"How do ya'll afford to travel so much?"
By far one of the most asked questions that I receive is: "How do you afford to travel so much?" For a long time, I didn't understand the question. That's like asking someone how they afford children or a home or college. The short answer to all of those questions would be that you work your ass off. And, perhaps, I am so used to my life and my husband and I's choices, that my reaction has always been that of confusion... "Aren't we just doing what everyone else is doing?" Finding a passion. Whatever that may be. And, working hard and sacrificing everything for it.
I've never known how to properly answer the aforementioned question, because the answer always seemed so obvious to me: "We work really hard just like everyone else. We simply spend what we earn on travel." We don't own nice new cars. We don't have a personal mortgage. We travel instead. It seems simple enough, right? But, as I have thought about this more and more over the years, I suppose, as with most things in life, the full answer is a bit more complex. And, in reflecting on this topic, I realized that a few possibly unique factors have contributed to our ability to travel.
We live small day to day lives.
For starters our mindset has always been to live small and travel big. So, for example, our daily life might not look the same as other people's. I don't mean this because of the traveling. What I mean, is that the sacrifices and lifestyle choices that we make, maybe aren't as normal to others as they have come to be to me. We live small day to day urban lives. We walk almost everywhere, own one (old) car, rent a smaller one bedroom apartment, own about 8 pieces of furniture total, do our laundry in basement machines, rarely eat out, cook most of our own meals, eat a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, and make our own coffee every morning, opting out of the daily expensive Starbs lattes. Why, you might ask? Well, that's the answer that always seemed so obvious to me: to spend our hard earned money only on getting to do what we love. Why else?
On top of living simple, we work really hard, and we always have.
On top of living simple, we work really hard, and we always have. My husband and I both started working at very young ages (you can read his story here). Hard work is all that we know. In college, I worked 3 sometimes 4 jobs on top of my full-time course load to pay my own way through school. For the record, I still pay for my college monthly... Yay, only 20 years more to go on that investment. Do you know how many plane tickets I could have bought at this point, at least one a month! Insert face plant... Anyway... I digress... Back to the topic...
Before and during college, like so many others, I worked countless jobs I didn't like and some that I loved. You name it. I have done it (within reason of course). I have been a waitress, a nanny, a speech pathologist, a snowball stand girl (if you don't know what a snowball is you haven't been living)... the list goes on. Then, after college, I had more professional jobs like a construction manager, an architect, a graphic designer, a film art director, a marketing director...etc. And, like the rest of America, for years, I worked the typical 8-5 salary life that is actually more of a 8-10 life. At this point, I have pulled so many unpaid all nighters that it's absurd to think of now. But, all of these jobs served a single purpose in my life whether I realized it or not. I learned to work hard. really hard. And, more importantly, I learned to save, save, save... to travel.
Being our own bosses allows us the freedom to work remotely... from anywhere in the world.
In the end, all of that hard work and dedication paid off. Myself, along with my husband, took our earnings from our twenties and instead of spending it, we invested it. We continued to live small even after college. And, we took everything that we had and invested in our own digital companies and property developments. (Yep, I still work as an architect which is a huge love of mine. I just work for myself now.) All of the years of learning to jump through hoops and continuing to work hard weren't for not. And, if I am being honest, neither is that monthly bill from UCLA that comes in the mail. It all served a purpose, because now everything that we have learned and continue to learn gets translated back into our own business ventures. And, being our own bosses allows us the freedom to work remotely... from anywhere in the world.
Along with working hard, we also have a daily mindset that is perhaps more unique than I realized. You see, all of the living small compromises mentioned above have infiltrated our personal lives so greatly that at this point traveling is an active life choice that we make every day and in every decision whether abroad or not. It is a mindset and a way of life at this point. Every, and I do mean, EVERY, swipe of the credit card is weighed against the cost of a plane ticket. For example, imagine sitting at your computer, clicking away, and adding items to your shopping cart that you don't really need. Now, imagine emptying your cart, saving that money, finishing up your peanut butter sandwich, washing it down with your at home coffee, and then opening google flights to check the plane ticket market of the day instead.
Life is about finding what makes you happy and then doing everything that you can to keep that happiness flowing.
Well, that's me most mornings. You see, I am a firm believer that life is really all about finding what makes you happy, what works for you (whatever that may be), and then doing everything that you can to make that dream happen for yourself. And, for us, all of the personal choices, sacrifices, and hard work mentioned interweave together to allow us to continue to buy plane tickets. But, the sacrifices don't end there. Once we are abroad, there are countless questionable life choices that have been made in an effort to save money for the next adventure. In order to keep traveling, we continue to live small, work hard, and spend less even while abroad. So, for every pretty picture that makes traveling look luxurious, I have a crazy story of taking a questionable 36 hour bus ride just to not have to pay for two nights worth of a stay, or trying to sleep in a strange hostel filled with the loudest "snorers" on the planet, or sleeping alone on a rather dirty airport floor in Mexico (this one is still too soon to chat about).
The journey is often paved with a great deal of sacrifice.
All of these life compromises are weighed against the overall goal which is to keep traveling. So, every decision made is done to spend the least amount of money and to make the sacrifices when and where we can, for the trade off another adventure. Traveling can look expensive, but in my experience, it is actually quite affordable if you are willing to put in more work than the typical easy vacation. If you cut costs where you can, then that money can be put towards future travels, and, for us, that is all that matters. So, when traveling requires sacrifice and hard work, we have and continue to be willing to do it. Why? To put it simply, traveling is our dream. We just want to see a bit of the world before it grows dark. And, we have and continue to do anything we can to make that happen for ourselves over and over again.
Traveling is our dream, so everything we do is to make that happen.
So, why? Why am I sharing all of this? Well, instagram is this really strange place where only the "instagrammable" moments are shared. The moments of pure bliss and the photos that spark inspiration are an important part of the digital exchange. It is what gets me to double tap on other's photos as well. But, my goal with COH° has always been to fan the flame of wanderlust until it ignites action. And, that action will never happen, if traveling seems somehow unattainable or unaffordable or without sacrifice.
The truth is that I am no one special. I am just your average run of the mill gal. I didn't come from money. I am not some trust fund kid living big. And, I am not special for having seen the world. ANYONE can do it. It is not a luxury I have been afforded by the travel gods. I work my ass off and make traveling my priority. I am simply, a girl who knew what she wanted, worked really hard to get it, and continues to sacrifice anything necessary to keep it.
So, "How do you afford to travel so much?" Well, I think that's the wrong question. It isn't really about money at all. Anyone can afford an adventure here or there. The questions that should be asked are: "Why do you work so hard and sacrifice so much to travel? How can I do it too? And, is it all worth it in the end?"
And, if those questions were asked of me, without a doubt, my answer would be this:
'Do whatever you need to do for yourself and your dreams whatever they may be. Abandon the shopping cart, sell your car, live in a small place, eat peanut butter sandwiches, and sleep on airport floors if you have to. Feed your soul. Collect memories not things. And, work your ass off for what you want. Traveling, like all dreams, requires sacrifice. Plain and simple. But, in the end, all the hard work and compromises will unequivocally be worth it when you are seeing your dreams come to life from your own hard earned, front row window seat.'