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budget travel

Editorial

Some People Can’t Afford Travel (And That’s OK); Also, How I Funded My Move to Spain

March 27, 2015
Portuguese Ramparts, Essaouira Morroco

So I haven’t posted here since September. I’ll get to why that is later. (Spoiler alert: I’m just lazy as fuck.)

Anyway, I’ve been working on a piece about travel blogs and classism.

You always see these blogs by travel writers, talmabout how anyone can travel if they try, even if you’re poor. Bullshit.

In the piece, I talk a little about how I come from a relatively poor family. It’s true. I mean, we weren’t homeless poor, or “someone please call the social worker” poor. We just didn’t have a lot of disposable income. I remember one time, my brother needed to replace a $12 pair of shoes, and my mom didn’t have the money. That type of poor.

A Bird in Essaouira

A Bird in Essaouira

I couldn’t study abroad in college because it was hella expensive. I mean, a 4 week trip to South America was like $5000. Seriously? I had thought about studying abroad in college so many times, but the prices were just too much.

I never thought I would ever travel until I got to my 30s. I used to think that by my 30s, I’d have enough money to do something like go on a round the world trip. But last year, when I was working at non-profits in DC, I decided that I needed to leave. As New Year’s Eve 2013 turned into New Year’s Day, 2014, instead of going to the club, I was sitting on a bed in front of my Macbook doing research on teaching English in Spain. Living in DC and working in the non profit sector was not what I wanted to do. I was depressed. I need to start over, so I decided that in September I’d move to Spain and try something new. Why wait until my 30s? What if I don’t even make it until then? What if I do, and I realize that I should have broken free from my workaholic, office job dominated, unsatisfying, mediocre life back when I was younger?

So I decided to suck it up and just do it.

A cat in Essaouira

A cat in Essaouira

I got my passport less than two weeks later. And I started a savings plan.

Even though I lived in DC, my rent was relatively cheap, about $650/month. Between both my jobs, I made at least 36k a year. I took up all the extra hours I could at my 2nd job. Some months I didn’t have any days off at all. I was never really one for eating out or buying expensive things, so that was easy to save on. I believe I eventually was able to save about $2,500-$3,000 from January to September, which covered my flight, rent and security deposit, and just things I needed when moving in. But most importantly, I applied for two credit cards, and without them I wouldn’t have been able to survive here.

I wouldn’t have been able to afford to move here if I didn’t have a job lined up, credit cards, and jobs back home to help me save.It’s how I paid for my security deposit, my AirBnB while I was finding a place (that’s a referral link btw, get 25 euro free if you sign up with it), new clothes since I packed basically nothing, food, etc.

So if you have access to those things, or other things to fund your travel, then it’s possible. My issue is that many travel bloggers seem to insist that EVERYONE can travel no matter what their financial circumstances, and if you can’t you’re just making excuses.

There are real circumstances, both personal and economic, that keep people from having disposable incomes to travel. The same way that there are real circumstances that keep people from climbing out of poverty. Travel bloggers conveniently ignore this, and that’s why I say they’re classist.

(EDIT: Also poverty is very stressful on poor people. They need a vacation more than anyone else. But when you’re constantly thinking about bills, putting food on the table, etc, thinking about planning a vacation on top of all of that would just add more stress. )

Look, if you’re poor and you want to travel, look into it. I would suggest looking for ways to work or get free accommodation while traveling (like woofing). If you’re from certain countries you may be eligible for a working holiday visa in countries such as Australia. Teaching English is another option, though you have to have a Bachelors degree for that.  And of course if you got a job, you would have to get money for plane tickets, visas, and startup costs. Those things alone can be too much for people. Just a few years ago, it would have been impossible to afford the $160 visa that I needed for Spain.

The medina in Essaouira

The medina in Essaouira

But if it seems that you simply can’t afford it, it’s ok. Really. You can have many wonderful eye opening experiences right at home. You don’t need to pay $1500 for a plane ticket to learn about another culture or to “find yourself.” Travel blogs make it seem like traveling is all that and a bag of Doritos, and that those who don’t/can’t travel are missing out, or aren’t as enlightened as they are, or aren’t cool enough or whatever. I think traveling is cool, but I also think it’s overrated (I’ll write a post on this another time). If you want to run away from home, you need to ask yourself why you’re running away. Is it a permanent fix, or just a bandage for your problems? Travel doesn’t change who you are, imo. You’re always who you are. It might add some things, expose you to new things, open your mind, but you will always be you. So if you want to travel to run away or to become a new person, think about why, and think about whether or not you need to travel to try to do that.

 

Leave a comment:

–If you also come from very little and ended up traveling.

–If you’re poor, and don’t think you’ll be able to travel.

–Or if you think that people travel for the wrong reasons.

 

The header image is a photo I took at the Portuguese Ramparts in Essaouira, Morocco. All photos are mine.

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