You don’t need to choose between travel and life… you can have a travel life. Stop looking at instagram and wondering how some people travel so much, and instead start making targeted changes in your daily lifestyle. Building a travel life isn’t an overnight change, and it doesn’t mean you have to give up all your small pleasures. It just means you have to shift perspective and make room in your lifestyle for choices that support travel.
How did I create a travel life?
Over the past few months I’ve been getting more and more comments and messages from people over on instagram asking how I travel so much. On the outside travel can look very glamorous and sometimes unachievable. More so than any other social media niche, travel certainly emphasizes the highlight reel. I’m going to take a photo on the beach, not of the 12-hour shifts and cupboard-under-the-stairs bedroom in a house with six roommates that got me there. In reality, my experience creating a travel life has involved sacrifices for sure.
I have visited 30+ countries, lived on two continents, traveled nomadically, and now have a home base but continue to travel regularly. However none of these things happened on their own – I significantly altered my lifestyle, multiple times. From what groceries I bought to what school I studied at to how many part time jobs I had… there were a lot of decisions I had to make before I got on those airplanes and took those happy travel photos.
At the same time, though, I don’t believe you have to give up every splurge or pleasure to travel. I’ve read a lot of ‘how to travel more’ blog posts. Most of them tell you to sell all your belongings, never go out for coffee again, say goodbye to Netflix, and maybe your soul too. My stance is a bit different. I believe that instead of cutting down on the things we love to afford travel, we need to find a way for the things we love to support travel.
Altering my lifestyle to support travel: Moving abroad
A good example of this concept is how I did my Master’s degree. When I was in college, I knew I wanted to get my Master’s. I also really wanted to travel in England again. It would have been easy to think of these as two separate goals. To successfully build a travel life, though, you need to think of travel as connected to every single other goal in your life.
I could’ve worked for a few years to afford to go to grad school, and then used my degree to help me get a skilled visa in the UK. Instead, I started looking into actually doing my Masters abroad. What I discovered was that over the 2.5 years to complete the degree, I would save on average $90,000 by studying in the UK versus my school of choice in the USA. Then, I found a UK university that would give me a hefty academic scholarship.
In addition, the cost of living in this city was among the lowest in the entire UK. Not only could I combine my lifestyle dream (to do my Masters) and my travel dream (to travel in England), but it actually made financial sense to do so! The bonus was that by being in Europe, cheap travel became so much more accessible. I drastically altered my lifestyle when I moved to the UK, but it gave me a travel life.
Building your own travel life
Above is just an example, but that’s the kind of creative thinking you need to adopt to build your own travel life. And let me just mention that you don’t need to make such a drastic decision as moving to another country… there are small questions you can consider in your normal, everyday life, too.
Can you alter your working patterns? Can you travel locally? Can you move closer to an airport hub? Can you develop a side hustle? Can you change your spending habits? Can you book more affordable travel? Can you use tools you already have at hand to travel more? Can you leverage your social network? Can you cut out excess spending each month? Can you reassess your priorities? The answer to all of these is YES. But… it’s difficult to face all these questions at once. There’s no denying that it’s difficult to build a travel life! So let’s start with the most basic, but BIGGEST step:
Building a travel life starts with your mindset
Before you face any of those questions, you need to address your mindset. I was really struck by, when I moved back to Michigan last year, how much more unique my travel experience seemed to people. I noticed that people I met through work or life considered my experiences and affinity for travel sort of … puzzling. They didn’t really understand how I had traveled so much, but moreover, why I had traveled so much.
I think in the USA in particular, we really have this American Dream of a 9-5 job and a permanent home base ingrained into us. (Not to mention that the lack of mandated paid time off per year doesn’t help with encouraging travel!). We aren’t taught that travel is a possibility, we are taught that it’s a luxury. (There is certainly a lot of privilege associated with the ability to travel. I would never deny that. But privilege and luxury are not synonymous.)
Compare that to Europe, where travel is certainly much more geographically accessible, but also more culturally approved. In the UK, it is much more acceptable to earn $1,000 and use $500 of that money for a trip to Thailand with your mates. It’s also worth mentioning here, to balance my point, that in the UK it’s also more culturally acceptable to live with housemates or family as an adult to save on rent. Compare that to the USA. If I was to earn $1,000 here, I would guess that more people would raise eyebrows at me jetting off to Thailand with that money, than say using it gradually over six months to get my hair and nails done. Personally, I’d rather have the memories of Thailand than dyed hair. But for some reason, the idea of Thailand is preposterous to many people.
In these two scenarios, the money gets spent either way. But in some ways, cultural values contribute to how we spend it.
Your homework is to reassess your mindset. Look at your spending. Take a step outside yourself and evaluate how you are thinking about travel. Are you stuck in the cycle of thinking of travel as a luxury for other people but not for you? This is your chance to reconsider your priorities. If you are reading this blog post you are on the right track.
YOU CAN HAVE A TRAVEL LIFE.
My travel life today, living in Michigan trying to manage a newly diagnosed chronic illness, does not look like my travel life did 12 months ago. But it’s still a travel life, and a life I love. I believe you can have a travel life, too. It’s not going to look the same as mine, or anyone else’s, but I want to share with you all the tools I have to make that dream a reality.
Any specific topic requests for this series? Tips of your own? Be sure to comment below or email me at email@example.com
I’m excited to go on this journey with all of you!
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