I recently read an article on The Financial Diet about the (potential) insensitivity of the inspirational "drop everything and travel" articles that seem to be everywhere we look. The article highlights how there seems to be a lack of understanding for those who have the privilege to travel far and often, and to say that "anyone can do it if you just try" denotes a misunderstanding of not only their own privilege, but also an insensitivity to the weighty barriers that may prevent a person from being able to uproot and just go.
If you're in my boat, then you may want to travel but feel powerless to do so because... money and time off or job post-trip. We're not freelancers, or trust-funded, and we certainly didn't invent a cure to some obscure disease. We're part of a group of young'uns that burst into the working world just post a market crash in 2008, or were downsized because of said crash, or are still feeling the ripple effects of that 2008 disaster. We work hard for little pay and have to medicate the anxiety disorder that has come with realizing that we're going to need to support not only ourselves but also our parents someday.
Telling us to "just do it," in my opinion, is just plain rude [cue Stephanie Tanner]. After a particularly terrifying nightmare last night about the 20% rent hike I'm facing starting next month, I was browsing Twitter for some light reading and came across the serendipitously perfect piece by Sally from Passports and Plates. The Twitter caption for the article is what initially what drew me in, stating "Don't call me lucky to be able to travel & ask me what my sacrifice is instead." When you're done here, head over and read her post here.
So what should be considered before a trip?
Believe it or not, there are situations that just make imminent travel impractical. If your friends are taking a Lizzie McGuire themed trip to Italy but you have car payments, rent, and your grandmother's 88th birthday party, that Eurotrip may not be an option for you.
I think this is a particularly important question to ask for any financial goal.
Take a look at your expenses vs. income and subtract all your known monthly expenses (rent, phone, car, heat, internet, student loans, and the list goes on....). If you use a budget tracker app - I recently started using Level and it has been wicked helpful - you can see other monthly expenses that can trickle in (groceries, transit, wine, etc...). Level also has a cool function where I can track my monthly purchases at specific locations, so I know how much I'm spending (on my card) on coffee or at the pharmacy/convenience store.
Then figure out what you need to do: It might be cutting the daily coffee shop visit to once each week or saying "no more!" to the lunches out. Perhaps you'll need to try to consign some of the less-loved items in your closet or cut back on your wine habit by stretching the vino supply with sparkling water (or ice..... don't judge me).
Can I go in the near future or do I need to scrimp/save/plan for months? Just because it may seem like everyone is going on these wonderfully impulsive trips, doesn't mean they are. Odds are, trips you see have been planned out well in advance, allowing for asking for time off and saving.
Do you have savings? Have you looked into HelpX or Workaway? Or thought about Couchsurfing to combine accommodations with cultural immersion? Or perhaps you should Google "work for stay hostels in X-destination." Even if you can't find an income source, you can certainly find resources to inspire creative ways to stretch your budget in a meaningful way.
If you don't have a job waiting for you after your travels, this is of MAJOR importance. You need to figure out a game plan for reentry. You can't just assume everything will sort itself out. You need a place to live, you'll likely need to start making money the instant you return; and coming home without any sort of plan could cause major issues (if you need to live with mom and dad or beg a friend to let you sleep on their couch "until you get settled").
It would be silly of me to tell you how to prepare for re-entry because, simply put, the process of coming home is dramatically different for everyone. I had a fair amount of money saved, lived in my parents' house, and banged away at a job search. I had friends who lucked into or walked into jobs as soon as they got home. Maybe you have an advanced degree... or a family member who owns their own business who is willing to give you some temp work... or an apartment you've subletted that you can just come home to.
The bottom line is: think about it. Don't be foolish and assume pieces will fall into place... because flying by the seat of your pants may work in travelling (it's my favorite way to travel!), but it doesn't necessarily work like that when you're trying to re-enter the working/financially-stable/home world.
I have these two friends, a couple from Canada, who were saving for-eh-evar for their indefinite-length trip. Around the time time that they had left on their trip, I mentioned to a coworker that I was super jealous that they were going to be somewhere warm for a long time.... to which her reply was, "It must be nice to be able to just up and leave like that." Ermmm... snarky much?
She was missing a BIG piece to that puzzle. What she didn't know is that they carefully and strategically planned and saved for a really long time and had a laid game plan for how to manage making responsible and budget-friendly decisions on the road.
So lets wrap this up, shall we?
Use that big pink, wrinkly, bubble inside your skull (it's behind the eyes, but under the hair) to have a good long think on the: ifs, whens, and hows of your next trip. Unless you have a good bit of money, you're not going to be able to just go on a whim.... without also thinking about all the things we've just talked about.
- What is your first concern when considering a trip?
- Have you received any flack from those who don't understand the intricate process behind travel planning?
- What advice would you offer to someone whose major travel barrier is "but I don't want to leave my family"?
If you got to the end, and didn't click the links, here they are one more time:
Passports & Plates: What's Stopping You From Traveling
(*I liked this piece SO much that I was nearly done editing this article and I went back and reworked the piece a little so I could share!)
The Financial Diet: Why "Don't Worry About Money, Just Travel" is the Worst Advice of All Time
Ok, just read The Financial Diet. All of it.