our 3 week honeymoon, and we’ve spent next to nothing on the (very many) flights and hotels we are staying at because we’ve spent the last few years gaming the travel points system (thanks The Points Guy!). I know it sounds excessive to most people, but we are literally obsessed with finding our next travel getaway and so this is just a priority that we spend dozens and dozens of hours trying to figure out!

    • That’s awesome! I hope you guys have a wonderful time and enjoy that honeymoon!

  • Savanna Swain

    I really like the tone of this article and how encouraging it is. I am finally traveling internationally to Portugal this spring after two years of saving. However, I also know being able to set aside any money for the future is a huge privilege. There was a point in time I couldn’t afford to save anything and 100% of my income went to rent, bills, and staying alive. But now that I am in a place to save; since I made the commitment and sacrifices in other parts of my budget, I can now feel the reward.
    I love that you point out the specifics-using a saving app, for instance, rather than the tired cliche of “you just have to WANT it” that I see on a lot of other web sites.
    I also am just curious and mean no offense by this question, but does your job allow you to be mobile? I think for many people the issue isn’t just money but the fact that they either have a job that won’t give them the time off or kids who are in school and can’t be left alone (And traveling during peak seasons of summer always ups the price like crazy).
    I would love to see a breakdown of what you spend on transport/lodging for one of your trips. I’ve been planning this trip of mine forever (since I’m new to international travel) and still trying to find ways to make the most of every bit of it. I also think seeing the numbers helps inspire people more to actually prioritize travel rather than think of it as an impossible goal.

    • Hi Savanna,

      Thanks so much for your kind words, I appreciate it. My job does not necessarily allow me to be mobile since I work in HR and do need to always be in the office, however I did negotiate a longer vacation package and always have for every job that I’ve had in my career. Most people don’t realize that this is something you can negotiate!

      I like your idea of a breakdown of my trip costs and I’m happy to write an article about that and ways that I cut corners and save money. Be on the lookout for that article soon! I’ll ping you once it goes up. 🙂

  • Violaine

    I love this article. I think for me, living in Europe, travelling in Europe is cheap – like, I have 30 countries where I can be in less than 3 hours and that won’t cost me more than £60 for return flights if I book early. I think I would be curious to know when people my age buy a house!! What do they do, and do their parents help them? The answer is yes, often – at least among my friends, but I think it’s cool they can admit it, at least I don’t feel so bad that I earn as much and can’t afford a house yet.
    I love the article for that, basically: it’s nice to know but rude to ask, so having it out there feels great. You have some great tips by the way!

    • HI Violaine,

      Thanks for reading! I grew up in Poland for a few years and I agree, traveling is a way of life in Europe and it’s so much easier and cheaper to get around.

  • Summer

    Great article! You boiled it down nicely by stating that you make travel a priority. It is very, very easy to let adventures slide to the backburner when staring down the barrel of student loan debt, a meager savings account, a big credit card bill, whatever the case may be. Even more distant goals like property ownership, retirement, having money to invest, etc, can get in the way of people seizing opportunities to travel and it really does come down to making it a priority if traveling is something you want to do. I have 35k worth of student loan debt left and I don’t let it stop me from doing anything because I would rather travel NOW instead of putting that would-be travel money towards my loans in hopes of paying them off sooner. I’m just not willing to sacrifice the things that make me happiest (namely, travel and dining). Life is too short to constantly prioritize obligations over opportunity. It’s up to each of us to find our own balance between the two, and I’m right there with you in being frustrated when people default to thinking that I must be rich because I travel semi-frequently. I’m absolutely not wealthy, I just put travel above other things.

    Another side of this, I think, is that a lot of times people don’t really see it as “traveling” unless you fly somewhere, which is a shame. There are so many glorious things to be experienced within car or train distance; an airplane does not have to be involved for it to be a “real” trip! As with Violaine, I love living here in Europe because I can be in a totally different country and culture within just a few hours. Even in the states, where the culture and language will generally be the same and train travel isn’t as prevalent, there are still so many places to see by car—no matter where you live—that will 100% feel like you’re “out of town.”

    • Hi Summer,

      Thanks for your comment, it’s exactly what I was going for in this post. I do feel that traveling is successful when you put your mindset in the right place. I frequently am heading out to different locations in my home state and I always treat it like an adventure.

  • AJMoneyMatters

    Yes! Thank you for writing this 🙂 Reason #1 could not be more on point. People don’t realize that those who travel a lot don’t spend their money on anything else and that each penny goes directly to a travel savings account. Each person has their own savings goals they want to achieve and some just prioritise travel as their number 1 goal instead of a house deposit or something like that.
    Great article!