People always ask me how I afford to travel. I graduated college and left a week later and have been pretty transient since. So, it’s a fair question. And no, my parents don’t fund my travels.
Why in the world is that such a common assumption? My parents love me and are happy I’m doing what I love, no doubt about that. Generally though, I think they would probably feel more at ease if I was settling into a salary job with a 401k somewhere just to know I’d be taken care of. Not many parents dream of their child growing up to be a taco slinger living in their van.
In general though, I’m a mad money saver. There’s not too much I need. And really, I just get overwhelmed with too much stuff anyway. This mentality has really helped me in saving up for travel adventures.
When I was younger, I read some article about cost equivalents of common things the typical American buys. For example, if you get your nails done for $30 every three weeks (I know plenty of girls who go every two weeks), you would spend $510 in a year. If you would have instead only gotten your nails done on four special occasions throughout the year and put $30 in a mason jar on your dresser every three weeks except for on those four occasions, you could have bought a round trip ticket to Guatemala from Dallas, Texas with your savings.
Putting money into tangible values is much more helpful to me when debating spending than anything else. As of late, my biggest problem has been lattes. Sweet, creamy, delicious lattes. They are about $5 each including tip and I allow myself to go to a coffee shop probably four times a week on average. Sitting down at a cozy cafe is one of my favorite environments to write in. There’s just enough background noise usually that I can focus without going crazy. Hopefully, reliable wifi. And an iced vanilla latte with my name on it. But, with my average, throughout a year, I will spend $1,040 on lattes! I’ve avoided doing that math for a long time. It’s worse than I thought. So, what could that money afford me.
- A month of comfortable living in Pai, Thailand—including food (270), daily coffee (50), rent (300), occasional drinks (80), a scooter rental for the entire month (120), a dope tapestry (30), a few pieces of artwork from the night market (30), a drunken night where I lost my wallet (50), donations to temples (40), Thai swag (30), and four burgers with four beers (on four different occasions) when I’m feeling the need for grease and America in my life (40).
- Actually, my flight to Bangkok from Los Angeles and then back to Hawai’i (2014) cost exactly $1,040.
- My share of our van when it was split between three—plus a tank of gas.
I do love my time at cafés, I don’t want to take that away and probably won’t. If I were even to just switch to plain coffee, coming in at $2.50 each, still going four times a week-that number rings in at $520, which is also my savings. So, recap, if I were to keep my cozy hours at the coffee shop four times a week and get a regular (and usually refillable) coffee rather than my girly lattes, what could I afford:
- When I was being very frugal in Northern Thailand one month, my expenses came right around $540. No frills, just street food, probably a week of scooter rentals, sharing a hut with someone, drinks two nights, a couple pieces of artwork and of course coffee on a regular basis.
- Rent for a month in a great location with bills in Norman, Oklahoma.
- Gas money and two oil exchanges for a cross country trip, coast to coast, in a 1996 Ford Econoline van.
This isn’t about depriving yourself of things. But it’s a great tool to help one realize the long term cost of our vices and to decide how worth each non-necessity is to you personally with your other long term goals.