How to Save Money on Travel, Part 1
I vowed that we would never write these types of articles because we never wanted to be just another travel blog. We don’t write about where you just must go in 2017 or the ten places to see before you die because, well, we don’t know you so why would we ever suggest something?
Maybe you prefer beaches over mountains and hotels over hostels? In which case, our travel advice would do no good for you. We are not travel bloggers. We are people with a blog who travel as a way of life, a way to feel free, and most importantly to open our minds, which is truly more what we are about.
But, open-your-mind blogging hasn’t become a coined term yet, so this wishy-washy middle ground is just what we’ll have to settle for. And since we could care less about titles or boxes, and in fact pretty much despise them, it’s better not to be categorized at all.
Titles only seem to exist to make others comfortable while creating self imposed limitations completely unnecessarily.
We’re not bloggers, vegans, eco-travelers or budget backpackers.
Sure, we have a blog, if that’s what you call this type of thing, but we don’t write for an audience, for views, or for likes. W e write because we want to, when we want to. And if those moments of sharing, sometimes oversharing, and combination of pictures create a blog, so be it.
We are mainly plant-based, but we are not vegan. We do our best to be as health conscious as possible and can say with confidence that we would never put a piece of meat in our mouths again. But sometimes when you’re traveling, and out of options, and out of energy, you eat a piece of cheese or two. Or a fried hash brown from McDonalds.
We’re not proud of these moments but we’re not guilty either. Being flexible, creative, and doing the best with what we have available is just what we do, and what we believe. It might not work for others, but that’s even better. Because we’re not others. We’re just us.
Are we conscious about the environment? Yes. Do we get sad when we see a dead tree or even worse a chopped down one? Yes, definitely.
But, sometimes we’re as much of the problem as we are the solution. Sometimes, especially when traveling, we need to buy and waste that extra plastic bottle or ten, and it sucks. But, when we can we do our best and we never do so without thinking or caring.
And lastly, we are always using our minds and wits to be as creative as possible with saving money. We’re not picky with where we sleep, we eat less than anyone we know, and can make the most with the least in almost every situation. But, sometimes you just need/want a comfortable bed and a hot shower no matter if it sets you back more than you anticipated.
Holding onto any of those titles for the purpose of appearing “holier than thou” or just to have a “shtick” and niche ourselves into a category would feel so limiting, so unlike us, that it would feel even worse than those rare and temporary moments of deviation.
Which is why, even though I said I would never write an article like this, that in itself was a limitation. And after many, many… many conversations with people about traveling, and more importantly, how we travel, there is always one common denominator: money. Which, I can imagine is how others got started down this dark path of telling others how to travel with no money aka budget travel blogging.
So without further ado, this is how we travel. Don’t let the title fool you. We’re not telling you how you should travel with no money.
Maybe you have ten kids, 100 dogs, or you live in your parents basement and eat ramen every day. In which case, maybe travel is not your number one priority. And that’s fine. This isn’t for you. This is just how we have happened to start traveling even though we are far from rich, and how even that didn’t stop us.
When people find out we travel, it always seems to go down the same road of conversation.
“I would love to do that, you know if I had money.”
“That’s great you both can do that, I wish I had that option.”
Or my favorite and the most blunt, “how do you afford that?!!”
It’s funny. When you see someone sporting the newest style purse, going out drinking every night, or buying the latest gadget, we don’t question where they get the money or how their minimum wage job can afford such luxuries.
But, when we see someone visiting a place outside the one they live, it becomes such a fascination with how they could magically make a pile of money appear. It’s funny because, most of the time, people who don’t travel spend far more money than those who travel.
Why? Because people who travel figured it out. Maybe if we stop spending money on crap, we can actually do things instead. And that’s when the questions start.
Our first glimpse of traveling together was our first road trip down south to Georgia. It was less than a week’s time, we drove to save money, and the south is pretty cheap considering living in New York for so long.
Our second long-term road trip, excluding the few days in the Finger Lakes after our wedding, was a belated honeymoon/wedding gift from my parents. We didn’t want a big wedding, I didn’t want an engagement ring, so we didn’t go into debt over superficial choices that were foreign to us.
We didn’t waste money on decorations, all the flowers were from my mom’s garden, and my dress was on sale for $100, veil included.
For us, all we wanted to spend money on was traveling. Since my parents knew that and instilled that in me since I was little, it was the perfect gift. The honeymoon was important to us, but with moving, leaving jobs, and changing our whole lives around, we could be patient with waiting for that moment.
That moment ended up coming at the perfect time a year later and was the ultimate catalyst that started us on this nomadic journey.
After spending time, money, and so much effort making a comfy and loving home in Georgia, picking the perfect furniture, hanging our ideal pictures, and even painting a few walls, something just wasn’t right. We had built a wonderful foundation to a very comfortable life together and yet it was just not fitting right.
We had grown and learned everything we could at our jobs, and it just felt that we had plateaued. We were too young to plateau. No matter how old we will ever be, we will always be too young to plateau. And we will never feel comfortable with it. No matter how comfortable it might be.
After some searching for motivation and running across a few podcasts and blogs, I heard about some people who would sell their homes, businesses, etc and then buy an RV and go traveling, living on the road.
“That sounds amazing!! I would love to do that!”
We would groan and fantasize as we became obsessed with watching shows and reading stories about people doing just what we could only hope to do.
Not only did we have my annoyingly large law school loan to worry about, but we didn’t really have many assets. You can’t exactly sell an apartment you rent, at least not legally, and well we had no business or mobile income.
We were stuck.
We wanted to travel so bad, that buzzing in our ears telling us we needed to do something would only become clearer as the days went by. We didn’t just need to do something, we needed to travel. We didn’t know to where or for how long, we just knew that we had to go.
So days went by, and then weeks, and then we decided.
Well, we don’t have an RV, but we do have an SUV. Sure, there’s no bathroom or kitchen, but there’s enough space to sleep, and it moves!
That was more than enough for us.
Just because we couldn’t do exactly what other people were doing, didn’t mean we couldn’t do anything. We had to make the best out of what we had, and the rest we would figure out on the way.
And figure it out, we did.
We took each day as it came and would use whatever we had to make the best situation. Before we left, we eliminated our bills, spent every cent of my paycheck towards my loan (to lower monthly payments) and then sold whatever we could to add to our small pile of survival funds.
We knew we didn’t need much, and we knew that we would just figure things out the old fashioned way, using our brains and letting our souls guide us.
A month into our car camping adventure, sleeping only where it was free, and using a Planet Fitness membership for one to shower and freshen both of us was an awesome start.
We rarely drink and one “American sized” meal can usually last us both for lunch and dinner. We shopped at grocery stores, and little local spots, avoiding the overpriced restaurants that appeal to the fancy folk.
Our method of entertainment was staring at the mountains, or occasionally watching a show on our iPhone. It was more than enough to satisfy us and we probably could’ve went on for awhile doing just that.
Then, the universe sent something unexpected our way.
We somewhat accidentally stumbled across housesitting and it ended up bringing up our modest and budget travel accommodations to some of the most interesting, at times luxurious, and downright unforgettable experiences on our journey.
Thanks to our no plans and no controlling attitudes, we happened to get five housesitting gigs pretty much back to back all over the state of California.
Yes, we spent almost three months living rent free in one of the country’s most expensive state. From a 41-acre ranch in the Trinity Alps to a comfy two-bedroom Bay Area house. Then to a 10-room mansion and then a one-bedroom in center San Francisco. All to end our journey at a wonderful and relaxing one of a kind home in Palm Springs.
Every one of them coming with the comfort of the entire property, fully stocked pantries and fridges, and the best part of all, companionship of our loving furry friends who we still miss and think about to this day.
We never could’ve planned something like that and if we hadn’t taken off with the hopes of it working out, it probably never would have.
Thanks to our amazing adventure across all the states, we quickly learned just how magical and impressive the universe can be when you give her a chance. And it got us to thinking what our next step would be.
To be continued…