How does anyone afford to take off and travel for extended periods? I’m asked that a lot by friends too, those who know that I work part time in a grocery store in New Mexico. How do you do it?
When I was sixteen, I knew that a motorcycle equalled freedom, the freedom to explore England, the way I could leave my small hometown. Working for a local Rugby and Hockey club, cleaning for an elderly lady in the village up the road, and babysitting Emma, Abigail and Amy in town, I saved enough for a small Honda bike. My dad and brother taught me to ride safely, to be aware of all around me as I rode down the country roads. Within months I moved to London with my bike.
Work. Save. Travel.
My mantra, my m.o., has always been to work hard, save, and then take my earnings and explore. At twenty two, I arrived in New York City with a few hundred dollars and a handful of addresses of friends met in my teens when living in Germany. It works for me. Even now, working part time in my forties, I work, save, and travel. I’m frugal, look at my clothes, my self cut hair, and the vehicles I drive. Well, okay, maybe not that. My weakness is for old vehicles, for multiple vehicles. It’s knowing, or at least hoping, that there will always been one vehicle to take me away if I need. Although one day a few summers ago, I started up the motorbike only to have it spew gas out of a broken gas line. I moved right along to the Toyota, and the battery was dead. Next up, I pulled out the keys for the 1972 Land Rover and drove to Madrid, only two miles away. I stopped for a coffee on my way to work. Casey came over and asked if I knew that the Rover was leaking anti-freeze. That was that. He fixed it up enough for me to limp home and call work.
Work. Save. Travel.
But how? Create a budget, a realistic budget and stick to it, sounds easy right? It’s not. It takes practice. The trick is to avoid compulsive purchases. For me, shopping in stores is not a pastime of mine, I hate stores even as I work in one. I make a list, a rough list of food needed for the week ahead, a monetary limit of say $50 per week, and with that in hand, I shop. I give myself a treat, something spontaneous, but only one item per week. This works for me.
Online shopping though has been more of an issue for me. Knowing I’m about to camp for three months with the dogs, I’ve been playing, easily tempted, and now on the shelf at home is an assortment of gadgets, travel solar pack, LED lamps, all oh-so-practical for camping. I’m cutting myself off. No more credit card numbers stored on Amazon or the such. I keep my wallet in the truck, away from me. To have to get up at night and walk out to the 4Runner to find the wallet and grab a card to buy the next ideal gadget, well, I sit in bed instead and keep scrolling.
Set up bills for auto-pay. You’ll avoid late fees if nothing else. For me, I used auto-pay to pay off the credit card bills for the new tires and to the dentist. I set it up to pay twice a month, thus cutting back on some of the interest that builds. I’m now debt-free.
Consider your monthly bills. What is a need and what is a want? Insurance, internet, phone, property tax, food and gas, those are my main expenses. Oh, and the critters, two dogs, a cat called Stephen, and the girls, two hens who don’t like to lay eggs. I’m lucky in that my home is paid off, no that’s misleading. I bought a shack on some land, and turned it into a home as when I could afford without using a credit card. It’s now a cozy warm welcoming cabin in the mountains that I return to after my travels. It’s home.
But what about those other bills? I used to have a website in my own name, one I paid for on a monthly basis, and now I use WordPress with more ease and freedom, financially and creatively. Television? Amazon Prime? Netflix? No, no, and no. Simply put, again, ask yourself is paying for that service or item a want or a need? Remind yourself about the bigger picture, what do you want to do with this precious life? Watch television or movies? Explore the world? Sit on a beach or in an office?
Keep it simple. Gas, food, miscellaneous. The auto-pay will take care of the rest. Hide the credit cards for emergencies. Work. Save. Travel.
The goal, for me, is to become self-sufficient. The goal, for me, is to create income on the road or at home, to work in a way that will allow me to come and go as I please. I’ll get back to you about that. The expenses are taken care of. The income is next.