Do you dream of traveling the world? Do you want to explore ancient ruins like Angkor in Cambodia or Tikal in Guatemala? Does your mouth water at the idea of sampling amazing cuisine in France? Do you fantasize about relaxing on white sand beaches in Bali or Belize?
So many people want to travel and yet so few actually do. They fear the cost, thinking they can’t possibly afford to quit their job and go jaunting around the world. They worry it will negatively impact their career if they do or that they’ll will have trouble finding a job when they return. Nothing could be further from the truth. Now is the best time to travel and here’s how you can do it.
Why Now is the Time to Travel
With the US economy, and much of the industrialized world, performing poorly you might think now is the worst time to travel. You might even be hunkered down trying to keep your job or even be searching for one. Traveling now might seem completely out of the question, but all of this makes now the perfect time to travel.
Instead of working long hours at the office trying to impress your boss to avoid being laid off or spending your entire day focused on competing for nonexistent jobs, you could be traveling. The cost of living in other parts of the world like Asia and Latin America are a fraction of what you pay in the US. My rent in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for example, is roughly $300 a month, including weekly cleaning and wifi (and that is considered somewhat expensive in Chiang Mai). You might even save money by traveling.
If you have a job, talk to your employer about taking a sabbatical. It’s a long shot, but they might be happy to save some money while you’re away (in lieu of laying you off) and they’ll have a job for you when you return. Even better is to see if you can switch to telecommuting, perhaps even part time (you won’t need as much money while you are traveling and it let’s your employer save a little money). The worst that can happen is they say no. You are no worse off, so it doesn’t hurt to explore these options.
If you don’t have a job already, now is the time to downsize and start traveling. Your job prospects will most likely be better when you return and the economy is in recovery. Don’t worry about having a gap in your resume. It’s much easier to explain a travel gap than an I’ve-been-unemployed-for-six-months gap. You can volunteer, write and freelance while you travel–all things you can add to your resume.
You Can Afford to Travel
You’re probably thinking this sounds great, except you can’t afford it. Traveling is less expensive than you might think. You’re probably comparing the costs to your last vacation or what you read in a glossy travel magazine. Rather, long term travel is less expensive because you stay in expensive places not catering to tourists and eat the local cuisine which is much cheaper than what tourists receive.
Hostels are inexpensive and a great place to meet other travelers. Some hostels are just as nice as hotels and have great amenities. Many offer private rooms with en suite bathrooms. The big plus is you meet other travelers, gaining great tips and insights into the local culture that you otherwise might miss. You’ll find out about the hidden gem of a restaurant or food stall that has local food to die for at a great price, often just a few dollars.
To prepare yourself and to start saving, practice living minimally for several months before you leave. Because you’ll be traveling for a longer period of time you can sell your extra stuff on eBay or Craig’s List. This will probably give you enough money to buy a ticket to your destination and maybe even afford a few months of travel, depending on what you have to sell.
Eliminate as many expenses as possible now to start saving money. Cancel your cable TV. End magazine subscriptions and cut back on buying clothes, CDs and other non-essential things. Sell your car if you have one and cancel the insurance. Reducing as many expenses as you possibly can before you go will save money and help you acclimate to the traveler lifestyle.
It’s different for everyone, but you should expect needing something in the range of $500-$800 a month, which should include everything from living expenses to travel insurance. While you travel you can freelance for a little extra money. Check out sites like Elance, FreelanceSwitch and others (do a Google search on freelancing).
Many people start a travel blog or write for other travel sites. This is a crowded field, but it doesn’t hurt to try. There are several sites that pay for articles. Do some exploring around the web and some creative thinking about options to find out ways you can earn a little extra money while you travel. You never know, you might actually find out that you prefer this sort of work over the traditional job.
There is, of course, the option of teaching English. Many schools require you to have some sort of education, such as a Bachelor degree, and a etching certificate from TEFL or other recognized program. Some of these programs pay as much as $2,000 month and include a place to live. Teaching is a great option if you are interested in engaging people.
Get Started on Your Adventure Today
You read this all the time, but I promise you it’s true–traveling will change your life. I’ve learned more about a place in a couple weeks of visiting than I’ve learned in years of reading about it. You are exposed to some new and interesting things that really broaden your view of the world. Remember, it’s temporary if you want it to be. You can always come back sooner if you want. Though you’ll probably end up traveling longer than you ever imagined.