I’ve been travelling for about eight months now (only!), and needless to say, it’s been a blast and I’m looking forward to more. One of the questions I get asked the most, after “Where have you been?” and “Where are you going next?” is: HOW?? Or to quote some, “How the hell do you do it?!” It is a question that stumbles me, because I’ve never thought of a real answer. (At some point, I’m sure Nike will take me to court for always replying, “Just do it lor” despite my local spin on it.)
Anyway, to clarify, apparently this question questions the financial aspect of my travels. Most people actually know how to travel (duh), it’s basically a question of how I manage to travel and not work, i.e. not have any income whatsoever. (Yes, this was a choice. I don’t want to travel and work freelance. It’s distracting.) My usual answer is I’m looking for a sugar daddy – but then, since I haven’t yet found one, they again question my current source of “riches”. And for the hundredth time: No, I didn’t “strike lottery”. So I thought about it carefully, and here’s my answer, in 9+1 parts.
HOW THE HELL I DO IT:
1. Save money
Old school way, no quick fix about it, I’m afraid. I don’t earn that much, but for six months I put about 70% of my monthly income into savings. Yeah, that means I can’t buy a lot of stuff, but really, what’s there to buy in Singapore? I sometimes shop like hell when I’m overseas though – like a monk gone rogue – (and my travelling companions can attest to this) but I try not to spend too much here.
2. Be debt-free
I’m lucky in that I am 100% debt-free. No mortgage, no car payments, no education loan, nada. The only installment package I had was for Brazilian wax but that’s paid off now and I still have a good year’s worth! I am kinda defaulting on my rent and utilities, but I’ve worked out an agreeable plan with my landlord (aka Mum).
3. Travel alone
Going solo, I can choose exactly when I travel. I can just check out Skyscanner and scan the entire month and pick the date with the lowest fare. Whereas, I’ve found that my more expensive trips have all been with friends – because they can only travel during weekends, public holidays or peak periods – but of course, the extra that I pay, I pay for the wonderful companionship that can’t really be measured in dollars and sense. I mean cents, ahem.
4. Travel with someone
If the dates match up, I’ve found it otherwise better to travel with a buddy because it works out to better savings. For example, I get to pay half the price of a private room, or get a discounted fee for a day tour if booked in a pair. Some tour operators even charge a premium for single bookings. Taxis are cheaper when divided by four, stuff like that. Also, I get to try more food while paying half the cost if there’s someone/other people to pinch from. Heh heh heh.
5. Shack up
There’s a totally cool way in which you can enjoy a comfortable stay and not pay any money (and not have to sleep with anyone), but that’s not the essence of Couchsurfing. It’s about meeting people from all over and the exchange of cultures and knowledge that comes with it. I can’t do it very often because you need to invest time and energy and effort and sometimes I’m just too drained from travelling and just want a quiet place to rest by myself. But when I can, it’s been an absolutely awesome option.
6. Travel easy
I’m pretty easygoing when it comes to a lot of things travel-related. I can fly budget, I can sleep in 136-pax capsule dorms, and I can survive on a loaf of bread. I’ll shell out 500 bucks in one second on a skydive, but I can take a little so-called ‘hardship’ here and there when I need to. It helps if my travelling buddies are similarly aligned too; otherwise I find I usually end up paying a little more for hotel rooms and restaurants, which I suppose is a nice change every now and then.
7. Make friends
Sometimes I hang around a common area in a hostel and kinda scout for anyone who wants to be roomies with me so we can share a nice room. Also, there have been times when I’ve met amazing fellow travellers on the road who’ve had an extra bed or couch in their room (or some space on their extra big bed) and have let me crash at theirs for free (I mean, in exchange for my awesome company).
8. Make real friends
Not just the kind you use and abuse (wait, whut?!). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting really, really wonderful people on my travels and I’m excited that I’ll be able to visit them soon when I head to Europe! Yes, I’m not only grateful to them that this will help with my expenses, but it’s also what will make the trip so much more meaningful and fulfilling, because otherwise, every city is a just a bunch of buildings, really.
9. “Live now, worry later”
It’s a terrible motto to have in life (please stop spending your income on $20 cocktails and start saving for your retirement, yes, even now!), but it’s my mantra for this year of travel that I’ve embarked on. Ever hear that complaint “Got money, no time; got time, no money”? I figured I’m never gonna have both time and money to spend this way again at the same time, so I’m gonna go all the way. Spend now, recoup later. Risky, but you gotta take some risks in life, right?
BONUS: 10. Just do it. Seriously.
Then, there’s always that one part of the question that usually goes along the lines of: “How the hell do you just drop everything and travel?” Simple. You just do. A year ago I read this quote somewhere, and it changed my life completely:
“Do it. Don’t wait for the right time, the right person, enough money, enough time. Do it now, or it’ll never happen.”
I will never forget the day I made up my mind to do this. It was 12 noon. I made the decision, felt good about it, then went for lunch. When I came back to my desk, I received an email telling me I was getting a pay increment. How great! If I just worked another few more months, I’d be able to save $X more, which means I could travel X more months… Then I remembered the quote. There’s never going to be “enough money”. Do it now, or it’ll never happen.
I typed up my letter.