Wherever I go — be it halfway around the world or to the city next door — I explore, learn, and fall ever so slightly in love with my destination and the people I meet there. I always have a new trip lined up, with a million more planned in the back of my mind.
In the past 12 months, I’ve managed to visit Scotland, Ireland and England. I enjoyed one amazing month backpacking around Fiji and seven weeks exploring Malaysia and Thailand. I’ve taken several smaller trips to explore the beautiful country of New Zealand, my home for the past 10 years. Now I’m about to head off again on a six-week trip back to the United Kingdom followed by the Canary Islands, Iceland (with Catherine), Montreal, Ottawa, and Detroit.
The number one question I am asked all the time is “How do you afford to travel so much while only earning a basic nursing wage?” My answer is always the same: It is the lifestyle that I’ve chosen, and so I make it a priority and sacrifice accordingly.
Most people don’t see the sacrifices I choose or the way I manage my money to allow myself to travel, they just see the Instagram posts and think I have a secret stash of cash or that I have some anonymous benefactor or a huge bank loan. But no, I have no secret stash or benefactor and absolutely no debt. I never borrow for a trip, and I always have the money saved before I go. So how do I do it? I build a sustainable lifestyle of travel.
Make travel a priority in your spending and saving.
*The first thing I did when I decided that I wanted the freedom to travel more was to set up a separate travel bank account, and I committed to paying money into it every payday. The majority of my income now goes into that account.
*My money is all accounted for. I pay my bills on payday, give myself a spending allowance for the next fortnight, then the rest gets divided between my long term savings and travel accounts. I keep things simple and the only bills I have are my rent, food, petrol and Netflix.
*I know exactly where my money goes. From the allowance I give myself each fortnight, I keep a running tally on my phone of where I am spending it. Whether at the supermarket or grabbing a quick coffee, it’s all accounted for.
*I don’t buy new “stuff” just for the sake of having new “stuff.” I buy what I need; then if there is something else that I want, I weigh up how much I want that thing compared to how much I want my next trip. Travel usually wins, but not always.
*I live below my means. I have a decent car, which is paid off. It isn’t fancy, but it’s super economical and cheap to insure. I could upgrade it, but I choose travel. I rent a room in my friend’s home. I can afford my own place if I wanted, but instead I choose travel. I don’t have Sky TV, NEON or Lightbox, but I do have Netflix. Again I could afford all of this if I liked, but then there would be less money available to go into my travel fund. I have remarkable few clothes. Like I said, I choose travel.
*I’m smart about how I buy “stuff.” For example, one wee luxury I am not prepared to give up is going to my favourite rugby team’s home games. Because I know I will spend money on these tickets, I buy a season ticket in advance — a larger initial outlay gives me an overall discount on each game.
*I keep outings as a luxury, not a habit. I love watching movies, but I’ll watch them on Netflix, saving going to the movies as a treat. I generally cook at home instead of spending money on takeaways, and so going out for dinner is an occasion. I won’t hide at home all the time, and I do go out when I feel like it. Again, it comes down to how much I want to watch the away rugby match at the pub instead of at home with friends. I ask, how far will that saved money by staying in with friends go toward my next adventure?
*I use my credit card for everything because I get airpoints when I do. I have not paid for a domestic flight in years, and in 2017 I got free return flights to Fiji with my points. However, I am super strict about paying the card off in full every single payday. If you don’t feel confident to do that yourself, I highly recommend you don’t get a credit card because it is too easy to rack up debt.
*I am debt free! I made a very conscious decision to pay off my debt and never to incur more. Being debt free is the best decision I ever made, and it was the above strategies that got me there. I am now in a place of financial freedom, so that I can travel where and when I please. I have built and live a sustainable lifestyle of travel.