People always tell me they wish they could do what I do, i.e., travel often and well. But the thing is, anyone can do it if they prioritize it above other things, and sacrifice a little bit.
When I first graduated from uni, I had grand dreams of traveling around the world throughout my 20s, never having to work a day, living on my charm and wits. Alas, life had other plans. At the age of 23, I was stuck in an office job I hated, bitter and angry whenever I saw someone else’s holiday snaps. Five years later, I work for myself and travel a lot (and get paid to do it, sometimes!). So what changed?
Obviously, I really, really wanted a lifestyle change, but desire rarely equates to an actual outcome. I had to get scrappy. Here’s what I did, with the end goal of being able to travel regularly (and well, not always scrimping to go to hostels), and how I did it.
- Working holidays. A lot of people think I must never work, traveling like I do. Sometimes, the traveling itself is work, such as when I’m writing reviews or going on press trips. Other times, I may be traveling, but I will continue to work. That’s the beauty and the blunder of being a freelancer: you, theoretically, can always be available, wherever in the world you are.
- Freelancing. I started freelancing when I worked at my office job. I had the goal of moving to Paris and then London, but my full-time job didn’t pay enough for me to cover my bills and save for the move, so freelancing allowed me to do both. When I did move, freelancing was my only source of income, which allowed me to do more than I thought I’d be able to do off of student loan and savings.
- Higher education. I would never have had the guts to try the freelancing full-time thing if I wasn’t also studying. I started freelancing full-time at the same time as getting my MA. Was I busy? Sure. But I also had access to student loans, which are much lower interest than bank loans, if freelancing fell through and I needed financial help. My schedule was flexible enough that I was able to work and take classes simultaneously.
- Paying my dues. I love freelancing, but the jobs I did at first weren’t as glam as they are now. (And even now, there are still some doozies!) But for every boring, repetitive or otherwise mind numbing task I did, I had to remind myself: this is how progress is made, and reputations are built. I saved all the money I made on these tasks, foregoing fun nights out or great dinners, focusing on the end goal. Five years later, I don’t have to pass up movie nights or nice restaurants, and I’ve built my freelancing business that sustains my lifestyle. Still, I know the work isn’t done. I’ll spend many, many more solidifying all I’ve worked for thus far.
- Blogging. I started this old thing to keep in touch with friends and family while on my adventures- this is in the pre-Instagram and Snapchat era! It really took on a life of its own after I traveled to Bali and got international press attention. Now, I get lots of offers to go on press trips, or review hotels and restaurants in exchange for a free stay or meal. If you get blogging, who knows where it will lead you!
- Multiple streams of income. Freelancing is a good gig; its flexible and often you can do the work anywhere. However, income ebbs and flows, it isn’t as stable income-wise as a full-time job. I therefore supplement my freelance income with other gigs; I let my flat out on Airbnb (see the listing here!) when I’m traveling, I teach at a university part-time and I always look for easy ways to make money (for instance, invigilating exams at local colleges). I also save like crazy for a rainy day or trip that unexpectedly costs more than I thought. Nothing is worse than being caught out without proper plans for how to handle the unexpected.
Are you thinking of traveling soon? How are you going to finance your trip?