For past four years, I have spent some time living out of my backpack and exploring an assortment of countries around the globe. In just five short week, I’ll be travelling to Vietnam; my 10th country. Consequently, people often ask me, “how can you afford to travel so much, and also study?”
If I were to answer this question in just one sentence, it would be: I’m always saving, I travel on a budget, and I have a flexible job. I would even add that I have privileges that allow me to travel as much as I do. You see, often travel bloggers will tell people “oh, anyone can travel. It’s all a matter of whether you really want it and are willing to work hard.” Although there’s some truth to this statement (hard work is important), such statement fails to recognize that sometimes people live in circumstances that do not create opportunities where hard work can help them achieve their dreams of travel. Travel is sadly a possibility for a large number of the world’s population for reasons such as the passport they hold, lack of education, poverty or financial burdens, etc.
As I list the ways in which I afford to travel, I bare my privilege in mind. I also write this blog post with the hope that, those who wish and are able to make travel a reality for themselves, take something from my experiences that will helps them plan their next trip. Here we go!
1. STUDY ABROAD
In the 2014-2015, I participated in a program called Outtatown through my school at Canadian Mennonite University. Outtatown is an amazing one year travel program with the goals of “knowing God, knowing yourself, and Knowing the world.” I spend four months travelling across Canada with thirty other students in vans where I did the majority of my readings and assignments. After exploring and adventuring across Canada, we lived in Guatemala for the second half of the year. I learned so much about myself and left with some lifetime friends whom I still connect with to this day. Not only that, Outtatown give me fifteen university credits that I used toward my undergraduate degree in psychology.
Talk to your University and Academic advisor and see if there’s study aboard programs you could participate in. You might be surprise to find out that this could very much be a possibility for you. Many universities and programs offer programs that are similar to the Outtatown program.
2. SAVINGS! SAVINGS! $$
I never thought I would ever give anyone advice on savings, because I know people who are much better at this than I am. However, I’ve been learning a lot these past couple of years and have actually come a long way. Like most people, I enjoy my daily trips to Starbucks and those expensive pair of tights from Lululemon.
I don’t believe that one should save every penny they earn and never buy those pair of $100 pants you’ve been eyeing for months; I’m all about treating yourself! However, I also think purchases like that should be far and in between.
If your anything like me, you’re probably thinking: “okay but I don’t spend large amount of money like that on my clothing and I mean Starbucks is like only $2. And my barista is really cute and super nice; I would totally miss him”. The truth is, that $2 you spend here and there really adds up over time and could help finance that trip to Europe you’ve been dreaming about. And, I’m sure you will find a cute barista in Europe!
Another thing that I’ve been doing for the past three years is investing in a Tax-Free Savings Account (TSFA). TSFAs are great savings account because not only are they tax free; they also earn you a little interest. I use my TSFA to save for my tuition and have set up my bank account to automatically transfer money from my chequing account to my TSFA every month. By setting up your bank account this way, you’re able to save money without even thinking about it.
Additionally, I have a savings account dedicated to travelling (people often laugh at me about this). Again, I had my bank set up a fix automatic monthly transfer for this as well. A savings plan is great and all, but the key is to not touch it unless the transaction is for what it’s intended for. If you’re continually using your savings accounts for transaction they were not meant for, it beats the purpose and it wouldn’t grow.
3. TRAVEL ON A BUDGET
If you want to travel more often and farther, I think it’s important that you travel on a budget. Whenever I go on trips, I set up a budget of how much I want to spend and I do my best not to go over. The three big things I do to travel on a budget is:
HOSTELS: There’s a misconception that hostels are dirty and that your stuff will be stolen. Personally, I have yet to have a bad experience in an hostel. Just like there’s crappy hotels, I’m sure there’s some crappy hostels out there, but overall I think hostels can be a really great option for travellers on a budget. In Europe, you can get a hostel for as little as 30 euros a night. The last time I stayed in a hostel was about a year ago in Montreal where I paid $20 a night. The hostel was actually pretty nice and they served the best breakfast ever! Hostleworld.com is a great resource for looking for hostels throughout the globe. As my friends and I currently plan our trip to Thailand and Vietnam, we’ve been utilizing it a lot.
COUCHSURFING: couchsurfing also gets a bad rap and I think it’s because people freak out at the idea of having a stranger sleep on their couch. Personally, I’m a huge fan of couchsurfing and have been converting my friends to the site over the years.
Whenever I travel, except internationally, I often try my hands at couchsurfing before I look into hostels. I have yet to couchsurf internationally because I often travel with friends aboard and I can never convince them. However, the times that I have been hosted or hosted other travellers, it’s been wonderful. I’ve made friends who live all over the world and have received advice that have helped me plan my trips because of my experiences on couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is great, not only in the sense that you pay absolutely zero dollars to sleep on someone’s couch, but also in the sense that you build lasting relationships. The few days ago, I went out for pizza with my friend Paul who is currency on a road trip to BC. I met Paul two years ago through couchsurfing in Ottawa and get to see him at least twice a year as he travels between the west and east cost of Canada. He’s one of my best friends and even it weren’t for couchsurfing, i probably would of never met him!
AIR FARE: I’ve subscribed to various airlines and travel deal websites that email me so that I’m always aware of when a flight is on sale. My roommate and I signed up for wpgdeals.com, which emails travel deals departing specifically from Winnipeg (my home town) to its subscribers. That’s how we found and booked our flights to Thailand for $675.00 round trip.
Lastly, I’ve found that It’s important that you’re not picky about where it is you travel to. Often time, I travel to the cities and countries where I’m able to find the best deals. Currently, I would love to go back to Europe in December, but haven’t been able to find any good deals. However, I’ve been seeing deals to the United States. So, who knows, I might end up hitting up some hikes in California come December rather than hitting on European men…hahaha. As much as I’d love to travel wherever I want, whenever I want, I have nursing school and tuition to think about so i do my best to balance.
4. SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
The other question I also get: “okay, so you travel on a budget, but when do you get the time to travel as a student?”. The answer is, i take advantage of school holidays which means i travel during reading week, Christmas break, or spring and summer breaks. At times, I do have homework during my so called “breaks”, but I bring them along with me. I can remember hitting up cafes in Ottawa, New York City, and Montreal just to spend some time studying or writing papers. For me, it’s completely worth it because I’d much rather be doing my assignments in a new city, than at the same location at my university library. I just make sure that I spend the mornings doing my school work and the rest of the day/evening exploring.
Recently, i took a flight back from Montreal from a work retreat to write a final exam in Winnipeg . I spend the night before I had to fly back home drinking way too much wine (the bartender was cute, so I kept going back for more wine) and hanging out with my newfound friends. After, I slept for maybe three hours before I had to catch a taxi to the airport. My journey from Montreal to Winnipeg was spend getting in as much studying as I could. That day, I learned that airplanes are hands down the best places to study. I mean, you literally can’t go anywhere…you’re stuck! My cell phone wasn’t working and there was nobody sitting beside me so i had no distractions. I had never had a more quality study session.
I arrived in Winnipeg at 11:30am and had enough time to eat my lunch, review for half an hour, and walk to university to write my exam at 1:00pm. Talk about exhaustion! I slept for a good 15 hours after that day, but i was all worth it because i later learned I got a decent mark on the exam.
I do realize that that one day I’m going to burn out from the kind of lifestyle I currently live (juggling work, school, and travel), but If it allows me explore this world, then I continue to juggle with the happiest of smiles. It’s what gives my soul life after all! And if it’s something that also lights up your life, than pursue it and know that it’s totally possible!