How to be broke & still travel

The Great Adventure we’ve been dreaming about for over a year is almost here. Itineraries have been organized, flights have been paid for, window seats chosen, and passports updated. In mere days Trevor and I are taking off with a few dear friends to Sri Lanka, then onwards to Vietnam!


For those of you out there who think there’s no way you could afford to travel, believe us: you can (and should) find a way. Here are our five best tips for planning (and paying for) an expensive trip:

1. Verbalize your dream. Tell your parents about it. Tell your friends about it. Tell your boss about it, well ahead of time. When we first started talking about this trip, we weren’t sure how we were going to be able to afford it…we just knew that we’d find a way. By talking to those closest to us about our plans, it gave us confidence and resolution to follow through.

2. Give yourself enough time to plan. We had over a year to think this trip through and start saving, and even that was cutting it close. Time is your best asset- even putting aside $50/month (cut out cable, 1 lunch out/week, or 1 dinner out/month) is enough to start. I’ll quote Liz Gilbert on this one: “People say they can’t afford to travel. But if you circle a date on your calendar and make that your single, greatest priority, I guarantee you that you can.”

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3. Pick up extra jobs. This was a tough one- Trevor is a full time grad student and TA, and I have a full time job in Portland. This year, both of us picked up small jobs on the side whenever we had the chance. It makes our weekends and evenings tighter and more hectic than we like sometimes, but we figured it out. You can too.

4. Cut your “fun” budget down. For us, eating out is our most expensive kryptonite. We weren’t able to remove this habit completely, but we were able to cut it in half. We now eat out once or twice a month, instead of a weekly date night out.

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5. Remove the small expenses. $5 for a coffee here, or 671.54 rupees for an entire (and amazing) meal in Sri Lanka? We made our own coffees in to-go mugs, brown bagged it during the week, and stopped buying new clothes.


At the end of 12 months of scrimping and saving, we have just enough (baring no emergencies abroad) to afford this trip entirely on our own. We were still able to enjoy a few luxuries throughout the year, too (we buy organic groceries, had a few wonderful dinners out, and get the good coffee beans).

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The point of this post is not to brag (while we consider ourselves incredibly rich in many areas of life, at the end of the day we’re still broke-ass 20-somethings living paycheck to paycheck.) The point of this post is to encourage and inspire you, fellow strapped travelers. If we can figure out a way to do this, so can you. And you should!

Traveling to places that freak you out a little- or a lot (we just found out about things called “land leeches” in Sri Lanka) make you grow. They expand how you perceive the word, challenge your beliefs, and burst the comfortable bubble in which you live your every day life. Traveling has made me a stronger, more creative, and more confident individual. Traveling with my partner has made us so much stronger as a team. There are endless reasons why we will always make travel a priority.


What’s on your dream travel list? Let us know below in a comment. Include your address, and we’ll mail you a post card from Sri Lanka! I’ll leave you with a quote from the great Bac Jim: “Money is just a paper medium for enjoying life.”

Editors note: While we are proud to be able to afford this trip monetarily on our own, we certainly could not have taken this trip without help. We have our bosses to thank, who supported the time off we’re taking to travel. We have our friends and family to thank for the support they gave us, and for still loving us when we had to say “no” to weekends away or dinners out. Most of all, we have our great friends and mentors Bac Jim and Jenn to thank for organizing the entirety of the trip- from group flights to travel agents to hotels to historical sites and much, much more that we gratefully do not have to think about because they are handling it.


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