For most young 20-30 somethings, there’s a point where you ask yourself the following question: Should I take a gap year and travel the world?
There’s been tons of literature written about how to do so — from how to save up, to the cheapest places to go, to how to stay safe of the road — and they are all excellent. It is entirely possible to do, and many people have pinned the ideal amount of funds to be around $15,000 (or £10,000-£15,000). So all it takes is working long enough to make up those funds and boom, you’re off. Right?
But what if there was a financially better way to sustain a travel habit AND keep the stability of being based in one place? Sure, you may not spend months at any given location. But for people like me, who don’t deal too well with uncertainty and prefer more of a sense of routine, there is a way to combine the best parts of both.
I’ve been trying to figure this out for myself. Going through the motions of postgraduate work life, I felt unbelievably unhappy with how I was dividing my time. I had pressure to go into a specific career path without any time to think things through. I was spending as little of my income as possible because I thought that saving absolutely everything was more important than enjoying myself, even just a little bit. I wanted time to think, to figure things out on my own, to reap all the benefits that traveling gives you — but I also wanted to be financially sensible, and have the routine and stability of a full-time job. If I was only doing one of those two things, I would feel miserable and out of balance.
So the question was this: how can I combine the benefits of both in my life? This is what I’ve learned so far.
Make the Most of your Weekends
Two days may not seem like a lot. You might be exhausted from your week. But the more you make out of those two precious days off, the longer they will seem to you, and the more refreshed you’ll feel for the week ahead. I know it’s counterintuitive, but it works!
I live in Europe, so it’s easier to take trips outside of my country and spend two days away, escaping to an entirely different culture. But it’s not always possible! Even taking trips to a nearby city, or to do an experience that you’ve never done before in your region. Travel doesn’t mean distance — it just means a change of scene. Use your weekends and annual travel budget to make the most of short trips. Whether through a long weekend or taking a whole week off and taking the plunge to go somewhere further out, it will always be better than binging another Netflix show.
Be Open to Adventure
That is — don’t be overly picky of where you’d like to go. The best rates are usually to lesser-known cities, closer distances or even sometimes off-peak seasons. And they might even surprise you!
For example, Easter weekend is notoriously the most expensive holiday of the year for Europe. Instead of choosing a sunny beach town like the rest of the continent, I have decided to book a holiday to Dublin over that weekend. And I’m really excited! It’s somewhere I’ve never been, it has lots of history and it’s supposed to be great for excursions. There might be the odd chance of rain, but it gets me out of the city and my routine without breaking the bank.
Look out for flash deals on cheap flights for weekends or one-week trips on websites like lastminute.com, booking.com, Skyscanner and many more. There are loads of resources for this and you can get yourself a bargain to a great destination.
Be Flexible with Accommodation
Traveling for a shorter amount of time (on weekends or short trips) means a lower budget in general, as you won’t be constantly buying food. This way, you could opt to up your accommodation budget if you’re only staying two nights – you can look up a nice Airbnb or hotel room deal. I tend to use Airbnb for short trips as it adds to the comfort — I’ll feel refreshed much faster than leaving the comfort of my home for a hostel for two days. However, if you really want to save up, go for a night or two in a hostel or stay with a friend or family.
Find a Friend!
Traveling is so much cheaper when it’s more than one of you. Try to convince one of your friends or your partner to come with you! You’ll be able to split costs on accommodation, on groceries, and you’ll have someone to make fun memories with. It’s not always possible to find a friend to come with you – solo travel is great for self-reflection – but it will cut a lot of expenses in half on any trip. Plus, talking someone into going on a trip with you for only a few days is easier than more than a week!
Reassess your Financial Priorities
I love to travel — I find that it is worth it for me to sacrifice some of my other spending in favor of doing short trips here and there. To truly be financially savvy, it helps to look at your overall budget and see how you can fit travel in while making small budget cuts to other parts of your life. I personally don’t buy new clothes very often, or a lot of make-up, or even eat out very often. In exchange, I book experiences and short getaways when I can, using my weekends and annual allowance, and I am happy I made this choice. See if this can fit around your lifestyle without breaking the bank and without making you unhappy at rearranging your personal budget.
Finally: it’s not a Gap Year
Fitting in travel around your full-time job may not be the exact same experience, but it will help give you some of the same satisfaction. You’ll have the stability of regular income and a regular routine, and this might even make the break from daily life even more rewarding. Sometimes it’s the contrast of experiences that matters, rather than giving up all of your comforts in the search of something new. If you’re anything like me and like routine and not worrying about when the next paycheck will come in, this might be a better solution for you than uprooting your whole life. Your wallet will thank you for it!
Alexandra is a part-time travel writer and full-time corporate professional. When not at the office, A writes about how to balance travel with a full-time job. When not on the road, she writes about daily life and exclusive events in London, including product launches and restaurant openings. Follow her on living the Gen Y lifestyle on www.adoesboth.com.
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