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How I Afford My Travels, and How You Can Too.

piggy bank

This is the 3rd post of my Travel Secrets series.

Most people will be alarmed at how my bank account balance fluctuates every month. It holds the biggest clue to how I afford my travels; I choose to take risks. I am 24, and choose not to be disillusioned by the ‘need’ to save every penny for something better and bigger in the future. I choose not be dismayed by thoughts of a very rainy day either. I choose to take it as it comes (and to take it when it doesn’t come), the money that is. I choose to live in my today, instead of dreaming about what may be in the future. That might sound foolish to some, at best naive, but through these five mantras that have afforded me 99% of my travels, I shall strive to prove otherwise.

1. Money won’t save itself.

As much as I wish I had a secret magic formula for each time people asked me how I find the money to travel so much, I don’t. Not even a grand inheritance. And no, no rich uncle to sponsor my travel whims. I afford 99% of my travels entirely on my own, and after a year of relentless travel blogging & writing, I’m lucky enough to have 1% sponsored by kind travel companies. To fund my travels, I save relentlessly. You can read my practical money saving tips in detail, but I’ll tell you this: shopping and partying are the two single biggest expenses for most 20-40 year olds I know, and I substitute the two together to travel to places I’ve never been before, in search of experiences I never knew existed. I also don’t own a credit card, which means I never buy anything (not even a flight ticket) with money I don’t already have.

Black Sea Turkey, Travel in Turkey, Travel the world

Lake Guzelyurt in Turkey. That new dress or a dip in this lake?

2. Addictions can pay.

At the time I quit my corporate job, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make a living. But if 4 years of college and 2 years of work taught me anything, it was that if you can make an income from what you love doing, you’ll never be poor. You probably know that I love to travel and write, but I have a third love, that for social media. In fact, that is an addiction, a notch above love! Shut me off from Twitter, Facebook and the online world for a day, and I’ll become grumpy and slowly start to wither (now I’m being dramatic). I’ve tried to give the otherwise unproductive addiction a positive spin. I start most days with reading Mashable, the BBC of social media news, and have become good enough at it for people to want to pay me for handling their company’s social media presence. You’ve probably heard how social networks are fast becoming gold for marketeers, so that’s a big market we’re talking about. I could go on, but my point is, I have found ways to earn money while doing what I enjoy, while retaining flexibility with my time as a freelancer. It’s the same with my travel writing. The scenario might seem far fetched to you now, as it did to me until last year, but if you really want it, you’ll find a way to make it happen. It will only be fair to confess here that as a freelancer, your income inflow could be very, very erratic, as my bank balance will suggest, and that’s just something you need to have the heart to live with.

travel the world, live to travel, saving for travel

Saving for a rainy day or cherishing a rainy day? Photo by Kasia.

3. To Google costs nothing.

Anyone who thinks it is too expensive to travel hasn’t made friends with Google search. Think of Google as a molten lave chocolate cake; the deeper you dig, the more satisfying the outcome! Lurking behind that first page or that paid ad are tons of good flight deals and travel sales that’ll save you precious money. Facebook fan pages and Twitter feeds of airlines, hotels, guest houses, tourism boards, travel companies, are forever brimming with special offers and contests. These contests are how I have afforded a stay at Nikoi Island in Indonesia, a return flight to Europe, and most recently, a return flight to Turkey, and these special offers are how I afford most of my travels without going bankrupt (sometimes close enough).

Nikoi Island, Indonesia, traveling world

At Nikoi Island. The first ever travel contest I won.

4. Priorities make all the difference.

Since the day I started working on a corporate payroll, I have wondered why people who have held a corporate job all their life claim they don’t afford to travel much at all. Where does that fat paycheck, every single month, vanish? I didn’t get kind glances when I asked. Saving for the wedding. Saving for a house. Saving for kids. Saving to move to a better place. Saving for retirement. Saving for the future. Heck, when are you going to live, I would think in my head. The truth is, there is no end to saving, no end to desire, no end to the bigger & the better. At the end of the day, it all boils down to your priorities. If travel is what you want to do, none of these should be in your way. They definitely aren’t in mine. And yet, to not have any savings at all can be a scary thought. I’ve often wondered what I’d do if one day, I don’t want to travel or write anymore, or worse still, if I can’t. I’ve pieced together what I call a ‘fall back’ fund, one that I can fall back on if such a day comes, and one that I can comfortably live off for 3 months. Within that time, I anticipate that I’ll get my act together and crawl my way out of the situation.

Go Turkey, Travel in Turkey, Trip to Turkey

Sunset over the Black Sea in Turkey, or climbing the corporate ladder? Your call.

5. There is no such thing as petty work.

Something we in India can really learn from the west is the dignity with which they do everything, from manual work to other blue collar jobs. There is nothing wrong with any kind of work, as long as you do it willingly. And it really takes getting out on the road, in other countries, to adopt that line of thinking. The road can put so much into perspective. That feeling you get when you find yourself overwhelmed at the kindness of people you didn’t even know a minute before, or when you lose your way and stumble on a freshwater lake surrounded by mountains with not a soul in sight. Those moments make you wonder whether having a stable career really matters. Those moments liberate you in a way that is hard to put down in words. And if you must keep a blue collar job to find the flexibility or the money to make such moments possible, then so be it. It is my dream to be on the road for several months at a stretch and work while I travel, keeping jobs that let me meet new people, perhaps as a receptionist (any offers?), and take the challenge to sustain myself financially on such work and my blog alone. But I digress…

Go Turkey, Travel in Turkey, Trip to Turkey, Kastamonu

Kastamonu in Turkey. Who wouldn’t want to work in a city that looks this pretty?

If you’ve ever wondered where it is that people find the money to travel extensively, maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board, evaluate your priorities, dissect your life, and start living in the present, doing what you love most. The future can wait.

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What is your biggest challenge to affording your next trip & how are you going to tackle it?

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Also read:

Saving Money For Travel: 9 Practical Tips.

The Story of How I Quit My Job to Travel.

Dealing With Travel-Wary Indian Parents.

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For more travel stories, photos & tips, join The Shooting Star on Facebook & Twitter.

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69 Comments Post a comment
  1. Wow Shivya, I absolutely enjoyed reading every bit of this post, especially #1, 4, and 5. I travel a lot and all my friends always say how they want to join me, yet they’ll be partying non-stop, buying those thousand dollar bags and shoes, and then come to me and say they can’t afford it. By now I’ve come to accept that travel isn’t on everyone’s priority. I’m at that tender age where everyone’s having babies, getting married, buying a house, and everything else in between. 60% of what I earn goes to my “travel fund”. The rest are for bills & necessities.

    July 20, 2012
    • Thank you :-) I know what you mean, I’m not quite at that age yet, but it is slowly starting, and sometimes I shut Facebook just for that. I’m slowly trying to make peace with the fact that different people really do have different priorities. I have intended this post to give people something to think about, and if travel a is a priority, then to try to convince them of the possibilities with my own journey. Thanks for stopping by!

      July 21, 2012
  2. excellent read! We have travelled a lot in 20s and now in 30s too, result we are yet to own a flat/place to live- almost a must have today at 30s. Family gets confused on such not-have’s and friends look at us with suspicion whether we don’t have any priorities..
    anyway, may be we will fall into the pressure as we are also parents of a child and we need to be so called sensible and responsible parents but truly speaking the places we have travelled gives us so much cosy memories and comfort that are no less than the comfort of having a place to live.

    July 20, 2012
    • Thanks Chandrima! Wow, it is really inspiring to hear that you’ve made it into your 30s with this kind of life. Hang in there, don’t succumb to the pressures!

      July 21, 2012
  3. JJ #

    Loved the post. I’m a bit like you, very careless about money , thats what others say :D
    Haven’t yet found the way to quit the job like you but trying in a rather aimless way. I had actually met someone in Mcleodganj who had quit his high paying job in a MNC to open a small tourist lodge. It was hard work for 3 years but it paid off and the guy is living a content life now.

    July 21, 2012
    • Thanks JJ =) Whoa, I think I’ve read about this guy. Is he the one who also runs a small organic store? Can’t remember the name now, but it’s always inspiring to hear of people living their dreams. I recently read this article – http://www.livemint.com/2012/07/13205411/Living-the-dream.html – which talks about how living the dream has more to do with contentment than money or what is deemed success. Excellent read.

      July 21, 2012
      • JJ #

        No organic store. His lodge is in Gallu Ka Mandir. The junction where one trail goes to Triund and another to that waterfall. I had stumbled there while roaming around in rain.

        BTW, I need your advice about trekking gear. I’m going to Spiti next month for 10-12 days. Any recommendation about gear, buy or rent ? I’d love some camping under the stars

        July 21, 2012
        • Haven’t heard of him then. Maybe next time I go that way! Ah, I’m not the best person to ask about trekking gear, I was mostly hitchhiking in Spiti. Try google?

          July 21, 2012
  4. As always an excellent read. I recently read this book about how to travel full time, and wanted to share it with you in case you have not come across this before. I am sure you know many of the ‘tricks of the trade’, still you might find this useful.

    July 21, 2012
    • Thanks Abhinav! I’ll try to get my hands on the book, but generally books like these only make me want to stop reading and start travelling. I guess that’s the intention :)

      July 21, 2012
  5. Great article Shivya. I’ve always wanted to know about the finance aspect of traveling but didn’t dare to ask you because its something of a personal question! I am still a college going student who enjoys and yearns for traveling, especially the countryside, so these tips will sure come in handy. Oh btw this was my first read on your blog and surely wont be the last one! Cheers.

    July 21, 2012
    • Welcome to The Shooting Star :-) I wish someone had told me all of this in college, or I had made an effort to find it, haha. Good luck & hope to see you on the road someday!

      July 21, 2012
  6. Inspiring article shivya….but still don’t have the guts to chuck my job and be like a free bird :)

    July 21, 2012
    • Thanks Sunil, I’m sure someday you’ll find the heart to do it (and I hope it’ll be soon)!

      July 21, 2012
  7. tht’s a soul-searching piece and thought provoking- good one shivya

    July 22, 2012
  8. Malavika #

    Very inspiring, Shivya. I did pretty much the same thing around a year ago- quit my job to travel and pursue interests closer to my heart. Sometimes I find myself questioning my decisions, but I suppose life is all about trying new things. Your post reaffirmed my faith. Thanks :)

    July 23, 2012
    • That’s awesome Malavika, my chance to be inspired by you. Would love to catch up sometime & hear more about what you’ve been upto. I haven’t questioned my decision yet, maybe because it’s only been less than a year, though I hope it’ll never come to that :) Quite love my life right now!

      July 23, 2012
  9. Good luck and best wishes Shivya.

    July 23, 2012
  10. This is a good post to learn a few things! Though I am not a shopper, I can’t resist buying art, which leaves me without money most of the time. But then, my two loves are looking at art and traveling, and I try to shuffle between both!

    July 23, 2012
    • What’s life without indulgence in these passions? ;)

      July 23, 2012
  11. Thanks, enjoyed reading this, especially the part “The road can put so much into perspective. That feeling you get when you find yourself overwhelmed at the kindness of people you didn’t even know a minute before, or when you lose your way and stumble on a freshwater lake surrounded by mountains with not a soul in sight. Those moments make you wonder whether having a stable career really matters. Those moments liberate you in a way that is hard to put down in words.” So true.

    I’ve also resigned from a corporate job a few years ago and still trying to figure out between making money & traveling. For now whenever I run out of money, I try to find short-term project-based work related to my old job. I don’t love it but it gets the necessary funding for living & traveling the next few months.
    Greetings from Indonesia!

    July 26, 2012
  12. Nice write up…

    Loved to read it again, the section 4. Priorities make all the difference :)
    Priorities, Its the matter of convincing yourself and parents/family?

    August 4, 2012
  13. An absolute delight to read your thoughts on life, travel and money. Happy to know that there are people in this world who believe in spending the money that they actually have and not the income they have not yet earned. :)

    September 6, 2012
  14. Shivya – props for giving it a go. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for you as a young Indian woman with the expectations of your family, friends, and the culture. Keep pushing and don’t give up. You’ve got a good thing here.

    September 28, 2012
    • Thanks Scott, I’ve never looked back once :) Still getting used to the instability of income flows though!

      September 28, 2012
    • Thanks Scott, I’ve never looked back once :) Still getting used to the instability of income flows, but that’s a small trade off for having a life you’ve always wanted.

      September 28, 2012
  15. great to see such enthusiasts.. really requires guts to get out of job and follow what you really like to do.. but as you rightly said, everything falls in place when you do what you love..

    all the best for life and keep discovering.. :)

    October 12, 2012
    • Shivya #

      Thanks! And welcome to The Shooting Star! Hope to have you travel with my virtually :)

      October 14, 2012
  16. hello Shivya… the name by itself is a divine and you are true follower of your Destiny… I was just goin thru all the premium bloggers of Blogadda…and I’m very much INSPIRED with your post above…

    I second Priya Sreeram’s point that its a soul-searching piece… and I can EXPERIENCE your inner-mind how you have written and actually how you have started your JOURNEY (literally :) )

    I was just reminded about Paulo Cohello’s The Alchemist(guess you have read) and can relate your journey to that…

    My heart-felt wishes to you to follow YOUR DESTINY…

    October 12, 2012
    • Shivya #

      I loved the Alchemist, though back when I read it, I didnt even know where to start or what dream to follow. I guess we all have that moment in our lives when the dots in the past start connecting and the conspiracy of the universe becomes evident :)

      Thanks for dropping by! Hope to see you hear often.

      October 14, 2012
  17. mayank #

    Loved it:-D

    October 19, 2012
    • Thanks Mayank, hope it’s useful too!

      November 25, 2012
  18. Aah,admire your spirit Shivya!
    My motto like yours is that if you want it badly enough, you will find a way. Only I realised that a bit late in life. Wish I had your insight and the opportunities when I was your age! Desparately trying to make up for lost time now :-)
    Happy travels, no matter where life takes you!

    November 20, 2012
    • I wish I had found the “way” a few years ago too, but I guess it’s better late than never :) Hope to bump into you on the road sometime!

      November 20, 2012
  19. hey shivya

    really enjoyed this practical,helpful and honest post. keep those posts going

    January 23, 2013
  20. I see that you are extremely passionate (if this word can accurately describe the extremity of it) about what you do…

    January 31, 2013
  21. Hi Shivya,

    Your Blogs are really motivating, I follow you on Facebook and everyday it makes me more passionate about my travelling. I am a teacher by profession and whenever there is a vacation, I pack my bags to explore. Just wanted to convey that I enjoy reading your write ups.

    Regards

    February 28, 2013
  22. Great post; especially loved the pictures and their comments :) Dip in the lake over new dress indeed! :) We’ve saved up and are finally travelling long term, definitely feels amazing.

    March 10, 2013
    • PS I’m from Bahrain and loved reminiscing via your Bahrain posts.

      March 10, 2013
  23. Hey! We’d make soul mates:) my wife and I are travel freaks, we have done stuff that would be nightmares for most. 15 years ago, we took a short cut and deviated from the trekkers path in Nepal through dense forests at the peak of the maoist insurgency. I think that experience sort of sealed our destinies and we have never given up on that love of travel. Now we have 3 rowdy kids in tow, all below 6, but that doesnt deter us from anything. It sure takes a lot more planning, but a true traveller knows there is only so much we can plan for. We did Indonesia last year with three small backpacks and a stroller, stayed in a tiny village in banyuwangi, went snorkelling, trekked to the ijen crater at midnight (that was me alone though), and visited the bromo volcano, using every single transport on the land- ferry, train, bus, flight, taxi and even hitched rides. It is the most satisfying feeling in the world.

    Will follow you for long! Can you give me one good travel idea for next month- sikkim maybe, or a road trip in himachal? yeah, with the kids….thanks and cheers!

    March 31, 2013
  24. Hi Shivya, you are inspired! Living your dream is the best way to live & an investment in yourself (versus things). My question is are you on the road constantly & how do you cope when you come ‘home’, crash with the parents? I’ve done many, many trips & lived on 4 continents & I find the hardest part is starting again in ‘normal life’ ie. getting assimilated back to a job and daily routine with the view of making more ca$h to travel. I suppose it was a different time when I started as there was no social media and Googling not mainstream until the early noughties so did everything through a travel agent, Lonely Planet guides & simply getting local advice (I’ve been trekking solo since ’95, age 15!). Digital nomads earning $$ on the road have only been a thing for around 5 years – do you want to have a base from which to travel, possibly 10 years in to the future?

    June 10, 2013
    • Trekking solo since 15? Wow. That’s really quite something. Can’t wait to hop on to your blog after this reply ;)

      I’m on the road every chance I get, but I still keep my place in Delhi and pay rent – and lately I’ve started asking myself why. I think it’ll be so liberating not having a place to come back to (my excuse to stay here is getting work done and earning some $$ before my next trip, and since I run a business too, doing meetings that can actually be done online). I’m working on it. Let’s see where it leads me!

      June 10, 2013
  25. Anmol Ahlawat #

    Awsum shivya ..Wish to do the same in my vacations.

    June 23, 2013
  26. Ajanta Roy Chaudhury #

    Hi, Shivya… My name is Ajanta. I am 25 years old. All I want you to know is you are a gem. So keep shining.
    When I was reading about your adventures, I went “rainbow” with envy (‘green’ alone cannot define how envious I felt). But after I read your take on saving and spending money, I swelled with satisfaction, so much so, that I looked like an inflated hot-air balloon for the moment. The reason why your words touched the core of my heart is because I too feel the same way as you do, I have always felt the same for as long as I can remember. I too quit my job this year in the month of January, I had saved around 2 lakhs by slogging my posterior off in BPO’s. And I just packed my bags and went to Chail, Shimla and finally McLeod Ganj. I had decided to stay there until I was broke, and that’s exactly what I did. When I came back, I had no money left but I felt so happy that I could only smile when people called me a fool for doing what I did. My ex-bosses called me “unprofessional”, my peers called me a lunatic, and mom almost fainted… But hey, I didn’t feel like complaining then and I don’t do that even today… Those were the best days of my life. And I absolutely agree with you about the shopping and partying bit. My peers used to make fun of my same old slippers and same old pair of jeans. But I hardly bothers me. If I have the money ,I’d be too happy to buy a bus ticket and go some place instead of buying a new pair of jeans. When I was reading through your website, I felt like you are someone I have known for a long time, you put down in words my deepest secrets. Right now I am looking for a job where I can do what I love to do the most, travel and write, and read all the books in the world that I can lay my hands on….
    Please pray for me, I want all the good wishes that I can get to keep going. And for you, my dear, I just pray that once you have set your foot on every place on earth, may god give you wings so you can fly to the moon and back. Thanks a million, billion, trillion, zillion, dandelion (and whatever comes after that or rhymes well) for inspiring me…. God bless you…

    August 13, 2013
  27. Suraj #

    Hi Shivya,
    Excellent post! I have read this post many times & each time it convinces me to quit my job :) .
    Have one question for you, do you any plans for your old age (I wish you don’t age :) ) .Because there is time in our lives in which we can’t make any income, do you have any plans for saving for those days

    September 1, 2013
  28. HI Shivya,
    I asked this question in another blog post and this was the first thought that came to my mind. This post answers it all. Remarkable piece of writing.

    Thanks
    Rajeev

    December 28, 2013
  29. Neil ishwar s #

    Hats off to your bravery really inspiring I really got inspiration by reading how you afford travelling, how you save money to fulfil your passion of travelling:-)

    January 7, 2014
  30. Is it crazy to want to just throw your life in a backpack, grab your car keys and go as far as you can starting where ever you end up stopping? Society has it’s money noose around my head, tightening with each jerk and struggle. Your posts tell me the dream I know to be free is free. I want to take it. I don’t want to ask questions anymore, and second guess the passion I feel towards this sort of freedom. I’ve only read two posts, but I’m loving your love for life; and I concur from the other side of the glass that your mountains and fresh water lakes sound much more appetizing then my cubicle clad prison cells.

    February 13, 2014
  31. Sundar mahadevan #

    Hi Shivya, one important take away from your blog for all…’live life your way, draw your destiny ‘. You chose to travel and should say you are doing great in this space…

    You’r a breed class apart for an indian women of your age….

    Travel & tourism is evolving as the next big industry. And as with earing your ‘BREAD’, you can always explore trading your travel GYAN with prospective travel agencies for a cost

    June 5, 2014
  32. vikash singh #

    Enjoyed reading your journey from corporate world to a nomadic life…i also want to do something like that But Now I am married (Hahaha….)…i will wait for my time till then you Keep Walking…..

    July 3, 2014
  33. Pramod #

    Nice article! I too enjoy travelling, but somehow I spend more than my budget to make the travel comfortable, which restricts to many of the places I want to travel. I have to be bill bryson to keep travel as my hobby and profession :). Good job Shivya.

    July 7, 2014

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