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How to Travel If You’re Young and Broke

Before 2012, I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me to travel to more than 10 countries in his lifetime. Today I have traveled to more than 44 and my plan is to break the 50 mark by the end of the year.

What changed? My mentality. Before 2012 I was part of the non-believers who thought that young world-travelers were trust-fund kids who got a big fat monthly paycheck from mommy and daddy to pay for their travels (and yes, I am sure that some of you still think that about me!).

Inside my mind I created excuses and justifications in order to explain why I couldn’t travel as much as the rest of the people I knew. Each time someone posted a photo of New York City or Paris, I always told them the same phrases that now a lot of people tell me:

“You are so lucky to travel the world”, “I wish I had the money to travel like you do”, “I can’t travel this year, I have to study/work”.

But then…I saw the light

In January 2012 I packed my bags and left for France in order to do a student exchange in a small town called Clermont-Ferrand. I was lucky enough to have a scholarship that covered most of my expenses plus some savings that I had from my time in Mexico as a private tutor to fellow classmates who were struggling with finance and statistics.

During our first student break, I decided to visit Spain with a fellow classmate of mine. “Whoa, Spain, my fourth country” I told to myself with the joy of an incredulous young broke man. Sadly, that was already three countries more than what my fellow countrymen from Mexico will ever visit in their life.

You see, many people hold the mentality that traveling is a very expensive affair since they associate traveling with vacations and the psychological factor of “let’s splurge money to treat ourselves. It’s our vacation, we deserve it” is a very dangerous one since going over budget is extremely easy once you start to think that everything is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

And yes, during my first five months of traveling within Europe, I ended up blowing most of my savings as I was foolish enough to have a mentality of “this is probably going to be my first and only time here, I need to do/see everything”, costing me a lot of money in terms of museum’s entrance fees and local authentic cuisine.

It wasn’t until later that summer when I was backpacking in Central Europe for the first time, that I started to fully appreciate and learn that you don’t need to have money in order to travel the world if you’re young and broke. In fact, I would say that the less money you have, the more free you truly are.

Wait, what?

How to travel if you're young and broke
The people of Wroclaw, Poland

How to travel the world if you’re young and broke

Let’s talk about wealth. Common sense and math tell us that wealth is measured by how much you have in terms of money and possessions. However, I tend to disagree. Instead of thinking about how much you have, you should start thinking about how much you truly need in order to have the life you want. It is quite symbolic that the wealthier you are, the more you have to spend each month in terms of money and time.

You see, the more possessions and responsibilities you have, the harder it becomes to achieve your dreams of freedom and travel. Yes, that car is a symbol of wealth but do you really need it? Do you really need those designer clothes to show off how trendy you are? Do you really need that daily cup of coffee at Starbucks? The answer is that no, you don’t really need those things. You are just choosing them over your dreams of traveling the world.

Now, I’m not saying that you won’t be able to travel once you’re no longer young (that is absurd). What I’m saying is that you should take advantage of your youth and start believing that traveling is not an impossible dream meant only for the wealthy ones.

International travel is a completely affordable experience (have you read my latest article about eating in Europe for 4 euros a day?) for everyone as long as they are willing to make sacrifices and start having the right mentality. It’s time to say “I CAN” and book that plane ticket right now. Come on, do it!

You can read here about some tips for how to Travel Alone at a Young Age.

The Best Things to Do and See in Georgetown, Penang
The Best Things to Do and See in Georgetown, Penang

“So Raphael…what’s the secret to a life of travel?”

Trust me, the secret about traveling the world if you’re young and broke is that there is no secret. It’s just a matter of saving money and finding ways to work on the road in order to make money during your travels and yes, even if you’re making minimum wage back home, there are ways to save money in order to reduce your cost of living.

There is no shame in moving back with your parents for a few months while you save money on rent. There is no shame in carpooling and taking public transportation to work. There is no shame to cook daily at home instead of eating out. Stop thinking about pleasing society and start thinking about pleasing yourself.

In fact, how about searching for job opportunities abroad? Did you know that most schools in South Korea will actually pay for your plane ticket when they hire you to teach English abroad? A successful life of travel it’s all about making travel your priority and finding ways to take advantage of the opportunities that exist for you.

Raphael Alexander Zoren The Man of Wonders
Raphael Alexander Zoren The Man of Wonders

Are you ready to take the leap?

“Get inspired and stay tuned for future articles including interviews with fellow travelers who have fulfilled their dreams by volunteering at hostels in South America, teaching English in South East Asia with a Level 5 TEFL course, fruit picking in New Zealand, house-sitting around Europe and much more, including full details of the freelancing work I do during my travels in case you want to follow my footsteps of financial freedom.”

If you’re young and fit, then you can do it too. Don’t let nationality or money get in the way of your dreams. I believe in you and it’s time for you to start believing in yourself!

If a Mexican broke guy like me was able to do it, what’s stopping you from achieving your dreams? Stop making excuses and make travel a reality!

Where would you like to travel next? :)

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