How to Get the Money to Travel

Travel can be a regular feature in your life, if you’re creative and motivated enough. Rational Matthew shares his secrets about how you can afford to do it.

Hello out there in Toothpaste land. I want to share with you today something interesting that’s been happening since I began writing about my adventures. Ever since I started this travel website, I’ve had readers I love contacting me saying things like “You are so lucky you get to go on all these adventures,” or “I hope one day to also experience these things but it’s all too expensive and the flight is too long.” This struck me as rather strange, because although in my later years I’ve had a wonderful job that has not only allowed, but indeed required me to go on all sorts of adventures around the world, when I was a young whipper-snapper I was much like any other. That is, I was a student in Australia, I was poor, I ate my share of 2-minute noodles, that sort of thing. And yet- before my 22nd year was done, I had visited the USA, Thailand, much of Europe, had been all over Scandinavia, Singapore, Tahiti, Estonia and the Maldives! How did I do it?

I think the difference between people who travel, and those that want to but never do, is not just determination (which is also important), but creativity in determination. Read on for some further ideas.


Dresden, Germany. Grand Tour of Europe
You might find a gem like this on the European Grand Tour. Dresden, Germany.

1. Save and Scrimp

Easy ones first. You may not earn much, but no matter what you earn, there are plenty of places you can go where you can afford to get by. For example, in my student days I stayed in bungalows in Thailand that were literally $5 a night and food cost me only a few bucks a day. Really, there is a budget for everyone. However, there is one caveat here and that’s the flight you need to catch to get overseas! The flight is the hard part, because flying is an expensive business (and don’t blame the airlines, because they make next to no profit margin- but that’s a topic for another day).

So, the most obvious thing to do to afford that flight and your accommodation and travels is to save. When I was a student I was on a scholarship that gave me a few hundred bucks per week. Doesn’t sound like much, but after 2 years of this, I’d saved $8000, which I budgeted was enough to last me 3 months backpacking in Europe. Saving is not easy but you can do it- I saved $1000 of this money simply by avoiding toll roads for a year when I drove to university. A little inconvenience can often go a long way. Plus I bit the bullet and moved back in with my folks so I wouldn’t have to pay rent for a while. Think about all the ways you can save and then stick to it for a year or two.

Peeing Sculpture, Hohenstein, Germany
Nope, no statues like this where I come from…

2. Ask your Parents for Help

Probably only applies to those of you in your 20s or younger, unless your folks live in a gold-plated nursing home and are happy to splash the cash to their adult kids. When I went on my first trip, I saved $8000 for the trip- and for my 21st birthday present my dear old Dad then stumped up the cash for my flight itself. I think he could see that travel was likely to make me a well-rounded individual and he was proud of my determination in saving as much as I had. Either that or he just wanted me out of the house, I’m not sure which. If you’re a young-un with nice parents, why not have a chat to them about how travel will make you a much more glorious and noble person. Because it will.

3. Take Out a Personal Loan

After my first 3-month trip backpacking around the USA, Europe and South East Asia, I came back home to graduate my degree and start work in Sydney. But I had been bitten by the travel bug and everything back home seemed so humdrum to the buzz and colours I had experienced out there in the world. I was determined not only to get back onto the road again, but to do it better than I had the first time, when I tried to cram too much into too little time and had some amazing but stressful moments as a travel newbie.

The only problem was I was dead broke. However, I now had a job. Ka-ching! Now I would never advocate living outside of your means, unless it is good debt (return-generating investments reducing your taxable income etc etc), and a personal loan for a trip is definitely not considered good debt!

But you only live once. So for my second trip, I borrowed $6000 from the bank and paid it off over the next year. The bank was pretty cool with lending me this money, especially since they could see I had an income and some decent credit after paying off my credit card pretty diligently for a while. So with my wallet fat with cash again, off I went into the world. And I had the time of my life. And was disciplined enough to pay the debt down to zero a year later.

4. Get a Job that Requires You to Travel

Ready for work at some random hotel
Ready for work at some random hotel

This is one that is often overlooked by the travel community. But this is how I have my adventures nowadays. I’m a scientist and I often have to visit other scientists or companies that are doing new amazing things with technology. Or I go to international conferences. I travel for work, and I tack on some time before or after to have adventures. If you love your job like I do, then the work is an adventure in itself, especially when it takes place in a foreign office or laboratory.

It’s not so hard to do- and you’ll often see such job listings saying things like “May require international travel”. Jump at the chance! Before you know it, you’ll be complaining that you have to be on the move too much and that you wish you could have more time to chill out with family and friends at home, like I hear from my colleagues all the time :)

You could be a scientist, an engineer, a manager, an author, a photographer, a salesman, or god forbid….. even a smelly travel blogger!


5. Get a Working Holiday Visa

If you can’t travel for work, why not work for travel? If you were only a kid when Seinfeld was popular or your first memory was Britney Spears singing “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, then chances are there’s a bunch of countries you can go and work in. The work is not particularly glamorous, you might end up waiting tables, or pulling beers behind a bar, or picking fruit, or working in a summer camp, or loading lifts at the snow, but damn it, you’ll meet people and have a blast anyway.

If you’re a citizen under 30 in the following list of countries, you can go to any of the other countries on the list with a working holiday visa: Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, citizens of Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, the USA or Uruguay may also be able to join in the fun but with some added criteria.

But don’t take my word for it, why not check out the working holiday visa that your government has negotiated with other countries. Here’s a good link for Australians and here’s one for Americanos.

6. Do Your Job in a Foreign Country

Let’s say you love your job or don’t have any other qualifications. Well guess what- they have your job overseas too! Unless you are doing some highly specialised job like being an astronaut for NASA or working as a bodyguard for some international fugitive, chances are you can do whatever it is you’re doing in your dreary cubicle at home in some slightly more exciting cubicle in an exotic locale.

And if you do have a specialised job, then the news is even better- you’ll find it easier to qualify for a visa in whatever country it is you are hoping to go to.

I have done this in the past- I worked in America and also in Germany. I had to convince the governments over there that they should accept me rather than a local citizen, but if the company really wants you, they’ll find a way to justify why they must have you and only you. The more you are an expert at something the better.

7. Get Really Creative

There’s so many other things you can do in order to travel. You can house-sit, or house-swap, or you can even crash on people’s couches for free. You could go on some amazing adventure and gather sponsors, or join the circus. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is selling your body.

So really there’s no excuse. If you don’t go soon, when will you? When you’re wrinkled and frail in a little bed at home, what will really make you wealthy is the experiences you’ve had, and all the money in the world won’t buy more. So instead of worrying what travelling will cost you, why not worry about what not travelling might cost you.

Don't Talk to Strangers, Cool sign in Vancouver, Canada
It’s true… cool sign in Vancouver, Canada

And as for “the flight is too long”… come on. I once flew from Sydney to the north of Norway and it took 30 hours. That was a single day out of my life to have the time of my life. And I bet the flight you are worried about is not even as long as that. So go travel!

What has travel brought to your life and how do you afford to do it? Do you know other creative ways to travel? Let me know in the comments below!



Cover Art: Fragments of the Earth

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Matt Edwards

Australian solar power scientist travels the world for 15 years, takes photos, writes stuff, has toothpaste confiscated. I like adventures that involve art, history, science, music, technology and partying. Sometimes all at once...


9 thoughts on “How to Get the Money to Travel” :: Leave yours →

  • September 19, 2013 at 6:37 am

    My first desire to travel came from becoming good friends with an exchange student from Brisbane, who spent a year in my high school. I applied to do a senior year abroad and lived in Belgium. I was then hooked. Years later, when my husband was offered a job in Sydney, Australia, we jumped at the chance. We spent our 3 best years ever there. We now have friends from all over the world. Meeting people from other countries is the best way to understand the world. More Americans should do it!

    • September 23, 2013 at 2:12 am

      Totally agree Tina, and I found that after 1 or 2 trips I started saving money on accommodation too since I’d end up just staying with friends when travelling.

  • October 2, 2013 at 12:11 am

    My creative travel tips is to join travel community such as CouchSurfing
    you can save money for hotels because the member could give you place to stay and plus is they can become a travel partner and a city guide.


    • October 11, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Lidya, agree with your advice- this a cheap and rewarding way to travel as long as you do your research and stay safe. I have stayed with strangers a few times before and so far all experiences have been great.

  • October 5, 2013 at 4:02 am

    amazing information about saving of money on any trip .thanks for information how could we use our credits. but i am very impress by the photo of dog and man who use street light .

  • October 13, 2013 at 4:26 am

    You mentioned working in another country, and English speakers have an option open to them that others do not. Rudimentary English teachers are in demand in many countries, and some governments occasionally cover travel, boarding expenses, and a small stipend for those willing to commit to a contract of a few months. The required level of native fluency isn’t usually very high, although they lean toward Brits and Americans with neutral accents.

    A British friend routinely winters in Vietnam, often costing him little in out-of-pocket expenses, while he stays in a nice suburban or rural villa provided by the local government. He teaches adults seeking a leg up in tourism and international trade, so they’re friendly and eager to learn, and he absolutely loves his job. As a “guest”, these villas are also home to other workers and tourists, so he’s not isolated, either.

    • October 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Hi JB,
      Great advice! I like your friend’s plan, what a sweet way to spend the winter. I’ve done a bit of teaching myself and its very rewarding. Teaching English is a great way to see the world.

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