Travel Tips

Why I Hate The “How Do You Afford To Travel?” Question

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Ayutthaya, Thailand

One of the most common questions I get asked is how I afford to travel.

This question is loaded with assumptions about my parents or family funding my trip, me having access to some endless pit of trust fund money, or even god forbid me doing something nefarious in order to gain money.

No joke- I once got accused of being a sex worker in order to gain money for travel. Putting aside how offensive it is to insinuate the only way a female university student can make money is through her body, this question always gets on my nerves.

So let’s get a few things straight so I can finally answer this question, and hopefully prevent it from being asked again in the future.

 

None of My Travel Is Funded By My Parents

I don’t come from an incredibly wealthy family. It is actually the opposite- I’m currently on a scholarship at university because of financial disadvantage.

“I’m incredibly lucky to have two parents that have always encouraged me to follow my dreams and have always been emotionally supportive of my travels.”

However I’d much rather my parents focus on trying to support my younger siblings than have them funding my travel.

Visiting Rome while on exchange in France in 2009.
Visiting Rome while on exchange in France in 2009.

Even at the age of 16, when I headed off on an exchange for three months I had saved $5000 by myself, and my parents helped by paying for my flight.

Outside of birthday money that I myself have put towards my travel, that is the last money I have received from my parents for travel.

Visiting Halong Bay, Vietnam
Visiting Halong Bay, Vietnam

All of my travels in the last couple of years, and the 15-month trip that I’m beginning in November have all been funded personally by me.

Rwanda in 2011
Rwanda in 2011

Travel Is Not Necessarily More Expensive Than Other Things

The reason I can afford to travel is that I have made travel my priority. All of my spare money is directed towards travelling. I’ve worked more and saved more in order to achieve my travel dreams.

Pina Coladas in Bangkok
Pina Coladas in Bangkok

I’ve got friends that spend hundreds of dollars every year on clothes. I know people that go to the cinema every week, that spend hundreds of dollars on a four hour concert and go to more than one festival per year.

Lots of people got out every weekend which involves club entry, expensive drinks and taxis home.

No one ever asks these people how they afford to do these things!

You wouldn’t ask someone these questions:

‘How do you afford to go to so many concerts?’

‘How do you have the money to go out so much?’

‘How can you spend so much money on clothes?’.

‘How can you buy a new iphone everytime a new one is released?’

So why are you asking me how I afford to travel!

Sure travel can be a large outlay of money. But when you cut your savings and prioritise all of your wants into travel, than it actually isn’t anymore expensive than doing anything else everyone does with their spare time.

Travel Is Not As Expensive As You Think

Feeding an Elephant at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Feeding an Elephant at Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

In a world where the majority of travel advertising is directed towards expensive tours, five star resorts and all inclusive packages, it is easy to see why some of us have formed the misconception that travel is expensive.

There are so many ways in today’s connected world that make travelling cheaper than ever, including shared economy networks like couchsurfing, airbnb and uber.

You have access to hundreds of blog posts, article and forums that will direct you towards cheap accommodation, free activities, the cheapest flights and budget restaurants.

If your ability to save is smaller than mine, you can also prioritise cheaper destinations like the amazing region of Asia rather than more expensive Europe.

Thailand is my favourite place in the whole world and a super affordable destination
Thailand is my favourite place in the whole world and a super affordable destination

For example at the moment Jetstar is having a sale where you can fly return to Phuket from most cities in Australia for $550!

By eating street food or in local restaurants, staying in guesthouses and using local transport you could easily spend two to three weeks travelling across Thailand on $1000-$1500.

That is $2000 for an amazing three weeks in my favourite country in the world. Whilst for some of you this might seem like a huge outlay of money- $2000 is only saving $38 a week for a year. I have friends that spend more money on coffee in a week than that!

I’m Not Lucky!!

Zip lining in Chiang Mai
Zip lining in Chiang Mai

 I often get told that I’m so ‘lucky’ to be able to travel.

Luck has nothing to do with my ability to travel. I didn’t just win the lottery and land a whole pile of cash to achieve my travel dreams.

The word luck discounts the hundreds of people, including me, out there that work hard to be able to travel.

It ignores the weekends I spent inside the Carsales building earning a paycheck rather than going out with my friends. Or the nights I spent in the library studying so I could maintain my scholarship and have that injection into my travel fund.

While I’m ‘lucky’ enough to have a supportive family, and to have certain opportunities afforded by living in Australia, the rest of it has more to do with hard work and sacrifice than anything else.

But You Can Still Keep Asking Me

At the end of the day, while the how do you afford to travel question gets frustrating, I’ll always be willing to answer it.

The reason is that no matter how you travel, where you travel and when you travel, I believe it has amazing value. And hopefully by continuing to answer that question I continue to help people achieve their own travel goals.

Drinking Soju in Gyeongju, South Korea
Drinking Soju in Gyeongju, South Korea

Whenever I tell people how much money I’ve saved a common response I get is ‘That’s enough for a deposit on a house”.

The thing is, I don’t want a house.

“My version of the Australian dream isn’t slaving away to pay a mortgage, but being able to see as much as the world as possible. For me, eating exotic foods, meeting amazing people and experiencing vastly different cultures is far more valuable than any material thing I could buy.”

affordtotravelpost

31 Comments

  1. Ohhhh that whole “you’re so lucky to be able to travel” comment irks me more than almost anything!!! I’m like you – luck has NOTHING to do with it, it’s bloody hard work!!! I’ve taken a lot of trips over the last few years, and again like you, I’ve had no financial help from family or friends. I’ve just worked my butt off, saved every penny, and having a mortgage at the same time it means a lot of sacrifices. But again, like you, I have friends who don’t think twice about spending $500 on a new pair of shoes, and no one questions that, but book a $500 plane ticket to Asia and everyone has something to say!! It’s insane, isn’t it?!

    I’m so so happy I came across this post and have someone else on the same page who gets it – it is hard work, but it’s totally worth it – how do you put a price on living out your dreams?! Can’t wait to see where your next adventure takes you :)
    Jess recently posted…Read this: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea by Jules VerneMy Profile

  2. Great post Britt!
    I did a post on how I afford to travel (and to lay out that once and for all that I don’t have rich parents). Now the questions has turned to “Well, I don’t know how you are able to save so much money to travel?” Ugh, it’s never ending. I think people are going to continue to not want to believe any of us. It’s all about determination and doing without useless material items, not luck and a trustfund!
    Nicole S. recently posted…Kicked off a bus: Bar, MontenegroMy Profile

    1. I don’t mind the whole ‘how are you able to save so much’ question as much because it doesn’t seem as loaded with assumptions. AT least they are acknowledging that it is me that is saving! I think lots of people are bad at saving too- but that doesn’t mean they should make nasty assumptions about me. It’s not so hard to save when you have such an amazing end goal in reach!

  3. OMG, YESSSSS. This post is my life. I love everything about this post. It’s all about prioritizing. Just because I’m 19 years old and a university student doesn’t mean anything. Yes, I was lucky enough to grow up in Southern California with a supportive family, but i fund my travel all by myself with HARD WORK and being conscious of my spending. 30-something countries later and no other luck or other people’s money has been involved. Love this. Thanks for sharing!

    -Maddy

    Maddy recently posted…Biking Copenhagen: The Best Way to See the CityMy Profile

  4. My argument has always been: “I don’t spend money on designer handbags and shoes; all my paychecks go toward plane tickets!” But yes, I totally hate that question, too. If it’s something you want badly enough, you figure out a way to make it happen =)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted…A Dive on the Wild SideMy Profile

  5. Love the conversation this sparked, but FYI, there are a ton of great value places in Europe where I’m sure you’ll be able to stretch those hard-earned dollars. I just went to Romania and it was seriously cheap – I spent much less there than I would ‘in real life’ – by far!!
    Julie recently posted…Taking in a Movie at Backyard CinemaMy Profile

  6. Yes, agreed, but also put yourself in the shoes of people your age. They’re most likely in debt and are continuously buying stuff that they don’t need. Expensive car, clothes, etc.

    So, of course, they wonder how it’s possible for you to travel while they have to flip every dollar twice.

    But I can relate to your situation, I have to do some explaining as well … occasionally.
    King Epic recently posted…Support KingEpicMy Profile

  7. We got this question A LOT when we were at the start of our long-term travels; now we don’t get it so much because we just quickly say that we work online, and that seems to satisfy people’s curiosity. Back then when we weren’t working, we had to explain that we had saved for YEARS and that we were really careful with our money and just traveled on a budget. We met a couple in Vietnam who said they didn’t understand how we could travel because they couldn’t find hotels for less than $90/night… meanwhile we were barely spending $30/day in total! Of course, if we were spending their hotel budget routinely, there would have been no way we could afford to travel for very long.

    I think the only question I disliked more than the “how do you afford to travel?” question, was the “what do you do all day?” question. You don’t ask people that to most people on holiday, nor do you ask retired people that, and yet that’s what we got asked the most. I hated feeling like we had to justify our lifestyle—and our spending habits—to others.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Three Years Later: Reinventing Travel & Rediscovering our TribeMy Profile

  8. Great post, and it’s all so true. No one ever asks ‘how can you afford to go out each week’ but as soon as you say you’re traveling they think you’re in a high paid job, earning a fortune, or that a rich relative has died! Everything I’ve spent on travel has been my own savings, and I’m proud of that fact. I’m working as an expat and saving again to help fund future travels, and by cutting out things which people think are normal spends, I’m actually saving nearly half my wages. I still go out and have a social life, but I tend to go hiking with friends, or just for a couple of pub beers than a crazy expensive night out!
    I did meet someone who was traveling on his parents money, both me and my friend were shocked, and he was talking about them remortgaging their home to help him buy a place in London, even though he had a job lined up, and was only 22! I’d be mortified if my parents did that! All I’ll get from them when I go home is probably living at theirs rent free until I get a job, and I’ll appreciate them doing just that! :)
    Gemma recently posted…Scenic Highlights of New Zealand’s South IslandMy Profile

  9. I just say it’s simple. I work for it.

    I also think that perception has to do with some peoples definition of travel. Unless you’re jet setting like some aloof 1%er’s kid with a personality for reality TV they think they can’t afford more than a road trip. They don’t think of cheaper destinations, or going somewhere for a cultural experience.
    Shaun’s Cracked Compass recently posted…Have you been on an airplane before?My Profile

  10. Hi, :-)
    We spent £25.000 on travelling for 9 months as two adults and two pre-teens. When most people were deciding whether or not to put a conservatory in their back garden or build a loft conversion up in the roof, I was deciding if I wanted to learn to scuba dive, ride an elephant and visit Pearl Harbour with my kids. This money has been the best spent in my life – it holds the most important legacy I can give my children and has enabled me to free myself from what I thought I wanted to explore and create what I really want. There have been and there are tough decisions to be made in life, what will yours be?

  11. I love this post! It’s so true. People view travel as such a luxury but all it is is a reallocation of funds. A different way of spending your money. That’s all.

    I find also that with some people (not all! Just some) there’s an element of resentment to the question. If people have chosen other avenues for their money (for example, a mortgage) they can find themselves going years without a domestic holiday, let alone having the chance to go overseas. It can then be really hard for them to watch us having the freedom to flit off to another continent, even though for them choosing property over travel was the right choice. I guess it’s a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side kind of thing.
    Karyn Jane recently posted…10 Affirmations That Got Me Through Cancer TreatmentMy Profile

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