Budget Travel Tips, Getting Started - My Story

A host, an airline ticket and $250 in cash

Wrapped in a travel money security blanket, I was under the impression that I needed to save enough money to pay for my entire trip before I would be ready to pack my bags.  Using the “Travel the World on $50 A Day,” calculations I came up with needing to have in my savings account:

30 days X $50 a day = $1500 a month

Multiply that by the amount of  travel days I wanted to feel secure in having enough money for:

365 days = $18,250 a year


Honestly, spending almost $20,000 to travel for only a year was daunting.

I found myself starting to rationalize that it may be better for me if I changed directions. I told myself that I didn’t need to plan a trip overseas to have fabulous adventures. I could take that same $20,000 to purchase a small, used RV, which I would be able to travel in for much longer than just a year.

I think my quantity over quality mindset comes from the belief that I need to make the most of the money I can earn, because at my age, it isn’t easy to come by.  Then again, at my age, how does that kind of thinking even make sense? I should be focusing on the quality of my life now, not the quantity I have left. Either way, I knew I needed to figure out a way to earn the money as fast as I could.

Along with saving every penny of my social security check each month, I turned a spare room into a piano studio and started teaching piano lessons to earn the money.

One year later, with cash in hand, I began looking around for a reasonably priced RV.  I knew exactly what I wanted: a little Roadtrek that I could park anywhere. I found some decent ones, however the prices they were asking for the RVs I would consider handing over my hard earned cash for, cost way more than I was willing to pay.

I told myself I wasn’t willing to settle for less.  But, isn’t that exactly what I would be doing if I settled for purchasing a hunk of metal, over traveling the world? My kids are really the ones who convinced me to travel the world instead of buy an RV. After all, they’s say, “Haven’t you and dad already done the RV cross country thing a couple of times?”  Yes, we have.  I loved every minute of it too. And there is still so much more to explore in the good old USA.  But, they were ultimately right. It would not compare to experiencing different cultures by traveling the world.

Weighing heavily on my mind though was the question, “How far will my $20,000 get me?”

That’s when the idea of budget traveling started to take root. I began to really pay attention to all the stories I was hearing about people backpacking around the world. I wanted to know how they were able to travel with what seemed to be very little money in their pocket?

Soon enough, all the things I found myself looking into began to not only make sense to me, all the pieces to what once seemed so puzzling were fitting together nicely.  The more I searched for the next piece of advice, the easier it got to see the whole picture.

In hindsight, knowing what I know now, I can honestly say that it is NOT necessary to save all the money you anticipate using before traveling.  After purchasing an airline ticket, and having the means to pay for my travel expenses on a monthly basis, I now believe I would feel secure enough to travel with a $5000 line of available credit on my credit card, $200 in my checking account, (which I’d have access to from any ATM machine), and $50 cash in my pocket for a cab ride to the nearest hotel in case of emergency.  

According to my new calculations…
after purchasing an airline ticket and securing some accommodations in advance to start, all I really needed in ready cash was $250 to get started.

Sometimes I think we put obstacles in our way instead of looking for opportunities to break through the barriers that hold us back.  I receive a very small social security check each month. One so small, it would barely cover the cost of me eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday while paying a maximum of $27 a night for a place to sleep.  That doesn’t even include bus fair anywhere or any added activity expenses. No one can have a good time traveling on a very meager social security check alone. So what did I do?

I figured out a way to get my accommodations paid for. It took some digging, but I finally was able to uncover a solution.  I turned my biggest obstacle into an opportunity. I am a strong, healthy, older women who is very capable of working while traveling.  By working I don’t mean getting a job. Anyway, who is going to hire an old lady who travels?  The work I am referring to is through work exchange opportunities I diligently pursued. For me, this is how I am able to overcome the financial barriers that I was not going to let stand in my way any longer.

In  Conclusion

I had to be willing to help fund my travels by contacting host families who were offering accommodations and many times food as well,  in exchange for helping other people by doing for them what I know how to do. For me, being a grandmother, it seemed to be babysitting and helping them learn or improve their English.  Not all my homestay are the same. And I also have many other skills besides babysitting and speaking Native English that are proving to be of help to the families that I seem to be attracting to want to host me.

Some people tell me they wouldn’t feel comfortable being taken in by strangers. But, I don’t look at it that way at all. A stranger is only a stranger if you don’t take the time to get to know a little about them.  I do my homework. It goes without saying that you need to take precautions before entering someone else’s home.

I always inform my husband or family member of my whereabouts and I make sure I  send them the host’s name, contact information and address of where I am headed before I arrive. I personally also take the time to get to know a potential host by inviting them to Facetime or Skype with me beforehand.

In my experience, I have discovered many unspoken benefits of staying with a host family:

  • I am greeted with open arms into host family homes
  • I am invited to eat fabulous meals and share interesting dinner conversations with my host family.
  • I learn about my host family’s culture, language and family traditions
  • My hosts are always more than happy to be a local tour guide and often times will invite me to on outings and activities around town and also tell me about favorite places that they recommend I visit.
  • I am made to feel truly appreciated during my visit with a host family.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?  But, honestly, it is true. I’ve met some wonderful hosts through the Workaway.info and HelpX.net community membership websites. I am so inspired by the wonderful people I have met and I sincerely would now love to establish friendships with people all around the world.

Who would have thought that the only thing I am going to need my social security income check for is to pay for my own sightseeing adventures and travel transportation costs along the way. Guess what?  I expect to continue to have my savings tucked away, for if or when I ever decide to change directions again. Maybe buy an RV?  Maybe not.  At least the option will still be on the table for me.  So far it looks like I may be able to have the best of both worlds if I want too.

What’s holding you back?

How can you turn your obstacles into opportunities to travel?
Leave your comments below.

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