The travel dream is pretty common. Trading your hour-long tube commute and endless days at your desk in a stuffy office for freedom, sunshine, palm trees and flip flops. But in reality, whilst many of us dream about it, not many people actually do it. We settle for staring at ‘travelspo’ pictures of tropical islands, chic cities and misty mountains on Instagram whilst ducking behind our monitors so our bosses don’t catch us. Taking our one week-long vacation a year to Benidorm or Zante on a cheap package holiday and then spending the next 51 weeks waiting for the next one to roll around.
I’m guessing if you’re reading a travel blog like this one, maybe you too are dreaming about a freer and more fun life, away from the office and out there exploring the world. So why don’t more people actually put their money where their mouth is (so to speak) and actually live the dream? I intend to address some of the most common excuses that people use for not travelling, starting with probably the most common:
‘I can’t afford it’
I remember puzzling over how one of my favourite travel bloggers afforded her seemingly endless glamorous trips abroad. She must have a rich daddy, my jealousy-tinged mind told me. Maybe she’s one of these gap yah rich kids who gets her parents to pay for everything or inherited a load of money. However, she later posted a very honest article in which she explained the ‘secret’ of how she afforded so much travel: she made travel her number one priority. Instead of spending on shoes, clothes, accessories, makeup, a nice car, meals out etc, she put most of the money she could have spent on those things towards flights, hotels and experiences. Her other ‘secret’ wasn’t a secret at all. She simply has a good job, works hard and uses the money to enjoy herself.
You might think this is all very well, but how does that translate into long-term travel. After all, the essence of the ‘quit job and travel’ life is that you lose the security of your monthly salary. Sure, it’s fine if you’ve got rich parents or a stack of savings from a career as a banker, but what if you’re a struggling project manager on a salary that basically pays for rent, transport, food and about one night out a month!? Well if you ask me, it’s the very people who think they can’t travel because of their low income who should travel. It’s simply a myth that travel is expensive. The fact is that the longer you travel for, the more affordable it becomes. A two week holiday for two to Paris for example can easily cost £2k. But that doesn’t mean that travelling for a year would cost anything like £4k per month!
Let me explain. When you take a holiday, you’re bleeding money at a particularly crazy rate for a simple reason – you’re paying for everything at ‘holiday’ rates. Tourism is big business for a reason and prices are hiked to reflect that. Flights are expensive, nice hotels can set you back hundreds per night, you’ll probably eat out every day and you’ll be spending money on activities such as tours, museums, visiting famous sights and going partying. However, if you stay in a place medium-long term, you can stop living at frantic (and expensive) holiday pace, and start living a bit more like you would at home. You can trade the hotel for a rented flat, cook at home and slow down your sightseeing pace. After all, you no longer have to cram every experience into a weekend! Also, the price of a flight for a weekend is the same as the price of a flight for 6 months in a destination. Ok, if you’re planning to see several countries or continents then you will have to factor in the cost of multiple flights. But this is by no means necessary.
Secondly, life in London (or many other major Western cities) is expensive. Really, really expensive. According to numbeo.com, you would need around $6,760 in London to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $1,500 in Lviv. To live my fairly average life, renting a room in a shared flat, cycling or taking the bus to work, paying my bills and loan repayments, eating out around once a week and buying the odd new item of clothing, book or other small purchase maybe once a month, costs me about £1,500 per month. In Lviv that’s more like £250 for about the same standard of living. So you don’t need to fret about making the same amount of money as you do now. In fact, you can probably get by on about a quarter of your current salary. This is especially true in Ukraine/many other Eastern European cities, but it’s also true in much of Asia and Africa, and even South America. See this handy list of the cheapest places to live a digital nomad lifestyle. Ukraine comes in at number 20.
Of course, depending on the country you might not live the same lifestyle as you’re used to now. But that’s half the fun, right? Plus, in many Eastern European cities you can actually live an even better lifestyle with half the money you spend now. If your images of Ukraine and Poland are of Soviet-style poverty and deprivation, you’re absolutely misinformed. In all the biggest and most modern cities you can live a fantastic, modern European lifestyle for a fraction of the price that you’d pay for scraping an existence in London or New York.
Finally, the other thing people don’t always take into account is you can make money while you travel. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. There are loads of ways to keep on making money while you travel or live abroad, from finding a job in a new country or city, to taking temporary/seasonal work (depending on your visa), to freelancing, to blogging, to online work, to writing a book/e-book or even carrying on your current job remotely.
Travelling for months or even years is absolutely within anyone’s financial reach. So, what’s stopping you?