"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. Working hard. Sacrificing everything for it.
I've never known how to properly answer the aforementioned question. It always seemed so obvious to me: "We work really hard just like everyone else. We simply spend what we earn on travel." 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 two possibly unique factors have contributed to our travels: one, being a shift in day to day lifestyle choices and mindset and the other being the willingness to make sacrifices and comprises for the trade off of the next adventure.
We live small day to day lives.
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 small 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 get to do what we love. Why else?
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). It's all that we know. In college, I worked three sometimes four jobs on top of my 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???? Sorry. I digress... Back to the topic...
After college, like so many others, I have worked countless jobs I didn't like and some that I loved. Like the rest of America, for years, I worked the wonderful 9-5 salary life that is actually more of a 9-9 - only getting paid for half of the work - OMG I am so burnt out life. I have pulled so many unpaid all nighters that it's absurd to think of now. But, all of that hard work and dedication paid off as we both took our earnings from our twenties and started our own digital companies in our thirties that now allow us to finally get to do what we have always dreamt of doing. We get to see a bit of the world before it grows dark.
All of the compromises and hard work mentioned have infiltrated our lives so greatly that at this point traveling is an always 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. 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.
And, even after the ticket is booked, the lifestyle choices, compromises, and hard work don't stop once on board the plane. Perhaps, that is the downfall of only sharing the "final, edited photos" from a travel experience. They can look rather luxurious at times; but, the truth is that often the journey to get there can be paved with a fair share of questionable life decisions. For every pretty picture that makes traveling look unobtainable, expensive, or glamorous, 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 loudest "snorers" on the planet, or sleeping alone on a rather dirty airport floor in Mexico... all in the name of adventure.
The journey is often paved with a great deal of sacrifice.
All of these potential compromises are weighed against the over all 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 doable if you are willing to put in a little more work. And, 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 require sacrifice and hard work, we have and continue to be willing to do it. Because, traveling is our dream and we want to live it long after we wake up.
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 others 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 am not some trust fund kid living big. I am just 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. The question that should be asked is: "How can I travel and live out my dreams too?" And, if that question was asked of me, without a doubt, my answer would be this:
Abandon the shopping cart. Do whatever you need to do for yourself and your dreams. 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 requires sacrifice. Plain and simple. But, in the end, all the hard work and sacrifices will always be worth it when you are holding the world in the palm of your hands rather than in your dreams.