In October of 2018, I decided to completely get out of debt and save $35,000 to travel the world for a year, which was a huge goal at the time considering I still had about $16,000 in debt (student loans, car note, and various credit cards). While my debt is paid and I’m on track to meet this goal by my designated deadline (June 2020), it has been a lot of work. Like most goals worth accomplishing, this has required some unexpected sacrifices. Listed here are some of the things I’ve given up in order to reach my goal of extended travel.
1. Long-term investments
Before I decided to go on this journey, I was looking into buying a house. I figured, I’m entering my thirties, and I had it in my mind that this was the time to start investing in property. I even started talking to a realtor and applying for mortgages. But then I realized that I’m not happy in the city I live in, and dedicating myself to indefinitely living here seemed like a bad idea. Plus, the hassle of traveling while managing renters, dealing with repairs, constantly worrying about break-ins — all of it sounded like an awful headache. While a house would likely have been less frivolous than blowing all my hard-earned money on travel, the purchase of property did not align with my current priorities, nor was it something I wanted to do as much as it was something I felt like I should do. So I didn’t.
2. Relationships (at least in person)
Working two jobs and approximately 70 hours a week to pay off all my debts and save enough for long-term travel (that is, without taking five years to do so) requires a lot of time. A LOT of time. Some days it means working triple shifts, reducing my beloved sleep hours, and barely having the energy to get from Point A to Point B. Naturally, I don’t have ample free time like I did when I was working the more traditional 40 hours a week, and the free time I do have is spent on life maintenance like cooking, cleaning, and, of course, occasional rest.
My relationships have suffered, I’ll admit. I am no longer as free to go to karaoke or game nights, and I go on fewer dates than ever. But my closest friends and I still make it work through texting and phone calls, and I still do my best to see my friends when I can. This is a long-term sacrifice, too. I know I won’t see my friends for over a year, and that idea makes me sad. But thankfully, we live in an age where we can still talk to our friends and family daily, even if we don’t see them face-to-face.
This is one of the most obvious, but most significant, sacrifices that come with long-term travel. I’m going to be knowingly and willingly relinquishing my job, my home, and all my savings to pursue a goal that will ultimately leave me with nothing but memories. While I’m afraid of this idea, I’m also excited by it, because I think I would look back on this time of relative freedom (no kids, no pets, no significant other, no sick family member to care for) and regret not taking the time to explore the world while I had the chance. While the relinquishing of stability is a loss, it is a calculated one.
4. The approval of others
For some reason in our culture, you can take out loans for thousands and thousands of dollars and nobody thinks anything of it. But if you purposely save money for what they consider to be “frivolous” or “irresponsible” reasons, everyone becomes a Certified Financial Planner. Acquaintances, friends, and family members have hit me with the “what about your future?” or “isn’t that childish?” I’ve had to learn to just shrug it off. If I were pursuing this goal for other peoples’ approval, I would be open to feedback. But this goal is for myself, and their comments are usually neither solicited nor constructive. The whole process, from start to finish, has helped me develop firmer boundaries, and solid boundaries are always a good thing.
I’m not the strong, badass type. In fact, I’m timid in most situations, and tend to have a pretty strong fear response in unfamiliar circumstances. Even in the planning and saving stages, this trip is challenging me to come to terms with the fact that there will be hard days. There will be days when I get lost or feel unsafe, I might get lonely and imagine I made a huge mistake. And that’s okay. I’m learning to be afraid but still do the thing anyway. As the start of my trip gets closer and closer, I’m recognizing my limitations and planning for them. I don’t have to be the most competent or wealthy or remarkable person to do something difficult and exciting, I just need to trust that my research and intuition are powerful and to prepare for bumps and bruises along the way.
Everything worth doing requires some form of sacrifice. Recognizing the obvious — and not so obvious — costs to accomplishing your goals is not the most glamorous part of any endeavor, but it is necessary. Weighing both the good and the bad is crucial for determining if what you want is actually worth the work it will take to get there. As for me, I have decided that it is.
Kate Sortino is a freelance writer currently living in Anchorage, Alaska. She spends her free time reading, drinking coffee, and working a million hours a week to save up to travel for a year. You can see more about her adventures here. She is always cold.
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