“I don’t understand how you afford all these trips!”
I get this at least five times every time I take a trip. I figure they don't actually want to know(don't wanna bore people), I typically just respond, “I save.” Wow, that is a pretty boring answer too.
I never take a trip I can’t afford.
It’s not rocket science and you should be able to take insane trips too, so I'm going to go a little deeper with you. It really comes down to TWO things: MONEY and WILLINGNESS.
First and foremost, I think we all spend money on what we value- trips, clothes, cars, toys, concerts, homes, restaurants… we all have our “thing.”
Travel is my “thing.” So I don’t spend a lot of money on those other things. I live a pretty simple life. It’s not that I don’t like nice things or going out, believe me I do, but I’ve learned to buy more quality and less quantity (including experiences) which pays off in the long run. I hate holding onto sh*t I don't wear or use. I need to give away most of my shoes because I really just wear the same five or so pairs (same with jeans!).
If travel isn't your thing, then I bet you're spending your money on a car payment, rent/mortgage, clothes, food, or maybe you're putting your kids through private school. Your money is going SOMEWHERE.
As a child, my parents made me save my birthday money. I wasn't allowed to spend it. At age 19, my mom took me to a personal finance class so from a fairly young age, I had a pretty good grasp on saving money and not getting myself into debt. Looking back now, I realize how monumental and impactful that was to learn at such a young age.
I know you’re thinking, “Ok Leah, get to it.”
So how exactly do I make it happen?
OK, Let's talk about the money part first. I have separate and numerous bank accounts.
Savings accounts are free and you can get as many as you want as long as you meet the minimum requirement. I set up different savings accounts for certain purchases. So right now in one bank (I currently use several) I have four savings accounts:
1. General Savings
3. Lasik eye surgery
4. New Car
You can totally give them cooler titles than I did. Maybe I'll change “New Car” to “Sweet New Ride.” Also, side tip: I swear by online banks because they have great interest rates- WAY better than your brick and mortar bank. They’re not paying me to say this, but Ally bank has been awesome from Day 1.
By dividing my money out like this, I can see how much I can spend and where I am in my goals if I have them. I’ve currently reached my goal for Lasik so when I pull that money out and actually get the procedure, I’ll likely just keep the account and rename it to something else and save for that next “thing.”
My travel account doesn’t have “goals” but merely is there for vacations that haven’t been thought up yet, as well as last minute trips. When I was 21 years old, I opened a travel account because I never want to say "I can’t afford it" when my friend calls and says, "I know this is a long shot, but do you wanna go to Paris next week?” (This has yet to happen, but did happen for a trip to Southern California- and yes, I went!) It’s just there for when I want or need it.
“Wait, but Leah, how do you have enough money to put in there and still pay your bills?”
It's simple...PAY YOURSELF FIRST.
If you get into the habit of living a certain lifestyle and save “whatever is leftover” you’ll never accumulate savings for your big purchases, like insane vacations.
As soon as you get that paycheck, put some money in the bank. If you have debt, obviously you should put most of it towards paying it off, but you have to get in the habit of saving money. It’s gotta become an automatic habit- even if it’s a dollar. Every time I get paid, I show some love to each account by putting money in each. The amount varies, but I make sure to put something in there every time. Again, it's a habit. Obviously, the more accounts you have the less you likely can put in each, but it's a preference thing. The more you do this, the better you'll get at figuring out how much to put in each - whether it's a set amount per paycheck or a percentage AND how fast you want it to grow.
Once you’ve put money into your accounts, paid your bills, THEN you’re free to spend the rest on whatever you want- rather than the other way around. You’ll know what you can afford and what you can’t. Because you'll have less money after you pay yourself and your bills, you won't buy as much stupid stuff and end up wondering, "Where did all my money go?"
OK the second part of insanely awesome vacations:
Say "YES" to life! When an opportunity presents itself- TAKE IT!
I have to say that a lot of the people who say they're jealous of all of my travels, also admit sometimes they would never go to the places I've gone. Well, now they're just choosing not to take awesome vacations.
You've got to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone to experience the best things in life. Nothing fun happens inside your box.
Tsavo West National Park, Kenya
Being nervous, lost, anxious are normal feelings, but they are always forgotten once a friend is made, the map suddenly makes sense, or seeing with your own eyes the majestic scenery that you've previously only seen in books and magazines.
Every year at New Years I make a "Goals" list, things I'd like to accomplish, even though they may seem far stretched at the moment. For the past three years, I've put "travel internationally two times" on the list. I never know where, or when, but I'm putting it out there that I want take two big trips that year. I write it down! Last year in 2015, I went to both Belize and Norway, both were booked in under 3 weeks of actually leaving and neither were even on my radar when I initially made my goal list. I wrote the same thing for this year. I've already traveled to Costa Rica with my cousin who won(!) a free trip, and now I'm in Tunisia. Again, neither of these were on the radar when I wrote that down. I just put it out to the Universe and remain OPEN to experiences that pop up. Because I have been saving despite no trips on the horizon, I am able to say "YES!" to these experiences.
That’s it. That's how I find myself in these amazing places. I save money and I show up.
So open another savings account or two today- maybe one will even be for travel.
You never know, your best pal could call you up next week and say, "Hey, you wanna ride a motorcycle through Chile with me next month?" and if insane vacations are your thing, you'll simply reply, "Saddle up, partner."
End of Year Update:
How did Tunisia happen? My friend asked me in June/July if I wanted to go to Istanbul, Tunisia and Algeria with her. I hemmed and hawed for a week or so, but decided once again to say "YES!" to life. I booked my flight the day after the Istanbul bombing. If I had a dime for every person who shook their head in disbelief that I was going or told me "wow, you better be careful" I'd be a really rich lady. I appreciate the sentiment don't get me wrong, but again, travel is my "thing". I think I'm pretty good at accessing risk, I've been traveling for the better part of 10 years now, largely to places off the beaten path.
I cried three times on that trip out of sheer gratitude. "How is this my life?!" I would ask almost daily. Every day was like living a dream. I realized in the final few days of the trip, that this trip was the best trip I've been on in my life. What if I had let fear talk me out of going? I would've missed laughing with all the new friends I made, the insane amount of Roman ruins we saw, listening to Ali's fishing stories while swimming in the Med, throwing Youcef a bachelor party, making brownies with my Tunisian soul sister, sleeping on a throne in an old Arabic house, and my first Turkish bath where not an ounce of english was spoken which turned out to be one of the funniest moments of my life.
Seriously, if the opportunity presents itself, throw caution to the wind and GO.