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Authored by Kara Perez

Travel is a dream for many people. Laying on exotic beaches, roaming the streets of ancient cities, tasting foods you’ve never heard of- it sounds like heaven! Though unfortunately, many people consider travel something utterly beyond their reach.

Travel takes time, money, and planning. And people always seem to find themselves coming up short on at least one of those things.

I know. I’m a freelance writer who only makes $32,000 a year. Money is often in short supply. But I was bit by the wanderlust bug as a child, and I’ve always made travel a priority.

I’ve been to seven countries and 30 US states. Do I have to live in a van down by the river in order to do it? Absolutely not. Travel isn’t just for someday when you’re richer. Or someday when you have the time. Regardless of your circumstances, it can absolutely be for the here and now!

Travel Isn’t Just For Someday – How I Travel on a $32,000 Salary

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We highly recommend Will Hatton’s “How to Travel the World on $10 a Day” – he arms you with the tips and tricks you need to travel the world with confidence, on the most basic of budgets. 

Click to Learn Will’s Secrets

Prioritize Travel

The biggest thing you can do to travel more is decide that you want to prioritize travel. You have to make a dream a goal, and start taking real steps towards it.

If travel seems like it’s totally out of your reach in every way, then you’ll never come up with a way to make it work. So decide that you’re someone who travels. Say it out loud as many times as it takes until you believe it. Once you believe it you’ll start finding opportunities to do so.

Work it Into Your Life

Believing you can make travel happen is the first set, for without that mindset you’ll never take the second step. And that is to look for chances to work it into your life.

Do you have a friend who lives six states away? A family member who lives in the Caribbean? Can you spend the weekend camping an hour away from home?

Explore options other than ‘I bought a round the world ticket and never looked back!’ You don’t have to live that travel story. Not everyone has to quit their jobs, sell their homes and live the life of a nomad. 

One of my favorite ways to travel is to take a road trip to see friends, or to camp. Driving is cheaper than airlines, and staying with friends eliminates the hotel cost.

Iceland car truck

Travel CAN be Frugalized

Remember that any means of travel can be frugalized. (I definitely made up that word). If you want to fly to Europe for two weeks, don’t just buy a ticket and go. That will drain your bank account fast! Use things like credit card rewards to score a free or discounted ticket.

Instead of paying for a hotel or Airbnb in pricey places like Europe, see if you can exchange work for a free place to stay. Many hostels will provide free housing in exchange for a certain number of work hours a week. (This can also be a great way to practice a language!) Or look into opportunities for house-sitting or home exchange. 

Constantly Save

If you’re dreaming of the day you might have enough money to travel, you need to constantly save. Even if all you can manage to put away is $20 a month, save it. Even if you don’t have a trip planned at the moment, save some money. Small savings add up to big things.

I started saving for a four week road trip that started in September in February. I knew I couldn’t pull thousands of dollars out of thin air in the last few weeks before I wanted to hit the road. By saving small amounts over eight months, I had enough money to take a dream trip.

Travel is within your reach, even if you’re a small earner like me. Be deliberate about where you actually spend your money, and take every opportunity to save that you can. You’ll find that travel presents itself in lots of little ways!

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Kara Perez graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A in English. She is passionate about helping women take control of their finances and Gilmore Girls. Read about her adventures in travel and frugal living at fromfrugaltofree.com.

You can follow her on Instagram.

    30 Comments

  1. I love traveling too,and also have a salary well under $35,000. I picked up a few extra hours per week at work and every paycheque I slap the extra money I made onto a foreign currency Visa card. I have a Euro and a GBP card and I’m slowly building up spending money for my next trip.

    • If I may ask what Euro card do you use? The one I had says it is no longer available in my country.

  2. I LOVE traveling too, so packed my life into a 23kg suitcase and moved to the Whitsundays to work on a tropical island, I can save 75% of my wage and my days off are filled with adventure and fun. This is an awesome post Meg, it’s all about how we look at the world.

    • Having so much fun following your updates from the Whitsundays … such a perfect way to set yourself up for exploring a new region, totally agree that it’s all about perspective and thinking outside the box :) Happy new year!

  3. I am a great fan of frugal traveling. Really liked some of the tips especially work-for-stay. Another way to save some more money is to save on your gear by opting for gear trade and garage sale buys.

    • Gear trade and garage sale buys are fantastic tips – thanks Trisk! Absolutely, there’s no need for brand new stuff, most of the time you can find second hand stuff in great condition, and at a fraction of the price :)

      Happy travels!

  4. Very true! It’s surprising how much we can manage to save when we put our mind to it. Travel isn’t only for rich people. Finding a good balance between a nomadic lifestyle and constant travels is hard but way cheaper. We house-sit when we need to and we found it was also a great experience.

    • Always about finding that balance – I agree, I think people underestimate how much they could save if they really gave it a go; there are so many alternative approaches to travel nowadays too which make it cheaper than ever before :)

  5. I have been living abroad/travelling for more than 2 years already. I’m still amazed by this journey and how far I managed to get. I hitch-hiked, I volunteered, I shared dorms… I worked. I did what I have to do! It’s definitely possible!

    • Congrats Mel! So many different ways to approach cheap travel if you’re willing to think outside the box … more power to you!!

  6. It seems like working or going to school abroad is a great way to see more of the world without going into debt over it :-)

    • Absolutely – there are so many different ways to approach travel; it doesn’t always have to be about an expensive one off trip :)

  7. i love travelling and this post is great for us!!If you want something, you can definitely do it… So inspiring.. Happy New Year and thanks for sharing with us :-)

    • Glad we could set you up with some inspiration going into 2017 :) Happy New Year Hra!

  8. Everything you said is so true. We’ve learned to make travel a priority and work it into our lives. It gets harder with the kids school schedule, but we make it work. Travel is possible if you really want it to be.

    • Congrats Dana! So happy to hear that you make it work. I agree with you – anything is possible if you prioritize it :) Happy travels X

  9. I agree with all the points in this article! There are plenty of ways to make travel happen if you want to do it. Making travel a priority and taking steps to save are crucial for making it happen. My partner and I earn less than $45,000USD annually working as teachers in Asia, but we live frugally and have been able to travel to new countries every year for the past 5 years.

    • Glad you enjoyed the article Jen! Congrats on your travels throughout Asia – one part of the world we haven’t had the chance to visit yet but would love to. Definitely a lot more accessible if you’re willing to move and set yourself up with a base, as you guys have done and work abroad. So many ways to prioritize travel if you think outside the box and go for long term alternatives over expensive one off trips :)

  10. So many of these sentences are quotable. Not only are they helpful, but also really inspiring. I think we can add “Frugalized” to the dictionary, as word of the year for 2017! I really love that word and also believe that with some prethought and planning, you can actually save quite a bit! Here’s to many more years of great travel and Frugalization ;)

    • Here’s to frugalizing indeed!

  11. Nowadays, many people who don’t travel is because they don’t want to. I earn way less than that and still I can travel full time. Of course, I only sleep in hostels, eat the local food and travel in developing countries. But still, I am living the way I want to. Many people claim that they can’t afford traveling because for them traveling involves sleeping in expensive hotels and booking tour operators. As you say, if you spend your money wisely, with only $32,000 you can travel with a minimum of comfort and style.

    • Congratulations Joan on living life the way you want to! I agree with you, too many people believe that travel has to be about expensive one off trips which involve tour operators and travel agents, but if you think bigger picture, long term and more locally, it an become a very sustainable way to live :)

      Happy travels!

  12. Traveling has always been a priority of mine. When you set your mind to it, you can make it happen. Frugal travel makes sense to me. I’m all about the experience and there are inexpensive lodging opportunities. From hostels to cabins and house swapping- there are a lot of ways to make travel affordable. Again, like you said, it’s a mindset. Cheers to lots of travel in 2017!

    • So glad to hear that Sara! Yes, I believe that a big part of it is a mindset – obviously there will always be circumstances which make it much more difficult for some people to pursue this type of lifestyle than others, but your mindset is the first key to breaking into it.

      Happy travels!

  13. For me travel was always a priority. I preferred to save my money for that instead of buying new clothes or going out all the time. I also like you said started traveling by visiting friends and relatives that lived abroad or in other cities.

    • Awesome Chrysoula! I’m the same – I only buy new clothes when they’re so far gone they can’t even be mended :D! I think a lot of people would be quite amazed at how much they could cut back on and in turn, save :)

  14. I love your honestly. Constantly saving is key. You really need to make travel a priority. Great post, thanks for sharing :)

    • And while it may be difficult adapting to a new lifestyle of saving at the beginning, after a while it becomes the norm and you don’t miss that coffee twice a day, or eating out. It’s always hardest when you start!

  15. I completely agree it has so much to do with prioritizing. If you track your spending, even just for a month, it can be really eye opening to see where your money’s going (the money you thought you didn’t have). By putting that money toward travel instead (and doing the saving tips you mentioned), it can be surprising how quickly it adds up. Great post for anyone wanting to take a trip!

    • Absolutely Kristen, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post :) Tracking your spending is the big thing, just making a list of expenses is great, but we so easily forget things, or perhaps don’t realize exactly how much we’re spending on certain things. So this can be a really helpful strategy for identifying areas you can cut back on to reach your savings goal. Great tip!

      Happy travels!

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