One of the most popular questions I (and many other travel bloggers, I’m sure) receive, is I want to travel the world, where do I start? It can be a completely overwhelming task to figure out how to take the first step.
How I Got Started Traveling
The story probably begins in college. I was absolutely 100% certain that I wanted to study abroad for a semester, even before I got accepted into college, it was high on my priority list. One of the first questions I used to ask when I went on college tours was, “do you have a study abroad program?
During my third year of college, I spent a semester living and studying in St. Gallen, Switzerland and it was one of the most exciting and freeing experiences of my life. I loved being able to hop on a train and travel to a new city and even a new country. I was on a student budget, but I still managed to visit tons of cities in Switzerland and cross borders into Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Belgium, and Lichtenstein.
I headed back to the US to finish my degree and I knew that from the moment I graduated I wanted to travel more. I spent the last year and a half of college saving tons of money. I worked two jobs during the school year on campus. During the summers I worked in retail and as a camp counselor to save as much as I could.
In September of 2010, my boyfriend and I secured ourselves Working Holiday Visas in New Zealand and flew on a one-way ticket to Auckland with only $2,500 in my bank account.
The rest is history. I was able to get some seasonal work and retail work in New Zealand and saved a ton so that I could live in and travel the entire country in 14 months. Then I moved to Australia and got a Working Holiday Visa there. Again I got a retail job pretty easily and the minimum wage was so high there, so I saved and saved and spent two years living in and traveling around Australia (with a 5-week trip to Bali in there somewhere, too).
After Australia, I moved to South Korea to teach English. That allowed me and my boyfriend to collectively save over $30,000 in only one year. Using that money we traveled for over a year without working before moving from the US to the UK and then finally settling (for now) in Mexico. Read more about my story here.
I Want to Travel the World, Where Do I Start?
Okay, that’s my story, but how does that help you?
One of the things that I always suggest to people if they want to move abroad, but they don’t necessarily have a ton of money in savings, is to look for ways to actually live and work in another country.
Working Holiday Visas
Are you from Australia or New Zealand? There are plenty of opportunities for you to get working holidays visas around Europe. If you are from the US or Canada? You can easily get a working holiday visa in New Zealand or Australia.
These visas allow you to work, live, travel and enjoy a country for usually 6 months to a year depending on your age and what country you are from.
It means you can save up some money and also live in and experience a totally new country. You’ll feel like you’re traveling even though you are still making and saving money.
Teaching English Abroad
Another option is to teach English abroad. I say this with trepidation. I don’t believe that you should go to another country as a teacher unless you truly enjoy teaching and love working with kids. It’s not something to do just to move to another country or just to make some money. It’s hard work, far harder than I ever thought it would be, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
If you are from an English-speaking country and you have a bachelor’s degree, you can pretty easily get a teaching job in Korea, Japan, China and other parts of Asia. Teaching English in Korea was one of the most valuable experiences of my life and I learned so much about being pushed out of my comfort zone.
If you grab your TEFL as well, you open up even more doors with possibilities in Europe and South America, too. If you use this link to sign up for your TEFL and enter 35ETERN at checkout you’ll get 35% off any course on the site.
Other Jobs That Allow You to Travel
There are so many different jobs out there that will allow you to see the world while also still making some money. If you want to see the world, you just have to look hard enough (and work hard enough). Some jobs that come to mind are working on a cruise ship, working for an airline, working on a yacht, work exchanges or house sitting.
I have a complete article with suggestions for jobs that allow you to work and travel at the same time.
Perhaps you’re interested in how bloggers and other “digital nomads” make money while they travel. It’s a question I get pretty often and one that is hard to answer since there are SO many ways to make money as a blogger or online entrepreneur.
I’ve written tons of posts about how I make money as a blogger which you can find here. My biggest tip for those that want to become bloggers, and particularly travel bloggers, is to be creative. What’s missing in the market? What countries in the world aren’t being covered enough or what’s missing from all of the content out there?
It’s easy to look at Instagram and see people gallivanting around the world and wish that was you. I mean, I do that now and I travel at least once a month. It seems so glamorous, so easy. But it’s not. Traveling constantly is exhausting, not having a home base get’s old (well, maybe we just get old as humans! haha).
You have to find what works best for YOU and you don’t know what that way is until you start traveling. Maybe you’ll love full-time travel, in which case, you should definitely seek out location independent work. On the other hand, you may like to live in one place and take trips every few weeks for a week or two at a time. In that case, you can still have a job in one place, but it needs to be time-flexible.
Maybe you want to move to a new country every year or two instead? Lots of countries around the world are always looking for specific trades like nurses, doctors, engineers, teachers, etc. Maybe the skills you’ve already gained and jobs that have already had in the past will serve to allow you to live around the world.
Save, Save, Save (and ask for more time off)
Maybe you don’t want to move abroad or get a different job. That’s perfectly okay. This Battered Suitcase once wrote a fantastic article about the danger of living someone else’s dream. If long-term travel or becoming a digital nomad or a blogger or quitting your job to travel aren’t what you want, then you should absolutely not do or become any of those things.
If you’re simply trying to figure out how you can travel more often each year, then that’s what you should do.
A friend of mine lives in New York City. She loves her apartment, she loves her neighborhood (I love the bagel shop in her neighborhood), she doesn’t want to live out of a suitcase.
So instead she negotiated for unlimited vacation days and she can work from home or a train or a plane or a coffee shop in London if she wants. She enjoys her job and the money it gives her to travel. She’s found herself a job in her field that gives her the freedom to travel more often.
I also think saving is a huge part of traveling more. At the end of the day, traveling costs money and money is usually the reason that most people don’t travel. Even though you could easily travel on a shoestring, after a certain age, it’s not actually that much fun to travel on a shoestring.
So you need to save. You need to make it a priority. I sacrificed a lot of mostly unnecessary things over the last 10 years to make sure that I had enough money to travel in a way that I wanted to travel.
You need to have a travel fund and you need to commit to putting a certain amount of money into every month. It’s really that simple. Do you need that gym membership (I workout in my living room using Youtube videos or a go for a run at my local park – I’m the fittest I’ve been in years)? Do you need a car or could you easily get around with a bicycle or the subway? Do you need to go out for drinks and dinner or can you invited friends over and have a potluck?
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts is a great book to get you in the mindset of saving (and showing you all the things you could be spending your money on instead of fancy cocktails and overpriced gourmet burgers).
How Do I Travel So Much Now?
I no longer have a working holiday visa and I no longer teach English. After leaving Korea, I spent a lot of time thinking about what sort of job I would truly love to do. The answer was easy: I wanted to be a writer.
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to do, the problem was how the heck was I going to make enough money to sustain my travels while attempting to become a writer?
Just over two years ago, I started this blog. At the same time, I moved to Mexico part-time. I knew that I needed to live in a relatively cheap country to keep my costs low. It was a move that I knew would allow me to focus 100% on my writing without having to get a part-time job.
Thanks to all of the savings I had from teaching English in Korea, I was able to sustain myself for a few months while I worked on my blog and found some freelance writing jobs. Nearly 30 months since I moved to Mexico, I now make 80% of my income from my blog and the rest from freelance writing jobs with companies that I love. I’m working a job that I love and I am constantly innovating and thinking of new business ideas because I have the freedom to create and the space to think and I feel so lucky every single day.
This means that I can take my job anywhere. I can work from Mexico or Costa Rica or Italy and for a few months a year I don’t have to work at all.
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