I’ve been asked how I afford to travel a million times and I’ll be asked a million more. But what bothers me is that each situation is so, so different. There are so many factors that go into my destinations and methods, and so much planning and saving. No, money does’t grow like grass in my backyard and no, I don’t have a rich dad who pays for everything. Yes, I fund everything, gasp, myself. Yes, I’m actually probably more broke than you. But I choose this lifestyle because I think it’s worth the risks that are associated with it.
I have issues saying no to adventures and enjoy a good meal or drink, yes, which may or may not be my downfalls. But behind any crazy expectation you may have of someone with my lifestyle, I’m actually your general frugal twenty-something making her way through life.
Many of you follow me on instagram and constantly see exotic photos of crazy places, but behind the pretty colors are actual jobs most of the time. I know it may seem like I’m never working, but that’s where you are wrong. I actually spent nearly all of 2016 working, just in three different jobs in three different places with adventures along the way. I’ve been hopping between working and budget traveling for over two years now, and am beginning to figure out the grueling process of monetizing my blog. But I digress.
When I first moved to London, just over 2 years ago!
If you aren’t too familiar with my life, allow me to go into a very short summary (with links to blog posts if you want to get more into it) to precede some explanation of it that you’ve all been waiting for:
I graduated from UCLA in December 2014, and moved to London in January 2015, pretty much without a plan. I used money I saved from working during my last years of college, and saved up enough for a few months rent. I was solo and had an interesting time making friends and finding work, but made the most out of London!
I lived and worked in London until June, applying for summer jobs like mad. In June I went over to Croatia for my first season as a tour guide on sailing tours for the entire summer. I then went home to California for a bit before leaving for a two month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia with my best friend. After the new year I entered Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, and traveled around for a month before settling in Manly Beach, Sydney for five months working as a waitress.
In June I went back to Europe, visiting some family before starting my second summer season working in Croatia. After Croatia I went straight back to Australia but this time a few hours outside of Perth, working in a little farm town to complete my ‘farm work’ to extend my visa by another year. My 88 days ended on Christmas eve, when I spent the holidays with friends in and around Perth. After the new year I went back to California to spend the longest time at home since 2014, catching up with family and friends (and ending up on multiple mini-trips… a trip to Kauai with my parents on their timeshare they brought me on, one to Mammoth with a friend, one to SF to visit friends, and one to Iceland for 6 days on a trip with friends we have had planned a while on budget tickets. See? I can’t say no to anything and go broke in the process).
As I publish this I am preparing for another lengthly trip around Africa for two months, before roaming around Europe for a few weeks before my third season working in Croatia.
So without further ado, here is my best explanation of the ways I have afforded to travel as much as I have in the past few years.
I actually put my camera on top of a trash can on self timer for this one. Solo travel ftw!
Applying to a Million Jobs
Find me in a cafe perusing gumtree, craigslist, indeed, linkedin, and other country-specific job sites looking for and applying to suitable opportunities whenever I enter a new place that I want work. Find me literally stalking companies I want to work for and emailing their HR people. And I’m generally talking travel companies who have opportunities that align with the lifestyle I want for myself, or at least jobs that allow me to move around.
In London and Sydney, I applied to a billion jobs before I got any, and I found my farm work job through a friend just a few weeks before flying out to Australia. But, it all always falls together. Life just seems to work that way. In London I worked 3 or 4 different jobs at different times, in hospitality and sales, alternating my availability. In Sydney I think I brought my CV to 10 different restaurants and applied to just as many jobs online. Before I got my job with Topdeck (in Croatia), I emailed a zillion similar companies, checked back to their job postings literally weekly, and applied as soon as I got the chance. Which brings me to my next point!
Working for a Travel Company
This is a big one. Like, a massive one. When I got my job with Topdeck Travel while living in London, I was inducted into a global company with worldwide travel opportunities. When I was just a wee little expat living in London and dreaming of having a summer travel job in Europe, Topdeck was a big goal of mine. When their “Croatia Sailing Rep” job popped up on their site with a minimum application age of 23, I applied anyway at 22…. and ended up getting the job. This opened up a new world for me.
Being able to work my summer living on a boat in Croatia is practically what my dreams are made of. On instagram it of course looks like I sit on deck sipping cocktails all day (which is partly true 😉 ) but the hustle with this job is just as hard as, but very different than, other jobs. You basically pay for the lifestyle in lack of sleep, stupid questions, alcohol tolerance, and living on a boat isn’t as glamorous as it seems. I could go way into this, but I’ll keep it simple. I wouldn’t trade this life for the world and am actually able to save up a LOT of money during my Croatian summers… enough to fund my travels for sure. This job allows me to travel a lot through Europe on my weeks off, and all in all allows for a lot of movement and being outside – which are two things I crave.
Secondly and almost more importantly, being an employee with Topdeck allows me to capitalize on employee benefits on their other tours (read: best job perks EVER). I’m not ordinarily a massive tour person, but you best believe I’m not going to say no to a 70-75% discount on tours they have in five of the seven continents. My month traveling through Australia was on a Topdeck tour (the longest one they had) at 70% off, and my 40 day Africa tour will be at 75% off through Topdeck…. I know. It would be rude not to!
I’m like a preschool teacher, except my pupils are drunk adults. Quite similar, really 😛
I was lucky enough to witness this natural miracle on my Tour around Australia with Topdeck, Jan 2016
Making use of Working Holiday Programs/Visas
There are so many countries where you can get a visa and actually work while there, Australia being the most obvious of these. It depends massively on what country you’re from and where you want to go, but there is always a way. Trust me on that. Even if you just work in a hostel or a workaway in exchange for accommodation and food, that enables you to stay on the road much longer and work while traveling.
Of course I made great use of the working holiday visa in Australia (high minimum wage, hayyy ohhhh) and will probably do this in other countries as I go on… New Zealand is on the list for sure.
Making Connections All Over the World /Staying with Friends/Homestays
As any other backpackers can confirm, you meet LOTS of people while traveling. Tons. And in the traveling situation, it is much easier to connect with people because backpackers as it is must already be a certain type of person. Being a tour guide allows me to meet 20-30 new people each week, some of which I obviously connect with on a higher level than others. I have made SO many lifelong friends while traveling, many of which have kindly opened up their homes to me while I was coming through their cities.
The traveling community is understanding and giving, and has such an incredibly pervasive ‘traveler-helping-traveler’ attitude. I’ll stay with you in your city, you stay with me in mine. Many of us get joy from showing travelers around our cities, and will be so grateful at friends showing us around their city. But anyway, as you travel, you make so many friends who you can end up staying with as you go. Just make sure to always be open to new friendship while traveling and connect with others – just say hi!
Couchsurfing is also always an option (again, the traveler-helping-traveler vibe) and there are always homestays available in the homes of genuine people who enjoy to help out and share stories.
I have made such amazing friends and met such incredible people on the road I could cry!
Budget Hostels – I’m Talking 16 Bed Dorms
I always stay in hostels. I sometimes treat myself to a smaller room, but the reality is that I’m in the cheapest room possible wherever I go. Like, top bunk with 16 other sleeping bodies in close proximity to one another. At least 2 of them are usually snoring, one is coughing, and at least 4 get home drunk at 4am and occasionally have the audacity to turn the light on. I’m not in fancy hotel rooms or any of that snazzy stuff unless maybe I’m in a crazy cheap place like Southeast Asia. Night busses, flights, and trains save a night of accomodation, and if I’m ever in an apartment its always because its cheaper splitting with friends.
But, as many of you may know, hostels are one of my favorite atmospheres in the world and I adore their social and inclusive qualities.
The ‘common room’ of one of my hostels in Pai, Thailand. We slept in a 28 bed straw hut that night, and i had to climb a ladder to my little bed!!
Saving Money – I’m Talking SAVING. Like, I Don’t Spend Money. Ask Any of My Friends.
This is probably the main one. No gym memberships, no fancy cocktails, no massive nights out spending, no going out to eat. And if I do go out, I’m attempting to have a smaller portion and then going home and raiding the cupboard. I shop at Aldi and Lidl, I’m all about any kind of sale, and I basically finagle the hell out of everything to save money. I’m even cheap, if you will. But I have a long way that I want my money to go and I intend to stretch it there. There are of course a few things I tend to spend money on (hello, festivals) and my friends know this. I try to only spend money when its something I legitimately need. I’m not saying that sometimes I don’t legitimately need a beer (ha) but generally it greatly pains me when I’m required to attend a group dinner and fork out $40.
I saved money while living in London, and I saved while living in Sydney and Perth. I save lots in Croatia. Hell, I save everywhere – even in cities where people say it’s impossible. Hint: it’s not. I live quite a simple lifestyle while abroad – I never have a car; I usually locate myself a bike and/or walk everywhere. Having jobs that cover my accommodation and food (Croatia/Perth) have helped a lot.
Insurance has been hard but I usually buy travel insurance or live in countries where I am automatically covered with my Brit passport, aka Australia and the UK. (You should take a hint from this, America.)
This is Dennis and Roscoe, the two most dedicated regulars at the country pub I lived and worked at in the bush of Australia. They’d come in each evening and drink Swan Draught. (I mean, have you ever witnessed such an epic dread lock beard?!)
Iceland – I had coffee for breakfast this day, survived on trail mix and muesli bars all day, and had tomato soup for dinner. PS – this is the continental divide between Europe and North America. See more Iceland pics on my instagram!
Not Taking Care of What Some Consider Basic Needs
This is half joking but half not. My hair is often gross and split, but a haircut is not what I need to be spending money on right now.
My makeup is all from CVS (a basic drugstore) on coupons my mom collects- nothing fancy at all. I don’t even bring eye shadow with me on the road and I think I went 6 months without eyeliner last year after I lost mine!
There are probably a few reasons I should go to the doctor, but I’m fairly sure I’ll survive. I 100000% need glasses, but I think I can see well enough to get by.
Things like this are being put to the wayside at this point in my life to spend these years exploring. Some may consider this stupid, but I’m going to Africa in two weeks, so I’m alright with it.
Blogging and Blog Exchanges
I’ve casually spent the last two years building my blog, and the last four building up my social media following. So, kindly excuse me for being able to finally reap some benefits of an actual shit ton of hard, uncompensated work! Adventures & Sunsets is my labour of love, and is practically my life. I intend to take it much farther that it is right now… but becoming a successful blogger is a massive goal for me to dedicate myself to work towards.
I’m currently at the beginning stages of monetization… it’s hard when I am also usually working more than full time (I have zero free time in Croatia and had a broken computer for months). But at this point I have enough social capital and marketing opportunities to offer brands, hostels, adventure companies, festivals, and tourism boards that they are happy to work with me on an exchange basis or basic payment scheme. In exchange for photos, social media posts, mentions in my blog, blog posts, or other content creation, companies will host me for free. It does’t pay the bills (yet) but it definitely enables opportunities I could not otherwise get.
Behind the scenes… thanks mum for capturing me at my purest self (this sunset pic turned out rad by the way… it’s on my instagram!)
Being a happy little clam at my first sponsored festival… Southbound hosted me in exchange for a 17 category festival review that I write for all festivals I attend. Read any of them here.
I haven’t done much freelancing, but I’ve been able to scrape up a fair amount of extra money through random freelance jobs for different companies usually involving photography or writing.
Guys, I literally get all my clothes from garage sales. It’s my mum and my absolute favorite pastime. On weekend mornings when I’m home, we arise at the crack of dawn to attend estate and garage sales (which she finds through apps she has) and peruse through zillions of used clothes, shoes, jewelry, and anything and everything in between. I would put a bet on the fact that at least one article of clothing I am wearing at any given time is from a garage sale. Any of my friends know this, and have probably been garage sailing with mum and I!
Garage sales are generally an absolute crap shoot, and you will find absolutely nothing some days and get an entire new wardrobe for $1 the next, but that’s the fun in it. You find the quirkiest and craziest items, have a great time doing it, and honestly find a lot of great clothes. Plus, I’m determined to fashion my entire Burning Man wardrobe from garage sales this year 😛
Other than this, I rarely shop unless I am spiritually moved to purchase something for some reason or another. Fine, this probably happens a few times per trip, but you generally won’t find me spending money on clothes unless its either really cheap, necessary for my travels, or again, it calls me on a spiritual level (Girls – you know what I mean 😛 ).
I have actually had a few massive garage sales myself (and am having one this weekend… message me if you are in OC because I’m practically selling everything I own!) which have helped me save a surprising amount of money for travels as well!
Shorts? Top? Garage sales. These black shorts were probably $1 and have been on every backpacking trip with me.
bathing suit? found by mum at a garage sale.
All workout clothes found at garage sales. We even recently found a pair of new nike running shoes at one. I aaaalways find cute yoga pants too!
Staying at Home in Between Trips
I stay at home with my parents, in the house I grew up in, whenever I am home. My parents are incredibly supportive and have become appreciative of the time I’m home since I started traveling two years ago. My mother is an absolute goddess and makes me amazing food, and my dad (although militarily ingrained to expect a stable career from his daughter) has finally come around to my lifestyle and worries much less about my well-being after I have proven my abilities to sustain myself. My mother did something similar with her life when she was in her twenties, so I blame it on her! More about my parents later.
Budget Airlines / Bussing
I get from point A to B in the cheapest way possible, which is usually by bus. If it’s by air, its RyanAir or its sketchy international equivalent. I try to have a carry-on only when applicable, and pack snacks for the plane always.
Benefits I Have Been Blessed With and Am Making the Most Out Of
So for my entire time blogging, I have been reluctant, almost guilty to tell the world about these two things because I’m so passionate about making travel accessible to everyone. But now it’s time I finally tell you guys about two massive things that enable my lifestyle. But before you immediately attribute everything to just these two things, realize that it’s a massive combination of everything I have mentioned and that I most likely would have found a way to live this lifestyle with or without these things.
A British Passport
My Mum’s British; half of my family is over there. I spent my youth going back and forth from the UK visiting family, and have had a British Passport since a young age. (Fun fact: I grew up in California but I actually had a British accent until I went to preschool; my dad worked a lot during my early years and I quickly picked up the British accents of my mum and nana – it was finally quashed by picking up the American accents of my preschool classmates!) Anyway, growing up in the US, I never really had a chance to fully get in touch with the British half of my heritage.
Jump forward to my last year of college when I was trying to decide what the hell to do with my life. I had the desire to connect with my British half, I had the passport… why not move to London if I don’t know what I’m doing anyway? My time in London was the segway to the lifestyle I am still pioneering, and it enabled me to learn a lot about myself while exploring my heritage and seeing a lot of family.
The Brit passport has been invaluable while traveling… I really don’t want to talk about Brexit and it’s possible implications on my traveling, but I suppose I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
This is an unbelievable benefit in my life, but the way I see it is that if I have the passport, it would be silly not to make use of it and explore that part of myself.
Both passports, in all their glory
This is about half an hour from where my uncle lives in Wales.
My Parents Both Worked for American Airlines
This is another massive one. Please don’t pre-judge me. This is another huge travel benefit I would be actually be insane not to make use of…. so I do. A lot. This means I go standby on most flights I take, which are always on American Airlines if travel routes permit it.
AA doesn’t fly everywhere (and is the only airline I get discounts on), so oftentimes I take a standby American Airlines flight at minimal cost to the next most convenient location to buy flights from.
(For example, when I needed to get to Perth, I flew from LAX to the nearest AA city, Sydney, and bought flights from there. When I needed to get home from Perth, I flew through the cheapest AA city to get to from Perth, Hong Kong, and stood by from there. I had to spend a few days there but naturally I was stoked on that.)
Standby means that, if there’s an extra seat on the plane, I can take it. There is a big complicated hierarchy to standby travel, though, and when I turned 24 last year I was demoted to the very last priority. However, by being smart, planning travel in a specific way, and constantly having flexible travel dates, I can pretty much always get myself to the destination I need by the time I need to be there (with a lot of help from my standby/general flight wizard mother). Sometimes I get stuck in airports for hours or in cities for days, but it’s a small price to pay for affordable air travel.
This is honestly something I have felt the most guilty about admitting. But I’m sure I would have still lived this way had the situation been different, but perhaps with less hemisphere swapping and more staying in one place for longer. And I must say that oftentimes my friends have found cheaper RT flight deals than I have had to pay for standby fees. I probably would have become a flight deal wizard or something if not for my airline employee parents… But hey, again… always make use of what you’ve got. Would be rude not to.
So there you have it. I work totally random jobs in different places and online to save up money for my journey. I fly cheaply when I can and arrange tours and accommodation at a fraction of the price if anything in exchange for more work. I don’t spend thaaaaaat much money on unnecessary things (at least I try) and I focus my life on seeing more places and attaining new experience rather than material things. Unless you consider plane tickets material things… in that case, I want those.
So I hope this has explained it, guys. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think, if you have any more questions, or if I can explain anything further. I‘m still a massive advocate of the fact that everyone can travel, and I would love to help you out if you are planning a trip. When you organize your life around the lifestyle you want, things start falling into place… Mine are still falling, will not be fully in place for a long time. In fact, I legit might go broke in the next 3 months before I get back to Croatia (its been more expensive catching up with friends at home than I thought… and Iceland wasn’t affordable whatsoever). But then again, for all I know I might die tomorrow… and I would rather die doing what I love than saving up for a ‘someday’ that might not even come. Follow those dreams, make it work… if you keep believing it, it will be so 🙂
Help Kimmie Continue to Afford to Travel
PS – there are a few ways you can help me stay on the road. When I said I was at the beginning stages of monetization, one of the things I’ve been doing is learning how to implement certain strategies on my blog that allow me to make commissions from sales I make through affiliate links. This means that if you purchase a product through a link on my website, I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
So if you click on any of my sidebar ads, product links in blog posts, or what I have listed below, you could really help me out! One of my favorite affiliates is my Sandmarc Go Pro pole; you can see the ad on the right sidebar above.
You can also book Skyscanner flights through my sidebar widget as well, which is definitely the bet platform for comparing fares from over 30 travel sites.
Or you can just Paypal me some of your extra mula laying around at firstname.lastname@example.org lololol jk (but not really 😛 )
Need anything on Amazon?! It would be absolutely rad if you could purchase your items through this link below!! 🙂
Are you a budget traveler like me and want to see the best options for accomodation wherever you go? Book through my hostelworld link below. I legit use hostelworld EVERYWHERE I go because it conveniently lists hostels, apartments, b&b’s, and even hotels in each location, and you can sort them by location, price, ratings about a dozen different areas, recommendations, reviews, and much more. I always look for hostels on the hostelworld map and read all sorts of reviews and descriptions before making my final decision.
I’m actually really stoked I just got approved to be an affiliate of hostelworld, because I believe so wholeheartedly in their platform! I have the app too, and honestly don’t use anything else besides occasionally airbnb!
I have a few other affiliate partnerships in the works, but am still really figuring all this stuff out and am trying to focus on the partnerships I already have in the mean time! But I’m fairly content with this start.
How else can you help me?
Not here to help me?
All goooood, homie. I hope you at least gained some insight from this post, or some motivation to break away from the status quo!
(you can also help me by pinning this to pinterest!)