You work a full time job, have family obligations, and participate in community events, how do you find the time to travel? And then, if you do find the time, how do you afford it? Between rent, food and bills, you really don’t have any extra money for travel. So when someone talks about their trip you sigh and say, “I wish I could travel, but…”
I used to think that there was no way I could afford any type of travel. And, at a certain point of my life, that was probably true. But I have learned that sometimes the reasons we come up with for why we can’t travel – money, time – aren’t as big of hurdles as we make them to be in our minds. Yes, both money and time are required for travel, and they can be hurdles to overcome, but I have learned that they can often be overcome with a little bit (or a lot) of planning and intentionality.
I know that travel is not possible for everyone. Both money and time, not to mention life circumstances, can be very real barriers, and I don’t want to discount or ignore that. Those of us that are able to fit travel into our lives, even if it is through careful budgeting and planning like I am going to talk about here, are in a privileged position. I am not going to say that everyone can afford to travel, because I know that’s not true. Being able to fit travel into our lives is a blessing and a privilege that I am thankful for and don’t ever want to take forgranted.
In this series, I want to suggest that there are times when the things that we think of as hurdles to our travel can be overcome with planning and intentional saving. Sometimes, if we want to travel, we have to become a bit more creative in our approach to our travel budgets. Because one of the things that I have learned over the past years is that travel rarely “just happens.” You have to plan for it, and that means planning to save. Even supposed “last minute” or “spontaneous” trips more often than not include intentional saving before hand to make them possible.
Overcoming my Own Hurdles
Prior to moving to England I had the idea, whether conscious or unconscious, that I probably wouldn’t be able to afford any travel other than camping until I had a “good” job that was making me “good” money. I certainly couldn’t afford to do much while working part time – or even full time – retail. Because that was in the back of my mind, I didn’t think too much about the possibility of planning trips.
And then I got the idea that I wanted to move to England, and I became very determined to save and make it possible. When I finished grad school, I went back to working retail and in the year of saving, I worked a mixture of full time and part time. I lived at home to save on rent, and put away as much as I could to save for my trip. I had to pay careful attention to my budget that year in order to make it possible, but I was determined.
And I did it. I saved enough for the Visa application fee, the plane ticket, the first few weeks of accommodation and I think just over the minimum amount I needed to demonstrate in order to enter the country – approximately £1,900 or I think it was around $3,000 CAD at the time. There were also all the miscellaneous things I needed to buy for the trip.
And then I moved to London, England (a not inexpensive city) with give or take £2,000 in my bank account. Now, if could go back and give myself one piece of advice, I would highly recommend saving more than that, because it would have made life much easier in those first few months. But then I probably wouldn’t have learned as much about myself as I did.
It wasn’t perfect, and I will admit that in the first couple months I used my credit card to pay for some of it (partially because I was afraid of running out of money), but it worked out. And once I got a job, I was able to pay it all off. Were there were things I could have done differently? Probably. But I’m not sure I would have changed it.
I found a job that paid well, and was so much more flexible for travel and exploring than I ever could have imagined or hoped for, and I was able to live in a very central part of London that I loved. My dorm style room was small, but it was private. I had my own bathroom and a shared kitchen, and I loved it. And I managed to fit in a lot of travel and exploring in that year. Not as much as I would have liked, of course, but more than I have ever managed in a single year since.
Learning to Budget Time and Money
The job I had in London was very flexible, and I essentially had the ability to dictate how much work I took on. It was a bit more complicated than that, but I had a lot of flexibility to fit in travel when I wanted. But I still had to balance work and travel. After all, I still had to pay bills and living expenses. I mentioned that living in London isn’t cheap right? And I loved being close to central London so much that I just couldn’t imagine living further out.
So I learned how to balance living expenses and saving for travel, along with balancing time for both work and travel. I took advantage of weeks where there was a lot of work available to pick up extra work, and school holiday weeks when work was slower to travel and explore. If there were specific dates I wanted to travel, I was able to take that time off easily and, in some cases I took extra long weekends. I was also able to take advantage of unplanned days off to explore London. It’s difficult to explain how my job was set up, but it wasn’t a typical 9-5, Monday – Friday.
Though my situation in London was unique, I brought a lot of what I learned back home with me. It’s more difficult to find the time to travel when we’re restricted to a certain number of vacation weeks and long weekends throughout the year. It’s hard when we know that we don’t have the time to travel the amount we would like. While I can’t turn your two weeks vacation into 5, I have learned that it’s possible to fit travel and exploring into long weekends. Not all travel has to be long distance or longer in length.
When you’re close enough to take a long weekend trip to Paris, or Scotland, you learn that a trip doesn’t have to be long to be impactful. Sure, I would have loved to spend more time in Paris, but that didn’t take away from the time I was there – and short trips can spark interest to save and plan for a longer, return visit. Or perhaps you’ll learn that a short trip was exactly the right length for the destination you chose.
Not all places are as easy to travel from as London, England. In many places, Canada in particular, distances are so much greater and a bigger factor in travel. It can make it difficult to imagine being able to take meaningful long weekend trips. But it’s not impossible. It just takes more creativity and out of the box thinking. And it takes the willingness to accept that a larger portion of your trip will be spent travelling to get there.
In the years since I’ve been home, I’ve found that the Family Day long weekend in February has been one of my favourites for travel and exploring. I started adding on an extra day to make it a 4 day weekend, but it works with 3 days as well. We’ve done 2 trips to Ottawa for Winterlude and two trips to Point Pelee National Park – which has fast become one of my favourite places – to stay in the oTentiks. (I promise to post one day about the oTentiks and winter camping in them at Pelee.) Both of these are travel I may never have done if not for being willing to travel on a long weekend.
I don’t get to travel as much as I would like. I’m not sure if I would want to travel full time, even if I could, but I would definitely travel more than I currently do if it was possible. And I would almost certainly spend more time camping in the summer months! But I have learned that I can fit more travel in than I once thought possible. And I can afford more travel as well by carefully planning, saving and balancing smaller, less expensive travel and exploration with less frequent, bigger trips.
There are lots of ways to plan to work more travel into your life, and to plan to save for travel. Today I talked mostly about my story, and the time aspect of fitting in travel. Next week, I’m going to tell you a bit about my approach to being intentional in working travel into your life through budgeting in particular, and the steps and considerations that I have found useful.
How do you work travel into your life? Do you have any tips and tricks that have worked for you? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,