For many years, I worked in advertising as a commercial producer. I loved what I did for a living, but found myself longing for a break from the routine, an adventure into the unknown. Like many people, I often dreamed quitting my job, throwing everything in storage, and hitting the open road with nothing but a passport and a backpack. Then one day—along with my then-boyfriend, now-husband Reece—I did just that: One year, 16 countries, countless new friends, and a lifetime of memories. Here is how we saved up to take the plunge.
You can’t save money until you know where you’re spending it. I never thought I splurged too much on nightlife—until I did the maths! Take a look at last month’s expenses and add up how much went toward bills, groceries, dining out, entertainment, etc. After everything has been separated into categories, it’s easier to determine where you can cut back. Got a gym membership you haven’t used in months? An online shopping habit? A package of movie channels you never watch? Take action and start trimming those unnecessary costs.
Open a new account that is solely dedicated to your big adventure. Keeping your travel fund separate from your day-to-day money is key to making sure you don’t spend it. Most employers offer direct deposit into multiple accounts, which is a pain-free way to set those dollars aside. I found that if the money was gone before it even hit my checking account, I didn’t miss it.
People often associate saving money with giving up their social life, but that doesn’t have to be the case! Instead, start thinking about ways to do the same things but cheaper. Enjoy your favourite wine bar during happy hour. Catch that blockbuster hit when it comes out on Redbox. While saving for our trip, Reece and I developed a tradition of date nights at Sizzler (instead of the usual, pricey San Francisco hot spots). We came to look forward to silly Friday evenings at the salad bar, chatting excitedly about our upcoming adventure. To this day, every time we pass a Sizzler, we’re flooded with warm memories of the year we spent preparing for our big departure.
To stay on budget while travelling, I often ask myself, Will this enhance my experience of the trip? An expensive bottle of wine versus a cheap bottle? Nah. A scenic plane ride over the Andes Mountains versus a vomit-inducing bus? Yes! I took a similar approach to my pre-trip spending. Will I really be a happier person with that new pair of jeans? Will replacing my old couch make my life any more enjoyable? Be mindful of your spending, and curb the purchases that are less meaningful to you.
Sometimes all it takes is a little encouragement to keep you on track. Subscribe to a round-the-world travel blog. Change your desktop image to a photo of your number one bucket-list destination. Hang a countdown calendar in your bedroom. My favourite game was to email a photo of somewhere in the world to Reece and make him guess where it was (and vice-versa). It’s easier to stick to your savings guns when your goals are top of mind. Here is a great place to start digging for travel inspiration.
If your goal is long-term travel, set your sights on more-affordable destinations. We knew we wanted to travel for a year, and most places in Europe would have blown our budget in mere months. Your money will go significantly further in Southeast Asia, India, and Central and South America than it will in, say, Australia and New Zealand. Think about what types of things you want to see and do, how long you want to travel, and what you’re comfortable spending to find your sweet spot.
When setting a vague goal like “I want to save money,” it’s easy to succumb to more-immediate temptations. Defining a specific objective, such as “I want to spend three months island-hopping in Indonesia,” gives you a much more concrete plan to adhere to. When saving for our trip, I made a list of countries I wanted to visit, drafted a rough route around the world, and researched the top experiences in each place. Passing up that weekend in Vegas was a lot easier when I imagined myself cage diving with great white sharks in South Africa instead.
Most importantly, have patience. It may sometimes seem like your target is so far away that you want to throw in the towel, but keep this in mind: The time is going to pass anyway, whether you are saving or not! And it’s invigorating to watch your travel account grow. Future you will be happy you started today.
Have you travelled for an extended period? How did you pull it off? Share your tried-and-true advice in the comments below.