“Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be”
To be very honest, I never ever had the money to travel. But somehow I make it work. As hard as my parents tried to teach me to save my money, keep track of my savings and checking accounts with one of them fancy adding books, it never stuck. I hated it. That’s what online banking was for. But it has never stopped me from buying that ticket and booking that hotel.
I just had to have it!
Before I moved to Europe, I was working a full time 40 hour Monday-Friday job. I loved my job, I loved my spunky customers and I loved my coworkers. I saw myself settling down and spending the rest of my life working there.
Until I realized I wasn’t getting ahead.
As much as I was working, I came home with a nice paycheck, but after paying bills and student loans, I was never going to be able to afford to move out on my own, let alone travel again. I soon realized I didn’t want to be that girl who had worked her life away every day, doing the same dull routine, hustlin’ to make a dollar but never getting ahead in life. I was 26 and still living at home. This was not the life I had in mind.
My generation’s financial status sucks. Let’s face it. Some serious reform needs to take place to get my generation out from the bottomless pit of student loan debt. I remember thinking to myself, good god, “I will never be debt free!”
I came from a middle class family. I don’t have a rich family which could pay for me to have this or to have that. We worked very hard together to get me through college.
They said going to college would get you a good job.
But I think they lied. For some degree paths, you can make money. But for others, they lied. I went to school and then found the first job that paid well. Not using my degree. Outside of California. I found a job in Montana within 2 weeks of moving there. California – NO WAY! Not with 100,000 other newly graduated students.
After almost 3 years working my life away in SmallTownUSA, I up and quit my job. Things were getting a little rocky anyways and I thought, “What better time than now!?” I know I dashed my parents hopes and dreams of having a nice steady income with a 401K, but was that really all life was about? What was the point in working your life away if you couldn’t afford to do anything anyways?
Let the Googling commence!
For about 3 weeks, I sat on my couch Googling my possibilities to get back to Europe. I knew I wanted to travel again and getting back to Europe was my only chance of breaking free from the 9-5 restrictions and the stress that was weighing me down. It is ridiculously stressful when you’re constantly trying to penny pinch so you can afford to move out, but never get any further than a few bucks.
But I had no money! How was I going to get there? Then I remembered that a long time dream of mine had been to teach English abroad.
So I needed to gather all the money I could. I cashed out my small 401K account. I know, probably a big mistake, but I knew I wasn’t going to live in the States again anytime soon. I sold all my possessions. Including my car. And my fancy, never been ridden bike.
This is one of the easiest jobs anyone can do anywhere in the world, as long as you are a Native English speaker!
The smartest thing anyone could ever do is work abroad. It helps to finance your traveling!
Then I bought my glorious, one-way ticket.
I knew it was now or never. I just couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my life anymore working just to get by instead of getting ahead. I knew I wanted to see the world and I couldn’t do that from sitting inside an office. I was ready to spread my wings and see if I could make it on my own.
I left the States with $8,000 in my pocket. It was go big or go home. I knew it was enough to get me started, but it definitely wouldn’t last me for a long time. I knew I had to find cheap rent close to my work so I wouldn’t have to pay for public transportation.
If you’re going to travel on a budget, then you need to know how to travel on a shoestring. I started out first by buying a cheap one-way ticket with a layover in Reykjavik, Iceland with Iceland Air.
Now, I don’t have all those fancy airline company cards. I have my Delta miles and my American Airline cards, but that does me almost no good in Europe. Maybe I’m a terrible traveler, but I just don’t understand all those cards and the amazing offers that are advertised. I know, I should really look into this. I know it would be very beneficial, but for some reason, I just can’t bother with it.
Instead, I use cheap airline websites like:
I also take the train often to many places because the German DeutscheBahn (bahn.de ) has some pretty sweet deals sometimes.
I book far enough out in advance I find cheaper hotels before the high season hits! Don’t be afraid to book up to 6+ months in advance! I know its a lot to plan and think about, let alone remember you have the trip booked, but do it! The hotel rooms will be much cheaper!
Travel on off days!
I know, I know! We all love to travel on the weekends. Leave on a Friday, come home on a Sunday. But you need to learn to break that routine! It’s much better for your wallet if you book your flights on a Tues/Wed/Thurs and come home the following week the same time.
Saving to travel
Now that I live in the center of Europe, its so easy for me to travel therefore it’s easier for me to save money. Where there is a want, the will be a way. Never in my life have I lived such a penny-pinching life before. Every chance I get, I am throwing that 5€ in my vacation jar. I would rather be poor and travel than poor and working 24/7.
It helps to plan my vacations far enough in advance that I can plan a budget and know roughly how much money I need to save. I still never have enough, but that’s ok. I don’t need to stay in luxury hotels or eat at 5 star restaurants. I just need to go somewhere new with the love of my life. I need to breathe the air of new places and watch the sunset over new horizons.
Now I have a new goal in life
You should be able to chose your goal in life. If you want to work at that fancy job with the nice view, you have to be willing to work 40+ hours a week and give up your weekends and spend money on flashy work clothes. But you should also have the option of choosing not to work your life away.
I have never been one to ever want to work more than my 40 hours a week. There was a time, I tried to do the double job thing. It just wasn’t for me. I wanted to live my life, not work my life away. Once that clock strikes 40 hours, I’m outta there. I’m still the same.
My life goal hasn’t changed much. Work to travel. It’s been a family motto since I was a kid and it will stay that way for a long time. Now I just save harder. Who needs that new scarf when that could be another 10€ in your vacation jar.
My tip to you
- Make a fancy vacation jar with whatever supplies you have around the house
- Leave it somewhere you will see it every day and remember to put that 5€ in.
- Save your 2€ or 5€ specifically for your savings jar. Everything else is up for grabs.
- Any work you do on the side, dedicate that strictly for your vacation jar.
- Have more that one savings method.
- Take 10% of each paycheck and automatically put it into a savings account.
- Learn to sacrifice a materialistic want for an experience instead! Don’t buy that scarf, buy that memory!
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