Hey guys! So, as a traveler, I’m sure you know that this is a frequently asked question: how do you afford all your travelling?
Contrary to common belief, I didn’t take a single free dime since the moment I started university. Financing my travels has a lot to do with financing my education, so I’ll talk about both. It was a combination of many things:
- Student loans & bursaries: My family doesn’t come from money, so I relied heavily on the government for my education. I also took full advantage of the education system. At my university, 4-5 courses per term is standard. If you take 6 courses, that 6th one is free of charge. Every school term except one, I took 6 courses – this allowed me to graduate 4 months earlier and save a ton of $$.
- Part-time jobs: If there’s anything you know about me besides travel, you know that I love food. Unfortunately, I don’t mean home-cooked meals. My cravings go in the direction of shawarmas, pho, and… burritos. To finance my social-eating habits, I tutored almost every term. In my last term, I took 7 courses and had 3 part-time jobs. It wasn’t easy, but food and travel is worth it to me 🙂
- Scholarships: In uni, I cared about my grades. It’s true that, in the grand scheme of things, grades don’t matter too much – as I was often told. But I needed these grades to be able to take 6 courses per term (saves $$) and to receive scholarships. Loans barely covered my rent/tuition, and part-time jobs are for burritos. I wanted $$ for some travel and shopping. Yes, I want a lot of things 😛 so I put blood, sweat, and tears into achieving them.
- Borrowed money: at the end of the day, scholarships weren’t enough. I borrowed money from my parents for my big trips. The key word is borrowed! My parents don’t believe in free money, and even if they did.. I don’t. I have tabs on how much I owe them and I’m in the process of paying them back – with a special gift surprise at the end, too.
- Never stop working: I’m never NOT working – I was freelance writing during my trip, and I’ve been tutoring 5x a week since I’ve been back. It’s not a lot of money, but it makes a big difference in daily life.
Though there were many who supported and encouraged me, of course there were people who challenged my decision to travel. The consequence of all this travel is that I have to pick and choose where I spend. E.g. I’ve had a broken laptop keyboard/phone screen/camera for about a year, and I stopped replacing my worn-out makeup/glasses/shoes. This just sounds like I take bad care of technology LOL, but these are some sacrifices I’m willing to make for things I value more. So take some time to decide what’s important to you (be it travel or a house), and make conscious decisions to cut costs everywhere else!
Also, if you happen to have weeks/months of freedom, use it. It doesn’t have to be for travel – just use it well. That kind of freedom is hard to come by. My trips would not have happened without the circumstances, and I’m so grateful. My Europe trip only happened because my exchange-study in Europe fell through that summer. My Asia trip only happened because the start date of my full-time job got pushed back 9 months. I’m only moving to Vancouver for the summer because I’ve secured 2 summer jobs there, an amazing rent situation, & my full-time doesn’t start for 3 months – all of which made my west coast dream possible. I have a salary job and weekend tutoring gigs that start when I’m back in Toronto. I have plans to be debt-free in 1.5 years. I’ve compromised my savings, yes, but I’m not just YOLOing blindly. Money can always be made, but the same doesn’t go for my youth. I’ll be a regular working zombie in a few months, so I want to take this opportunity to work by the ocean over my last summer as a free agent.
Something I learned in the past year is that if you really want to do something, don’t just plan to do it. Actually start it. Talk to people about it. Make it real. There will always be people discouraging you, but there will also always be supporters. I’m not saying be stupidly impulsive. Get your priorities straight. If you have work to do, do it. If you need income, get a job. But make time for the things you love while you can because this isn’t an easy freedom to have later in life. And work hard. Grades may not matter in the big picture (depending on what you want to do) but it IS a way to get money. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have scholarships.
I’d like to conclude with a message. Do what you love, and love what you do. If you want to travel, then do it – don’t let others stop you! Work hard to make it happen. If you love getting ahead in your career, do that. But don’t enforce your life choices on your friends. Your friends, like yourself, make choices after putting thought into it – thoughts that you may never know. I also don’t owe it to you to share every thought that led to my decisions. But what we do owe each other as part of a community is the benefit of the doubt.
Thanks for reading!