I get this question from readers at least once a week, so rather than keep answering every person individually, here’s my answer to all who are wondering the same – how can she afford to travel all over the world?!
Let me begin by saying that I am not rich, I did not receive a huge inheritance, my parents are not paying the bill, and up until a few months ago I still had student loans to pay. This is me putting in long hours and choosing to make travel my priority.
So let’s have a look at some of the jobs that have helped me fund my travels over the years:
My first job in high school
When I was 16 I got my first job working as a tutor. I worked 2-3 days a week for a total of 10 hours a week, and I got paid $7 an hour. Yes, that was a grand total of $280 a month before taxes, but it was enough for the occasional outing with friends and I was also able to save towards summer or winter travel with my family.
My parents taught me the value of hard earned money at a young age, and this is why when I got my first job as a tutor, I also started paying my own way (or at least part of it) on family trips. If we were going to Cuba to escape the Canadian winter, I had to chip in as well, and you know what, it made me appreciate the experience so much more because I had earned it.
Random jobs throughout university
I worked lots of random jobs while I was in university: brewing coffee and mopping floors at a cafe, stacking books at a bookshop, summer admin work in an accounting office, and even painting houses. The pay at many of these jobs wasn’t great – I think at this point the minimum wage had risen to $10 an hour – so I worked in between classes and took on weekend shifts so that I could afford a couple of international trips a year.
This is when I started travelling farther from home and for longer periods of time: 10 days to Peru in between exams to go visit my grandma and see Machu Picchu; 2 weeks through London, France and Spain with friends; 1 month backpacking around Argentina; 5 weeks hanging out in Rio de Janeiro while my university went on strike…
Combine that with my penny-pinching ways – sleeping on friends couches in London, hunting for cheap hotels in Portugal over paying regular price, opting for baguette sandwiches instead of fancy restaurants in Paris, visiting free attractions rather than the pricey art galleries – and voila, I was able to squeeze in quite a bit of travel multiple times a year while I completed my undergraduate degree.
Teaching English in South Korea
My main reasons for taking a job in Korea were that I had student loans that needed to be paid off (the job hunt in Toronto wasn’t going so well) and I was also craving the opportunity to live abroad and experience a new culture; the opportunity to work in Korea ticked both those boxes.
Most teaching jobs in Korea pay around $2000 a month, provide round-trip airfare from your home country, give you a free apartment, and reward you with a pretty hefty bonus once you finish your one year contract. Now you can see why so many young university graduates end up working here, right? It’s easy to save money to travel and pay off student loans. I managed to save $17,000 in one year while working in Korea.
The blurred line between work and travel
I honestly never thought I’d be able to combine travel and writing into any semblance of a job. I started this blog because travel is my passion and I wanted an outlet. When I published my first post, I never thought my little project would eventually lead me to all the opportunities it has.
Aside from keeping this travel blog (which brings in a little bit of income through advertising), I am now a regular contributor for a few online publications where I write articles and produce photo essays from my travels. It’s not easy getting your foot in an industry that is so over saturated, and it’s even harder convincing an editor to take a chance on your pitch when you’re the newbie, but at the end of the day there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
If you’re interested in set up your own blog, this guide on how to start a travel blog will come in handy.
Cutting down costs and being wise with my money
So I’ve talked about the jobs part, but the other half is what you do with your money. Just because you have a job doesn’t mean your savings are automatically going to start growing. You need to choose what you want your money to do for you!
For me, the choice was clear – I wanted to travel, so my social life looked a lot different from what some of my friends were doing. I wasn’t going out to bars on weekends, or getting pampered with manicure and pedicures at the spa, and I certainly wasn’t getting the new pair of Prada shoes – are you kidding me? I could probably get myself a one way ticket to Dublin for that much.
Going out to a club on a weekend, in say Toronto, may not seem like much, but between parking downtown, grabbing a quick bite to eat, paying admission at the new club, and having a mojito or two, you can easily spend over $100 in one night. At the end of the month it all adds up.
So there’s the answer to the mystery; that’s how I have been funding my travels ever since I got my first job at sixteen (which was almost 10 years ago!)