How to Travel If You’re Young and Broke

The Man of Wonders versus the Volcano of Wonders
The Man of Wonders versus the Volcano of Wonders

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”.

The Clavadistas of Acapulco, Mexico
The Clavadistas of Acapulco, Mexico

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
How to travel if you’re young and broke

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

Let’s talk about wealth. Common sense and math tells us that wealth is measured by how much you have in terms of money and possessions. However, I tend to disagree. Instead of thinking 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!

Lauterbrunnen and its 76 Waterfalls
Lauterbrunnen and its 76 Waterfalls

“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.

The Man of Wonders versus the Volcano of Wonders
The Man of Wonders versus the Volcano 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, 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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19 Comments

  • Another great article! I think one of the big reasons that hold a lot of young Americans (USA) back from long-term travel is student loan debt. It’s insane! I graduated with over $44,000 in loans and I have about $30,000 to go. However, I’ve been working hard at both paying off my loans and also stashing money away for my “Great Escape 2016.” My goal is to travel throughout South America for 4-5 months, teach English in South Korea for a year to save some money, and then travel around South East Asia and Oceania for a year before coming back to the US for grad school.

    • I agree! Paying for college education without a scholarship is a very bad financial decision since most people will probably spend 10 years paying back that money and will be caught in an endless cycle of struggling debt. I think that sometimes it’s wiser to go for community colleges or apprenticeships.

  • “There is no shame in moving back with your parents for a few months while you save money on rent.” As a mother of a son in his 20s, I say NO to this. Why would I want to support him and his travels rather than travel myself? Kids, never assume your parents want you back home.

    TBH, I thought you were being ironic with the title of this post. Why wouldn’t the middle classes be able to travel?

    • Hi Kathryn, as a middle class mexican woman, I get it.
      It’s not that the middle clases are not able to travel, it’s the mentality that if you’re not rich, you can’t give yourself that luxury; but we don’t realise (I say we, because I’m just realising it myself) that those “little expenses”, like a daily Starbucks, which is not cheap, are in fact a luxury one can do without and it’s money that can be used for travel instead.

    • If someone wants to move out because he wants to move out then it’s no problem. However most Millennials feel that they HAVE to move out in order to be mature which only leads to bad financial decisions and an endless cycle of struggling to make ends’ meets especially because they moved out without having achieved the necessary maturity to control their own personal finances ;)

  • Really enjoyed this post! I wouldn’t necessarily encourage people to move back in with their parents for the sole purpose of saving money to travel (because as much as I’m a total wanderlusting travel nut, I recognize that travel is still primarily a luxury, not a necessity), but otherwise you’re spot on in saying that affording to travel is a mindset and lifestyle, not just something for trust-fund, daddy’s-credit-card kids.

    • Renting/Owning a house (or even better, a car) is a self-imposed mentality that most young people embrace because they feel the need to “proving they are independent”. If someone wants to move out because he/she is mature enough to control their own personal finances, go for it but otherwise, it is wise to understand that rent money is wasted money.

  • Really interesting post hope it gets people out of their comfort zone. I think another obstacle is the fear of the unknown, of all the things they won’t find abroad. Living in one place really put shackles on your mind you become totally dependent of your possessions and your routine. Free your mind.
    I also advise the teaching English gig for travelling abroad you can do that in ANY country in the world so you can choose between teaching to save money for later travels or teaching somewhere to discover a country and its culture. Salaries and benefits differ from country to country so I suggest travel blogs for comparison inspiration and advice.
    See you all on the road…

    • Indeed, teaching English abroad is probably one of the easiest ways to travel the world while getting paid! Most online courses can be finished in less than one month if one truly puts time and motivation to it!

  • Such a great article about traveling for everyone! I 100% agree with you, it’s all about how you frame your life. I thought the same thing, that I didn’t have enough money to travel full time. Then I started doing it and the money just came. From teaching English in Asia to other random side jobs that I have had. It always works out, you just have to have faith in yourself and be smart when traveling!

  • Hola Raphael, me encanta tu página quisiera hacer lo mismo que tú, actualmente estoy estudiando medicina en Cuauhtémoc,Chihuahua; no se si atar 5 a 7 años de mi vida estudiando eso para poder trabajar y de ahí conseguir dinero para viajar (que es mi sueño) sea lo correcto.Tengo 20 años y me gustaría poder dejar todo e irme a caminar por el mundo, pero en serio necesito saber como poder mantener mis viajes, cuanto dinero crees que se necesite aproximadamente cada mes para estar viajando como lo haces tu? ¿Que cosas realmente crees que pueda hacer para mantenerme, aclarando que sé inglés, pero no tanto como para enseñarlo, solo para poder entender bien tu página. Dime que otras opciones tenemos? ¿Que actividad nos ayudaría mucho para viajar? De antemano gracias y saludos :)

  • I totally relate to this, there are always ways of travelling no matter how little money you might have to spend. I guess until people try it by themselves they won’t realize it, I was one of them but look at me now, it’s been more than 2 years that I’ve been on the road and with no intention of stopping anytime soon.

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