by Jill Robinson
Daydreaming about travel is one of my favorite past times. If only I could earn money reading Lonely Planet books and studying maps I would be set to embark on my next adventure. Unfortunately, I don’t get paid to stare out windows while whispering newly learned Spanish vocabulary to myself. While I’m passionate about traveling abroad, I am constantly compromising my dreams of travel because I can’t afford the expenses.
I talk to people everyday that are just as passionate about exploring new cultures and languages, and find themselves in similar predicaments. Traveling abroad can be a big expense, especially if there are flights half way around the world involved, but this doesn’t mean we have to give up.
If you are truly passionate about traveling abroad, I’ve found that it just takes a few simple steps to make it happen. The first step is the most difficult in my opinion: Committing to the plan.
Now, I’m the first to admit that I have a problem with setting a date and sticking to it. I can’t even make a hair appointment for fear that something else might be happening that day, but committing to a trip is the most important part of planning.
Once you commit to your travel destination and date of departure, the next step is setting up a savings plan.
If you had a couple thousand dollars laying around you probably would have stopped reading this blog post by now, so I’m assuming you are in the same boat as I am and trying to raise funds. A plan of attack is key, because it will provide a time-line for saving and a reason to pass up Thom Yorke tickets at the Aragon and instead put that $65 in your “travel fund jar.” Anyone can travel, it just takes patience and discipline.
The economy isn’t helping us put extra cash into savings, so it is important to take a proactive approach to meeting your goal. If you are more the spontaneous type and don’t like planning or waiting around for you next adventure, there are always credit cards, but paying those off is a whole other blog post…
There are plenty of ways to put extra money in your pocket, and while it might seem like sacrificing your social life or giving up some of the finer things, just repeat after me: “IT WILL BE WORTH IT!” My colleagues agreed when I asked them how they saved for their travels.
“As far as discipline, I sucked it up and didn’t do much that required spending money – a lot of movies and dinners on the old futon, my colleague Joanna said. ” I knew that in the end, I was going on an adventure that would far outweigh anything I could do at home.”
In no particular order, here are some other bits of advice to help you save for your next trip abroad:
1. Don’t spend your money going out to bars and ordering delivery. Sounds easy enough, but if you are in college, or in your early twenties (or late twenties) living in a city, this probably sounds a bit unrealistic. But add up all the money that you put into one evening out on the town involving cab rides, drinks, tips, late night food, etc. can add up quickly. You would be shocked at how much you could have saved.
2. Spend Other People’s Money. Ok, not really, but take stock of the resources you have and how you can use the talents of friends and family to help you raise money.
“If you have any friends with talents (musical, crafty or otherwise) ask them for help!” Amy said. “Ask someone to throw a charity concert or sell their handy crafts for donations…there are so many ways to raise money and have fun with it.”
Fundraisers are a great way to do this, and if you are doing a volunteer project, provide information on where you are going and what you will be doing. This will not only raise awareness about something you are passionate about, but it will get people excited for your trip and more likely to donate to the cause. Offer to do a presentation when you return or do a talk at a school or library to share photos and information on what you learned and really make it a cultural exchange.
3. Scholarships. A lot of universities, a great example being Michigan State University , offer scholarships for students traveling abroad. My co-worker said that Loyola University Chicago also has scholarships, but you have to ask about your options. The travel fund she used to go to Italy wasn’t advertised. It’s a matter of research, but there is money out there if you just take the time to search and asking around.
4. Change Jar Alright, this might seem obvious, but it can be a great way to save for the little items that you will need before you go. Proper backpacks aren’t cheap, and one way to afford the things you will need to prepare for your trip abroad is the piggy bank. I have used old bottles, card boxes, envelopes and a cloud-shaped coin bank ( my personal favorite) to collect loose change that weighs down my purse. If you bartend or work as a server, a quick way to save is put all your $5 bills away with your change as well.
5. Direct Deposit and Expense Evaluation This probably sounds boring and common sense as well, but it is really scary how many people really don’t know what they are spending all their money on. (I am an example of this until last month. Wow, reality check.) First, if you have a job that allows direct deposit, DO IT! Then, transfer a set amount into your savings every pay day. This way the money isn’t even around to tempt you. After you have put your money into savings, take a look at your monthly spending habits and see where you can eliminate or cut back. Starbucks everyday? Cut. Eating out more than three days a week? Cut. Driving instead of public transportation. Cut.
You get the idea. All that money now goes toward your trip and that is an easy sacrifice when looking at the big picture.
How have you saved for your travels?