Having spent the past two years on the road, many people I’ve met always reckon that I must be loaded with cash to be able to fly to and fro between Europe and Asia. Even before I resigned from my 9 to 5 cubicle job, people opined that I am drawing an attractive five figured salary to be able to lavish on travelling here and there.
All these conclusions always had me wondering… Is money really an issue for one to be able to travel? I mean, to travel, you definitely need money. But you don’t need to be having a bank account loaded full of cash or be earning a five figured salary to take a vacation…right?
I am inspired by what you do and want to do the same as well.
Can I get some insight into how you pay for your travel?
– Mark, Barcelona
on how you manage your finances so as to travel?
– Christina, U.S
Since I started hashing out my travel adventures on this blog, I received many similar messages from my readers and even my own friends on ‘how I finance my travel’. Even on the road, I met some travellers who have asked me the same question.
It is a rational question though, and one I would love to answer and share the journey with any of you reading this. I was a salaried employee before and I am not rich nor do I have a rich boyfriend or family supporting me.
Back in my home country, the standard of our cost of living is considered quite high and can be kind of stressful at times. Corporate jobs, be it a high positioned executive or admin clerk, is very fast paced and tiring but yet both share one thing in common…. Overtime! Very rarely will a company pay you extra salary for working overtime. The ratio of your salary will never be equal to your total actual clocked working hours. And for your information, my salary is in the four figure range, not five. Minus off statutory contributions, study loans and other expenses, including cash for my parents, the remaining amount I’m left with is spilt sparingly between savings, travel and daily expenses.
With all the work commitment and deadlines, blocked leaves during peak periods and office politics, I finally made up my mind… ‘I’m done!’. It is time to reward and appreciate myself for all my hard work and fulfil my desired lifestyle myself. There’s more to life than just the workforce society and in the words of some people, “the real life is out there!” For a walk through on this journey of mine, take a trip over to my other chronicle story: How I Started A Life Of Travel.
On this blog, I will share about my real personal footsteps in detail on how I finance my travel. If I can do it, I am very sure you can do it too. It’s nothing complicated. In fact, some of the steps I’ve took, you may have even heard about it before. I definitely do not condone or sell network marketing gimmicks or investments! It’s a true personal story for those of my friends and fans out there.
After I left my cubicle life, I first set out a blueprint on what I want to do and achieve in life. In order not to over drain my savings, since I am officially out of a ‘j-o-b’ and will not be getting any monthly salary for maybe awhile, I finance my travel with my online consulting work, travel hacks and blogging.
This is definitely one of my best vocations yet – to be a digital nomad and freelancer. With total freedom from pre-destined and pre-scoped job engagements to fee negotiations to pre-defined durations, working online gives you the ultimate control on your position and products. To top it all, you get to work from wherever you like and whenever you want. No alarm clock is going to wake you up in the early morning before the sunrises just to catch a bus down to work, unless of course it’s the sunrise you wanna catch for your instagrammable picture collection!
Without much consideration, I took my first step in shifting my business to an online model after I left my corporate job and had all my business licences registered. Developing a strong foundation for business consulting and compliance advisory, especially for those work that heavily involve ‘statutory obligations’ was definitely challenging and it doesn’t transform overnight.
During this stage, I took up consultancy assignments assisting clients in setting up businesses, drafting legal corporate documents, and even consulting on the target country’s regulations and compliances. I also took the chance to broaden my business presence in digital marketing and branding, taking up projects on social media management, web designs, SEO and any other things related to the internet cyber-sphere. Persevering and learning as I go, I got more assignments and projects which broadened my intrigue, ideas and experience further. My monthly income even exceeded what I was getting from my last corporate job! Besides being financially sustainable, I have gained knowledge and support from all around the world. All these projects in turn have helped me in my personal growth, building the necessary skills and experiences I need for my own future – and it isn’t something a desk bound job can give.
In fact, it was through these digital projects, not my main business consulting and compliance advisory, that had created a strong presence for my business to date. Through these extra know-hows that I have gained, I can actually compete with my fellow peers and move my business away from its traditional approach to an efficient yet effective digital approach. This was also when I decided to merge everything under the same business consultancy umbrella as a value added key.
To kick start your own online ‘job’ or business, certain skills are required. There is no such thing as ‘success that does not involve skills’. Start with something you are good at or passionate about, something that will make your heart beat and you won’t feel tired of even if you need to continuously self-learn about that thing to make it perfect. Just like me learning how to take better selfies and instagrammable pictures!
For me to put my plan into action, I was already a qualified company secretary holding a practising secretarial licence while my own company was an approved filing agent registered with the relevant statutory authorities. My years of relevant working experiences, plus long hours of overtime in the cubicle, had trained me in all the required skill sets and knowledge I need to run my own business and bring the level further. I have also built up a good number of business contacts that had supported me since day one till now.
Back in my corporate days when I have not been bitten by the travel bug yet, I confess I was a big spendthrift. I was obsessed with handbags. Yes, the expensive ones all we girls adore and more. Just to name a few in my collection, which have now currently been promoted to ‘not in use’ and are just sitting neglected in my cabinet, are three Coach bags, six Agnès b, four Longchamp, two Calvin Klein and much more. Bags in those days are like an unofficial statement of womanhood ‘success’ where I get to change one everyday, matching my outfit to the office – just so maybe to attract attention or competition.
Since the travel bug bit me, things changed dramatically. I started setting aside a portion of my monthly income for travel by spending less on unnecessary stuff which I don’t need and dining less at posh restaurants. It is difficult at first but as time goes, I got so used to it that I have cultivated a habit of setting a good budget for everything I do. Not to say I am stingy and not spending my hard earned money. I simply prefer to do it in a more rewarding way if I feel like splurging big.
For example, I do not need a business class flight on Qatar Airways to travel from Singapore to Athens when Scoot can fly me directly at only half the cost. No entertainment so what? I bring my own entertainment. No food, I bring some chips. For me, I always prefer to fly cheap because after all, it’s all about getting to the required destination. With the money saved on travel, more to spend on shopping! Always look out for flight promotion. This can help you save big!
Travel to countries within your budget. Who says only expensive countries are beautiful? If you love beaches, instead of Maldives or Whitsunday, head over to Bali or Thailand for a full suite tropical paradise experience. Instead of exploring Spain, check out Portugal. Make good use of visa free destinations available for your passport. You can save the money you would pay for visa-on-arrival for other stuff you’d enjoy.
For accommodation, check out Airbnb and Couchsurfing. As you will be out on a touristy mission most of your time, you do not need expensive and luxurious hotels. Both Airbnb and Couchsurfing provide you the chance to meet friendly local hosts whom you may get to gain local insights and understand even more about your destination. Live like a local. Eat where the locals eat. Dining places located at touristy areas tend to charge more. I love taking advantages of dining promotions like ‘menu del dia’ and if my accommodation allows, I will also cook my own meal at times with supplies from a handy neighbourhood grocer nearby.
Managing My Travel Blog
This is my blog and I own and manage it all by myself. Calysta Hannah which was named after me, simply started out with the encouragement from my friends as a humble little space online with no objective. Anyway, that was a trendy thing everyone was doing a few years back. As I travel to more and more interesting destinations, I am worried that one day my memory will fall apart. So I started recording my travel footprints on this blog and help share it to my friends out there. As time passed, I have garnered dedicated audiences from across the globe on both my blog and social media platforms. I thus continue to improve myself and my blogs in bringing out my point-of-view articles and putting forward local destination related information that my audiences like. This is how my blog eventually transformed into a travel lifestyle blog.
With a wide online exposure and devoted following in the digital world, I got the chance to be noticed by a number of affiliates and marketing personnel from the travel sphere who have provided me with opportunities like free accommodation, dining, trying out travel activities and even going on a customised sponsored tours in exchange for a feature blog article as a social media promotion.
I do only selected sponsored posts, affiliate partnerships and social media shout-outs on brands and products I like and have tried it personally and endorse. However, I do not do banner advertising nor is any space on my blog available for rent. My blog is like a personal diary to me, not a commercial property. I do not want to hoard it with pop-up ads and other ‘non-created-by-me’ kind of stuff that annoys me and my fellow readers. I respect authenticity and ‘by-me kind-of-attitude’ here. I have my consulting business that is supporting me with ample funds to travel.
- Blog growth and success does not come overnight nor is it guaranteed. All successful bloggers clock in lots of hours to build it, just to see it grow on a personal level without the thought of commercialising it. The blogging road is full of obstacles and you are racing with the ever changing digital consumer world.
- Starting a travel blog to help finance your travel should not be your main goal. It can be quite tough to start up. I would suggest this to be a secondary income generator to your main business, using your travel blog as a marketing tool to open up more exposure for your main business. Thus, only start a travel blog after you have built a strong foundation in your main business and only if travel is your definite passion. Find something you’re passionate about!
Wherever in the world you may be and whatever profession you are in, you can get on your feet and see the world. Travel is not only for the rich. You do not need to be rich, cash loaded or earning a five figured salary to finance your travel. All you need is a little planning and a little tweak or hack. There is nothing that cannot be done on earth. You may think that it is easier said than done. But if you never try it, you will never know it. Travelling helps to broaden your horizons and let’s you see the opportunities out there beyond what you see in front of you. It also lifts your spirits in things you could do and experience with no one to judge you – ever!
Whatever circumstances you may be in, don’t let them define you or occupy your mind and definitely don’t let the ‘what ifs’ control you. Let your aspirations and goals lead your way. Focus on your priorities and persevere. Life is full of opportunities for you to experience and it’s all out there!
Next Read: How I Started A Life Of Travel
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