I get this question so often that I could launch into a speech explaining that traveling doesn’t need to cost much. In my case, I actually save money by traveling because I can live more cheaply in most countries than I could if I had stayed in Germany. Of course I need to work a bit, but who says you need to do this in the same country for all of your life?
I could expand on this, but sometimes, when someone tells me yet again how much they would love to see the world, if only they could afford it, I ask them to show me their phone. They pull out a fancy Samsung/Apple/something phone with touchscreen, camera, internet and so on, which cost them 550 $.
Then I pull out my phone and slam it on the table, explaining “that‘s the reason why I have been to 10 countries this year without working much.”
“How are these two things connected?” you wonder. I’ll tell you: This phone cost me 6 $ and I have had it since 2009. If you only buy a new iPhone every two years, you have spent at least 1,000 $ in that time. For the 994 $ which I saved, I can get enough plane tickets to fly around the globe.
You may have a monthly phone plan for 50 $, I charge my phone with 6 $ every month. By doing that, I save enough money every month for a cheap international flight or a train ticket across the country. That alone finances six return journeys a year. This March, I flew from Romania to Israel and return for 70 $ for example. Even my boat trip across the Atlantic next month will cost less than your phone did.
Of course, that’s just one example. I also spend less than 100 $ on clothes in a year – and yes, that includes the original Gabor hat I recently bought in Romania. Everything else, I buy from cheap or second-hand shops. As those of you who have met me can attest, I still look sharp. ;-)
Only with my shoes, I may be going a bit too far, literally. I fear they will fall apart soon.
My running shoes have even more holes, but I ran five half-marathons with them this year alone. Trust me, it’s really not the equipment or the gadgets that make you faster.
But we haven’t even started addressing the real money-wasters yet. Don’t get a girlfriend. Ok, seriously now: stay away from real estate and from cars.
This is my house
and this is my car.
Just kidding. Of course I would never buy a house or a car. I think of both as bottomless pits into which people throw their money. Cars are the worst. When I still had one, I used it maybe 5% of the time. The remaining 95% of the time, it took up space, cost insurance, taxes and repairs. Unless you drive all day and make deliveries with it, a car is the worst investment you can possibly make.
I will stop with the examples now because this article is not about clothes or phones or cars. It’s about priorities and about opportunity costs. Don’t go around complaining that you don’t have enough money to do A, if you prefer to spend/waste it on B! By the way, something similar applies to time.
And now we get to the real luxury. The funny thing is that by needing less money, I have so much more free time because I don’t need to work that much. That’s a real win-win situation, particularly if you have time-intensive hobbies which can be pursued relatively inexpensively, like traveling and reading in my case.
Whenever I see people toiling away at their desk or in their cubicle to save money to travel later, I wonder why they don’t quit their job or at least go part-time and travel now. Most of them are not really saving money to travel the world, instead they are working their ass off to make their landlord, their car dealer and the bank rich. If you want to save for a big dream, you have to really think about your priorities. On the train from Serbia to Romania, I met a young man from Tennessee who was on long journey around the world. He had saved for it for only one year, but in that one year, he had given up his apartment, moved back in with his parents, worked a lot, didn’t go out, didn’t get drunk and didn’t buy a new phone. “It sounds a hard thing to do for a 26-year old to move back to his parents’ house, but it wasn’t, because every day I thought of my trip around the world. I knew what I was doing it for.” In my experience, setting yourself a strict time limit for when you will shoulder your backpack and leave is important.
I don’t claim that everyone can do this. There are millions of people who don’t know how to fill their belly tonight. To them, all of this sounds like mockery. But if you can spend time reading my blog, it shows that you belong to the luckier part of the population. In that case, you can do it, too!