I was in the middle of reading “The World’s Most Dangerous Place” in preparation for a humanitarian project in Somalia. But my plans collapsed as violence escalated in the region. It was no longer safe for me to go there, and I had to figure out a Plan B.
When those plans fell through, I fell back on my existing job. A few weeks later, the CEO decided to not renew my contract. My financial situation became unstable.
I decided to launch a travel start up months prior, but it wasn’t making enough money for me to cover all my expenses. For the next four months I went without a paycheck. With less than $3,000 to my name, I went on a 3 week trip in Europe. It was something that I had planned 6 months beforehand. And my friends had already committed to it. I couldn’t back out. But my finances wanted me too.
Here is how I was able recover my financial stability and make that trip:
I eliminated “unreasonable” expenses.
Coffee, beer, eating out, public transportation, and shopping, were all wants. I started to focus on the needs. I eliminated the “want” expenses and started saving $600 per month. Do this if you want to enjoy future trips. Only focus on your real needs.
I found flights to Europe from Utah for less than $349 Round Trip.
I chose flights not based on destination, but on price. Through www.jackofallfares.com, I found a round trip flight from Salt Lake City to Amsterdam for $349. It was $1,000 cheaper than the normal fare. Don’t always base where you go on seeing a specific destination. Be open and spontaneous. By buying this ticket, I saved a ton of cash and saw areas of the world that I wouldn’t have otherwise saw.
I generated 100,000+ credit card points.
Before my trip I invested in Capital One Venture and Chase Sapphire Reserve credit cards. These cards provided me with 140,000 points that I directed at travel expenses. I was able to cover all the hotels and buy a one-way ticket to South Korea for when I returned from my trip.
I found ways to earn without a stable, full-time job.
My business started to grow as I remained an “unemployed entrepreneur”. Over a few months, I made a few thousand dollars from it. Earning this cash required a lot of hustle. But I took the risk and it paid off. If you are between jobs and have an upcoming trip, do anything to supplement your income. Drive Uber. Mow lawns. Find any odd job that can keep cash flowing in. Because savings run out when income isn’t coming in. You need to find a way to keep blood pumping to the heart before it stops beating.
I created a 12-month savings roadmap.
I needed a realistic way to assess my financial standing from then to now. Where would I be in 3 months? How about 6 months? What is the worst case financial scenario and how can I mitigate the risk of falling vulnerable to it? By mapping out the months ahead, I was able to comfortably spend more. You need to think about the future to save, because short term thinkers rarely get ahead.
I cross checked my savings roadmap with my actual expenses to ensure accountability.
It wasn’t enough to create a road map. I had to cross check that road map with my actual expenses. I used mint and analyzed my credit card and bank statements weekly. I counted my expenses week in and week out. I knew where I stood and what could help me stay above the red. This was crucial to ensuring that I held myself accountable to my longer term financial aims.
I encouraged my friends pursue low cost activities.
Travel doesn’t have to be luxurious and expensive. Some of the best experiences in my life have been free, such as hiking Mt. Batur in Bali. Free activities have this habit of opening my perspective. From meeting locals to hiking, there is a way to maximize your experience and remain under budget. Focus on those free activities to save big.
I ran away from the tourist hubs to explore smaller cities.
Amsterdam and Brussels are so expensive. We left the main tourist hubs in favor of smaller cities. It wasn’t only cost motivating this direction. It is hard to get a good sense of the local culture when you are in a heterogeneous, bustling city. The quieter towns tend to have more color and cultural integrity. One of the best places I visited was Utrecht, Netherlands. Our most meaningful cultural experiences came not in the big cities, but in the smaller towns. Dive into the little known places to save cash and understand what it is like to live as a local.
The life of a traveler requires a lot of financial discipline. Plan for the unpredictable. Sustain sources of income that can produce more savings. Use existing tools to help you find cheap flights and maximize credit card points. Explore the smaller cities and find meaningful free activities to enjoy. Because these are the exact things that will allow you to travel more often. And nothing is more rewarding than having the opportunity to see more of the world.
About the Author:
David D’Angelo is the founder of www.jackofallfares.com. As a social entrepreneur who has traveled to over 25 countries, David is passionate about humanitarian work, travel and the outdoors. David has been recognized by Echoing Green as one of the world’s most disruptive social entrepreneurs. He writes for Matador Network in his free time.