There are different types of travel, just as there are different types of people.
Just because we can’t all move to Europe to pursue a masters degree or spend a summer sailing around the Greek Islands on a yacht with a group of other twenty-somethings, does not mean we cannot travel. Or, at the very least, does not mean we should be dissuaded from doing so, as Chelsea Fagan does so articulately in her recent Medium article entitled, ‘Why “Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel” Is The Worst Advice Of All Time’.
Fagan says that travel is ‘a way for the upper classes to pat themselves on the back for being able to do something that, quite literally, anyone with money can buy.’ I would argue that travel is not something that one can simply ‘buy’. People can buy flights, and buy bus tours and buy expensive meals in exotic locations, but money cannot buy genuine experiences. Money cannot buy new friendships, an appreciation of different cultures and an insight into how people live in other parts of the world. That is all up to the individual. That is all up to the traveler.
I believe that most people in this world could drop everything and move to another country, if that is their inner most desire. It’s not just about money, it’s about courage. The courage to let go of possessions, normality, relationships, friends. The courage to do something that might not work out for the best. The courage to do something that perhaps nobody you know has done before.
Fagan writes that ‘nothing about your ability or inability to travel means anything about you as a person.’ I would argue the exact opposite is true. How can such courageous and often life-changing decisions not say anything about you as a person? I believe it says everything about you as a person. It shows your desire to learn, your appetite to experience new cultures, to meet and interact with other nationalities through different languages. It shows your need to grow as a person and your willingness to understand more about this great world we live in, accepting there is more to this world than the small bubble of your home country.
Travel does not always mean dropping everything and following your dreams. It doesn’t mean you will, for one second, totally forget about money and bills and healthcare and every other type of worry we are burdened with on a daily basis. But that should not, for one second, stop anyone from at least dreaming of a life overseas. It should not stop us from writing down our goals, our dreams, our inner most desires, in the hope that we can one day achieve them.
Just because you don’t have a lot of money does not mean you cannot travel. Just as there are different types of people in this world, there are also different types of travel.
First of all there is the nomadic type of travel, reserved for people looking to get back to their roots and to live in nature. Reserved for people who might not have very much money, but who are also lucky enough not to have to provide for their elders or look after their younger brothers or sisters. They are free to wander the world at a slow pace, living off the land, walking or hitchhiking wherever they go, camping by lakes or on mountains and relishing their (temporary) distance from civilization.
Next you have the working abroad option, perfect for people who have always dreamed of living and travelling in another country but cannot escape financial responsibilities such as student loans, a mortgage or providing for family members. Take teaching in South Korea, for example, where your return flights are paid for, your accommodation is free for the year and you will probably be left with more disposable income that you had back at home.
You could choose to be a nanny in Russia or an Au-pair in Ireland, or you could get yourself to Australia and work very long hours on a rural farm or in a mine and earn more money than you could ever dream of.
Many people opt to volunteer abroad, a perfect option for those with basic savings but not enough to fund long-term travels. I’m not talking about the ridiculous variety of ‘volunteeting’ chosen by upper-middle class gap years, who pay 1,000’s of dollars to play with lions or spend 2 weeks in a children’s home in Cambodia.
I’m talking about programmes such as Wwoofing and HelpX, which give slow travelers a place to stay, food to eat and a small allowance in exchange for a few hours of work each day. Programmers like this allow for people on a very small budget to travel exotic locations such as South America or even Europe for up to six blissful months.
Travel does not have to mean saving 1,000’s of dollars and leaving your job. It could be working from your computer as you go. If you are sufficiently skilled at copy-writing, blogging or have a specific skill set you can sell online, you could consider becoming a digital nomad. If you can make the same amount of money you were making in the US and in the UK, but were suddenly paying 90% less on rent, money (or lack there-of) would no longer be as big a burden.
Money is important and you should never brush it aside as something trivial, but it also should not be the sole thing stopping you from travelling if that is your dream.
Apply for travel bursaries or student scholarships in countries you have never heard of. Hitchhike, sleep in tents, couchsurf. Work for food and accommodation. You could sing on Grafton street in Dublin and make up to 200 bucks a day then continue your travels around the country.
There really are options for everyone, if you open your mind wide enough to see them.
– Janet Newenham. This piece was originally appeared on Journalist On The Run.