If you are anything like me, reading travel blogs is an aspirational endeavor. You jealously read about the amazing adventures people are having during year-long round-the-world trips. You dream about taking the very same plunge yourself, but for whatever reason – school, family, job, money- it’s never been a realistic possibility to take 6 or 12 months off to travel the globe.
But just because you aren’t able to pick up and leave for a year doesn’t mean you can’t see the world. A regular 9 – 5 gig is not a barrier to having epic adventures abroad – it’s just a parameter that you can learn to work with. And once you’ve mastered the art of becoming a part-time traveler, you won’t need to dream about the amazing trips your favorite bloggers have shared – you can go on them yourself!
Finding the Time
The biggest barrier for the full-time 9 – 5 worker is finding the time to actually travel. If you are like most Americans, you probably only have 10 days of vacation time annually. I think we can all agree that this is cruel and unusual punishment for anyone bitten by the wanderlust bug. But, since we can’t just move to those enlightened countries that value a work-life balance, we have to make the most of what we’ve got.
The most obvious advice is something that really can make a difference in your trip. Use your vacation time wisely and travel over long holidays. That way you can can extend your trip by an extra day. Just imagine all of the amazing things you could do with an additional 24 hours – hike a volcano, go white water rafting, or explore a Versailles. It might seem that just one day won’t make much of a difference, but once you are on the road, I guarantee you will be glad to have another full day to do something incredible.
Another way to give yourself some extra time is to travel smarter. I try to take red-eye flights as much as possible so that I don’t waste a day in airports. I always look for flights that depart after work on Fridays and get me to my destination first thing in the morning. You may be a little tired when you first arrive, but it’s a small price to pay in exchange for a full day of exploring. This advice doesn’t just apply to your departure flights – it applies to transportation while you are in-country as well. If I only have 10 or 15 days to travel, nothing annoys me as much as spending even one moment dealing transportation. Rather than waste an afternoon in an airport, I prefer to take overnight buses or the very last – or, if you’re a morning person, the very first – flight of the day to my next destination. I try to make the most of my time and limit my travel to periods when I know I won’t be missing out on anything more exciting than another pub crawl.
Saving the Money
Travel is expensive. Airfare, hotels, eating out, admission and tours can take a toll on your bank account. Saving the money to travel can be hard, but not impossible. Put aside an extra $25 a week in a dedicated travel fund. Cut down on things you don’t need (even though you really, really want them) like your daily Starbucks. I’ve found that if I skip drinking once a week, I can save an extra $25-$50! And $25 a week translates to $100 each month, which ends up snowballing into $1200, or, as I like to think of it, 1 round trip ticket from New York to Tokyo.
Making the Money
I find it hard to save money, no matter how much I love traveling. I can’t help but indulge in a nice glass of wine, a good meal or a cute new dress. Every month I tell myself I’m going to do better with saving, but come the 30th, I see that I’ve failed again. My spending habits, coupled with my student loans and the high cost of living in NYC, mean that if I want to travel as much as I want to, I need to think of ways to make more money. Fortunately, there are tons of side gigs out there to supplement your income.
In addition to my full-time job, I currently tutor high school students and work as a virtual assistant online. Between those two side jobs I’ve been able to fund 5 trips in the last year, 3 of which have been international. Apps like Gigwalk, virtual assistant companies like Fancy Hands or Upwork, and part-time gigs like babysitting or dog-walking – found via CraigsList – are all great ways to find some work on the side and support your travel habit. If side jobs aren’t your style, you can always sell your old clothes on resale sites such as Ebay and Poshmark, or list books that are piling up in your house on Amazon. It might not make you rich, but every little bit helps.
Spending the Money
It may sound counter-intuitive, but there is a pretty good chance that, on a daily basis, part-time travelers spend more than permanent nomads when we travel. We don’t get to take our time in one city for a few weeks – we have to pack our 7- or 14 – day long vacations with as much activity as possible. We choose to fly rather than take longer but cheaper bus rides, or schedule one tour after another to make the most of our limited time. Per-day, shorter trips can get very expensive, so it’s important to think of ways to spend our money more intelligently. One way to do that is to fly to very cheap locales. Rather than party on the French Riviera, hit the beaches of the Philippines, where a fantastic meal can run you $7 to $15, beer is only $1, and dorms charge $5 per night. Or, save money on airfare by flying closer to home. Australia may cost more than my paycheck, but Colombia is only $500 away.
Travel Does Not Equal International
When I think of travel, I think of exotic locales where I don’t speak the language, and geography and architecture that is completely and utterly foreign. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but for the longest time I didn’t consider traveling within my own country to be ‘travel.’ For the part-time traveler this is a completely ridiculous mentality. The United States is an international destination with countless attractions: the beaches of Miami; road trips down the Pacific Coast Highway; the southern charm of Charleston; the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, metropolises like Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Over 45 million people visit the United States each year, so there is no reason why you shouldn’t explore it as well. Traveling domestically is cheaper, requires less time in transit, and is doable over a long weekend. Traveling within your own country should be a go-to option for part-time travelers who don’t have the time or money to go further afield but who are chomping at the bit to get out and see the world. Who knows, you may discover that the most amazing places are right in your own backyard.
In the last year I’ve traveled to Vietnam, Turkey, Nicaragua, North Carolina and Vermont – all while holding down a full-time job. If you make travel a priority – and since you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing that you do – there is no reason why you can’t go out and explore the world as much as any permanent nomad. So no excuses – go out and buy a ticket for your next adventure right now!