It seems to be a common theme among Millenials to have a loser mindset on responsibilities and opt for a more freeing lifestyle than our elder generations. We search for ways to work less and play more, including travel more. But as a 20-year-old in the US, we can't do much without a college degree. So how is it that more and more college students are affording to travel and live the way they do? As a beginning world traveler, I'm here to help you out.
Six months ago, I returned from a journey that changed my life. I studied in London, England for just shy of four months. In this time, I traveled to five different countries and to multiple cities and towns around England. Since returning home to the States, I've traveled among six states with two road trips, and I'm currently planning a trip to South America for next summer. So, how is it possible?
1. Save Your Money.
It's going to be impossible to travel anywhere if you blow your entire paycheck on Victoria Secret and shoes. While cute, they won't get you any closer to that new destination. Create a budget for yourself and spend only what's necessary on rent, food, car expenses, etc. Any excess shopping and social life outings (going out frequently will kill your budget in a hurry) will really push your travel dreams further and further away. Anything as little as $5 a week will help you out, but one trick my dad taught me at a young age was to save 25-30 percent of any income I made. The rest is up for me to spend.
*visual reminders of your savings are FANTASTIC for keeping the goal front and center*
Probably an obvious one, but having a job that pays enough for you to survive and save will be the key. If that isn't possible during the school year, don't fret. I pick up two to three jobs in the summer, doing anything from my neighbor's yard work for $20 to bartending and working fast food. The extra hours kill my social life and sleep habits, but the extra income boosts my bank account in the best possible way.
3. Be Willing To Be Uncomfortable.
This goes for a lot of things in life and traveling, but going outside your comfort zone can really save you money. If you went to high school with someone who moved to the state you really want to go to, but you've probably never talked to that person before in your life, ask them anyways if you can crash on their couch for a couple of nights. The worst they can do is say no, in which you haven't wasted any money and very little effort. Stay further outside the city center in a quaint but dodgey motel and you could save hundreds; go camping and you could save even more. Traveling is the perfect time to recreate who you've always been. You're in a city or country where no one knows you. They don't know your history and they don't know the personality that everyone back home has come to expect from you; it's the perfect time to reinvent yourself and try new things. If you're feeling it, give yourself a new nickname, try a new activity you've always wanted, and totally recreate yourself. No one is there to judge you but yourself.
4. AirBnB and Hostelworld.
These apps/websites with be your best friend when trying to plan a trip. They follow a less conventional route to providing accommodation for cheap and often times give you a way better experience than lodging up in a fancy hotel. AirBnB's site lists rooms and beds for rent, usually with a host family and other guests all under the same roof. You can find beds/bedrooms for $20 a night, as long as you're okay with cohabiting the house with the owners, or splurge a little more and rent an entire condo/apartment for $50 and up. This option can not only provide you with cheap accommodation, but can give you a host for your time being, someone who lives in and knows all the ins and outs of the area you're traveling.
Hostels, on the other hand, are like hotels, but with community living. You share a room, kitchen and bathroom with two to 10 other travelers. Private ensuites are available for an extra price for those who aren't as comfortable housing with strangers. It's like living in a dorm with a bunch of super chill roomies, and most often you will find a friend to travel with. Hostels are a personal favorite of mine, as many of them have bars and restaurants conveniently located inside so you can go out and meet a ton of new people and get a lot of recommendations on places to go and things to do for traveling on a budget.
5. Pack Light.
If traveling domestically in the US, a back pack or small duffel back should do the trick. If you're flying, a carry-on (and purse for the ladies) meets your flying requirements and doesn't add on any checked baggage fees. Limit what clothing you take for pieces that can be mixed and matched and worn a few times without washing. Pack a pair of sandals for the showers and one extra pair that you'll use for everything else; this pair goes best on your feet as packing shoes takes up a lot of room that could be used for something else. If going internationally, many flights offer a carry-on, personal bag, and checked bag in the price. However, if you plan to bounce around countries, a checked bag aka suitcase will be your worst nightmare. Opt instead for a larger back, ones that look like you're going into the wilderness with everything you own, with support straps and buckles, or my personal favorite, a carry-on and personal bag. You can point and laugh at everyone waiting in baggage claim as you're out the door and starting your adventure.